My Husband's Point of View


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In response to a question my husband wrote:


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Newer Nicer Agreement


Recently I decided to update my Boundary Agreement with Devin. As I wrote it I thought, this is a ton of work, do I really need to revise it this long after disclosure day?

Then I mentally gave myself a kick in the ass. I reminded myself just how important my agreement is because I’m married to a sex addict who struggles with proper boundaries from time to time. And, so do I. 

I knew when I decided to walk beside Devin as he worked through his recovery, and then I committed to working on mine, that it could be a rough journey.  The beginning was the most difficult to wade through, but after time and solid recovery work, it grew easier and easier to stay committed to making our marriage work. Plus, it helps that he’s a wonderful guy who is much more than his addiction.

Did I think I’d ever be in relationship that requires an agreement with consequences attached to it?  No.  It never even entered the deepest recesses of my mind (and that’s a scary place!).  But, I understood I needed that physical piece of paper to help me feel safe in our marriage again.  It helps me express my expectations and verbalize what will happen when boundaries are crossed.

Just like before, I’m going out on a very personal limb by posting my Boundary Agreement and understand if you click away since it's geared towards partners of sex addicts.  

I don't expect everyone to understand my unique situation.  I’m sharing this in an effort to help those that walk the path after me. To let them know they aren't alone.  My hope is that someone in a relationship with a sex addict will take what they want from it and leave the rest.

It’s a bit long because I changed my tone from being a total dictator to someone who is much more understanding of the things that may happen because I’m married to an addict.  Since it’s lengthy, I’ll just post an example and add a page for those who’d like to read the whole version.

(Taken in bits and pieces after a personal note to him before I start digging into the meat and potatoes of the agreement.  If anyone remembers my old agreement, this is a drastic improvement tone wise)


I hope you understand this is not an effort to control you.  It’s a way for me to maintain trust in you so we can keep a healthy relationship.  It will also help me not to shut down when I feel like my emotional boundaries are crossed.

So, here it is, in a much healthier format than before (at least to me ;p)

Being married to a sex addict can be very difficult at times.  To help me feel safe in my marriage I chose to create a boundary agreement specific to our situation.  I'm posting it here to help others who are in a similar situation and remind them they aren't alone.  There are lots of us out there.  I hope this helps someone draft one of their own if they think they need it. Please take what you want and leave the rest.

Be well and shoot me an email if you have any questions.




I hope you understand this is not an effort to control you.  It’s a way for me to maintain trust in you so we can keep a healthy relationship.  It will also help me not to shut down when I feel like my emotional boundaries are crossed. 

So, here it is, in a much healthier format than before (at least to me ;p)

Healthy Recovery:
            Your progress in your recovery has made the relationships in our house thrive, especially with the kids. Your hard work shows by how you interact with all of us, even when you feel hurt or angry. You’ve learned to explain your feelings and not isolate. I’m so proud of you.
            It would help assure me that you’re in a healthy recovery if you shared with me what inspired you, or touched you, during your meetings. Telling me what you felt and learned, versus if the meeting was crowded or uncomfortable, lets me know you’re still active in your recovery and mentally present in your meetings. I know I’m smart, but I still can’t read minds. Not yet, anyway.
            If I don’t see any change, or that change happens and then slips backwards again, I’m going to have to end our relationship. I feel I’ve been patient, and I can’t stay if things stay the same. Work your recovery like our marriage depends on it, because it does.

Lying: 
            Please be honest with me. I feel being lied to is worse than what the actual truth may be. Whether it’s being deceived about a slip or a simple omission about an everyday event, not being told the truth the first time around or having to dig for information hurts. It causes me to lose trust and not want to be affectionate. Then that causes you to withdraw and before we know it, we’re stuck in an unhealthy cycle. Neither of us wants that. I know we can make our marriage work if we keep working on it.
            The damage from the past makes any lie, big or small, equal to the same thing for me and causes me to go back to that hurtful place from years ago. As the sayings go, “It’s better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie” and “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.” Lies just suck and they destroy my trust and faith in you.
            I ask for honesty during our first conversation about whatever it may be. If I don’t get the truth, or if I have to pry it out of you before you tell me what’s going on, I will enforce a consequence.  
            If you aren’t transparent or keep secrets from me, I want you to sleep in the other room for two nights. If lying or omitting the truth becomes frequent, I’ll have to end our relationship. I can’t handle being continually lied to. It makes me feel like I’m not worth anything to you. And I know that’s not true. I know you love me and want our marriage to flourish just like I do.

