Monday, July 9, 2012

Step 1: Recognize

This lady broke all the boundaries when it came to skateboarding

Our kids are asleep and the house is quiet.  I'm sitting here in front of this blank screen wondering what I should say to kick off Boundaries Week.  I am no expert, I'm just the experience of one woman and I feel  inadequate.  Hoping you chime in and this becomes one awesome, demystifying boundary discussion.

There are so many bits and pieces of conversations and emails about boundaries bouncing around my brain.

                 "Boundaries piss me off!"

   "He says I shouldn't have boundaries."

                               "What are your boundaries 
                                                            and consequences?"

      "How do I enforce a boundary he doesn't agree too?"

       "When's enough, enough?"

    "Why do we need boundaries?"

Buster is the male counterpart of our doggy-duo, Buster and Lady.  The sun went down hours ago and in the desert during summer, that's prime time.  Temps cool enough to enjoy the evening.  So Buster and Lady bolt across the yard, tails wagging and noses sniffing.  In the Southwest corner of my front yard a mysterious vine grows.  It blooms are a sweet pinkish white and it hardly ever needs to be watered.  A miraculous adaption to the desert.  This is Busters' vine.  Sticking his nose in it and sniffing for the scent of an intruder...sure enough, a boundary has been crossed and he takes a nice long wizz remarking his territory.

If a big-old White German Shepard needs to make his boundaries clear then why don't I?

Boundaries used to piss me off in a teenage angst kind of way.  I was really put out that I'd have to set a boundary.  Wasn't our marriage based on mutual respect?  Promises? Fidelity and love?  Wasn't the boundary that we had committed our lives together, as one?  Aren't we both adults?  Wasn't there some kind of courtesy or Golden Rule?

This is where I was so wrong.  Just because you are kind, compassionate, empathetic and aware of others doesn't mean that everyone has that outlook.  I was under the impression that if I sacrificed something for him, he would do the same for me.  Soon, I found myself trapped in the grips of his control.  In a place where my feelings, ideas and thoughts were secondary.  He wore the pants, so to speak. I didn't dare buy the wrong kind of eggs at the grocery store much less put boundaries down about pornography in our home.

It became a joke between us, I never did anything wrong.  I was the perfect, obedient wife.  When I look in the mirror, I don't feel like a push-over or that I can't stand up for myself or have no self-confidence but when it came to Mr. Scabs, I let him.  Maybe, I thought that was love.  He was never cruel or spiteful, he just exerted control simply because I let him.

 Bill says it has something to do with the way I watched my Father treat my Mother.  

Sure, I'd rock the boat about hurt feelings or mistreatment but ultimately he'd tell me some gibberish about "trying harder to be better".  I'd believe him and that began our terrible marital cycle.  Round and round we went for years.  I gave up more and more control and he got more and more out of control.

One day, years before I learned about his infidelity, I disobeyed him!  *GASP*  My daughter wanted a pet, she wanted a kitten.  I wanted one too.  He said, "no."  When we resisted, he said, "NO!" more vehemently.  

I pouted for a few days and then the thought struck me, "I can do what I want.  I'm a grown woman."

So, I pulled up my big girl panties and packed my daughter in the car.  We drove to the shelter and adopted two cats.  Eddie-Jumper Cat and Twyla Girl-Cat.  Of course, Mr. Scabs fell in love with them.  He has an affection for all things furry---hmmm that didn't sound right did it?  Sorry Mr. Scabs.  (but it was funny, right?)

This whole scenario began my flight into independence.  I started living life for me and then I went to the grocery store and bought the eggs I wanted and didn't apologize.  

Setting Boundaries
Step 1: Recognize!

Tell yourself your a grown woman and put your big girl panties on.  Yep!  Your feelings, opinions and wants matter.  If you don't voice them and act on it, who will? Recognize that someone is stepping on your toes and you want it to stop.

Pick one thing you want to set boundaries with and work through this boundary setting self-talk.  Fill in the blanks with your own answers.

Mr. Scabs can't determine which eggs I buy.
I have the right to buy whatever eggs I want.
If he gives you backlash just say, "I'm sorry you feel so upset about the eggs.  Next time you I hope you go grocery shopping.

Some may say this feels selfish.  I get that.  But, really, are you the type of person that goes overboard and feels selfishly entitled to whatever you want when you want it?  I doubt it.  You're a good person and deserve good things in life.  Recognize.

Now go scramble your omelet!  


  1. Ive been a lurker for some time. I'm so impressed with your insights and your writing ability is beautiful...and it completely makes the obscure understandable to me.
    I was married for 4 years then divorced pretty much for what you described. I felt that he overexerted his control and I, like you, let it happen because I assumed everyone (let alone my husband) was gracious and giving like I was. This was years ago and I am happily remarried, this post gave me pause. Do the "controllers " have much accountability in this? I have always assumed they were "at fault" so it was like more 70/30 type thing. Does that make sense? I feel like you're letting Mr scabs off too easy. It was he who made you feel badly when you bought the wrong eggs, then probably dismissed your feelings about being shamed into feeling like you cant just go and buy eggs.
    Secondly, and this question is for all, ive often wondered if my ex husband may have had a pornography habit of some sort that shamed him, that caused him to distance from me, control small details and seem unable to empathize with me. He also seemed overly concerned with his privacy, shaming me if I asked about a phone conversation or suddenly changing his computer password because of some "buying the wrong eggs"- like offends id made. Do any of these suggest that it may have been something in his life? I had a dream the other night that I was in my ex husbands new garage and we became couples friends (each with our new spouses) and I saw a pill bottle on some boxes that said
    percocet take 1-2 prn pornography problem.
    this is hilarious because I'm an RN so of course I would dream it this way, but in my dream it all clicked- he was having issues with pornography, it all makes sense! I woke up but the very real feeling stayed with me for days. Any thoughts?
    Thank you to you scabs and all the ladies, you are strong and inspirational!!

    1. I'm obviously jaded, but when I see all the warning signs you mentioned, control, emotional abuse, a bad temper, I automatically assume there is a problem, usually with porn. I feel like this is good and bad. It's good because I feel like should my friends in these marriages ever need me, I'm here, I'm ready and I feel like I have learned a lot of helpful stuff. On the other hand, I could be speculating and making unfounded assumptions about these guys, which would be totally unfair.

      BUT- in my own defense- my husband is a porn addict, so I have a heart full of love for these guys. I GET it. A little bit, anyway. So while I am constantly labeling these guys, I'm not hating them. I just hope that someday they come around and disclose their issues so we can all deal and move on.

    2. I'm with jane, I can see a red flag a mile away now. And if it's not pornography it's something else. All kinds of weird things can at the root of an easily offended, controlling, oddball relationship. Anything from personal insecurity to an addiction of video games and chocolate cake to an all out maddening personality disorder. The thing is, it's their issue. They don't act that way because you have a missing piece, they act that way because they are missing pieces. You clearly set the boundaries with your x and no longer have to deal with his unexplained insanity...except in the occasional dream! lol

      Chantel, I hope you make a comment about this. What an amazing discovery you've made and I hope you share it with us. And I know Im lame with returning emails lately so please....forgive me! I'll write back soon.

      As for letting mr scabs off too easy...i would NEVER want to do that. Tell me what u have in mind, im very interested.

  2. Also, I got divorced because I was very unhappy and felt I was being emotionally abused/neglected and he always 100% refused to admit our marriage had a problem or talk to ANYONE about it- spiritual leader, family, tgerapist, counselor etc. We had ni children and I felt that was not the example or marriage or a strong mother I wanted my children to have. Just wanted to explain that a little more to give more info

    1. wow! Thanks for sharing your story. I know there are other women here who are going through this very same thing. And congrats on your new healthy marriage! Is the difference night and day?

    2. Thank you! Yes, it was the strangest thing to get married to a healthy man and have a "real" relationship. I have been married for 2 years but there was more depth and health to our marriage within 2 MONTHS of being married, than I'd had with my ex-husband in 4 years. Looking back I often wondered how I was playing house for 4 years, that there was never anything that seemed real and concrete.
      One of the biggest shockers for me was when I was peacefully enjoying an evening with my husband and I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, I finally get it! This is why people get married!" I LIKED my husband, he LIKED me, I enjoyed being with him for the sake of the joy, comfort, sincerity. It's interesting to me because I obviously became involved in reading these blogs (I found one linked to a friend) because I can relate in so many ways, although I never knew pornography was part of the equation. I have triggers too, I feel unworthy at times. I remember after I'd been married to my current husband for a couple of months I told him sorry for something like buying the wrong eggs, and he was like, "Huh?!" He was so confused why I would even say that. I told him that I often just felt the strongest urge to get on my hands and knees in front of him and say "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!" And I didn't know why. Talk about feelings of worthlessness. Fortunately, I am married to a GOOD man who handles my pains and difficulties with such love and patience that I am working through things...finally!

