Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Part 2: Really Set Boundaries

Machine Workby ~Hopie-chan. I don't know why, but this makes me think of a Steampunk Kaylee from Firefly <3.

My ideas aren't concrete and my actions aren't always consistent.  

I'm not a well oiled machine. I'm more like the machine that breaks down sometimes, needs extra parts added on, with a few last minute adjustments and jimmy-rigging, maybe a few missing bolts...I'm forever evolving and devolving with my different gears, pinions and shifters. 

Those of you who know me have probably seen my little orange notebook.  Between it's leather bound cove,r all my secrets are held, it's my journal.  I lost it once!  Gulp.  Luckily a friend found it.  I feel a little like Margret in Judy Blume's "Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret"

Dear God,
Can this be real?  Did my husband really cheat on me?  Is this my new reality?  Please wake me from this nightmare, please. What the hell's a sex addict?  How can you let this happen?  What did I do wrong?  How will I ever survive?

Are you there God?  
It's me, Scabs.

I read my little orange notebook today.  Cover to cover.  I saw the progression of my boundaries.  They've been stapled, removed, adjusted, bolted a little tighter and sometimes the whole machine breaks down and needs an oil change.  It's a journey.  We learn and make mistakes and that's ok.  

Thank you to all who participated in yesterday's Q&A about boundaries.  If you haven't already, go ahead.  Our answers were all so different and yet, the same.  Which proves one thing, there is no perfect way place boundaries.  Sharing our journey helps us learn.  

If you haven't already, meet Elsie, from Mock Turtle's Musings. Elsie's my mentor.  She's always a few steps ahead ahead of me in healing.  This makes my path a little easier (thanks Elsie). She's a New Yorker and eats hamburgers without mustard!  Say Whaaa?  The reason I mention her is for her Boundaries Agreement.  I'm thankful she shared this intimate part of her marriage.  Use it to get some ideas cookin' about your own boundaries and the consequences.

Elsie's boundaries and neat, organized and clear while mine are a little more haphazard and messy.  But they still work.  Boundaries will catapult you into a new phase of healing and changing.  Like a boxers bolo punch, boundaries rearrange the face of addiction.

Looking into the past I've also been able to see that I set boundaries for Mr. Scabs but surprisingly, I also set boundaries for myself.  Decision I made about how I will act. Here are the erratic pieces of my little orange notebook about boundaries:

Nov 2010-July 2012

It takes courage to set boundaries.  I don't have courage.

Today I've decided to put our marriage aside and focus on me.  I'm going to invest in myself.  And I won't settle for resentment and bitterness.

Our relationship can't heal with honesty.  

No other women.  Is that a period?  Yes. NO OTHER WOMEN (PERIOD) Signed Dissolution of Marriage documents are in my desk and will be brought to the court house without a second thought.

I will wake from this numbness.  I will stop begging him.  I will stop feeling pathetic.

Mr. Scabs agrees to account for where he is, who he is with and when he will be home.  If he doesn't he will lose my faith in his whereabouts and I will no believe he is in recovery.  I will detach.

I will let go of a future with him.  My goals need to be separate from him because he isn't in recovery.  What I want is important too.

I will spend time for me each day.

Mr. Scabs will choose to be cooperative in our healing with communication and honesty.  If not I will believe he is an apathetic liar and will detach from him.

I will believe Mr. Scabs when he is actively engaging all his "safety nets".  For example, working 12-step with his sponsor, putting blocks on his computer, not engaging in idle internet surfing, daily communication with me and when his actions match his words.

We will have no sexual intimacy without physical and emotional safety.  He will get STD tested regularly and he must connect emotionally with me. 

I can understand a relapse (pornography) when he is involved in a life of recovery, self-examination, honesty and communication.  He can expect my support in recovery, not addiction.  If pornography or inappropriate sexual material becomes an addiction I will detach and prepare for divorce.

Since we are not currently sexual, masturbation is acceptable without pornography.  Open communication is important here to avoid masturbation becoming an extension of addiction. We will learn to empathize and understand each other.  When we do this our relationship can grow.

Fidelity and honesty are full bodied commitments, not ala cart or cafeteria style, picking and choosing what he will be honest about.  I do not need to ask the right questions.  Without honesty and fidelity I will detach and file divorce.

Since he has moved out, I will determine the time he spends at our home.  When I need space he will oblige or I will leave.

Money.  He will account for any extra cash and all monies. Cash will be deposited into the checking account and there will be no more that $50 in his wallet or truck.  If money is missing or lied about I will detach and assume he is spending it on old habits.  He will experience a loss in trust.

I will not discuss my parachute stash of cash.  

I can't tolerate lies and have no tolerance for lying.  When Mr. Scabs tells lies we will talk and work it out or I will detach.  Uncovering new lies only causes pain and distrust.  It is like reliving the pain all over again.  And will destroy any progress.

