Tag Archives: Boundary Agreement

My New Take on Boundary Agreements

17 Mar

I will probably get some push back on my opinion tonight, but I would like to tell you what my current thoughts are on boundary agreements.

If you were an original blog reader, you know that I had a boundary agreement with my soon to be ex husband. I understand the point and purpose of one, in theory and in practice. Hell, our boundary agreement even helped me to stand firm in separating from him when I discovered another big lie.

However, at this point I would never, ever accept a relationship with someone I couldn’t trust enough to use his or her own good judgment (or to have good judgement in the first place). Period. I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to be with someone who has to have a piece of paper full of self-explanatory things that they should give the person they’re in a relationship with in order to be a decent partner. Someone who needs that to guide what is right and wrong is not a person I ever want to be attached to.

In fact, if I ever feel the need for a boundary agreement in the future I will RUN in the other direction. On that same note, I would tell anyone considering the need for such a document in their own relationship to get the hell out. NOW!!! Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Just save yourself the future pain and heartache that is sure to come.

I realize that is probably offensive to some. I apologize. It’s just how I see things now. It’s also why I don’t post as much anymore. I think my input is a little too harsh. At the very least it comes from a much different place than those of you still hoping to reconcile with someone so untrustworthy that they need something in writing that details (very specifically) what is unacceptable to do to someone you supposedly love.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe communication is important. I think when any relationship starts to progress toward something serious there should be an open discussion about values and expectations and the importance of honesty, fidelity, respect, and all of the other critical aspects of a relationship that need to be present in order for it to succeed. However, if you do not trust your partner’s words, actions or morals enough to believe they can and will follow through on the supposed “shared values” you have unless they are written on a checklist somewhere with the accuracy and precision of a legal document, then they are not SHARED values at all. In my humble opinion, that itself dooms the relationship.

Compatibility extends to more than just the bedroom. Relationships that go the distance have one key thing in common – the people in them share things in common. Not necessarily the same religion or the same background or the same politics. No. Although those things don’t hurt, it is really shared VALUES that make the difference. If we both value respect highly and equally then we can choose to respect religious or political differences, for instance. Likewise, if only one of us places a value on respect (or values something else, like religion, more highly) then those differences will likely cause strife.

So what do I think boundary agreements are good for? A long laugh. Okay, that’s not the serious answer, and it’s also not fair. I think boundary agreements can help the injured partner feel heard and feel safer. You notice I said “feel.” That’s because they don’t actually guarantee a damn thing. Except maybe that when you see the person who claimed to love you cross a clearly drawn and agreed to line you can finally see what everyone else already could – what they’re doing to you is wrong.

The truth of the matter is that a spouse who crossed one of those lines knew what they were doing. They knew what was right and what wasn’t. They knew what they did wasn’t acceptable. Maybe they have justifications or rationalizations that made it easier for them to swallow, or maybe they’re narcissistic and delusional. Either way, writing it down on a piece of paper won’t change anything. They will choose to do better, get help, and fix things or they will continue making excuses to themselves and you and others. A boundary agreement won’t change that.

For those of you who have a boundary agreement and believe in them, best of luck. I really hope it works out. It is just another of the many tools available to people going through this difficult journey. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I understand. I just no longer agree. Personally, I would rather make an agreement with myself that I deserve more.

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This is me this weekend, enjoying my agreement with myself that I’m worth it. And sporting my new pink cat eye glasses. 🙂

Separation Clarification (What Did Asking For a Separation Mean?)

16 Oct

This post will continue answering the probing questions asked by a gentle reader here.  I apologize for the multiple posts tonight, but I think you will agree it is better than the mile-long single post this was turning into before.

“Were you asking for permission or agreement–did it need to be a joint decision that he could void by disagreeing?”

I don’t think I was actually asking for permission, now that you mention it.  In that moment I just couldn’t have him walking in the door spewing his lies or giving me excuses.  That seemed like an ultimate betrayal of the trust I am trying to rebuild with him.  Maybe if he had disagreed and had something genuine and heartfelt to say he could have changed that.  I’m not really sure, though.

