Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Boundary Agreement

This post is definitely geared to those readers who are partners of sex addicts....all others, it's okay to click away.  I understand.  I'll still love you.

After my previous post on Boundary Agreements, it only makes sense to me that I go out on a very private limb and share my BA with those that may be looking for an example of their own.

This is what works for ME in MY marriage to a sex addict.  This is not meant for anyone else's relationship but my own.  I am only putting this out there to help those in people in the same situation as mine.  

Remember, you have to be able to stick to the consequences you've created otherwise they are useless.  The addict will never learn your boundaries and you will continue to get hurt and have no one to blame but yourself.  Sound like I'm harsh?  Maybe, but I am speaking from experience.  I live with a sex addict who relapsed early in his recovery. Thankfully he is sober now but I need consequences in place for my own sanity.  

I do this for me because I have chosen to stay in this relationship and it provides me with a sense of security.  Something I can point too and say, "Alright, Elsie, you told yourself you weren't going to allow this to happen to you, now what are you going to do?"

This is my Boundary Agreement:  (again, it's what works for ME because of Devin's previous acting out behavior in our marriage and blurred lines since recovery.  It will seem harsh to anyone not married to a sex addict.)

Healthy Recovery:
            Your progress in your recovery has made the relationships in our house thrive, especially with the kids. Your hard work shows by how you interact with all of us, even when you feel hurt or angry. You’ve learned to explain your feelings and not isolate. I’m so proud of you.
            It would help assure me that you’re in a healthy recovery if you shared with me what inspired you, or touched you, during your meetings. Telling me what you felt and learned, versus if the meeting was crowded or uncomfortable, lets me know you’re still active in your recovery and mentally present in your meetings. I know I’m smart, but I still can’t read minds. Not yet, anyway.
            If I don’t see any change, or that change happens and then slips backwards again, I’m going to have to end our relationship. I feel I’ve been patient, and I can’t stay if things stay the same. Work your recovery like our marriage depends on it, because it does.

            Please be honest with me. I feel being lied to is worse than what the actual truth may be. Whether it’s being deceived about a slip or a simple omission about an everyday event, not being told the truth the first time around or having to dig for information hurts. It causes me to lose trust and not want to be affectionate. Then that causes you to withdraw and before we know it, we’re stuck in an unhealthy cycle. Neither of us wants that. I know we can make our marriage work if we keep working on it.
            The damage from the past makes any lie, big or small, equal to the same thing for me and causes me to go back to that hurtful place from years ago. As the sayings go, “It’s better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie” and “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.” Lies just suck and they destroy my trust and faith in you.
            I ask for honesty during our first conversation about whatever it may be. If I don’t get the truth, or if I have to pry it out of you before you tell me what’s going on, I will enforce a consequence.  
            If you aren’t transparent or keep secrets from me, I want you to sleep in the other room for two nights. If lying or omitting the truth becomes frequent, I’ll have to end our relationship. I can’t handle being continually lied to. It makes me feel like I’m not worth anything to you. And I know that’s not true. I know you love me and want our marriage to flourish just like I do.

Slips and relapses
            I need you to understand I am a safe person to come to if you slip. Whether it’s porn, masturbation, or anything else in your inner circle, I’m at a place in my recovery where I can handle it and won’t judge you for it. I promise not to scream, cry, or attack you. Those days have long since passed and I know you deserve better.
            I understand there are potentials for slips, but I expect full transparency and to be told when they happen. I ask that you tell me either the day it happens, or the day after. If you forget, then the consequence will be sleeping in the other room for three nights and only basic affection (kiss goodbye, etc).  
            While this may seem extreme, to me it’s an extension of lying and deceit. When a slip happens and you don’t tell me, it causes me undue anxiety that causes me to trigger and become hypervigilant, and that’s an unhealthy place for me. It also makes me feel like you’re not in a good place in your recovery, and I deserve to know that.
            If you tell me right away, there won’t be any consequences. I understand slips may occur. I just want honesty about them. We’re a team. The more honest we are with each other, the more emotionally connected we’ll continue to be.
            I also ask that you figure out why you slipped. As our counselor said, slips don’t just happen. There are reasons behind them whether it’s stress, boredom, or anger; it’s up to you to figure it out, so you can prevent them. If your slips become a relapse, then I will have to leave. We are at a point in our recoveries where relapses shouldn’t happen. Especially with me not knowing what’s going on. The more we work together, the happier we’ll each be in our relationship.

Emotional and/or Physical affairs:

            It goes without saying (and yet I’m saying it anyway just to be clear), I will file for divorce the moment I find out you’ve had another affair or inappropriate contact with someone.
            I want us to succeed in our marriage. I want to be more than just cohabitants; I want us to be best friends, lovers, and supporters of one another. I know we can continue to do it, it just takes continued work on both our parts.
            Never forget how much I love you and how important you and our marriage is to me. You’re a good man, a wonderful father, and you’re more than your addiction to me.


            There’s a bit more to it, but that covers the big stuff. Feel free to use it as a guide for your own boundary agreement. Remember, you’re not punishing the addict for their addiction. You’re safeguarding yourself from it. For us, we've gotten to a place in our recoveries that this BA isn't really necessary. Now we sit and talk things over because it's been so long since he's had a slip. However, when slips were happening two, three times a year, I felt I needed to have this for my emotional well-being.
Again, this is something I second guessed myself about sharing on here.  I am under no illusion that the internet is a private place and I've been extremely open about my husband's addiction and my recovery on here.  This though...this BA...it's a very personal.  Putting it out there like this kinda scares me, I admit. 

I simply want to help whoever it is that's searching for answers and hope.

Edited to Add: You can read more about boundaries and other tools I used and how I healed from Relational Trauma (a form of PTSD) in my book, Steps Along My Shore, published in 2016. Also, please feel free to email me. My goal is to help others avoid the mistakes I made along the way.