Slips and relapses
            I need you to understand I am a safe person to come to if you slip. Whether it’s porn, masturbation, or anything else in your inner circle, I’m at a place in my recovery where I can handle it and won’t judge you for it. I promise not to scream, cry, or attack you. Those days have long since passed and I know you deserve better.
            I understand there are potentials for slips, but I expect full transparency and to be told when they happen. I ask that you tell me either the day it happens, or the day after. If you forget, then the consequence will be sleeping in the other room for three nights and only basic affection (kiss goodbye, etc).  
            While this may seem extreme, to me it’s an extension of lying and deceit. When a slip happens and you don’t tell me, it causes me undue anxiety that causes me to trigger and become hypervigilant, and that’s an unhealthy place for me. It also makes me feel like you’re not in a good place in your recovery, and I deserve to know that.
            If you tell me right away, there won’t be any consequences. I understand slips may occur. I just want honesty about them. We’re a team. The more honest we are with each other, the more emotionally connected we’ll continue to be.
            I also ask that you figure out why you slipped. As our counselor said, slips don’t just happen. There are reasons behind them whether it’s stress, boredom, or anger; it’s up to you to figure it out, so you can prevent them. If your slips become a relapse, then I will have to leave. We are at a point in our recoveries where relapses shouldn’t happen. Especially with me not knowing what’s going on. The more we work together, the happier we’ll each be in our relationship.

Emotional and/or Physical affairs:

            It goes without saying (and yet I’m saying it anyway just to be clear), I will file for divorce the moment I find out you’ve had another affair or inappropriate contact with someone.
            I want us to succeed in our marriage. I want to be more than just cohabitants; I want us to be best friends, lovers, and supporters of one another. I know we can continue to do it, it just takes continued work on both our parts.
            Never forget how much I love you and how important you and our marriage is to me. You’re a good man, a wonderful father, and you’re more than your addiction to me.

~~~


            2016 ETA: There’s a bit more to it, but that covers the big stuff. Feel free to use it as a guide for your own boundary agreement. Remember, you’re not punishing the addict for their addiction. You’re safeguarding yourself from it. For us, we've gotten to a place in our recoveries that this BA isn't really necessary. Now we sit and talk things over because it's been so long since he's had a slip. However, when slips were happening two, three times a year, I felt I needed to have this for my emotional well-being.



On a total side note I’m so over the cold weather and the snow.  Where the hell are you spring?






"B" is for Boundaries: A-Z Challenge

B is for Boundaries


Illustrated by Rob Z Tobor

Boundaries are one of those topics I could write about almost every day.  I’m that passionate about them.  Probably because I allowed mine to get crossed a few years ago.  Who am I kidding?  Crossed doesn’t even come close to what I allowed.  More like stomped on then lit on fire.

I’ve always been aware of my boundaries even though I didn’t know what that meant at the time.  I’m not one to shy away from letting someone know they are invading my space, or making me uncomfortable.  Granted, I’ve toned down how I react now. But, there was a time when I didn’t hesitate to tell someone to get bent, only in much harsher language.

My boundaries slowly but surely eroded the first few years of marriage to Devin.  It began as denial.  I knew my husband was looking at porn but was afraid to admit to how much time he wasted on it.  

I thought I could control it if I agreed to look with him.  Soon porn wasn’t a rush for him anymore.  He couldn’t get that high he needed to feel if I was agreeing to it.  Devin suggested what I should wear to turn him on.  Rather than vocalize how uncomfortable I was, I dressed how he wanted.

It went on like this for almost a year.  I permitted myself to feel like crap because his happiness had become more important than my own.  I was completely enmeshed in him.  I had no healthy boundaries anymore.

from Bing
Finally, God stepped in and did for me what I could not do for myself.  He provided me with the truth.  And, what a truth it was. I learned he's a sex addict and  I found out about Devin's affairs and was devastated.  

But, I was also renewed.

Never again would I allow myself to feel like dirt in my own marriage.  I’d rather walk out the door than go through another disclosure day.  I discovered the significance of personal boundaries.  I understood the importance of saying, “If you want to stay married to me, this is how this marriage is gonna work.”

I created my first boundary agreement.  A document that could have been written by Hitler, it was so dictative.  (Yes, I made up my own word).  Anyone familiar with computer code knows about the “if else” statement.  That’s what my boundary agreement is similar too now. It contains things like, “If you cheat on me, I will divorce you” and “If you have a slip, you must tell me, or else I feel threatened.”

Some people find boundary agreements as a form of trying to control someone.  I don't.  It’s a way of letting an addict know what you will and will not tolerate in their behavior in order to safeguard yourself.  It’s a tangible means of protecting yourself and your family.  As long as your boundaries are coming from a healthy place, not from fear or control, it’s a great tool to have when married to an addict. 

Do you have strong boundaries?

