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Posted on 11/16/2008 23:14
One of the most asked questions on this forum is about boundaries. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what is a boundary? Are they biblical? What are their purpose? How to implement them? What happens if my husband doesn’t agree to them?
I have shared some of my own experiences with my wife’s boundaries. I have shared how I felt that those carefully & thoughtful boundaries helped save my marriage. I have spent several months trying to gather my thoughts on this subject and searching the scripture on the subject. Here is what I’ve found I hope it is an encouragement & helpful.
What are Boundaries?
What are boundaries? If we don’t define them then we can still be very confused as to what they are. A lot of heated disagreements have a start in misunderstandings as to what terms mean. One of the best ways I can define boundaries is to show what they are not.
Boundaries are not:
1. Ways to punish or reject your husband
2. Ways to try and control your husband
3. Ways to express anger or rage
4. Psycho-babble, so you can learn to be selfish or feel good about not serving others.
1. The defining of responsibilities
2. Ways to protect your heart and children’s
3. Something that supports accountability
4. Ways to support the maturing of your husband
5. Ways to trust God instead of trying to control
Good boundaries define responsibilities and force people to choose a path of action. They do not support inactivity or passiveness. If a person ignores a boundary, then that is his/her choose and that is an action that can be held accountable.
Boundaries are simply lines that say this is yours and this is mine. Boundaries are the defining of responsibilities. It is the understanding of where one person begins & ends. For example, without boundaries countries would fight with each other. Without boundaries we would never know if we were in Canada or Washington State. Obviously, the late Saddam Hussein had some serious confusion about what was rightfully Iraq’s and what was his neighbor’s. The fallout was thousands of people died.
When relationships don’t understand boundaries the result is that people get hurt and sometimes marriages die. Living without good boundaries means that the path of following God gets complicated with desires & influences pulling & pushing for our attention. Boundaries make living not necessarily easier but clearer & less confusing.
Boundaries are not walls. They are not intended to push people away or keep them out of your life. They are not meant to help people be selfish or avoid serving others. They are not ways for a wife to say “change or I won’t love you anymore”. Boundaries are so people can be honest and choose their path.
Boundaries are like good job descriptions. Ever worked in an office where there were not good job descriptions? You know what happens? Someone works extremely hard and others hardly work at all. Usually, those who work the hardest are those who want to please people. They feel responsible to make sure everyone is happy. They want the boss to notice them and their hard work. So they take on other people’s responsibilities. This also happens in the relationship between a sexually addicted husband and his wife. With poor boundaries the wife will often be the one running around doing a lot of work and the husband can retreat into self-pity and blame shifting.
Boundaries help people focus on their jobs and not try to do someone else's job.
For example, I have a boundary with my son. Here is a very simple boundary: My son must have all his homework done before he can play video games. He can choose to be lazy and wait and dabble around all day but then the consequences are that he doesn’t get to play video games. I am not going to continually remind him to study but if I see that he is playing games before his homework is done then he looses video games for a week.
Another boundary is for my daughter to do her chores. I give her till 3 pm each day to do her chores. I am not going to nag her or yell at her or get angry. That is too exhausting and leaves me angry and frustrated. But if at 3:01pm the chores are not done, she has lost some privileges such as going out with her friends for the next couple of days. This keeps me from nagging her and she quickly learns that if she wants to have the fun of going out with her friends she should do her chores before 3pm. Sure enough, she tested me on it. I took away going out with friends and she got very angry with me. She pointed out how stupid it was to be put on restriction over forgetting to do the dishes. The issue wasn’t the dishes the issue was for her to learn responsibility, which is what it means to be an adult. I won’t struggle with her about dishes but I will take a stand with her about being responsible and growing up.
Are Boundaries Biblical?
Are boundaries biblical? Or if I rephrased that I would say “Are a clear understanding of responsibilities biblical? Hummm…ever hear of the 10 Commandments? Those are clear understandings of God’s requirements of mankind. God does not leave his relationship with humans unclear. While He may not be always understood; He has left detailed book of what is our responsibility and what is His.