When he tells the truth he will build respect and self-love.  We will move toward a closer relationship and reconciliation.  We will spend quality time as a couple and family building affection, empathy and genuine effort repairing our marriage.

If I feel a decline in his honesty I will believe my intuition until he earns and proves he is trustworthy.

I will say sorry for mistreating or yelling at him.

I will not put myself in harms way physically or emotionally.  When he resorts to lies and selfishness I will detach.  


The end


  1. Wowzah. Feel the powah.

    I'm gonna push back on one of these, though, lady, before I you just roar yourself right off the page (as in you are woman, hear you roar, or lioness at the gate roar). And I hope I'm not too blunt but it's like this one just stands out as being very different and inconsistent with the rest of your boundaries. And it's also one of those things I feel VERY STRONGLY about.

    I have read and studied my brains out on this one and I don't see how masturbation can happen and not be somehow feeding the addiction. Why else would he masturbate if he's not struggling against lust or needing 'escape' from the pain of not fully being with you? I'm not trying to demonize your hubby -- I see this as Truth for True Recovery for anyone who deals with SA -- as a key to really rearranging the face of addiction, as you put it.

    I know I'm not a guy and I can imagine it's hard as anything, but on the other hand, I think the idea that a man (or a human, for that matter) can't live without sexual release is one of the myths that feeds addiction and sexual dysfunction in a marriage in the first place. (e.g., see this post).

    If he's gonna put lust and behavior that doesn't include you and his heart and mind in his most intimate acts and thoughts on the altar (which to me is what recovery is about), it ALL needs to be on the altar, imo. How else can he really give you everything if he can still hold a bit of something back in this way when things get hard, if he still has an 'out' that is about non-intimate sexual release when you have detached? I can't see how that wouldn't hurt him, you, and the marriage in the long run, if not in the short run, too.

    I guess I'm trying to understand why you would be so! firm! in all your other boundaries, but you are willing to give a pass on this one. Your boundaries scream whole-hearted, fully committed, fully honest recovery behavior. This doesn't gel in my mind with that pattern.

    But this goes beyond just you or your list. In general I firmly believe in the SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) standard that recovery includes NO sex with self or others except one's spouse. And if a spouse is holding to boundaries that say as you do that there is no intimacy without emotional connection, that would include the sex with spouse be intimate sex, not just physical release sex. This boundary is a proven, tested, tried, and regularly taught key to lasting, maintainable recovery.

    My dear, wonderful, powerful sister, I think you risk keeping a very big toe in the door without that kind of clear line in the sand in this regard.

    1. I agree on this one too.

    2. The short answer...I'm not threatened by masturbation and I don't feel the need to set a boundary I'm not threatened by.

      Lies, pornography, infidelity, broken communication or even anger, I'm threatened by those things. My boundaries are an evolution and if I ever felt threatened by masturbation I would set the boundary.

      I realize I'm in the minority in this school of thought and it evokes strong opinions. The truth is i don't know everything and am possibly just not "there" yet. I've read the research, seen the data and asked a lot of questions too. It's an odd feeling to be the only one who accepts something that is so obviously unacceptable to others in your circle. I began to question myself.

      Now, I feel solid in my decision and these are my thoughts on the issue:

      Masturbation can feed the addiction. Some men are addicted to compulsive masturbation or it becomes a gateway to addiction. In our circumstances I believe that there are two parts to recovery. The lesser version of recovery includes physical control and the greater version of recovery includes emotional/mental control. In other words, controlling your thoughts.

      The question then is, what's in his mind when he masturbates? Only he knows. But I believe I have been given tools to see red flags and know if it become obsessive, a block or a lead into addiction.

      For now, I am ok if he masturbates in the shower and tells me over lunch. We talk about it a little and then that's it. He's learning to control the physical, his thoughts and separate masturbation form pornography. I don't believe they are the same problem.

      Encouraging masturbation isn't my purpose. Im not going to buy him some lube and a sleeve! In my heart, I truly am "ok with masturbation".

      The purpose of my boundaries aren't to set limits on every aspect of his sexuality. And this is one aspect I feel safe in passing the responsibility for boundaries to him. I'm safe because I don't feel hurt or threatened by his actions. What better way for him to learn his own limits? He can set his own limit and explore his own feelings, thoughts and effects of masturbation on his recovery and relationship with me.

      Again, I know this isn't a popular idea and as always I suggest you find the boundaries that work for you. This is just my experience.

    3. Thanks for your response. I've been worried all day that I overstepped my bounds in your space here, and I hope you can forgive me if I did.

      This helps me understand where you are coming from, so thanks.

      Just to clarify where I'm coming from, even as I think you know I'm a big fan of the 'trust your gut' approach to the process of recovery (and there is no doubt you guys are working recovery, and you know I'm cheering you on in a big way), I just sort of see this in the realm of baseline guidelines/principles, just like I encourage women to 'detach with love' or 'draw boundaries' or 'get support' or 'work your own recovery.' 'You can expect sobriety' to me is a baseline, and obviously the definition I work with is the one quoted above...and so it sounds like sobriety means something a little different to you right now.