~~~

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.  Wanna see more?  Click the link below. 




Boundary Agreement Discussed



“If my man cheated on me, I’d kick him to the curb!”

“Did you hear she has some kind of signed document he has to follow?  I’d never stay married to a man if he had to sign a set of rules.”

“She’s a control freak, that’s all it boils down too.  That must mean she doesn’t trust him so why is she still married to him?”

“If he wants to look at porn or cheat on her, having him sign some stupid boundary agreement isn’t going to stop him.  She’s so naïve.”

“They deserve each other.”

Can you guess which of the following above statements I agree with?  If you said, “They deserve each other.” Then give yourself a gold star.  We do deserve each other.  I’ve never fought harder for someone I loved in my life.  Wanna know why?  I’m worth it and so is Devin.  We make a kick ass couple. 

Wanna know something else?  My boundary agreement is rarely thought of during the course of our marriage.  It’s like having car insurance only better. Auto insurance you think about every month when you pay the bill. I only use the BA when needed.  Thankfully, that’s extremely rare these days. 

The only other time I ponder over it is around the date of disclosure. That's usually when I think it's time to make adjustments.  Like Devin and I, it changes with time.  The original boundary agreement I shared on here gets tweaked a bit but mostly remains unchanged. My common sense, (courtesy agreement) has changed quite a bit because I've built up so much trust in Devin.

People who throw such bold statements around against boundary agreements should do so with caution.  I say this because I was once one of them.  I swore I’d never stay with a man who cheated on me.  Now I’m with a man who violated our vows dozens of times.  We truly never know until we are placed in a situation how we will react.

I’ve also reached the understanding Devin has a disease.  His addiction. Just like I have an addiction.  It’s a unique perspective I’m blessed to bring to the table.  An understanding of what it’s like to be out of control and not knowing how to manage one’s life.  I am no better than Devin because I've been sober longer.  I’m in a place of healing, recovery and sobriety, just like him.

With my healing came necessary boundaries.  Those boundaries are for me.  They help me keep feeling safe and secure.  I was damaged by what Devin put me through. I don’t want to go through it again.  I needed something besides my words to show Devin clearly and succinctly what I was able to tolerate in our marriage.  I needed him to understand what would happen if my boundaries were violated. 

I made the choice to stay with a recovering addict. That choice came with risks and I needed something to minimize those risks to my children and me.  There was a time I wasn’t strong enough to stand alone.  The boundary agreement helped empower me.  It gave me something concrete to say, “You promised not to look at porn. You violated my boundary.  I have to enforce the consequence.”  I could point at it and gain the strength I lacked because my insides were crumbling from disappointment and fear.

Will I ever tear it in to tiny shreds and burn it?  I can’t say.  My answer for today is “no” because I’m still married to a sex addict.  I can only say, I feel anyone married to a sex addict must have a strong set of boundaries.  They don’t have to be written like mine are but they must be enforced.  Otherwise, the same crap is going to keep on happening.

For us, the boundary agreement works.  Is it fun?  Hell no.  We both hate it when it comes time to enforce something.  I feel like I’m punishing a five-year old and he’s left feeling like one.  The point is, Devin understands my boundaries have been broken. 

The agreement doesn’t consume me.  It’s not framed and hanging on the wall or shoved down Devin’s throat after every fight.  We’d never progress as a happy, almost normal couple that way. 

Believe it or not, sex addiction isn’t a huge topic of conversation in our home anymore.  We talk about it after our meetings or counseling appointments and during our FANOS conversations but then talk about regular married stuff.  We’re fairly normal now.  Almost.