Let me give a simple example: a clear boundary of God is his call to mankind to repent. Notice God doesn’t force anyone to be holy or godly. He could. He could take away our freedom of choice and make every moral decision for us. But that isn’t a recipe for a loving relationship. God in His wisdom gives us choice which is responsibility. He gives us the right to choose to follow him or not. Wherever you see the Bible call people to be responsible, that is “boundaries” - at least that is how I teach them. Boundaries are biblical because God calls us to be responsible, He calls us to choose, He calls people everywhere to repent and turn to Him…that is a call for people to be mature & responsible.
How does this apply to a wife of a sex addict? She also must express honor for the free will of her husband. She has goals & desires for her relationship with her husband. God has goals & desires for her husband as well. He does not desire that he be enslaved to his sexual glands and the chemicals that are in his own brain. He calls her husband a child of His own. He calls her husband a victor, an overcomer, royalty and priceless. Yet God allows her husband to have free will and with it the power to destroy himself or follow instructions to a better life. If God has such a “deal” with her husband, I strongly suggest she follow His example and set up a similar one.
If a wife of a sex addict has poor boundaries then she usually will think that it is up to her to keep her husband pure. She actually thinks that the problem can be solved by her own walk with God. So she takes on the pressure and starts asking questions to see if she is “enough”.
-Was I a good enough example of a believer?
-Did I pray enough?
-Was I a good enough wife?
-Was I good enough in bed?
-Is my body good enough?
-Was I good enough?
Those questions are huge burdens. They are questions that can drive her crazy, make her depressed and exhausted. They are questions that show she has a huge misunderstanding of boundaries – what is her responsibilities and what is God's and, finally, what is the husband’s. When boundaries are clear, we surrender our attempts to do God’s job, we accept our own responsibilities and we let the husband realize his.
Why do we resist boundaries?
A wife who resists boundaries is usually responding out of fear of losing her husband. She feels if she really stands her ground that her marriage might end. The other reason is the wife has a misunderstanding of how much power she actually has and is trying to do something for her husband that only God and her husband can do. Again, usually motivated by fear. Both responses are understandable. There is a great example of someone who thinks they have far more power than what they actually possess. It’s found in a song by popular secular artist “Evanescence”. The song is called “Call Me When You Are Sober.” Look at the lyrics and see if you can find the misunderstanding of boundaries:
Don't cry to me.
If you loved me,
You would be here with me.
You want me,
Come find me.
Make up your mind.
Should I let you fall?
Lose it all?
So maybe you can remember yourself.
Can't keep believing,
We're only deceiving ourselves.
And I'm sick of the lie,
And you're too late.
I was struck with the 2nd part “should I let you fall? Lose it all? Granted this is an emotional song. It appears to be a song written from the heart of a woman who is angry and frustrated about a lover who is abusing something - probably alcohol. So she is tired of his emotional slobbering about being sorry about being drunk and telling lies. All that is understandable and the song is popular because most likely a lot of people can relate to her.
But what is very interesting on the subject of boundaries or responsibilities is her statement “Should I let you fall? Lose it all?” That could mean the writer of the song believes she has the power to decide if the “drunk” is going to fall or lose it all. That is a great example of misplaced responsibility or boundaries. She doesn’t have that power and never did! The only one who has that kind of power is the man who is abusing alcohol. God has granted him the power of choice. He is the one who decides if he is going to fall and lose it all; not his girlfriend or wife. This is a critical point. Do you see the misunderstanding of responsibility? The woman in that song believes she has the power, somehow, to save another human being…only God and the God-given gift of choice can accomplish that task.
Let me state another bold statement. If a sex addict is married to a woman who is confused about responsibilities (boundaries), then his recovery will most likely be seriously hampered or stopped. I’ve met them over and over again. The wife tries everything and works very hard and constantly feels like she is being gracious and loving and the husband rarely if ever faces the consequences of his sin. His chances of real change are slim.
Now think about that for a moment. Do you, as a female who is married to a male sex addict, think you have the power to keep him from falling & losing it all? That is a huge amount of pressure! If you make the wrong decision, then your husband or boyfriend will lose it all & fall? Wow, you know honestly that sounds rather arrogant to be blunt. You never had that kind of power no matter what your husband may think. Sex addicts love to push responsibility onto others and wives tend to accept responsibilities that are not their own to take.
What is the Purpose of Boundaries?