      Thanks again for the response...helped me understand a little better. Hope this helps you understand where I was coming from a little better (or maybe that was already obvious).

      Love you, lady.

    4. Another thought/question on this...if you are wanting him to share with you when he has MB in the shower, then that is still a sort of boundary, no? It's clearly not a show-stopper for you, and you feel like he's owning his recovery in general so you trust him to keep working on his behaviors and thoughts, so maybe it's that having him talk about it for now is feel safe because he's still showing recovery behavior by being accountable?

      Hope it's ok to ask a follow-up -- as I've said before, I think the more discussion there is on this, the better, because then people can see what resonates with them and can hear different perspectives and see the back-and-forth of teasing out some of the details and thought processes behind individual boundaries.

    5. Thank you Scabs for being able to make sense of exactly what I too have been trying to express. I posted about this issue on the forum the other day, and feel I was not quite as clear. I have been working with an LDS sex addiction specialist (which is a miracle in and of itself...I live in a small town in Texas...which just so happens to have one of her offices up the road!!) Anyway, she has helped me understand more about masturbating, and has the guidelines.of no MB to thoughts of anyone but your loved one. She gives a rather lengthy explanation, but relates it to Pavlov's dog, and retraining their ejaculatory trigger! (did I really just write that?!?!ha) I understand that because of the nature of addiction, this can be a slippery slope, but also see that it isnt always. And, truth be told, there have been times when open conversation abt this have brought out a more fun side to our sex life. But, like you said, this is just our.feelings, our experiences, and our truths...not to be confused as telling anyone else what they should think or feel. This is the beauty of becoming more self aware...we can say what we believe to be best for us without it having to be the popular answer. You are a rock star Mrs. Scabs...I have relied on your strength more than I can express!

    6. Don't worry Michelle.

      You are my friend. I've met you. I have felt the warmth of your hugs and the kindness in your tears. I know your heart.

      I am open to feedback without feeling chided. That's part of healing and learning. Hello! I've been in therapy...that's nothing but feedback on how i'm living my life.

      This is why I have surrounded myself with people who can help me heal and see what i cannot.

      To answer your question, yes. It all falls under the guise of honesty and communication. These are my ultimate boundaries. I realize my answer and even my boundaries aren't textbook. For me, the practical application of what I read and hear manifests in my life with my obvious personal stamp, it's Scab-i-fied.

      We do have different definitions of sobriety. And that is ok.

      Sariah, well said!

      And I think the most fascinating concept about Pavlov's Dog is this: For Mr. Scabs, pornography and masturbation went hand in had. The stimulus (porn) lead to the condition response (masturbation).

      Basically, Mr Scabs has trained himself to masturbate only with pornography, whether it was in his thoughts or actual pictures/videos etc. He couldn't do one without the other. But just like Pavlov's dog, once the stimulus (porn) decreased and was removed the the response (masturbation) ceased to be tied to the stimulus (porn).

      All this psycho babble is really telling us that a sex addict can change. That the brain can repair itself. Even the natural progression of simply removing a stimulus has a profound effect on the addicts ability to change.

      So, in our circumstance, the problem with masturbation is really the porn/mental images. I mentioned this below in another comment, but I see mr scabs changing what he is putting in his brain----he doesn't watch tv, he doesn't watch rated r-moves,he doesn't surf the net, he doesn't stalk facebook. INstead he is reading good books, exercising, communicating, thinking, getting help. Essentially he is removing the stimulus and naturally his brain is changing. It is so intriguing.

      Mr Scabs is putting Pavlov's experiment to the test.

      If pavlov's dog who is wholly animal can do it, I believe a man, with a heat, brain and soul, can do it too.

    7. My situation was not sex-addiction; it was more straight forward infidelity, so I know probably nothing about SA. But I know about boundaries--and about failing at maintaining them!

      "I'm not threatened by masturbation and I don't feel the need to set a boundary I'm not threatened by."
      I understand the reasons you gave for allowing masturbation and I understand the additional reasons given by the others for setting it as a boundary. But I was more interested in your comment--and masturbation can be taken out and anything else put in.

      What is the purpose of boundaries? Are there multiple purposes?
      I would think when it comes to addiction, one of the purposes would be to help the addict--facilitate conditions in which the addict maintains sobriety.
      You reason for not creating a strong boundary regarding masturbation was all about you--You aren't threatened. But is that all that a boundary is for--alleviating your fears?

      If the issue were alcoholism and you weren't threatened by your alcoholic having a wine instead of grape juice at communion, would that be healthy/beneficial for the alcoholic and their recovery?

      Just a thought.

    8. Interesting ideas here! This conversation keeps getting more and more interesting. There are many schools of thought when it comes to this and I also understand the reasons people would put them in place. What boundaries did you put in place and how have they worked for you? I wonder what the differences are between us.