It’s been over two years since my disclosure and life is good.  I happen to have a boundary agreement in my filing cabinet.  Just in case.

~~~@   ~~~@

If the path you're on has no obstacles, then it probably doesn't lead anywhere
~ anonymous

Slap on the Wrist

I deserve a good ol' slap on the wrist.  I've been lax in enforcing my common sense boundaries and yet I speak of the importance of boundaries all the time.  I speak of the importance of setting the boundaries  to keep yourself feeling safe, not as a way of punishing the addict.  I speak of setting a reasonable, enforceable consequence for the addict and while it may be difficult in the home once enforced; it's not impossible.  These are things my rockin' counselor was proud of me for setting into place, both in my original Boundary Agreement and in my common sense boundary agreement.

Yet, my common sense boundary agreement has managed to become outdated, collect dust and now, I'm ashamed to say, I've even allowed a boundary to be breached without consequence.  Anyone dealing with an addict knows it only confuses the situation and when the boundary agreement is enforced once again, things can become ugly, which is what they became over the last week or so in my home.

The original violation was Devin not telling me he working with a female as soon as it happened.  The way he told me was half ass at best and rather than fight about it, I decided to find out how long they'd been working together.  I fell into the roll of investigator.  He answered the questions honestly and his reward?  No consequence.  The problem?  He should have had a consequence for not being open and honest.  The co-worker didn't work there for a day or two; it has been months.  That's not being transparent and goes against our Boundary Agreement in a big way and I allowed to let it slide.

Why?  It was in the midst of Disclosure Week and I mentally couldn't handle it.  I know that now, but it's still not a valid excuse.  I should have been strong enough to stand by my Boundary Agreement.

The next violation was a simple one.  He missed his check-in text.  Oh, c'mon, Elsie, really?  A check-in text?  How tight is this leash?  It's a text to let me know he's at work. It provides me assurance which is his job in our marriage now.  It's two-fold; it alleviates the whole, "hey, I don't have another dead husband" thought from forming and the "hey, he's not off cheating on me" again thought from forming.

That one I enforced last Wednesday and let him know it was being enforced once I heard from him later on; he was not pleased.  The best way to describe it is having a child who is grounded but has the ability not to come home?  I put a question mark because that's not quite right.  He came home, but he just had a lot of Christmas shopping to do during the duration of his consequence. It was typical conflict avoidance or in this case consequence avoidance.

 If it weren't for the fact that it just happened, I'd laugh.  If it weren't for the fact that we just had a  rough, albeit productive, counseling session last night, I'd laugh.

I do know it's gotten my ass in gear to rewrite my common sense BA.

Let the slapping begin!

Ow!  I said wrist, damn you people are mean!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




Detach With Love


**Long post ahead-either click away, grab a cup of coffee or go take a potty break...you'll be here for awhile...and I'm grateful you are.  You guys rock!**
Devin had made a laundry list of chores he wanted to get done while he was break from school. These were things he knew were important to me because they were issues stemming from his addiction days. Promise after promise had been made, but none had been kept so he resolved to get it done while he was off from school. "It's gonna get done. I promise!"

“We are going to bed early this week so we can get on a FANOS schedule again.” - The earliest the lights were out was 10:30, he’s up at 5:00.  Sleep is a Migraine trigger for me and I had to sleep in the spare bedroom while he got ready in the mornings.

“We’re going to read from Erotic Intelligence this weekend.” - We haven’t read it in months.

Finally, yesterday was my breaking point. 

“I’m going to make a dent in the spare room.”  Nothing.  He said he was working on homework but whenever I saw him on the computer, he was goofing off.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know this is not a new problem.  It’s also not uncommon among many addicts.  It’s a matter of either shifting addictions or multiple addictions.  I suffer from it myself if I’m not careful.  Ask me about my old friend hypervigilance sometime. 

While it’s nice to know Devin is sober, it’s disheartening to know he is still battling with this void within him.  The void he needs to fill with “stuff” and then he battles with being overwhelmed and scattered.  Yes, he is being tested for ADD this week – if he goes through with it because he’s quite afraid.
~~~ (Yes, I toyed with breaking this into a second post here but, it's me, I ramble.  Maybe at a later date?)~~~

Anyone reading this who has an addict in his or her life or who is an addict has heard the term “Detach with Love.”  For those of us involved with the addict, it is a safe place for us to go mentally and emotionally.  It provides us with a sense of peace and serenity while allowing us to still love our addict in a healthy way.