The same purpose that God uses them. The purpose is to protect & provide a choice. The purpose of boundaries as God uses them is to empower people from being helpless victims to someone who can engage His power to overcome the power of the Enemy. Since we don’t possess enough power on our own we call that state “powerlessness,” but we are not helpless. We have been empowered with human will. A healthy human being who finds himself or herself facing a power bigger than her/his own strength, if they are honest & rational, they will call upon a power bigger than them for help. That power is God. He is our ultimate weapon against the evil that seeks to destroy us. But we engage His power with our power of choice coupled with humility. If we ask in pride it won’t work. God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble (James 4).
The purpose of a boundary with your husband is to protect your heart and your kids (if applicable) and provide your husband with a clear understanding of what is expected and what won’t be tolerated anymore. The purpose is not to build a wall between a husband and a wife. Thus a boundary is not “you do what I say or I’ll never talk to you again”. That is not boundary. It is a threat. Good boundaries are not ways to threaten.
Boundaries say something like this:
Wife: "I love you. I care about you deeply. You are my partner, my friend and my lover. You are the husband of our kids. I want this marriage to work. But your obsession with porn and masturbation is destroying our marriage. I never was meant to share you with hundreds of women online or in some movie. This is not what God has intended for us. I get it that you cannot simply “stop”. I understand that there is a reason that they call it “sexual addiction” it is overwhelming & feels hopeless. So I want to support you and help, but ultimately, I can’t really do recovery for you. You must choose life. Life for our marriage and life for our family. But if you don’t, then death is coming. Death of our relationship, death of our friendship, death of a life that I dreamed we both could have. I don’t know when that death will come, but it will come. It doesn’t even necessarily mean divorce, but it does mean death. There are hundreds of couples who live in dead marriages. They are not divorced but the marriage is dead. I don’t want that and I don’t think you do either. So here is what I’m going to do:
First, there is no more porn or masturbation in our home. There is no more R-rated nudity films even if they are not listed as porn.
Secondly, you must seek help. There are many options for you. You can go to a 12 step meeting, you can attend a church group or you can seek out some counseling. I leave that up to you. But you must do at least one of those options every week. This tells me you are interested in saving this marriage and helping yourself.
Thirdly, you must be honest with me. If you break your sobriety, you must tell me within 24 hours. This will help me to protect my heart. I cannot simply sit by while my heart is destroyed with your choices. If you cannot stop and you know that you are going to look at porn or masturbate, then you must do it somewhere outside of our home. You must rent a hotel or go to an empty field somewhere. The porn & masturbation must stop within the four walls of our home. If you don’t agree to these boundaries then I must protect my heart and I will ask you to move out. If you don’t, then I will. The choice is yours. If you agree to stay in our home, then if you break one of these agreements then the consequence is that you must move out for 30 days. If it happens a 2nd time then it is 60 days, the third time it will be 90 days.
If you decide to refuse to abide by these boundaries, I will wait one week to pray and seek Godly counsel. At the end of that week I will decide when I will move out. I don’t want to do this but I will not sit by silently and watch you destroy our marriage and ruin your opportunity to be a Godly man and a good father to our kids. The choice is yours. I’ve made mine. I choose to follow God and I hope you are by my side because I love you and want you. “
Do you see what just happened? The wife in my little story here has just walked away from being another helpless victim. She is not a doormat. She is not going to try and control her husband. She has thrown herself into the arms of God. God will watch over her and her children. God help the man who abandons such a woman. The wife is released from being responsible for her husband’s recovery. She should not order filters for the computer, order filters for cable premium channels, she should not cancel magazines or check the mail to rid any “Victoria Secret” ads. There should be filters on the computer, TV and some magazines should be cancelled. But those are the responsibilities of her husband not the wife.
The husband on the other hand has been empowered. No longer can he manipulate. The party is over. He knows it. His wife is showing courage and love like he’s never seen. What will he choose? Will he choose health or sickness? Life or death? The weight of his life is back where it belongs—on his shoulders and perhaps for the first time the little boy is having to truly, honestly, and painfully—grow up! He may not recognize it but finally some integrity is starting to ooze into his soul. He is having to choose. He will probably choose stupidly for a while. I did. I tested my wife and she threw me out –twice. But I was learning. The party was over if I continued down my path of indulging in sexual sin, then I was going to loose my family. The price was too high. I was scared, I felt alone and powerless. I cried out to God for help in a more honest and desperate way. I wept in front of men. I asked for help even though it embarrassed me. Slowly but surely, I felt this odd sensation growing inside of me and one day I reached back and discovered that I had grown a “backbone”. Amazing.