      I don't know how others feel about this, but for me, my boundaries are exactly that---MY boundaries. Who else do I have control over? I can only change me and my course of action. Anything else, feels coercive.

      Simply stated, i will decide what i will and will not accept. Mr scabs can decide what he will and will not accept. This also means accepting that we might not work out. Or we can respect each others boundaries and live accordingly.

      I think boundaries have many purposes and there's a lot to learn along the way.

      For me, masturbation just isn't the problem. If mr scabs feels threatened by masturbation, let him set the boundary. I can observe his self-awareness and make my own decisions accordingly.

      Which leads me into your very interesting comparison to an alcoholic. I have no experience with an alcoholic but i suppose the concepts of addiction are the same. And I tend to view the wine being similar to pornography not the wine being similar to masturbation. I don't know if that would be beneficial to the alcoholic to have wine or not, and i suppose that is very personal. I could understand arguments on both sides and ultimately it would be the addicts responsibility to choose his/her own boundary. That is a very good analogy to how i feel about our situation, masturbation is not the wine.

      I can feel safe in an environment with open communication. And if mr scabs decides to close communication and dive right back into his addiction. I will be fine, i can move on in life and it wont destroy me. This is a decision i have had to make. I have decided to tell my brain and heart how i will act and what i will feel along with what i will do.

      My boundaries aren't just physical, i have emotional boundaries for myself as well. I am my own captain. I'm not Mr Scabs captain.

      I am no longer so intricately tied to him that his decisions either destroy or build me.

      This doesn't mean we can't be close and share an emotionally satisfying , loving relationship with trust and vulnerability. I believe there is a place where we can be autonomous and fiercely loyal at the same time. I feel myself on that path.

      What do you think?

    9. “What boundaries did you put in place and how have they worked for you? I wonder what the differences are between us.”
      My boundaries were mostly about contact with the alienator and moving home. Sweetheart was in a long-term emotionally-bonded midlife crisis affair and moved in and out several times. When he was not living at home, he lived with her. The affair lasted 3.5 years.
      So the boundary was about not moving directly from her to me—no bed-hopping. The first time he wanted to move home I told him he had to move somewhere else first—a friend around the block from us offered a room. That didn’t last—he gave me an ultimatum: let me move home or I’m going back to the alienator and I caved and he moved home for about two days and then went back to her anyway. Eventually he settled into a 3-month pattern where he would leave for 3 months and want to come home and then leave after 3 months. I broke the pattern by holding my boundary and not letting him return when he wanted to, but I had no solution for an alternate place to live. He refused to crash with family or friends and we couldn’t afford another residence. So he came straight home again. That time seemed the closest to working when I let him home. But instead he took the affair underground—where before he’d lied (not well) while taunting me with it.
      The boundary was No alienator contact and if he had contact (other than unavoidable—she worked at a hospital and there was a time she was assigned to his mother’s room) I would pack his bags and kick him out. About a year later I discovered him with a cell phone—he’d agreed to give up his cell phone. The only reason for a cell phone was he was still in the affair. So I did it! Yay for me, I held the boundary and he was shocked. To me boundaries are not secretes, they are something that are communicated—so as not to be randomly applied rules—so he knew the consequences, he just didn’t believe I’d follow through.
      But [sigh] I caved too early again and let him return too soon. So when it was beyond obvious he would leave again, I told him that when (not if) he did, I would not allow him to be living with me for a year from the time he left. Within a few months he left her again, but this time he moved to the same friend’s—without me arranging it. But he had told the friend it would only be a few weeks—he still thought he would get me to cave. I was freaked out about finding a separate residence! Finally I got one instead—my Gram was 90 and my mom needed help caring for her, and so I moved there. I came home every few weeks for a couple of days of tidbit-rebuilding.
      Why did I stay? I’m a Stander, I don’t believe in divorce except in rare circumstances, I love Sweetheart and I knew we would (not just could) make it through.
      Wow, that was long—sorry! I’ll answer a few more comments in another post to break it up.

    10. “I don't know how others feel about this, but for me, my boundaries are exactly that---MY boundaries. Who else do I have control over?”
      Each of us needs to determine what boundaries we are strong enough to set and maintain—if we can’t yet maintain them, we may do more damage in trying to set them, because we break and our spouse will use that weakness and attack it—creating challenges to our progress in re/gaining strength. I was not dealing with addiction as you are. Well, at least not in the same way. I do consider an emotionally-bonded affair and addictive type, but it’s not one of those that is a permanent dis-ease which he fights one-day-at-a-time for the rest of his life. Now, the addiction is gone. So in your situations, maybe you guys need to set boundaries even if you are only a little ready to maintain them—you might not know you are not yet strong enough. I don’t know.

