It’s been an incredible week for the launch of my upcoming book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts on May 24. Many thanks to everyone who has already pre-ordered!
If you haven’t already, please take advantage of the pre-order bonuses I’m offering for all purchases of the print version of MBB before May 24. Click here for more info about bonuses and to claim yours now.
A few years ago when the idea for writing a book on boundaries first came to me, I told the therapist I was seeing at the time that I wanted to write a book about boundaries. She was enthusiastic and supportive about the idea. And then she said:
Whatever you do, don’t call it [the book] ‘Boundaries’!
I completely understood.
There is nothing exciting, intriguing, and definitely nothing sexy about boundaries. Most people’s first response to hearing the word is typically an (invisible) eye-roll or an audible “Ugh.”
If you struggle with creating and maintaining boundaries, the concept may be a source of embarrassment or guilt. And for people who are the “object” of other people’s attempts to set boundaries—which typically look more like a demand or an ultimatum—boundaries are frequently experienced as attempts to manipulate, control, or punish.
Boundaries—as protection and limits—are fundamental to human relationships, the lawful structure of societies, and life itself.
So here are my ‘best kept secrets’ about boundaries—specifically for relationships impacted by addiction:
Boundaries Keep You Safe
Because boundaries are essentially about protecting you and others, they’re the source of creating and maintaining safety. Without a foundation of safety—individually or relationally—you can’t move onto higher level needs like those for connection and trust.
Imagine living in a house without walls or locks, owning property without a clearly defined property line, or having a body without skin. Each of these are boundaries, and without them life—as we know it—doesn’t function.
Boundaries Give You Valuable Information about Other People
You get valuable information about another person when you make a request (as part of boundary work) or create a boundary. The average person doesn’t respond well to boundaries set in relationships, and someone who does is a refreshing exception.
Of course, there are times when a person’s initial, knee-jerk response to a boundary is negative, defensive or argumentative, but they later respond more relationally once they’ve had some time to reflect and cool down.
If you get repeated pushback, defensiveness, or hostility when attempting to establish boundaries in a relationship, the other person is most likely not capable of being accountable or relational. On the other hand, if the other person more often than not makes an attempt to hear your requests and respond authentically—not just compliantly—to your limits, he/she is probably capable of long-term emotional intimacy.
A Partner’s Boundaries Speeds up Her Healing Process
Closely related to “Secret” #1 (Boundaries Keep You Safe), when you practice protective boundaries, you’re safer physically, emotionally, and sexually. The sooner you learn the fundamentals of good boundary work, the better you’ll feel. And with the foundation of good self-care created by solid boundaries, you’ll be in a much stronger position to practice boundary work with your partner.
A Partner’s Boundaries Speeds Up the Addict’s Recovery
This one is the most “secret”—and powerful—of all. In my work with partners over the past 9 years, I’ve seen an undeniable, direct connection between the quality of a partner’s boundaries and the relative success of the addict’s recovery—if he’s committed to recovery.
When a partner understands her rights, requests that the addict engage in certain recovery and trust-building activities, and gets agreement from her partner, the likelihood of long-term recovery is greatly increased. This is one of the reasons it’s imperative that partners become highly informed about the recovery process, her rights, and best practices for making requests.
The Practice of Boundaries Determines Whether (or Not) a Relationship Will Survive
For most partners this promise carries a lot of power.
How does the practice of boundaries help determine whether or not your relationship is salvageable? Because when you take care of yourself, make requests, and hold firm to what you will and won’t tolerate in the relationship, you get a wealth of information about your relationship.
You’ll discover whether or not your partner can hear you, accept the limits you need to make for your self-care and safety, or negotiate a solution if he can’t agree to your request without a modification of some sort. Your partner’s responses to your requests and boundaries will give you all the information you need to determine whether or not your relationship is salvageable.
(Want to know more about how partners can practice better boundaries to increase clarity, power, and connection? Order my upcoming book here on Amazon.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity.
Wow-this article could not of come to my in box at a better time. I am going to be setting a boundary with my spouse later today, and frankly I was really nervous about doing so, because I know this will not thrill him at all. . . . Sure he won’t like that I am laying down my boundary on this but if he is true to his word then it should be no problem. And like your tip says that I now will have an indicator if we will be able to work past this or it’s really time to throw in the towel. I feel empowered by your article today as I was considering not asking for this but now understand the importance of how this will finally answer the doubt still lingering in my mind. Thank you so much
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
You’re welcome Chely! Your request makes complete sense to me, and as you said—you will get valuable information about your partner and your relationship from making it. I hope it goes well for you.
Thanks you so much for the free invitation to listen in on Friday regarding Boundries!!
Your awesome Vickie… the way you delivered your material. The education created an aha ha moment of insight for me and my partner. Huge!!
What was so impactfull is I have been learning to reparent myself.
Step1 what do I need?
Step 2 do I have the power to take care of my own needs and if I do … how empowering it would be to do so…
I broke out of an old pattern of behavior by comforting myself instead of pulling on my partner with emotional neediness (writing, texting or calling wineing over our boundaries of distance & physical closeness as we allow separation time for healing ).
My partner called the next moring and said he was surprised he didnot receive a text, email or call from me.. and congratulated me !!!
I them shared I had learned from your web talk on Boundaries., step 2 getting clear what your need is and asking yourself is it somthing I can do for myself (empower self) . Yes!!!
We are currently working on reconciliation and your work on Sex& Love and boundaries is great!
Hope I get to meet you in person Vickie .Might there ever be an opportunity to have a private session or phone session with you?
I am from Louisiana however I live in Houston.
Thanks for your time and consideration .
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Hi Marlene, so glad you could join the call and that the info was helpful to you. I hear loud and clear your reparenting, self-care, and boundaries—congratulations!
Unfortunately, I’m not currently taking new individual or couples clients, but I do occasionally speak locally at the Outer Circle Club or for other communities and organizations.
All best to you,
Jim C says
Hello, my name is Jim. I identified with your description of a boundary partner. I felt that my partner was very unhappy with me because I sometimes did not check in with her. I want her to happy. To me I perceived her constant demands as overbearing and controlling. I didn’t want to break up with her because I care very much for her; but I want her to be happy and not angry all the time.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Thanks Jim for adding to the conversation.