Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Newer Nicer Agreement


Recently I decided to update my Boundary Agreement with Devin. As I wrote it I thought, this is a ton of work, do I really need to revise it this long after disclosure day?

Then I mentally gave myself a kick in the ass. I reminded myself just how important my agreement is because I’m married to a sex addict who struggles with proper boundaries from time to time. And, so do I. 

I knew when I decided to walk beside Devin as he worked through his recovery, and then I committed to working on mine, that it could be a rough journey.  The beginning was the most difficult to wade through, but after time and solid recovery work, it grew easier and easier to stay committed to making our marriage work. Plus, it helps that he’s a wonderful guy who is much more than his addiction.

Did I think I’d ever be in relationship that requires an agreement with consequences attached to it?  No.  It never even entered the deepest recesses of my mind (and that’s a scary place!).  But, I understood I needed that physical piece of paper to help me feel safe in our marriage again.  It helps me express my expectations and verbalize what will happen when boundaries are crossed.

Just like before, I’m going out on a very personal limb by posting my Boundary Agreement and understand if you click away since it's geared towards partners of sex addicts.  

I don't expect everyone to understand my unique situation.  I’m sharing this in an effort to help those that walk the path after me. To let them know they aren't alone.  My hope is that someone in a relationship with a sex addict will take what they want from it and leave the rest.

It’s a bit long because I changed my tone from being a total dictator to someone who is much more understanding of the things that may happen because I’m married to an addict.  Since it’s lengthy, I’ll just post an example and add a page for those who’d like to read the whole version.

(Taken in bits and pieces after a personal note to him before I start digging into the meat and potatoes of the agreement.  If anyone remembers my old agreement, this is a drastic improvement tone wise)


I hope you understand this is not an effort to control you.  It’s a way for me to maintain trust in you so we can keep a healthy relationship.  It will also help me not to shut down when I feel like my emotional boundaries are crossed.

So, here it is, in a much healthier format than before (at least to me ;p)

Being married to a sex addict can be very difficult at times.  To help me feel safe in my marriage I chose to create a boundary agreement specific to our situation.  I'm posting it here to help others who are in a similar situation and remind them they aren't alone.  There are lots of us out there.  I hope this helps someone draft one of their own if they think they need it. Please take what you want and leave the rest.

Be well and shoot me an email if you have any questions.




I hope you understand this is not an effort to control you.  It’s a way for me to maintain trust in you so we can keep a healthy relationship.  It will also help me not to shut down when I feel like my emotional boundaries are crossed. 

So, here it is, in a much healthier format than before (at least to me ;p)

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.