      “I can only change me and my course of action. Anything else, feels coercive.”
      For me, boundaries were something for Us, something to protect our relationship—from both the alienator and from the part of Sweetheart that was the MLC Monster as well. They provided a structure. But the terrible part was that there is the risk of becoming the jailer. Do I monitor his behavior or trust that he won’t contact her. That was part of the strength building—and it was something we both had to go through and grow into. He wasn’t always ready to come home and so he deliberately tested me and contacted her and I went through the checking up on him—was it snooping by then, since it was an open agreement that I could check his email and such? I rarely did because snooping is crazy-making, it’s not worth it.
      But boundaries were not simply things I needed to do. They were things he needed to do or to not do and the consequences that I needed to apply if he broke those rules. Boundaries must have consequences for breaches, otherwise they are meaningless.
      I cannot control Sweetheart, but I can facilitate conditions that are conducive for him to make and maintain changes—and of course part of that is making changes in myself , and changes in how I handle conflict and how I interacted with him. Changes come through both individuals and through the two as a team—the Us. In the beginning the Us may not be functioning and so the individual changes are wobbly.

      “For me, masturbation just isn't the problem.”
      For me, the question when setting a boundary is about whether it is a problem for me, him, and Us. Of course, that probably depends on the topic—when it was about saving/restoring our marriage it was about me, him and Us. If I felt that something didn’t bother me personally, but that it would have risked Sweetheart’s resolve/sobriety, then it needed to be a boundary. His mom was just in the hospital again—one floor above the alienator this time. If she goes back, but to the alienator’s floor, I’m thinking we need to talk about visitation—maybe he should only visit if he takes me with him. That might seem easy to do and I did go with him once a few days ago, but his family is one of those that has thanked the married-ins for not visiting because ‘it’s only for family—my sister-in-law was pretty shocked and insulted when they told her that! Sweetheart was concerned about running into the alienator—he checked and saw her car was there. Would she be mean, say anything or would it just be awkward if they are riding the elevator together?

    11. “I have no experience with an alcoholic but I suppose the concepts of addiction are the same. And I tend to view the wine being similar to pornography not the wine being similar to masturbation. I don't know if that would be beneficial to the alcoholic to have wine or not, and I suppose that is very personal. I could understand arguments on both sides and ultimately it would be the addicts responsibility to choose his/her own boundary. That is a very good analogy to how I feel about our situation, masturbation is not the wine.”
      And if masturbation is safe for him—if it does not trigger or resume his addictive behavior—then why ban it? If there is a reason, some of the others may know, but for me safe behaviors are…well, safe. I think the question may be: what will you do if it turns out masturbation is not safe and it is a gateway back to his addictive behaviors?

      “I can feel safe in an environment with open communication. And if mr scabs decides to close communication and dive right back into his addiction. I will be fine, I can move on in life and it won’t destroy me.”
      Good to know, but if you found out that masturbation is a gateway, would you like to prevent it before you get to the point of having to be fine in that alternate situation? I guess what I’m asking is how strict is your boundary about his addictive behaviors? Are you allowing a gap now in case masturbation is a gateway and then if he falls, you will know and can change your boundaries? I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t, but id masturbation is a risk to returning to the addictive behaviors, you need to prepare. Do you have that plan of action?

      I liked how Elsie allowed it and then removed it once they figured out it was a gateway, but it seems she understood and that they didn’t know and it was especially confusing for him since his group said it was okay—and thus it seems understandable to me that he then though he could do it. Maybe it’s like knowing you are allergic to strawberries, but not knowing about kiwis other than some people who are sensitive to one are sensitive to both and so you test on yourself. When you get hives from the kiwis, you know and you put them on the forbidden list.

      “I believe there is a place where we can be autonomous and fiercely loyal at the same time. I feel myself on that path.
      What do you think?”
      I’m an introvert—an extreme introvert. I need solitude for recharging. Sweetheart recharges socially—in relationship with me. So that’s a huge balance. I am autonomous, I am independent, I am ME and I find and create ME by going inward—alone. So I agree. But at the same time I need to accept that as an extrovert Sweetheart needs to be HE and go inward and all that, but extrovert’s find Self in relationship with others and so he is going to need me on that way more than I need him in that way. My sin before his affair was neglect—perhaps an easy sin for an introvert. We are a team now, yes, fiercely loyal to each other and autonomous at the same time.

    12. "For me, the practical application of what I read and hear manifests in my life with my obvious personal stamp, it's Scab-i-fied."

      Scab-i-fied. You crack me up.

      I get what you are saying and I know you and God have this. It's your journey, and I know He works with us and as you mention somewhere else, I think the meta-issue of awareness and agency is really the heart of recovery.

      I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t, but id masturbation is a risk to returning to the addictive behaviors, you need to prepare. Do you have that plan of action?

      Here's what I'm hearing in Scabs' words...a reflection that her recovery is ultimately about doing her homework and then making choices given what her gut is telling her, today. To try to get ahead of that process sometimes can just get in the way of that process. I get the sense that she's leaving space for whatever else they might discover as they move forward, but I think at some point it's good to just hold onto what feels right right now and trust that whatever may be right in the future will unfold. I think that really is a key to recovery. Let go and let God. One day at a time. Take it easy.