It’s what I’m doing with Devin now.  We discussed it last night during FANOS, which he initiated.  He was obviously upset and observed how odd it is that I am now the one detaching while it was he doing the detaching when he was acting out.  I pointed out the difference; mine will be kept in check and be done with love, respect and setting boundaries not as a result from my addiction but a result to his addiction.

My boundaries are fairly simple: 
  • I will no longer accept what you tell me about projects around the house as an expectation.  I will believe it when I see it.  (Saying it’s a lie or he’s lazy seems harsh and unnecessary, he is still learning to be forthcoming.)

  • I will no longer be baited into an argument when told I need to learn how to communicate.  I have talked to our counselor, watched endless shows, read articles and books.  It is time for you to do the same and learn communication skills too.

  • I cannot accept full responsibility for reminding you about FANOS, Erotic Intelligence or even sex.  It cannot be all me.  We are a couple and need to work together.

I have not set a time limit for the detachment, it’s all depends on him and his behavior and my feelings.  I’ve talked to my counselor and understand how to avoid becoming completely emotionally detached and had to get counseled on this once before and know it’s a fine line to walk but know I can do it through love and understanding and strength.

The Gentle Rain - written by Heaven

Over the weekend, Heaven emailed me and asked if she could use our story, more specifically, my Boundary Agreement as material for her writing.  I admit, I was a bit nervous about how our marriage would be represented but in my heart I knew Heaven understood how much love and respect I hold for my husband and I trusted she would allow that to shine through in her words.


Below is the poem Heaven wrote and I was blown away by how well she captured the emotions in my marriage.  From the moment I first fell in love with Devin, to the moment he broke my heart with his addiction and now to the boundaries that are in place along with the hope and love that continue to flourish even on the toughest of days.  


Heaven is truly a talented writer and continually inspires me with her work.  Her blog is one about love and intimacy and pure artwork, as you'll read:



The Gentle Rain

the rain came this morning
like gentle kiss on a fevered brow
drenching the balcony window 
in dusky light and muted blue 

all through the week, summer heat
from your eyes blistered and cracked my skin,
like a forest fire raging out of control,
wounded bull running down Santo Domingo street
i remembered how sweet your first kiss was,
how soft your hands cupping my cheeks, 
until your addiction for sun blurred the lines,
black tarred the flesh craving for flesh,
flushing down our intimacy into dirty urine stall
  
i held your face, my evening star,    
with a bold marker, i penned the words:
black and white letters,  
crossing all t's, dotting all i's,
drawing height and weight of consequences,
fencing the boundaries to protect me and you. 
pinned atop our heads, we slept spooning the moon
the rain came this morning
like gentle kiss on a fevered brow
drenching the balcony window 
in dusky light and muted blue
****
Thank you Heaven, for writing such a beautiful piece and for treating us and this tough topic with such respect.  It is deeply appreciated.

My Boundary Agreement


This post is definitely geared to those readers who are partners of sex addicts....all others, it's okay to click away.  I understand.  I'll still love you.



After my previous post on Boundary Agreements, it only makes sense to me that I go out on a very private limb and share my BA with those that may be looking for an example of their own.

This is what works for ME in MY marriage to a sex addict.  This is not meant for anyone else's relationship but my own.  I am only putting this out there to help those in people in the same situation as mine.  


Remember, you have to be able to stick to the consequences you've created otherwise they are useless.  The addict will never learn your boundaries and you will continue to get hurt and have no one to blame but yourself.  Sound like I'm harsh?  Maybe, but I am speaking from experience.  I live with a sex addict who relapsed early in his recovery. Thankfully he is sober now but I need consequences in place for my own sanity.  


I do this for me because I have chosen to stay in this relationship and it provides me with a sense of security.  Something I can point too and say, "Alright, Elsie, you told yourself you weren't going to allow this to happen to you, now what are you going to do?"


This is my Boundary Agreement:  (again, it's what works for ME because of Devin's previous acting out behavior in our marriage and blurred lines since recovery.  It will seem harsh to anyone not married to a sex addict.)



