As the SA and a man, the first boundary agreement was the hardest, for both of us. For my wife, trying to figure out what was realistic, acceptable and fair, and for me, because initially I felt emasculated; like a child where my mother was imposing all these strict rules.
It wasn't until I understood that my actions and behaviors showed that I did not have, or understood, boundaries, and that this document was to let me know what was and wasn't acceptable behavior. These were the things I needed to do to help my wife work through this traumatic experience and start to rebuild her trust and faith in me and our marriage.
Checking in was the hardest. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted. To feel I had to check in hurt my ego. But part of my acting out comprised of doing whatever, whenever, and wherever I wanted. If I didn't check in to help put her mind at ease, the wounds could never start to heal. When I understood the trauma I caused, I also suggested an app, so I could also “show” here where I was. We use the Life360 app, and to make things easier, she also checked in, too. It became a mutual action.
I also had to learn there was no such thing as “just friends” at the workplace. In fact, after reading the book, “Not Just Friends”, I realized how wrong my thinking was. There was a section in the book that discussed “walls and windows”. In a normal relationship, my wife should have been inside the walls with me looking out the window at the world. Instead, she was outside looking in, where I was sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with female co-workers instead of her.
The boundary agreement laid out what was and wasn't acceptable in the work place. Keeping things professional was something I had to learn. Sharing what problems my wife and I were having with others was not acceptable and would have repercussions if I overstepped that boundary.
The first boundary agreement was rough. I knew no bounds and she needed some kind of reassurance to help start the healing process. Other boundaries included working on my recovery, checking in, especially if I was going to be late from work, or if I planned on stopping somewhere on the way home. Being honest, which was hard, but I am fortunate that she has made it easy to be honest by not over-reacting when I tell her I had a slip. If I wasn't honest, there were repercussions, which for me, was sleeping in the spare bedroom for a few nights.
I have heard of the SA's coming up with boundaries of their own. Folks, this isn't a tit-for-tat. Just because your spouse comes up with a boundary agreement doesn't mean you have to as well to get back at her. Remember, you were the one who didn't have any boundaries. Your spouse thought life was going along just fine and you were everything they dreamed of, until they learned of your “secret” life…then everything came crumbling down. This is for your spouse's reassurance that somewhere, deep inside, is the person they knew they married. Let them have this without the retort.
“So what, as SA's we don't get to have any boundaries?” Yes, we do, because for whatever reason, something most likely happened in the past that lead us to have some kind of trust issue. This kept us in that secret life and we also need a place to feel safe.
As a couple, there should be reasonable boundaries to encourage us to be honest when we slip. There should also be limitations on language so it's a safe environment for everyone.
My wife and I set aside a time in the evening to share about our day. We share, one on one, our feelings, needs, and progress or slips in our recovery. This is the safe zone where we can be open and honest (an even show our vulnerable side) with each other.
I hope this helps couples who are struggling with boundaries. I apologize if I rambled as it is easier to talk about than write it out.
I love my wife and realized how special she is for staying with me after the pain I caused her and I want every couple to have that same chance.
In response to a question my husband wrote: