Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Husband's Point of View


 
Over the years many of you have read that I feel it's important to have a boundary agreement when in a relationship with a sex addict but I’ve yet to share how Devin feels about it. So, today I’m going to share a post he wrote on Candeo for the addict’s and their partners. This is a bit longer than my usual posts, but I feel it’s well worth the read. With his permission, I'm sharing it here:

 

I am the SA of the couple and have been in recovery for 6 years now. I debated on which part of the forum to post this and thought maybe both sides could benefit from my experience so I decided here would be best.

As the SA and a man, the first boundary agreement was the hardest, for both of us. For my wife, trying to figure out what was realistic, acceptable and fair, and for me, because initially I felt emasculated; like a child where my mother was imposing all these strict rules.

It wasn't until I understood that my actions and behaviors showed that I did not have, or understood, boundaries, and that this document was to let me know what was and wasn't acceptable behavior. These were the things I needed to do to help my wife work through this traumatic experience and start to rebuild her trust and faith in me and our marriage.

Checking in was the hardest. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted. To feel I had to check in hurt my ego. But part of my acting out comprised of doing whatever, whenever, and wherever I wanted. If I didn't check in to help put her mind at ease, the wounds could never start to heal. When I understood the trauma I caused, I also suggested an app, so I could also “show” here where I was. We use the Life360 app, and to make things easier, she also checked in, too. It became a mutual action.

I also had to learn there was no such thing as “just friends” at the workplace. In fact, after reading the book, “Not Just Friends”, I realized how wrong my thinking was. There was a section in the book that discussed “walls and windows”. In a normal relationship, my wife should have been inside the walls with me looking out the window at the world. Instead, she was outside looking in, where I was sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with female co-workers instead of her.

The boundary agreement laid out what was and wasn't acceptable in the work place. Keeping things professional was something I had to learn. Sharing what problems my wife and I were having with others was not acceptable and would have repercussions if I overstepped that boundary.

The first boundary agreement was rough. I knew no bounds and she needed some kind of reassurance to help start the healing process. Other boundaries included working on my recovery, checking in, especially if I was going to be late from work, or if I planned on stopping somewhere on the way home. Being honest, which was hard, but I am fortunate that she has made it easy to be honest by not over-reacting when I tell her I had a slip. If I wasn't honest, there were repercussions, which for me, was sleeping in the spare bedroom for a few nights.

I have heard of the SA's coming up with boundaries of their own. Folks, this isn't a tit-for-tat. Just because your spouse comes up with a boundary agreement doesn't mean you have to as well to get back at her. Remember, you were the one who didn't have any boundaries. Your spouse thought life was going along just fine and you were everything they dreamed of, until they learned of your “secret” life…then everything came crumbling down. This is for your spouse's reassurance that somewhere, deep inside, is the person they knew they married. Let them have this without the retort.

“So what, as SA's we don't get to have any boundaries?” Yes, we do, because for whatever reason, something most likely happened in the past that lead us to have some kind of trust issue. This kept us in that secret life and we also need a place to feel safe.

As a couple, there should be reasonable boundaries to encourage us to be honest when we slip. There should also be limitations on language so it's a safe environment for everyone.

My wife and I set aside a time in the evening to share about our day. We share, one on one, our feelings, needs, and progress or slips in our recovery. This is the safe zone where we can be open and honest (an even show our vulnerable side) with each other.

I hope this helps couples who are struggling with boundaries. I apologize if I rambled as it is easier to talk about than write it out.

I love my wife and realized how special she is for staying with me after the pain I caused her and I want every couple to have that same chance.


In response to a question my husband wrote:


In my time in recovery I have learned that this is the most difficult, yet most important piece of the puzzle for a couple's relationship to survive. 

Before recovery, I was that wild stallion who lived for the moment roaming the plains, untamed.  I think it's safe to say that most, if not all, SAs are the same.  The boundary agreement is the corral, and if you have any experience with horses, you know how that goes.

The SA needs to understand that the boundary agreement is like an amendment to their wedding vows, because, well, as an SA, we didn't fully understand nor follow those vows.  This boundary agreement isn't made to tie us down nor emasculate us, but to explain to us what is and isn't acceptable, and just because the spouse comes up with the agreement, doesn't mean the SA has to as well.  If the spouse wishes to check your cell phone at any given moment, it doesn't mean you have to have the right to do the same out of spite.  Remember, if your marriage is important, you will do WHATEVER you can to ease their fears and concerns.