As for it being a joint decision or not, I think I’m going to skip to another question that is a little bit out of order:

Did you or do you have a formal Plan of Action for boundary breaches?

Yes and No, I suppose.  The very first item of our Relationship Boundaries is:

“We will not tolerate lies, distortion of truth, or not being entirely up front with each other – even if we think we’re trying to protect each other in some way.  I promise not to lie to you and you must promise not to lie (or stretch the truth) to me.  Honesty is always better.  Know that lies are worse than almost anything we could ever do to each other. 

The consequence for lying will be that the other spouse will 180 to protect themself (see description of 180 on separate sheet).   We will sleep in separate rooms.  There will be no kissing or sex until the other spouse feels comfortable and safe again.  Any lie has the ability to bring us back to ground zero in the trust factor and marriage recovery; even a small lie.  If lying continues to be an issue, this will be cause for separation and potentially divorce.”

So, we have spelled out some consequences of lying.  Separation is one of those consequences.  The Boundary Agreement describes what amounts to an in-home separation (different beds, no sex, etc.), but also mentions that continuous lying will be cause for separation and potentially divorce.  The term “separation” there meant one where we do not reside in the same house.  I realize now that wording may not be specific enough.

In my mind, what he did amounts to an ongoing lie that certainly “continues to be an issue” between us.  I saw his actions over that week (and especially that day on the phone with me) as being serious enough to warrant time apart – separate from one another.  I felt he had given enough consent to that in our Boundary Agreement that he should honor my request without argument.

However, if he had fought to stay in the home and work things out I might have acquiesced.  Instead, all he sent was what I perceived to be a “poor, pitiful me” text that said “I know you dont owe me anything it will take me some time to find a place to stay.”  I responded by saying, “You have multiple family members within the area & friends so I’m sure you can find somewhere.”

What did asking for–or saying you wanted–a separation mean for that day? Did it mean he could come home, stay the night and you would talk about it? Basically, how firm was the boundary?

I made it clear that I did not want him to stay the night.  In fact, this is what I said exactly, “You can drop off the stuff & pick up what you need but I can’t have you stay.”  The “stuff” in question was some ear drops he had picked up earlier for my ear infection.  What I wanted was some space to consider what this new breach of trust meant.  I did not trust myself to be able to have any type of intelligent conversation about it, and I really wanted to be able to think about how we can move forward (if at all).

The next post will talk about my (extensive) thoughts about how we might be able to accomplish moving forward and where exactly I think we are right now.

Codependent Behavior or Simply Trusting My Gut?

16 Oct

To start with, I really appreciate the insight that several people gave me about what I thought was codependent/ co-addict behavior.  There is a fine line between that and trusting myself.  I believe in this case I was following my gut.  I think calling it a “knowing” is very fitting.  That’s what it feels like when I get that kind of intuitive premonition that something is off.

I really haven’t been checking on him otherwise – I swear I can’t even remember the last time I checked that computer history.  There have been plenty of times he has been out of the house or even in it when I’ve had the chance – we agreed to full transparency with electronic devices, after all.  He always gets home before me.  He almost exclusively uses that desktop computer now that I have a work laptop and tablet.  He is in there all the time when I get home from work.  Still, I haven’t felt the need to look.  Until that day.

It sounds weird, I’m sure.  I don’t think I’m psychic or anything.  I just know that we all pick up things that we don’t consciously process.  Little perceptions, changes in speech or behavior or even the air in our environments.  I can’t explain it, but sometimes I do just have a strong feelings that something isn’t right.  I have come to rely on those “knowings” (I really like that term).  I don’t really have to go looking for things, my instinct will tell me when something is wrong.

Similarly, I usually know when I’m feeling a need to control or an urge to “check up” on him in an unhealthy way.  It is then that I can remind myself to focus on the things that I can change – that which is in my control.  I think I have to do more to fine-tune my self-perception on this issue.  I need to find a way to ask myself is this codependent behavior or simply listening to my gut?

So, on to the challenging questions in my next post…

Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night, Part 1

17 Jul

The Retrouvaille logo – It was at the top of our name tags with the slogan “We are not alone.” Mr. Mess and I quickly decided that was due to the aliens – a running joke that got us past all of the religious propaganda.

This weekend Mr. Mess and I attended the Retrouvaille program.  It was intense.  It was looonnng.  It was immeasurably helpful.  By the end of the first night we already felt closer.  It helped us both to understand one another’s feelings.  The process they taught us was like a light-bulb coming on for Mr. Mess.  Even the super-religious sessions brought us closer as we came up with an inside joke to help us laugh at their fundamental perspective instead of getting frustrated.  I would highly recommend it to any couple who needs help communicating effectively with one another and understanding their partner’s point of view.

Let me back up just a bit.  We are about 2 hours away from where the program was being held – provided there is no traffic.  I was convinced it was going to take us at least 3 hours to get there because of the direction we were headed.  We left in plenty of time and surprisingly hit only one stretch that was significantly slow.  The car ride was somewhat awkward, but there was only one incident where I got frustrated.  He handled himself well, and we got there with almost an hour to spare and no major issues.  That left us time to have a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Dinner was already a step in the right direction.  We talked about the Boundary Agreement.  He went over the items I had put down, asked a few questions, and said that he doesn’t have any problem with agreeing to any of my boundaries.  There were a few that he didn’t understand why they would be necessary – like not keeping a secret email account or phone.  He has never done that before, but I have fear surrounding it.  I will take a look at those items and really examine my feelings about them.  Part of the boundary agreement will be really deciding what is an actual boundary and what is an unrealistic fear or attempt to control him.  I think I can pare down the list a bit and still be true to myself.  He also said that he will think of a few things that he would like to add to the agreement.

Back to the original point of this post.  We got to the hotel during the designated “check in” time, and headed over to the Retrouvaille table.  The couple there handed us our room key and said to be back down by 8:00 pm.  That’s it.  I asked if we were going to get an agenda or anything to help us know what to expect.  He said “No” and that we should just “trust the process.”  Already I was feeling leery and apprehensive.  As a planner, I do not do well with a “just trust us” mentality.  I wanted to know what we were going to be doing, what time I could expect to get to bed, when I would have to get up, and what I should expect.  Challenge #1 to my controlling mentality was not well-received.  Mr. Mess, however, was already stepping up.  He told me that we would figure out what to expect when we got down there, and that all we were giving up was one weekend if it didn’t go well.  I agreed, calmed down a bit, and said that he was right – I could commit to let go for one weekend and see what happened.

Down in the conference room at 8:00 we found tables set up with two notebooks and pens for each couple.  We choose a table and sat down…  Looking around the room at the other couples, they also seemed just as nervous and unsure of themselves.  None of them appeared to me to be “troubled.”  I found myself wondering what had brought them here.  I was almost convinced that we were the only ones there with real, hard-core marital problems.  Everyone else seemed so normal.  I’m sure we seemed normal, too, though.  On second inspection, I noticed that no one seemed to be holding hands or even touching.  There was an air of tension and questioning in the air.  After a few minutes the room settled down into almost absolutely silence.  In the front of the room was a table with sound equipment and three chairs – two were filled by an elderly couple and in the third sat a tall middle-aged man.

Finally it was time to begin.  The people at the front of the room introduced themselves.  The elderly couple had gone through the Retrouvaille program several years earlier.  The middle-aged gentleman was a priest.  The couple introduced themselves individually, gave the name of their spouse, and one positive quality about their husband/wife.  Then they asked everyone in the room to do the same thing.

Panic set in immediately.  My brain was completely blank…  What was one positive quality about Mr. Mess?  I know the answer to this, I told myself, yet I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.  The train of introductions was winding itself through the room.  We were in the second row of tables directly in the middle.  There were just enough couples in front of us for me to get a chance to breathe, hear a few of the other people’s answers, and allow myself to get even more worked up.  The first couple had raised the ante and said TWO positive things about their spouse.  Everyone else after had felt pressured into doing the same.  Now I needed two things?!?  Oh gosh!  I couldn’t be the only person who said nothing, staring blankly at the presenters like a deer in headlights…  A few couples before us the presenters chimed in that we only have to say one thing, not two.  Phew!  But I still had no idea what I would pick.

All too soon, it was out turn.  Mr. Mess had to go first because of the direction these intros were headed.  He said that my best quality was that I am forgiving.  I felt a little embarrassed that he would be airing our problems so soon… everyone else said things like “kind, generous, a good mother, etc.”  I am just forgiving?!  Doesn’t that say more about you than me?  I didn’t have much time to think about his answer, though, because it was my turn.  I mumbled that he is hard-working and has a good sense of humor.  I thought of two after all.  I let out the breath and tension that I had unconsciously been holding in.  The introduction train continued, so I must have done okay…  I tuned out the other answers in the room, too caught up in my relief and simultaneous fear that we would be put on the spot like this the entire weekend.

At the end of the introductions, the presenters said that would be the only time we were asked to speak to the group.  I let out a huge sigh of gratitude.  They then went on to read from papers in front of them to describe the program.  I took some notes in my newly, provided notebook.  After a few minutes I wrote a note to Mr. Mess that said, “These people have no personality!”  It was double underlined.  The woman of the couple was reading from her paper in a monotone voice, not making any eye contact.  They explained that they are not professionals, and it is easier for them to read from prepared statements because it ensures that they don’t forget anything.  It also helps with their nerves.  Okay…  I could understand that.  I vowed to give them the benefit of the doubt and try to curb my sarcastic tendencies.

Here are some of the things I wrote on my first page of notes:

  • We will be learning dialog communication technique
  • Writing is the best was to get your thoughts and ideas down! (my blog)
  • Other Rules:
    • You will receive a question after the presentation.
    • Answer and reflect (separately, then swap)
    • Read your spouse’s answer twice.
    • Silent time is silent: no talking, socializing, distractions, etc.
    • No snacks during presentations, writing or silent time
    • No maid service
    • No cell phones
    • No right or wrong answers, just honest ones (don’t hide things)
    • Be gentle (no attacking)

I did not know then, but this was the first of nearly 60 pages I would write that weekend.  I thought I had the rules down pretty well after that first session, but I learned later that I had plenty to learn and absorb.  We were given our first dialog questions:

  1. Why did I come here this weekend, and what do I hope to gain?
  2. How can I make this weekend a disappointment for us?
  3. What can I do to make this weekend a positive experience?

The women were asked to go up to our rooms to write while the men stayed in the conference room.  We weren’t told how long we would have to write.  We were just told to write for as long as we needed on each topic.  We were also given a little booklet that had an outline of the dialog process and some good “feeling words.”  There were two pages, one for positive and one for negative feelings, and basic headings under each like angry, sad, happy, and loved.  Under each heading were more feelings and words that express specific, more descriptive emotions such as furious, despondent, ecstatic, and tender.  We were to use those to help us find the correct words for our feelings.

I will share my answers and more about the process later.  I also need to talk to Mr. Mess to see how much he is comfortable with me sharing on my blog.  I would like to say that right off the bat, once I allowed myself to participate and leave my judgments at the door, we started being more connected.  I will also add that I wasn’t nearly prepared for what was to come – including sessions that lasted until 11:00 pm that first night!

Photo Credit

Boundary Agreements

12 Jul

I have been thinking a lot about Boundary Agreements this week.  In fact, I am in the process of creating one.  I haven’t shared it with Mr. Mess yet, but I plan to soon – once this current crisis has balanced out a bit.

I think one of the best resources I have found so far is a blog post by Mock Turtle’s Musings.  Here is a link to the post:  http://mockturtlemusings.com/2012/06/boundary-agreement.html

Because she uses Blogspot instead of WordPress it is difficult to reblog her posts.  I have copied and pasted the information here because I think it is so powerful.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

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.

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!

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