    3. So sorry for what you went through. So glad you found someone who is kind and loving.

      Great that you are working through things. There are few things that I like more than seeing women who have been abused come to know their worth. But be sure you come to know that independent of your husband's love for you! ;)

      To me, boundaries are based in that truth of individual worth. Once a woman can see that she doesn't have to be a doormat to abusive behavior, the abuser loses power and control. (Of course women can be abusers, too, so this isn't gender-specific, but most of my interaction is with women, so....)

      But we (men and women) don't have to be in abusive relationships to need boundaries, so I think the more we can come to know and trust in our individual worth, the more clearly we can see when we're being taken advantage of, or taking on too much for the sake of 'not hurting someone's feelings' or engaging in situations that do nothing but suck the life out of us. Boundaries to me are about really taking ownership of our lives and well-being.

  3. Damn straight!! I got my big girl panties on and its time to roll out.

    I am in the same boat. I allowed my husband to set the rules, assuming that the rules he would set would be inspired by how I relate to him. It was so far beyond me to think that he wouldn't treat me the way I treated him. I let go to much...and he took advantage of me...

    But not again...this time, it will be different. If he decides to bang the entire city, then it won't be because I didn't try and next time I will walk away knowing that I truly did all I could, which includes holding him accountable and setting boundaries.

    By far I think one of the most painful moments we have as betrayed spouses is the dawning realisation, that our partners love us differently to way we love them :-(

    1. "By far I think one of the most painful moments we have as betrayed spouses is the dawning realisation, that our partners love us differently to way we love them :-( "

      So true! My husband is always saying to me "I know you can't understand how I would do this, because you would never do it."

    2. Ya, that's painful for me too. Because i keep thinking at some point his conscience or his kindness or just his simple humanity should have kicked in an said to himself, "self,this is utterly wrong. stop. now."

      Why was there never a moment or realization?

    3. Addiction has taken away the ability to love and think like that. It takes away elements of humanity that include empathy and ability to think through things like this.

      But I suspect they *want* to love like that...they just haven't learned how yet. But with recovery, they can! The sobering truth of the reality of the brain element of addiction is also what can bring hope about the potential for change...because the brain can change. I have heard experts say that it can take 12-18 months of sobriety for that kind of change (for the empathy, etc. to start to really show). So it definitely takes time. But I think that is one of the ways you can know the recovery is starting to take root in the mind and heart...not just avoiding the bad behavior (which is HUGE) but also developing the capacity for good, heartfelt behavior as well in ways that they maybe never did (could) before.

    4. Ya know, this idea has been such an amazing to see grown in my husband and even myself. The farther away he gets from his addiction the greater his love, affection, devotion and empathy for me and the kids. To see this in action is nothing short miraculous.

      Going from a man who is angry at the world to a man full of love. It's unheard of.

    5. Boundaries....Who would have thought that such a Pc word could evoke do much fear? You know why? Because you don't trust him/her. But moslty we font trust OURSELVES.

  4. For me recognition came/comes when I feel that tug of I'm not worth it or low self esteem. Or when I feel like I have to so what others say to please them or make them "like" me or be happy with me. Or when I feel taken advantage of by friends or family. And lastly when I feel "let down" by the way others treat me-instead of remembering I can't control them and need to only worry about how I RESPOND instead of always REACTING.

    At these times (of which there are many still) I am learning to pull that sentence "I'm sorry you feel-I hope you will (chose)...

    Recognition means I need to use words to communicate a boundary-instead of being silent and rumenating (sp?) about the injustices of life.

    For me boundaries are about recognizing my own power to create the life I want to live. Recognizing that I'm worth taking care of. That my needs and wants matter.

    1. Hello my new friend!

      YES!!! This is it! Our voices and words are our power! They change everything.

      I rarely use the silent treatment...maybe for 5 minutes, cause i can't stand the silence! but really, it is all about recognizing a problem and clearing stating your desired outcome.

  5. Scabs, you did it again ! You have such a way with words ! So glad I have people like you cheering me on as I keep experimenting and learning with boundaries !