To the hurt spouse, the reality of us coming to the realization that we have an addiction can be somewhat traumatic all in itself.  I'm not trying to excuse my actions, not at all, but learning that I have an addiction, was like learning I had some other incurable disease...and yes, it is incurable.  There is no magic pill to make this disappear.  There is no training to make it go away.  There is only recovery programs like Candeo and 12 Steps to help us understand, adapt, and live with this condition.  Also know this, recovery isn't just for the SA.  As the hurt spouse, you have suffered a traumatic experience as well and need to work on your own recovery.  In my groups, I have seen firsthand relationships suffer because only one is working on recovery.  It's a 3-part process; your recovery, the SA's recovery, and the couple's recovery. 

When you, the hurt spouse, creates and presents the boundary agreement, presentation is key to acceptance.  First your SA spouse needs to understand why you're presenting the BA.  With us, it's because my wife loved me, wanted our marriage to work, and knew that somewhere, deep down, was the man she married.  That I broke boundaries and went outside my marriage and needed to understand what was and wasn't acceptable behavior.  As hurt as you've been, please try to be gentle and nurturing.  I know it's asking a lot after what you've been through.  

 
I had to learn how to present my boundary agreement properly. At first I was a hellion. Now, it's a team effort, a calm and more relaxed conversation than it was six years ago. What about you? Do you have problems communicating difficult topics? 

 

38 comments:

  1. Your husband and the responder said it so well - the boundaries are to regain trust. They are also a safe place. God has set up boundaries for us, not to restrict us, but to keep us safe. That agreement and boundaries does the same thing.

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    1. Exactly. He understood that he lost my trust and in order to regain it, he had to change. Completely. What he'd done wasn't a result of a wandering eye, it was because of an addiction, so I needed them to make me feel emotionally safe if I was going to continue to stay married to an addict. I agree, God gives us boundaries so mankind doesn't amok.

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  2. Interesting to see it from his side of things, as yeah, one does learn and grow and the boundaries facilitate that, bridging what trust was lost.

    Do I have problems communicating difficult topics? Nah, a little too blunt maybe sometimes lol or too much of a smart ass or maybe both.

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    1. I think people are surprised to see his side of things. I think they assume he was "forced" into complying with my boundary agreement and all it entailed, but that wasn't the case at all. He had remorse and wanted to make things right now matter what it took - no matter how insane it was in the beginning...and it was insane!

      Why am I not surprised that you can be blunt? I used to be too blunt back in the day. I had to learn to tone it down because my sharp tongue had a way of hurting people's feelings. I had no filter. haha

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    2. haha I have a filter, I just choose to ignore it many a time.

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    3. Haha...that's what I used to do too!

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  3. I think any marriage sustains its own form of battle or struggle like this, where we have to set parameters and compromise and work at meshing. Open communication really is the key. The hope is that eventually we normalize into that corral where both feel save and valued.

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    1. I think you're right, Crystal. I think that first year or two most couples are working out the regular kinks in communication. Add in an addiction and things get a bit more complicated.

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  4. Do My Rare One and I have difficulty communicating difficult topics? Hahahahahahaha! Who doesn't? Man, the fortune we've spent in counsellor's fees, LOL!

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    1. Same here, Debra. We've spent a ton on counseling. Couple's and individual. It's worth it's weight in gold though isn't it? ;)

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  5. You're a very special couple.
    Boundaries are key in every relationship, everyday.
    Thank you for sharing Devin's perspective.

    Love you!

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    1. Thank you, my friend. We had terrible boundaries. We walked all over each other and were completely enmeshed with other. What a mess we became during the height of his addiction. Ugh! Love ya, babe!

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  6. That boundary agreement as he describes it would not only work for any addiction, but for any couple.

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    1. Thank you, Diane. Respecting other people's boundaries is so important. It's amazing how I let people run all over me during that time. I shudder to think about it.

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  7. This was excellent, I have often wondered how he felt about the boundary agreement and his side of your relationship. I think he did a great job in explaining why it's important. I agree that if you value your marriage, you will be willing to do the work on your part to save it, and yes, it takes two, that's essential.

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    1. Thank you, Josie. I was also inspired by reading it. I thought I understood how he felt, but reading it in black and white was really eye-opening for me. It made me realize just how willing he was to do whatever it took to make our marriage work. I love him for that.

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  8. Wow. That was an awesome read and I'm so, so pleased with Devin's acceptance of his responsibility in all of this and understood what needed to be done to save your marriage. I'm so glad that he continues to be committed to it. That both of you are!

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    1. Thanks, JoJo. I'm grateful that's he's gained this insight and empathy for our situation. I wouldn't be here if he hadn't. It's humbling to see just how committed to his recovery and our marriage he truly is.