Healthy Recovery:
            Your progress in your recovery has made the relationships in our house thrive, especially with the kids. Your hard work shows by how you interact with all of us, even when you feel hurt or angry. You’ve learned to explain your feelings and not isolate. I’m so proud of you.
            It would help assure me that you’re in a healthy recovery if you shared with me what inspired you, or touched you, during your meetings. Telling me what you felt and learned, versus if the meeting was crowded or uncomfortable, lets me know you’re still active in your recovery and mentally present in your meetings. I know I’m smart, but I still can’t read minds. Not yet, anyway.
            If I don’t see any change, or that change happens and then slips backwards again, I’m going to have to end our relationship. I feel I’ve been patient, and I can’t stay if things stay the same. Work your recovery like our marriage depends on it, because it does.

Lying: 
            Please be honest with me. I feel being lied to is worse than what the actual truth may be. Whether it’s being deceived about a slip or a simple omission about an everyday event, not being told the truth the first time around or having to dig for information hurts. It causes me to lose trust and not want to be affectionate. Then that causes you to withdraw and before we know it, we’re stuck in an unhealthy cycle. Neither of us wants that. I know we can make our marriage work if we keep working on it.
            The damage from the past makes any lie, big or small, equal to the same thing for me and causes me to go back to that hurtful place from years ago. As the sayings go, “It’s better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie” and “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.” Lies just suck and they destroy my trust and faith in you.
            I ask for honesty during our first conversation about whatever it may be. If I don’t get the truth, or if I have to pry it out of you before you tell me what’s going on, I will enforce a consequence.  
            If you aren’t transparent or keep secrets from me, I want you to sleep in the other room for two nights. If lying or omitting the truth becomes frequent, I’ll have to end our relationship. I can’t handle being continually lied to. It makes me feel like I’m not worth anything to you. And I know that’s not true. I know you love me and want our marriage to flourish just like I do.

Slips and relapses
            I need you to understand I am a safe person to come to if you slip. Whether it’s porn, masturbation, or anything else in your inner circle, I’m at a place in my recovery where I can handle it and won’t judge you for it. I promise not to scream, cry, or attack you. Those days have long since passed and I know you deserve better.
            I understand there are potentials for slips, but I expect full transparency and to be told when they happen. I ask that you tell me either the day it happens, or the day after. If you forget, then the consequence will be sleeping in the other room for three nights and only basic affection (kiss goodbye, etc).  
            While this may seem extreme, to me it’s an extension of lying and deceit. When a slip happens and you don’t tell me, it causes me undue anxiety that causes me to trigger and become hypervigilant, and that’s an unhealthy place for me. It also makes me feel like you’re not in a good place in your recovery, and I deserve to know that.
            If you tell me right away, there won’t be any consequences. I understand slips may occur. I just want honesty about them. We’re a team. The more honest we are with each other, the more emotionally connected we’ll continue to be.
            I also ask that you figure out why you slipped. As our counselor said, slips don’t just happen. There are reasons behind them whether it’s stress, boredom, or anger; it’s up to you to figure it out, so you can prevent them. If your slips become a relapse, then I will have to leave. We are at a point in our recoveries where relapses shouldn’t happen. Especially with me not knowing what’s going on. The more we work together, the happier we’ll each be in our relationship.

Emotional and/or Physical affairs:

            It goes without saying (and yet I’m saying it anyway just to be clear), I will file for divorce the moment I find out you’ve had another affair or inappropriate contact with someone.
            I want us to succeed in our marriage. I want to be more than just cohabitants; I want us to be best friends, lovers, and supporters of one another. I know we can continue to do it, it just takes continued work on both our parts.
            Never forget how much I love you and how important you and our marriage is to me. You’re a good man, a wonderful father, and you’re more than your addiction to me.

~~~

            There’s a bit more to it, but that covers the big stuff. Feel free to use it as a guide for your own boundary agreement. Remember, you’re not punishing the addict for their addiction. You’re safeguarding yourself from it. For us, we've gotten to a place in our recoveries that this BA isn't really necessary. Now we sit and talk things over because it's been so long since he's had a slip. However, when slips were happening two, three times a year, I felt I needed to have this for my emotional well-being.
 *********
Again, this is something I second guessed myself about sharing on here.  I am under no illusion that the internet is a private place and I've been extremely open about my husband's addiction and my recovery on here.  This though...this BA...it's a very personal.  Putting it out there like this kinda scares me, I admit. 

I simply want to help whoever it is that's searching for answers and hope.

Edited to Add: You can read more about boundaries and other tools I used and how I healed from Relational Trauma (a form of PTSD) in my book, Steps Along My Shore, published in 2016. Also, please feel free to email me. My goal is to help others avoid the mistakes I made along the way.

 
 

Boundary Agreement




I have two Boundary Agreements with Devin.  One is signed and dated and the other is an email we sent back and forth months later, a more “common sense” agreement.

The idea behind the Boundary Agreement is two-fold.  It allows the partner to set their boundaries while enforcing consequences when the boundaries are broken and helps create a safe environment for the partner.  Secondly, it informs the sex addict of what the partner is willing to tolerate within their relationship and what to expect when the boundaries are crossed.  It helps to define guidelines of acceptable behavior within the relationship.

It would seem that a mature couple would already have these guidelines, dare I say, rules, established before they get married but surprisingly most married couples make the assumption that their partner will not cheat on them or that they both have the same understanding of what cheating means.

However, not every person feels the same way about what the definition of cheating means or what is acceptable behavior within the confines of a relationship.

One couple may not have any problems with their spouse exchanging emails with someone of the opposite sex and not knowing it’s being done, what’s being said or perhaps that pictures are being exchanged but another couple may not feel that’s acceptable.  There are of course levels to these emails; I took it to the extreme.

Some couples may feel fine with their spouse going to lunch with a co-worker of the opposite sex and confiding in them about personal problems that are going on at home, while other couples may feel that is crossing a line.  What about a simple smack on the ass at work or a neck rub?  Where does that fit?

One couple may need to know where their spouse will be during the day or after work while another may not have any concerns at all and be confident that their spouse is just “doing their thing”.

Everyone is going to be different and in my case all the above is off limits for Devin.  They never used to be but they are now.

Of course, when dealing with a sex addict, that Boundary Agreement is a contract that must be written or at least verbally agreed to in a way that the partner can stick to.

For instance, in my Boundary Agreement, I have written and signed that if Devin cheats on me on-line or in person, I will leave.  This is something that I know I can abide by under no uncertain terms. 

I also have if he slips and/or relapses I must be notified by him within 24 hours or I will withhold affection for three days. 

Sounds crazy right?  Like I’m punishing a child?  In a sense, I am punishing a child, a grown man-child.  Sex addicts tend to stop maturing at the age of their first sexual acting out and/or experience.  They need to know there will be consequences for their actions or they will not stop the behavior.  That’s why it’s so important to create a boundary that can be enforced by the partner or it’s useless.  Much like the mom who says “Don’t make me take that toy away!” and then does nothing when the child continues to misbehave.  Nothing is learned.

Devin thrives off of my affection for him.  He loves to be loved and feel my hugs and my kisses and when I take that away, it hurts him.  It hurts me too but I have to stick by the consequence…and, in all honesty, as time has passed the typed document has changed and been tweaked verbally.  I was a week after Disclosure Day and a mental nut case…a dictator with a crushed heart.  I knew next to nothing about this addiction and it shows it my Boundary Agreement. ****eta (after writing this post I updated the BA in writing)

My “common sense” agreement I still stick to because, well, it’s common sense. Text me when you’ll be running late, things like that. 

Devin HATED, HATED these things when I first put them in place.  He felt like I was trying to control him because, at the time, he had been so completely out of control.  Now, it’s simply second nature and he’s not bothered at all.  It's something we rarely use because his recovery has come so far.