      It's interesting to think about all of this, because on one hand, there may be textbook answers along the way, but on the other hand, what is recovery if not letting go of the need to be 'perfect' according to a textbook and instead learn to live with God, trusting Him to guide line upon line? Real recovery doesn't approach life that way looking for excuses, but really trusts that truth will continue to unfold as one stays on the path of recovery. It's powerful, really, to live with that kind of trust.

      I've experienced this kind of process with health issues -- where the textbook answers just don't click with where my life is, and to hold onto the textbook answers sometimes has been harmful, not helpful. But to try to explain that to anyone else is next to impossible. And can sometimes be lonely. And it's a constant 'checking in' with God to make sure I'm not missing something. But at some level, we gotta learn to trust ourselves to hear what we need to hear right now and trust God to take care of the rest. I feel that trust in Scabs' words.

    13. Dear Rollercoaster,

      Maybe boundaries are something we will do together in the future? I can see it as some token of healing between the two of us instead of a protection for myself. Very interesting insight.

  2. I love your boundaries April, and I'm proud of you for digging deep and seeing what works for you and for your hubby. I respect that you were able to share these because for me, I was scared to put mine out there! Whew! LOL

    I certainly don't feel I'm steps ahead in healing...we are all walking the same path - BUT - no one should put mustard on a burger; it's just wrong! =)

    I understand where hopeandhealing is coming from because it is the same place where I come from on Devin's recovery but it's only because my husband was addicted to MB along with porn. He tried to keep it out of his inner circle and remained sober for eight months (I think, I can't remember anymore) and then heard at his SAA meeting it was "okay" to MB so he did. That lead to a slippery slope which lead to lies and full relapse of him not telling me he was MB. His behavior changed within two weeks, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he was acting out again and I confronted him and he finally confessed he was MB but not looking at porn because the "guys said it was okay" UGH! Not when you're acting like an angry idiot all the time! So, MB went into his inner circle and that's how it went into MY BA but with understanding he may relapse with it.

    However, I understand that SAA and SA have different views on MB and it's a personal choice for the addict to know what will cause them to relapse and what won't. Everybody is different and we can't put everyone into a cookie cutter mold. I don't think that what works for us will work for everyone.

    1. Ahhh Elsie! How I love ya!

      Anger is one of my biggest red flags and boundaries too. For Mr. Scabs, anger has led to more acting out than masturbation and so that's why anger is higher on my boundary list.

      But like you. if I saw it heading in the wrong direction I wouldn't hesitate to set a limit.

      I don't believe masturbation is ok for the addict as in he indulges anytime he feels the tingling urge. There's a balance to be found and he must discover when it's appropriate and when it's not and learn to control the thoughts that go with it.

      Mr Scabs has made decisions in his recovery that lead my to accept confidence in his actions. He does't watch rated R movies, he doesn't have facebook or other social outlets, he's even sensitive to my feelings when we drive past a "massage parlor", he avoids surfing the internet...there are more but these are just some. He's setting his own boundaries and that is pretty miraculous to watch.

      anyway....if i type the word "masturbation" one more time I think I might pass out. :)

    2. You hit the nail on the head when you said these are for YOU and for YOUR recovery. For us, I'm okay with Devin watching rated R movies but not okay with him being on Youtube. Why? Because Youtube caused him to slide down that lovely slippery slope. It didn't cause a relapse but it cause him to lie to me and he knew it was bad behavior so he put it in his inner circle and I put in my BA as social media.

      Devin doesn't have FB either and isn't a member of any social media with the exception of his gaming site which is a forum that I have access too if I want it. There comes a point where they have to have some type of freedom, I think, surfing the net, etc. and need to be able to set their own boundaries like you said for the sake of their own recovery.

      I found when I tried to do it for Devin, it backfired on me terribly. I was so emotionally spent on his recovery and progress, I had forgotten about my own. Once I let his go, laid it at his feet, I felt a burden lift from me, my own recovery took off and slowly but surely, his did too. Not fast enough for me, but I'm impatient by nature LOL And, again, you're right, it's amazing to watch.

      And when I read about Mr. Scabs being empathetic, my heart leapt! I love to hear that!! We are all different and yet the same =)

    3. Isn't this intriguing? I hadn't even considered youtube. And why? I suppose because I'm not threatened by that. Interestingly enough, Mr Scabs chose to set the rated r movie boundary. That was also something I wasn't threatened by. But he knew his sobriety was threatened by it. And so he used his agency to set his boundary. Then he communicated it to me and I will support his setting up his own safety nets to protect himself from his addiction.

      These are invaluable lessons for both me and mr scabs. Your examples show that what is an important boundary to one isn't an important boundary to another addict. So, maybe it's not necessarily the specifics of the boundary that's important. Maybe it's the higher version of healing...the self-awareness and ability for introspection and change.

      Are boundaries a stepping stone? Do boundaries lead us to learn a cleaner way of living? The ability to be solely responsible for more blame-shiftng? A life long process, no doubt.