Lying: 
            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.

~~~


            2016 ETA: 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.



On a total side note I’m so over the cold weather and the snow.  Where the hell are you spring?






39 comments:

  1. I think the tone is very fair and understanding. It gives you both room while setting those boundaries. Asking for honesty when there is a slip is not demanding. It's showing you respect. And a man and wife should always show each other respect.

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    1. Exactly, Alex. Thank you for understanding. When we were going over it in couples counseling yesterday, hubby said that while he hates having consequences put on him, he completely understands what his addiction did to our marriage. He knows if he wants me to stay, there are conditions to it.

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    2. Hey Elsie - Thanks for sharing this with us. I have a follow-up question from the comment your wrote here. You mention, if he wants you to stay ... my question, what would make you leave?

      I understand if that's too personal to answer. Not a big deal.

      Either way, good on you for continuing to do what works for you.

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    3. Not to personal at all, Ivy. If his slips turn into a full relapse I'll divorce him. If he has any inappropriate contact with a woman - I don't care if it's a personal email, an online affair, or a physical affair - they equate to the same thing to me, I'll leave. And, if he isn't in what I defined as a healthy recovery by the end of the year, or if he gets into it, then slides back, I'll will leave.

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  2. You put a lot of work in this agreement & I appreciate the time & effort to make it a positive and encouraging one ~

    I really like the part of Slips with: I need you to understand I am a safe person to come to if you slip.

    Hope you are well Elsie ~ I hate the winter snow :-(

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    1. Thank you, Grace. I appreciate that. Hubby is happier with it too. It is so much more understanding than the other (feels like a million) two I've written.

      Oh. My. Gosh. I'm so done with the snow. It's pretty the first time but after that - ugh! We just got two inches last night and are expecting another eight tonight. The kids have missed a ridiculous amount of school this year.

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  3. I'm no expert but this sounds pretty reasonable. And as the others have said, the time and effort you put into this is awesome. It's clearly paying off.

    On a lighter note, it dumped 20 inches of snow here over the weekend. Maybe it's just the fact that the snow is taller than any of my dogs, but it needs to be summer NOW.

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    1. I'm no expert either. I just play one on the internetz. That's probably why it's taken so many tries to get it "just right". We'll see if I need another updated one next year.

      So me complaining about two inches last night and eight tonight is probably makes your eyes roll. Our dogs love it but they can walk without freezing their privates off. Tonight though, that'll change. Twenty inches of snow is just too much damn snow. My brother always tells me how it melts the next day. Not sure that's going to happen for you guys this time.

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  4. Seems perfect to me, you didn't go all whiny or dictator there(the cat is surprised actually lol) Reasonable is the word. When did that happen? Good you have finally come to terms with your one eye. Ugg to the stupid stupid snow, it never stops. More tomorrow here.

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    1. Trust me, I surprised myself. Me being all nice and sweet and kind…what? Of course, I just take all my anger out on the cat. It's therapeutic for me. Again with the one eye? Want to hear something funny? I almost put that old picture in between instead of the couple holding hands. But, I didn't want to hear it from you. And, I still did. Damn cat!

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  5. i admire your strength in being willing to share this...
    and boundaries are healthy...it allows people to know where they stand and it
    opens the door to rebuilding trust on both sides..it removes judgement
    and opens the door to forgiveness...i appreciate that...and the honesty...

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    1. Thanks, Brian. That means a lot to me. I second guess myself when I share this much on here but my intentions are pure and hubby is okay with it because he wants to help others in their journeys too. Trust is the one thing that takes so much time and forgiveness to gain back and it's so easily blown. That's why I built the importance of honesty in my BA. Again, thank you.

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  6. You've worded this in a very honest, supportive, loving and positive way. Three nights of limited contact is not at all harsh. I can't imagine anyone would see it that way. Keep taking care of yourself in your marriage and the world. It's working, hon. You're shining bright! Hugs.

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    1. Thank you so much, Robyn. Your kind words of support and encouragement let me know that I did the right thing revising it and also sharing it on here. (Don't tell anyone, but you actually made me tear up. Dammit!) I really need to get my butt in gear and finish writing my self-help book and get it back to you…I hope all is well with you! Hugs.

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  7. You are so brave to post your agreement. But it will help someone else who is in your position. If the tone is more understanding it's because you've learned so much since the first draft and you do understand it better.

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    1. Or just really crazy. :)

      That is my true goal by sharing it on here. I risk judgement, but I accept that. I really want to help someone who is going through this too. It's mentally draining at a times but it doesn't always have to be when clear boundaries are in place. Thank you!

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  8. I've never gone to the extreme of a written agreement, but my husband and I have had many, many discussions along the path where we reestablished boundaries and priorities. It's an important aspect of a healthy relationship--no matter what addictions or struggles you face. I applaud your courage for sharing. =)

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    1. Thank you, Crystal. I agree with you. Those open and honest conversations are vital to a strong and healthy relationship. They help keep those boundaries in place. I appreciate you.

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  9. I liked your final picture.
    Amazing thing about perspective.
    I know you're getting snow in your area today, but....
    We have it worse than you.
    New England has it worse than us.
    Canada has it worse than New England (if nothing else, they have Celine Dion).
    And Florida...?
    Well, let's get back with them in August.

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    1. It really is perspective. My brother has had endless snow in Colorado and we've had a couple of storms. The difference is, my daughter has missed over a week of school already. Nuts! Bring on the summer!

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  10. Some people need such agreements in their lives and when they do writing them and setting them out so both can see is a good think it can help strengthen a relationship

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    1. I am really one of those people. It helps me to have something tangible to touch and remind me what my agreement was in a no nonsense way.

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  11. At least you have communication about issues in your relationship and strive toward complete openness and honesty. That's the way to get things fixed.

    No snow in L.A. but it feels cold when it gets below 70 degrees which it has of late. I don't do well if I'm out in the cold for very long and back east it's really been cold.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out


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    1. Very true, Arlee. We are a constant work in progress and I'm okay with that.

      I would balk at you saying it feels cold when it's below 70 but I got so used to hot temperatures when I lived in Louisiana that now I think it's cold below 70 too. :)

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  12. So was there something that prompted this, right now? Did I miss a post?

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    1. Back in December I found out he had several slips over the course of a few months and didn't tell me. He tried to justify it and was wishy washy when we talked about it. After a couple of talks, he was transparent but it took a few tries and that's exhausting for me to pry out the truth. I wrote a post about it some time in December but never followed up on it. It took this long for me to actually rewrite the BA. (Hello long answer!)

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    2. Maybe I missed that post. December was busy. I don't even remember it (the month, that is).

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    3. Same here, Andrew. It was very busy!

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  13. Devin really gets props for sticking to his recovery and continuing to work on bettering himself. This agreement is great and shows a lot of understanding, while also protecting you. Great job both of you!

    And I hear you on the winter. MAKE IT STOP!!!!

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    1. Thank you, JoJo. Devin deserves props (and a swift kick in the ass sometimes). He tries to stay on top of his recovery but I think we both got to complacent about it and that's how things took a slide downhill for a bit.

      I bet YOU are so tired of winter!!

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  14. I watched a film called "Thank You for Sharing". It was about sex addiction and in my limited knowledge it was well done. The lengths the men who were committed to recovery went to was amazing. I totally get the no MB rule now and admire any person who makes their way through this.

    I also now have a better feeling for what it might be like for you. This Boundry Agreement is essential for you and God Bless you for sticking with your hubby.

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    1. I love, love, love that movie, Anne. It was the best one I've seen about sex addiction so far. It was so spot on. Even though they didn't really talk much about the spouse's side of things, that brief moment with his sponsor's wife in the kitchen was perfect. Her line about keeping her side of the street clean really resonated with me. Great example to stay detached with love. I wrote about that movie awhile ago because it touched my heart so much.

      Thank you for your understanding and support. You've walked with me for a long time, my friend!

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  15. Most people would consider this a deal breaker but you recognize his addiction and he also deserves kudos for going to counselling and listening to your needs. What you wrote is honest, fair and respectful and you ask for the same in turn. I commend you for your bravery, patience and love

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    1. Thank you, Birgit. I didn't always have this patience or clarity about things. I never posted it, but my first agreement was terrible. I demanded, not asked. I forced his recovery down his throat and set impossible deadlines. Funny how much difference time and recovery can make.

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  16. Elsie, I didn't see the first agreement, but this sounds healthy to me. I'm so glad you're at a place in your own recovery wherein this is possible.

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  17. My dear Elsie always I think you are really brave and lovely!
    And I think you are so wise, I hope the spring arrive soon to your land:)
    Here's begin the first signs of autumn and I love it! but still is hot , a big hug!!!!
    xoxxo

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  18. to say, Elsie. It seems reasonable to me, but who am I? Reasonable can be tough. Do you know what I mean?

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