Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"B" is for Boundaries: A-Z Challenge

B is for Boundaries


Illustrated by Rob Z Tobor

Boundaries are one of those topics I could write about almost every day.  I’m that passionate about them.  Probably because I allowed mine to get crossed a few years ago.  Who am I kidding?  Crossed doesn’t even come close to what I allowed.  More like stomped on then lit on fire.

I’ve always been aware of my boundaries even though I didn’t know what that meant at the time.  I’m not one to shy away from letting someone know they are invading my space, or making me uncomfortable.  Granted, I’ve toned down how I react now. But, there was a time when I didn’t hesitate to tell someone to get bent, only in much harsher language.

My boundaries slowly but surely eroded the first few years of marriage to Devin.  It began as denial.  I knew my husband was looking at porn but was afraid to admit to how much time he wasted on it.  

I thought I could control it if I agreed to look with him.  Soon porn wasn’t a rush for him anymore.  He couldn’t get that high he needed to feel if I was agreeing to it.  Devin suggested what I should wear to turn him on.  Rather than vocalize how uncomfortable I was, I dressed how he wanted.

It went on like this for almost a year.  I permitted myself to feel like crap because his happiness had become more important than my own.  I was completely enmeshed in him.  I had no healthy boundaries anymore.

from Bing
Finally, God stepped in and did for me what I could not do for myself.  He provided me with the truth.  And, what a truth it was. I learned he's a sex addict and  I found out about Devin's affairs and was devastated.  

But, I was also renewed.

Never again would I allow myself to feel like dirt in my own marriage.  I’d rather walk out the door than go through another disclosure day.  I discovered the significance of personal boundaries.  I understood the importance of saying, “If you want to stay married to me, this is how this marriage is gonna work.”

I created my first boundary agreement.  A document that could have been written by Hitler, it was so dictative.  (Yes, I made up my own word).  Anyone familiar with computer code knows about the “if else” statement.  That’s what my boundary agreement is similar too now. It contains things like, “If you cheat on me, I will divorce you” and “If you have a slip, you must tell me, or else I feel threatened.”

Some people find boundary agreements as a form of trying to control someone.  I don't.  It’s a way of letting an addict know what you will and will not tolerate in their behavior in order to safeguard yourself.  It’s a tangible means of protecting yourself and your family.  As long as your boundaries are coming from a healthy place, not from fear or control, it’s a great tool to have when married to an addict. 