What is the responsibilities for the husband? The husband must take on getting help. He should be looking up recovery groups in his area. I never forget the day I got an email from a dear wife who asked me where she could find recovery groups in her area for her husband! I wanted to ask her why in the world was she looking for groups for him? That is his responsibility - not hers. She should be looking for support groups for wives of sex addicts. He should be finding support groups for himself. “Oh, Kelly, for crying out loud,” some might protest, “I’m only trying to be a good wife and supportive”. I understand. I do. But I’ve never met a sex addict who wasn’t immature.
If you want to help your husband, fine, but bear in mind that for him to finally grow up he must start taking care of himself. The more he leans on you for support the longer it will take for him to get healthy and stop sinning sexually. If you want a long drawn out recovery process go ahead and mother him and get really involved. But if you want to set him up to get healed as fast as possible then let him struggle and learn to make good choices. He must grow up. He must learn to lean on other men and God.
What happens if a wife puts together some boundaries and her husband refuses to abide by them?
One word: consequences. Never, ever put boundaries into place if you don’t have clear consequences if your husband doesn’t abide by them. If your husband continues to break the boundaries you’ve put into place, then you have to do what so many women fail to do — love tough. If he continues to bring porn into your home you have to decide if you are simply going to look the other way or take action. If you take action it might make things worse before they get better.
My wife took action. I had agreed to no porn in our home and when I confessed I broke that understanding I was asked to leave for 30 days. She asked me to leave that very day, that very night. I didn’t know where to go. I had no idea what to do. I finally slept on the floor of a friend that I had met in a recovery group a few months earlier.
What if the wife gives her boundaries and the husband says “forget it. I won’t agree to them”. I would advise the wife to take a few days and pray and seek counsel. I would suggest that she not make any quick decisions. Most husbands feel like the wife is trying to control them with boundaries. He might need to see that these boundaries are being proposed to protect the wife and promote healing for him and the marriage. But if the husband refuses any boundary and the consequences of breaking them, then the wife must decide if it is time to make some tough choices which might include move out of the home. If her husband refuses to agree to get help or support then things will only get worse. The wife has to pray and decide if it is time to seek a separation from her husband to try and let him experience the consequences of his choices.
Boundaries, as I understand them and teach them, are expensive. They are not easy. They can be costly to the wife and to the children. They require deep love and compassion. Some women simply won’t risk it. I won’t judge them. I’ve never walked in their shoes but I almost guarantee there is little hope for a better life for a wife who enables her husband to remain sick with no consequences.
“Kelly” some might say, “You are asking a hard thing. You are asking me to risk my marriage, my financial future and the happiness of my children”. Yes, you are right. Love isn’t just about getting married, having an income and sharing children. Love, as God has shown us, is costly. Painful, maddening and risky. Your husband needs you to love him now more than any other time. Show the depth of your love and surrender him to God and put good boundaries into place. I seriously doubt you will ever regret it.
PS: If you have any questions about this article, simply post your question as a new thread and I will answer it as soon as possible.
Edited by hopeful on 04/28/2012 10:58
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|Boundaries question||Ask a Man Who is Overcoming Sexual Sin||3||03/17/2013 22:51|
|Advice about boundaries||Ask a Man Who is Overcoming Sexual Sin||2||10/25/2012 03:05|
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Happy Monday everyone...I would ask for prayer for me today.
Praying everyone has a great weekend.
Hope everyone here had a blessed Mother's Day!!!
Love to all, this Mother's Day. Some are harder than others and for some, this day is hardest. Love to each of you, whatever end of the spectrum.
Love to all, this Mother's Day. Some are harder than others and for some, this day is hardest. Love to each of you, whatever end of the spectrum.
Happy Friday! Have a great weekend everyone!
Happy Monday! Keep it real!!
thanks so much for the hugs and prayers... really felt them!
((((Hugs)))) I have a feeling it has been a tough day for a few of us... Praying for you, justsotired...