    1. S, from what i read on the forum, you did it again!! That boundary is getting closer to becoming a reality.

  6. Very well written, April!! I love the phrase "big girl panties" =)

    Devin fought my boundary agreement tooth and nail in the very beginning because he felt I was the one controlling him. After he realized it's simply a matter of what I would and would not tolerate within the confines of our marriage he became more receptive to it. It was still each of our individual choices to walk away from the marriage if we didn't like how we were being treated by the other; i.e.: you have cyber sex with someone - I divorce you. OR if you surf porn, let me know and we will work through it together as a couple but there will be was a team effort of sorts but based on each individual's behaviors. If that makes any sense LOL

    1. It make sense! It's a very clear way of saying you can't have your addiction and have me too.

      I love it!

  7. Scabs I can't figure out how to reply to your comment on my comment so I am making a new one to clutter up your blog...The wife of a porn addict is Peggy from the forum (sorry to burst your bubble about a new friend :)). I should have signed my name but neglected to.

    1. Peggy! even better than a new friend. It's funny isn't how many pen-names we adopt. haha!

  8. I loved this article that Jane shared. It's worth creating an account to read it.

    I think she captures something that is CRITICAL to healthy boundaries -- not getting hooked by the emotion of it all. Bad dynamics thrive on drama. To be able to detach from the drama, own only what is your part of any of the dynamic, and then gently but firmly choose not to engage in the drama...I think that is key. Scabs, what do you think? To me it seems that detachment almost has to come before boundaries, because boundaries made in the heat of the moment or hooked by drama will likely not be healthy.

    It would be interesting to see someone whose marriage ended up not working write a similar article, because stories won't always turn out this way. Sometimes giving such space will mean the person will take it and make a worse life. But either way, detaching and being willing to let a person really choose what they want is powerful stuff.

    So to me, the outcome is not the reason I think the article is helpful. It's just simply that she didn't let his struggles become her struggles. That is a huge part of boundaries, I think. She lived her life and lived it well and lived it not depending on his love or choices for her well-being. She also decided she would live in this limbo for a set amount of time, and just waited to see what he would choose.

    The other element of if that struck me is that she also simply respected his agency, his space. She knew his stuff wasn't her problem, so it gave him the freedom (and responsibility) to look closely at his demands, no control, just space.

    Given all the discussion about boundaries as of late, I've been thinking about the topic a lot. This one just really resonated with me. It seems like the other side of boundaries explained here -- it's not just about respecting yourself and your space to be an individual, but also respecting the other's space to figure things out, too.

  9. Anon, you mentioned how in your first marriage, you would find yourself apologizing and begging for forgiveness over such small things, and in your 2nd marriage, you were shocked to realize he loved you no matter what. I can relate to that on every level! How amazing that you can finally feel accepted as YOU!

    I love this whole discussion! I really feel like the first, and most healthy, boundary that should be established is making my emotions independent of anything another person is doing. Even if it's frustrating and shady and disturbing... I try not to be reactive. It's hard, but I can feel it making me a more confident person. I term it my "Emotional Independence."

    Here is my epiphany I had last week that can also relate to this. I believe that when people are making choices they feel in their gut are wrong, these "symptoms" are exposed -- short tempers, making others feel guilty for them, etc. But mostly, JUSTIFICATION. These people will justify why it's okay and make every excuse for themselves, so they can reconcile their poor choices in their minds. Coming from a case of sheer abandonment, I went through a huge identity crisis because I kept trying to reconcile HIS justifications in my head, but nothing made sense. Finally, I decided to claim my "Emotional Independence," and I separated myself from whatever he was saying and doing, and I took hold of my confidence and my power again. I just moved forward with my life KNOWING that I was GOOD. I was able to free myself of his poor choices, and that has been my biggest accomplishment so far in the healing process.

  10. "Wasn't our marriage based on mutual respect? Promises? Fidelity and love? Wasn't the boundary that we had committed our lives together, as one? Aren't we both adults? Wasn't there some kind of courtesy or Golden Rule?

    This is where I was so wrong. Just because you are kind, compassionate, empathetic and aware of others doesn't mean that everyone has that outlook. I was under the impression that if I sacrificed something for him, he would do the same for me."

    I relate to this in a big way! It is hard to understand how someone could NOT think that way. I am relatively good at putting myself in other people's shoes, but that was something I always took for granted. Why would you NOT treat the person you love with mutual respect, kindness, compassion, empathy and awareness? It still blows my mind.

    So, like you, I am now learning to set boundaries and demand those things in my relationship. I am recognizing the things I deserve. It is not selfish! It is what I deserve. It's what I give, and it's what I should get in return. It feels quite good.



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