Do you have strong boundaries?

~~~

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.  Wanna see more?  Click the link below. 




58 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good way to keep him accountable as well.
    God made boundaries for a reason - to keep us safe.
    Glad you stood up for yourself and your marriage.

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    1. It truly was a great tool to keep him accountable in our marriage. The tricky part was learning that I can't be his accountability partner - but boy I gave that a try! I'm glad I stood up too, Alex. So worth it!!

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  2. What a powerful post, Elsie! I can only imagine what it must have been like to get into uncomfortable situations for someone else's happiness. I do set boundaries in my life and these are always to do with my comfort level- physical, emotional and spiritual. It takes people time to get to know the real me but once they do, they accept me as I am, with my boundaries. At least, I think so.

    http://momdiary.blogspot.in/2014/04/believe-in-pain.html

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    1. Thank you, Shailaja. Looking back, it was a horrendous situation to be in. While I was in it, I didn't even notice. It happened so slowly and being the "independent, strong willed" woman I thought I was, I didn't think it could happen to me. I'm glad to hear how comfortable you are in your own skin with your own physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries. Awesome!!!

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  3. All interaction needs boundaries. A line that can't be crossed without consequence. If not, we lose our self respect and others lose respect for us. It's not being dictative, it's self preservation.

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    1. You understand it, Frank. That's it exactly. I felt like I was going insane for a long time before I discovered the truth. It was very unnerving. Once I realized what was going on around me and enforced my boundaries, I was my old self again. It seems like forever ago.

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  4. Good for you for standing up for yourself and for clearly defining the boundaries. Very inspiring actually :)

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    1. Thanks, Keith. I appreciate that, especially because I know how strange it sounds. Who wants to be married to someone you have to make a contract with? Well, I guess that'd be me cause I love him and understand the complexity of sex addiction.

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  5. another inspiring piece...i think you have to have boundaries....it allows healthy growth within them and also protects you in a good way from being hurt further....

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    1. Yep! When you don't have anyone protecting you from yourself, your recovery grows exponentially. Thanks, Brian!

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  6. I once had a friend tell me 'wow, you sure know your boundaries' when she asked to borrow my car to move. I said absolutely not. She was taken aback. She said if I wanted to drive it instead that was fine too, but this was a move from Vallejo to San Francisco, and i lived in West Marin County and again I said no. My car had almost 200,000 miles on it and there was no way I was doing a grueling trip like that! Unfortunately I let my ex husband walk all over me and my boundaries. Eventually I just stopped caring.

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    1. It's funny you mention that JoJo - about having strong boundaries with your friends but not your ex. That was totally me too! I had no problems let others know when I felt they were crossing my boundaries. I had no problems saying no to friends or even at work but when it came to Devin…I just couldn't do it. Strange. I'm not real sure I'd let anyone borrow my car for such a trip. Even my kids. But, that's probably because one of them rolled their car into a ditch a couple of years ago. haha

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  7. The first few years of Marriage my wife and I did everything we were told by her family. It was unhealthy for our relationship. We read a book given to us by our pastor called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. We set up the boundaries that to this day have helped our family stay close to God and each other.

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    1. I just took a look at the book on Amazon. It looks really, really good. I wish I had something like that a few years ago. I bought it to see if it can help others in my position. There are many partners of addiction who struggle with clear boundaries. This looks like it'd be very helpful. Thank you so much!! I'm glad you and your wife were able to establish, and more importantly, keep healthy boundaries with her family.

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  8. Boundaries are sure needed indeed. They keep things in check and make sure such things don't come to pass again, or at least give significant incentive not to let them happen again.

    What couldn't do two posts in one day? lol

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    1. I remember when I started to enforce my boundaries with Devin. Oh my gosh, he hated it! But, after some time, he realized it's exactly what we both needed in our relationship.

      What? You think I'm you? Next you'll be asking me to do 24…

      Guess you were over at my writing blog. I may just need to close it down and bring it over here again.

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  9. I do, but I put boundaries only on myself, not on others... I usually tolerate others for way too long :)

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    1. Dezzy!! Hugs to you because you put up with way too much.

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  10. Females are socialized to have poor boundaries. Mine are much stronger now than when I was younger. But there are still weak links in the chain, LOL!

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    1. When I first read your comment I wanted to disagree but then I thought about it. We are taught to be nurturers when we are young. That can lead for us to be people pleasers. Very wise, Debra. Very wise.