Note: When I wrote this in 2012, I was using a very strict Boundary Agreement. Now, in 2017, each of our recoveries have evolved to a point that the Boundary Agreement has also evolved and changed. There are still the obvious boundaries I have: if he cheats, I leave. If he slips, I need to know, but we talk things out rather than me having him sleep in another room or withholding affection...unless I'm uncomfortable with it. If I am, I communicate that with him an in healthy and respectful way. I feel that each couple will be different as they navigate through the process of recovery. The important thing is to make sure you're feeling emotionally safe and do what works for you.

  
Also, a great book that has nothing to do with sex addiction but is about how to trust again after an affair:  Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass - it rocks!

Or the one I wrote:


The Naked Truth

photo credit:  http://simplystated.realsimple.com/2012/04/27/daily-thought-04-27-2012/?xid=dailynews-04-27-2012



^^^^A Journal Entry^^^^
(See, I was nice and warned you so you could click away if you're not in the mood for Elsie drama today)

There is a tale, perhaps you've heard it, about a man who is sitting upon his rooftop during a flood and the waters are rising.  A man in a dingy comes along and says, "Come on in!" and the man replies "No thanks, I'm praying and waiting on the Lord."  Next,  comes a lifeguard with a life preserver and says, "Come on, I'll help you swim out!"  Again, the man replies, "No thanks, the Lord will help me."  Finally, the waters have risen, surrounding the man, lapping at his feet and a helicopter arrives.  "Sir, please allow us to help you to safety!"  Again, his reply was the same.  "The Lord will take care of me."  Eventually, the man dies and goes to heaven.  He asks God, "Why didn't You save me?"  God replied, "I sent you a dingy, a lifeguard and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"

I am staying true to myself and to the originations of why I began blogging by journaling what I feel at the moment.  I understand it's not easy to read about someone's emotional pain and you want to reach through the screen and either slap them and say "GET OUT" or you feel obligated to comment with something comforting; I've done it myself.  For this reason, I will disable comments, to take that burden off of you.  

This is a journal entry for me and it's to let others know they aren't alone.

Eleven days ago (what? who's counting?  I guess that'd be the person who's insides are torn inside out.) I blogged about divorcing Devin.  I am a black and white person.  Everything is an absolute.  It either is or it isn't.  There is no grey area.  Until we get to him.  Grey pops and shines it's way through and it's my job to sort it through in my way to organized and rational brain.  

Am I this rational and organized in my thinking because of my own addiction to cocaine twenty years ago?  Maybe.  Or was it the death of my first husband that just screwed me up so bad?  Perhaps they both contribute.  I'm working on that now as I work on my forth step (which I worked on yesterday - ugh!).  At the rate I'm going, I'll be lucky if that fourth step is done by the end of summer!

When we went to our rockin' counselor office the other day, another lightbulb went off in his head about his shifting addiction. He finally opened up about his pain inside and lack of self worth.  Then another lightbulb when we got home and talked.  The familiar roller coaster ride of hope began.  

He opened up his "How to Sell Your Crap" on Ebay book (not official name) and set up his seller account.  He talked of the things he needs to get rid of and why.  I understand that denial takes time to lift, dissolve and the real results will be through his step work and therapy.  It doesn't happen over night.  If I decide to stay...it's more time invested, more potential frustration.  Do I want that?

Then he got sidetracked.  He went on YouTube.  The Middle Circle. I could sit here and do like he did; justify it - "I was listening to so and so play guitar", which is true, but I'm not going to do that.  I could also explain that the program is based on the core belief that it "Progress Not Perfection", I'm not ready to do that either.  Why?  It's to early.  He won't talk to me about it, he wants to talk to his sponsor first.  Which, I hate to admit this (really I do, not sure why) is what he is supposed to do.  I also know why he did it.  Stress, fear, admitting to another addiction - it ain't easy.

Instead, I explained that I had to enforce my boundary agreement, no affection and not sleeping in the same bed.  Oh, umm, yeah, we are still on track for a divorce but snuggle...cause, well we love each other.  I know.  It's crazy.

So, why the tale in beginning?  Most of you know that while I may not attend church, my belief in God is strong.  I pray - a lot.  Well, okay, I'm not dropping to my knees in prayer in the parking lot of Walmart, although maybe I should, I hate that place!  

Anyway, I can't help but wonder, what help, what signs, is God showing me?  Was it the breakthrough at our counselor's?  The Ebay selling account?  Or was it the middle circle with YouTube?

Or, am I grasping at nothing.  Just so unsure of my decision to tear apart my family.  My children from the man they adore.

My rational brain screams I can't stay for my kids.  Yet it also screams to be patient as does my heart.  The worst of his addictions is over. I have played him out to be a villain when he's done nothing but try and try and try.  And the second we clash; I want to run because it's the easiest emotionally.  Well, once I'm gone and out of the house, it's easier because then I won't see him anymore.

What if all the people I harmed during my addiction had done that to me?

I have an emergency appointment with my counselor late Monday night.  How cool is this lady?  She had zero openings and is fitting me in after 8:00 p.m.   I have very specific questions to ask her and will be placing that into the mix of my decision.

Holy crap - It's taken me two hours to write this!

As always, thank you for reading.  I hope you understand why I didn't allow comments...much love to all of you!