      His empathy has been one of the most surprising outcomes of his change. I know you can relate to this but when he wasn't setting boundaries he was so angry at life.

  3. Man, I'm so impressed with your confidence! You've always been able to say, "Okay if that's how you're gonna be, then I'm going to self-preserve and do this." Basically like a "screw you" mentality so that you can still make it out alive. I look back and observe how I turned in to a puddle, trying to mold to his poor choices and act like a puppy dog to please him in every way possible. But I LOVE this new mentality of confidence I've found. "Okay, if that's how you're going to behave, then I'm not going to defend you or babysit you. I'm just going to keep moving myself forward." I love these discussions on boundaries!

    1. I haven't always been able to say that but thank you! When i really try to discover the relationship between boundaries and consequences nothing seems like a more natural consequence than detachment. But it wasn't always this way either. I used other consequences in the beginning of our recovery that were more elementary,like sleeping on the couch. Which I believe have a place but will naturally lead into the consequence of detachment.

      I love your new confidence too! All you can do is move forward...with or without the person we care about. It's been such a huge part of you regaining your self-worth. Something that was stolen with lies, cruelty and abandonment.

      I might be up in your neighborhood in the next few and Nora want to go for a hike or something?

  4. Scabs, this was so helpful to read! Thank you for putting such a personal document out there for us to read. I had never seen that detachment is a consequence and I already have several boundaries in place without formalizing them. My question is, after you wrote all your boundaries in your orange notebook, how did you deliver them to Mr. Scabs?

    1. Excellent question, Marlee, you read my mind.

    2. I hope you'll be writing more about detachment, Scabs. I think how you have talked elsewhere about detaching with love is SO powerful.

    3. The orange notebook is a work in progress. There were a few boundaries that I made formally.

      Like before I found out about the other women but had suspicions I said, "if i find out about other women you will be moving out." pretty clear. Or after he had moved back in, I set the boundary that he would initiate a meaningful conversation about his addiction or our relationship each day. even if it was just 5 minutes. the consequence I set was, the days he communicated he could sleep in my soft warm comfy bed. on days he didn't communicate he slept in the terrible, lumpy guest bed.

      I had claimed ownership of the bed and made decisions when he would sleep there.

      We just talked about the boundaries. I never wrote them down. Some boundaries we had our therapist or stk pres or friends witness. Setting a precedence for accountability.

      But most of those boundaries you see were just things and ways i decided to live my life. I just decided i wouldn't accept the garbage anymore and I didn't need permission to enforce the consequence of detachment. it just seemed natural. When he would notice the detachment,we would talk about. and then he would decide how he was going to live his life to foster healthy attachment instead of loneliness.

      Once Mr Scabs had reached a certain awareness in his recovery (the awareness that he needed to do everything possible to save his family as well as realizing his deep affection and love for me and the kids), detachment became an effective consequence.

      For us, detachment was not effective when he was so deeply entrenched in his addiction that he didn't feel love, affection or attachment to us.

    4. And yes, Michelle, next post detachment and boundaries. Thanks for your encouragement!

    5. Awesome. Hope you might also address this: "Some boundaries we had our therapist or stk pres or friends witness. Setting a precedence for accountability.: I don't see accountability talked about much, but I think this is also huge.

      So many layers to all of this!

    6. good idea. accountability has been a huge step for us too. I could share my thoughts. Thanks for asking.

  5. I am so sorry to be saying this but a man who needs to be told about these boundaries is not the one who is going to abide by them.

    I believe , we women are only trying to postpone the inevitable..separation/divorce.

    We are yet unable to give up on our marriages and hence keep giving more and more chances to our husbands.

    We believe that just because we had not spelt out these boundaries before or because we did not have a "Boundaries Agreement" our husbands were cheating on us, going to hookers etc etc. and now that we have found out stuff and we give them a list of our boundaries they will suddenly respect them?

    I mean,of course, i never told my husband explicitly before that going to hookers would be a deal breaker.He did that . But since i had not typed out a list earlier and given it to him i let that pass.

    Now i have put down on a piece of paper "no hookers" and i expect that he will respect my boundaries and if he doesnt i will detach/divorce.

    Is this all that would stop a man from not revisiting hookers..a list we gae him saying we would divorce him?

    You mean , when he went the first time around he thought it was ok since there was no "Boundaries Agreement"?

    Do we need to tell our husbands in other this that for them to stop doing it?

    I have done all of this as well..till one fine day i realised that all that i was doing was finding reasons and excuses for not wanting to divorce.

    All that i was doing was giving him chances after chances.

    Accounting for time, whereabouts, money etc is not something a human being can do without being stripped off his self respect and this is something a sex addict will have to do if he has to regain his partner's trust.

    It all sounds very good in theory,but what we are trying to do is put a leash around a man to make him behave whereas this behaviour should come so naturally to him.

    And when it doesnt,the list only feels like a noose to them, eventually.