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  11. Very interesting. Over the last three years, I've been helping my grandparents while one of them was sick. But instead of just helping, I exchanged my own happiness for theirs with lots of health issues as a result. I forgot about my boundaries because I thought I was doing the right thing. I had to learn the hard way to listen to myself once in a while.

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    1. That is such a difficult situation for a kid or grandkid to be in, the role of caregiver. I had to do that for my mom before she was put in a home with Alzheimer's. I'm glad you started to listen to yourself and hopefully, they understood too.

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  12. Once again, I am in awe of you, Elsie. Your faith, your commitment, your sense of self. I think I need to work on my boundaries. I have improved, but I find that in the professional world is where they tend to break down. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I appreciate that, Melanie. I'm just a normal chick though. I just happened to be married to an addict and needed to learn why I did and how I got there. =)

      Work was the first place I was able to start saying no again. It's tough because you don't want to disappoint your co-workers but at the same time, you don't want to become their doormat either. Best of luck!!!

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  13. You are an extremely strong person. I honestly don't know if I could do what you are doing. but you are making a great effort to work through and help your husband. I hope he realizes just how much you love him to do this for and with him. <3

    Jamie Dement (LadyJai)
    My A to Z
    Caring for My Veteran

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    1. Thank you, Jamie. After taking a look at your blog, I think you could handle every ounce of what I've been through. You are a strong person too. Ah, yes, my hubby knows how lucky he is =)

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  14. Getting over an addiction feels impossible, but helping someone you love recover from an addiction feels just as tough. You need those boundaries. He's a lucky man to have you.

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    1. I'm glad I had twenty years of sobriety on him - could imagine if I had an addictive addiction while his was active too. That would have been grueling.

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  15. Before I forget to answer the question you've asked me twice now: no, I don't have an accent. I grew up bilingual since my mother is American and my dad Swedish. I learned both languages at the same time. Swedish was stronger when we lived there, and I was hesitant about my English, but it didn't take long. I'm still bilingual, but now the English is stronger. I try to take every opportunity to use my Swedish, especially with my Dad and sister.

    I'm working on boundaries, too. I think everyone needs them whether married to an addict or not. Especially with friends. I went through a period where I had a lot of "project" friends who were looking for me to provide all their emotional needs. It was rough, and I did have to completely end a friendship with one person who refused to acknowledge them. And tried to steal my husband, so there was that "little" problem, too...
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

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    1. I would take every chance I had to use my other language too (if I had one). My friend is from Germany and has lived in the states for twenty years. She speaks German and English to her children so they can speak to their grandparents overseas. It's so cool!

      Boundaries can be difficult to maintain when you are especially close to the person. A friend, a good friend any way, will understand when you say no. Someone who is more invested in themselves tend to get their panties in a wad. I'm glad you were able to sever ties. And, uh, yeah, trying to steal your hubby, um, not so much!!

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    2. In my marriage, I was the easy going one... I finally figured out (believe it or not), that she was verbally abusive, emotionally abusive, and physically abusive to our children... I was weak in that I didn't develop boundaries for how she would treat us (the kids and myself)... I sure failed my children and myself in that regard...

      ~shoes~

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  16. This is one reason I'm glad I grew up in the culture I did. Certain boundaries were expected, the first of which was a love of God and following of strict guidelines in the realms of chastity, virtue, and integrity. It was by no means perfect, but the expectation made for a group of people who really tried.

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    1. It's awesome that you were raised with boundaries you could clearly define. My boundaries in this eroded over time so it was difficult to tell. It was like I was being worn down, whittled away. I'm going to poke around your blog a bit and see if you mention anything about your childhood. You've got me curious.

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  17. A lot of women give up what they really like and who they are to please/keep/get a man. We even take on their interests, giving up our own. It's a dangerous thing, this loss of self for the sake of a relationship. You forget who you really are and you allow yourself to be stepped on. Debra was right, we are raised to be this way. Just look at the cover of a womans magazine and count the articles about "How to please your man". Gag.

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    1. Spot on, friend! I grew up with my mom telling me I should look for a doctor. I ended up bringing home a biker dude =P

      It's cool to have some things in common with your hubby but geez, there has to be room for some sort of space between the two of you. Just like Devin has his gaming, I have my writing.

      I refuse to look at the crap they publish in "woman" magazines because I find it pretty insulting to my intelligence. I'm forever telling Peanut those women on the cover are airbrushed to look that good. Okay, my rant is over. See what you did, Anne? You raised the beast!!

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  18. Great post. I am always working on establishing my boundaries. Some days I am good, but other days, not so much. It's work in progress with me.