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  9. Not to get all mushy, but you're such a good wife, Elsie. Firm and just but with love behind it. The boundary agreement is great, and so is the nightly sharing. Not enough couples even in non-addict relationships do that. We have an old high school friend who's an addict (of the drug variety) who was having issues with falling off the wagon, and he never felt like he could talk to his lady about it. He slipped last week, she kicked him to the curb without a second thought, and he actually just tried to kill himself by driving 90 mph into a solid concrete wall (but thank God he failed and is okay). No, I'm not implying it's her fault, but it is sad that neither of them were ever at a point together where he felt like he could open up about those things and just talk to her about them, because if they were, maybe it could have prevented all of that, even the slip. Communication goes a LONG way.

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    1. Well shucks, Bryan, you're making me blush. Seriously though, I truly appreciate you saying that. I think the thing that helps Devin and I is that I'm a recovering addict too. I get it. I understand that struggle so I had to have compassion even when I wanted to punch him in the face. I wasn't perfect, not even close. But I eventually got to a place of understanding, and then so did he.

      I can't even imagine what you guys must be going through right now with your friend. I'm so sorry and my heart goes out to you and also to him. It's such a hard road to navigate - being on a slippery slope, not knowing who you can turn to, wanting to talk to the person you're closest to but not being able to - just terrible. I'm glad he's doing okay and I hope that can recover.

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  10. First, let me salute Devin for a courageous, excellent post.

    Second the thing that jumped out FOR ME was the "Just friends at work" thing. Because that ain't always about sex. Too many times it's easier to talk to someone who actually listens than to go home and say, "I need you to listen to me." Been there, done that. Bad thing is, the righter in your head it makes you feel, the sicker it makes your marriage.

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    1. Thank you, Chris. Muchly appreciated.

      I totally understand your point of view. Because for you, it's not. You're not a sex addict. He is and he also struggled with communication. He had know clear understanding of how to share feelings, how to be emotionally intimate with me. He didn't know how to allow himself to be truly open and vulnerable. After he read that book, he had an "aha" moment and realized, if we were going to stay married, he had to come to me with things that were important to him, the good, bad, and ugly. Otherwise, why stay married? Like you said though, that's us

      I feel that if you're with someone who isn't listening at home, and they're shutting you out, than it's probably not healthy to continue to stay with them. It will probably just become toxic.

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  11. This post is so inspirational actually because you both talk and communication is such a key point in any relationship. It must be tough for your hubby to open up since judgements abound in the human race. He is right...he is lucky to have you because not too many would stick it through and do their best to understand the nature of this addiction. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Thank you, Birgit. He does continue to inspire me. I was happy to hear that he's inspired others in his group too. That made my heart smile. It's a stigma to have the addiction he has and while I want nothing more than to shout out hope from the rooftops, I have to refrain for fear of people finding out who were really are. It's a double-edged sword.

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  12. Very enlightening and educational to read Elsie ~ I admire your hubby's honesty and courage in this journey ~ Hope you have a lovely week ~

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    1. Thank you, Grace. I'm proud of him for sharing his journey here. I was happy when he gave the okay! Have a wonderful weekend :)

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  13. Hi Elsie - I read this yesterday ... it is so emotionally and so well written ... and thank you for giving us both sides of the story - it is rational and understandable. So difficult for both of you - yet it's wonderful to read and to feel that all will be well ... with both of you and your understanding and acceptance of the situation.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us ... I wish you both the absolute best ... Hilary

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    1. Thank you for coming back again to give me your thoughts on it, Hilary, I appreciate that. When I started this blog, I wanted to provide hope so I'm very happy to hear that you see it when you read it. That made my face light up! Have a beautiful weekend!

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  14. That was an excellent, heart-felt post. Thank you for sharing.

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  15. Creating a boundary is not easy anywhere, but both your coordination to sustain the relationship seemed to work well here. I think the recovery phase must had lot of qualms and the way both managed to understanding the wealth of relationship is what made this happen.

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    1. It took a lot of coordination for both of us for sure. And a ton of communication. We both had poor boundaries and criss crossed all over each other as his addiction got worse. We had to learn how to respect each other again.

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  16. Never thought we would get to hear your husband's side, well, his actual voice. You two have come a long way, Elsie.

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    1. I admit, I didn't think I'd get a chance to share his voice here. I'm glad he was willing to share a piece of himself with everyone.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this and it was well worth the read I found it enlightening as I know zero about addictions of any type.

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  18. I have been pretty busy since returning to work. I gave you a book shout out this morning. Stop by and check it out!

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    1. It's so good to see you. I read the shout out and I greatly appreciate it! It did my heart good to read!

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