    1. I understand a lot of what you're saying because I've thought those same things myself. When we got married and made covenants to each other, not having sex with other people was obviously included in those promises. And back when we were first married and everything was "perfect", I didn't have to think about what I would do if that happened. But now, that is a part of my life. So I can have boundaries that protect me. Just last night for example, I told my husband that I would not accept lying and that if he lied to me, he could expect me to lose trust in him and be back at square one. That should be pretty much common sense and I shouldn't have to spell it out for him. Obviously when you lie to someone, they lose trust in you. But now I have said it to him and I can be completely free to distance myself and not be trusting of him when he lies in the future. The boundaries aren't to force him to stop doing things that he shouldn't have been doing all along, they are for me. They give me a chance to evaluate how I feel and what I will and won't accept in my marriage.

  6. I also know ,that each and every one of us ,has to go through this process of setting boundaries etc etc because its not easy for us to divorce them on discovery day.

    The process gives us the time required for the shock to wear off,work on ourselves , detach from them and finally make a decision, either to accept all that they have done and stay or leave.

    That is the only purpose my setting up of boundaries served.I was unable to find the courage to leave my marriage, this listing of boundaries gave me a feeling of self respect that i am not tolerating any further deceit while, in fact, i was still with a man who had cheated on me in every possible way.

    The list served me as a worthy tool till one fine day i woke up and realised i do not want to spend the rest of my life like this.

    And please believe me,no matter what the SA tells you now, he will come to resent this someday.

    Husbands /partners dont need a list like this to make them good husbands and the ones who do need it are going to hate you for it someday.

    1. You know I disagree with most of what you are saying here.

      That doesn't mean you are wrong or I am wrong. I do see the value of sharing your experience. There are some women who may need to hear this. They may need to see that they have hung on too long to something that is unhealthy. For me, when I read this, I feel like you are attempting to steal my hope.

      I do agree with you that boundaries create a clear path to making good choices. Setting boundaries for yourself, describing what you will and wont accept will lead you to your final decision. like you say we will either accept or choose to leave. I believe that is one of the purposes of boundaries. It is an important road and there is no reason to diminish it. Without boundaries how do you know enough is enough?

      Where I heartedly disagree with you is your lumping of all SA experiences to mirror your own. I also do not believe that my boundaries have any effect on my spouse as far as forcing him to change. They will not change him or my circumstances. Boundaries are not magic. And, your right, simply being there does not lend boundaries to be automatically respected.

      It is the respect for myself that has changed. Mr scabs is free to do what he likes. And i am free to do what i like. I am no longer bound by his addiction and my lack of self-confidence.

      The boundaries are for me. Not mr scabs. He can choose his own path. If boundaries become a noose around his neck, then they aren't boundaries, they are control and coercion. There is a distinct difference. Coercion never has lasting effects. Coercion does no facilitate true healing. No one likes to be controlled--I have been controlled before, and you are right...I came to resent it.

      It does sound good in theory but if feels even more amazing in practical application! Boundaries do not bind us, be-little us or keep us kept in a box. They are literally the gateway to liberty and ultimately lead to a place of peace where your happiness and self-worth are untouched by the circumstances or people around you.

      Have you ever seen the movie "life is beautiful"...a fantastic story and with the undertones of exactly what I believe.

    2. This conversation is bringing me such joy!! Even though it is clear we dont all agree, and arent in the same place in our recovery...we are here talking about it! Yipee! I, like Scabs truly disagree with some of your assumptions Anonymous, but it doesn't mean that threy are what your experience has taught you. I consider spelling out boundaries to be a way to assist the addict in retraining their brains. My husband was exposed to porn at the age of 5, and it just went down hill fom there. Physchology has taught us that when sex is introduced at a young age, it interrupts the brains ability to learn "typical" behavior patterns...arrested development they call it. All I am doing with a very willing and growing partner, is helping him to learn how to do better. As he does, the boundaries will become more natural to him, and years from now, it wont likely even be a conversation. But, until those behaviors become instinctive, qnd he has practiced then for long enough, this "boundary contract" helps me feel safe. And it helps him to learn and be sure he is focusing on my needs. I wish he just understood reasonable boundaries without me laying it out for him...but more than that, I wish he had never had such damaging experiences that brought him to this place. Lovingly I choose to help him learn to be the man his very tender heart yearns to be.

  7. Well said Scabs you explained Why boundaries are so good for us as victims, boundaries help US so we don't have to be victims any longer. We are choosing our path by setting boundaries. I don't feel like they be-little me or my husband I feel like they are liberating for both of us in so many ways.

  8. Hey there my friend! I just wanted to send you BIG HUGS .... I really LOVE your blog. You have so much inspiration to give to so many people out there! Ed and I read your blog and I think your writing is fantastic!!!!

    Understanding your own boundaries are crucial to recovery, and recognizing them is very empowering!

    Keep up the wonderful work and all that you share. It helps so many!



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