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    1. Good for you! I'm glad to hear you're a work in progress. So am I. It's a constant work =)

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  19. Boundaries yes! Necessary today - so very necessary!

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  20. So that is the difference between a porn watcher and sex addict. Sheesh! good for you for laying down the law! Many women would not find the strength. Kudos for finding yours!

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    1. Yep. A SA is compulsive with their behavior, much like an alcoholic. There are SAs that do nothing more than watch porn but do so compulsively. It's a tough disease. Thank you!

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  21. I think you are a strong and brave woman!
    Boundaries are necessary to maintain healthy relationships...
    And sharing this will help others who may find themselves in a similar situation!
    Thank you!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. That is truly my hope, Michelle. I want to be able to help someone by blogging about this addiction. Fingers crossed, it does.

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  22. aaah Elsie Im not good for boundaries and Im the first and know how is!
    But the last times I have learned something lol
    Is not easy I was always in a house where the boundaries were different to my Dad (por ejemplo) and for us. Anyway my hubby is not easy (I told you sometimes) So I try and still I try . Amazing post, dear xo

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    1. Gloria! My friend! I'm so glad you are always learning. It's really hard if you grew up with out any kind of boundaries. Devin grew up the same way. So sad. As long as you keep trying, Gloria =)

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  23. This was well-written. I like how you tied it in so nicely to the AZ game. Very cool.

    I agree about the airbrush thing. It's crazy stuff what they do.

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    1. Thanks, Ivy. I look back at my original ramblings and am glad I've improved my writer's technique!

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    2. You really are and have kicked butt during
      this challenge. And I'm not a fan of themed
      A/Z posts, but you made it work and made
      it work well.

      Keep writing.

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  24. A long time ago, I was in the lovely position of having to take my ex wife to her AA classes at the local mental health place. I met a young lady there, whose reality was... well, a bit more fluid than most. She summed herself up succinctly in a reflective moment as we talked. "I have no walls", she told me. Haven't seen her since, but she's never left my mind.

    If you ever catch one of my New Years Eve posts, this is why I usually spent the night playing A Long December over and over. "...Smell of hospitals in winter, and the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls... all at once, you look across a crowded room to see the way that light attaches to a girl..."

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    1. The way you wrote that tale, Chris, her words have an eerily beautiful sound. It's funny how some people leave such an impression upon us for the rest of our lives with just a few words. I think I'll go back and look at your NYE post from last year and I'll have to listen to A Long December too. Thanks!!

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  25. I knew about this before so this was a refresher for me ~ Hubby and I don't have boundaries but we know when to step into each other's world, and just to let it be ~ I find this agreement very interesting actually and would rather read comments from those who have experienced it ~

    Good luck in your A-Z challenge Elsie ~ Take care ~

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    1. I absolutely adored the poem you did for me a while back. It summed up our unique situation so well. Dang, I should have given out the link to it. I think I'll find a place for it somewhere along the rest of the A-Z. I'd love to see some comments from others going through the same thing too.

      Thanks, Grace and have a beautiful week!!

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  26. Everyone needs some kind of boundary in their life, if not it'd be anarchy!

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    1. Oh, Ray! You just reminded me from that line in Breakfast Club. Something like, "He'll get up, she'll get up, it'll be anarchy!" Great movie!

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  27. Boundaries are sometimes difficult to set. I was raised in what I would call "a business atmosphere." The customer is always right. Keep your opinions to yourself. That didn't help me develop healthy relationships. Life is a learning process. Too bad it is so short and human being are so determined to learn everything on their own.

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    1. You just made me realize I grew up in the same kind of situation. Not severe or anything, but very people pleasing for my dad's clients. I'm glad life is a learning process. I learn something every day…just when my stubborn self thinks I don't need to.

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  28. When I was married I lost all sight of my boundaries, too. And I didn't get them back until recently. My therapist had me read a book called Boundaries and it was like a light coming on. All of my issues with men led directly back to my inability to set a boundary. Wow. Talk about life-changing. My mom likes to watch shows like Dr. Phil and whenever I catch parts (or wholes) the problem is almost always boundaries. He doesn't call it that, but that is what it is. Once you understand boundaries, most relationship issues stem there. Not all. But most.

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    1. I've learned so much about keeping my boundaries in place since this happened. It was difficult to admit to myself that I allowed them to fall apart in the first place. When I'm in a healthy state of mind, my boundaries are strong. But, when co-dep hit, my boundaries got crushed. I just bought that book the other day. Can't wait to read it. I'm glad you found your boundaries again. Awesome!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm here to help any way I can.