In less than 6 weeks (May 10), my upcoming book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts will be released. It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon here.
As you can imagine, I’m excited! The support the book has received from colleagues, clients, and friends has been truly heart-warming.
Over the next 6 weeks, I will share sneak-peek excerpts from the manuscript, along with some of the generous endorsements of the book from many pioneers, experts, and thought leaders in the recovery and addiction field including Pia Mellody, Pat Love, Ken Adams, Alex Katehakis, and Rob Weiss, among others.
This week’s excerpt is from Chapter One:
Your Future is Not Your Past
When I say that practicing self-care through good boundaries can change your life and your relationships, I speak from personal experience. Boundary work saved my marriage of twenty-nine years. More than a decade ago, after many years of individual therapy and intermittent couples work, I reached the end of the proverbial rope in my marriage. At the suggestion of the therapist I was seeing at the time, I decided I needed a thirty-day therapeutic separation from my husband. I realized I couldn’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Separation seemed like the next logical step. I didn’t want a divorce, but I couldn’t live any longer in the marriage as it was.
The day I decided to tell my husband I wanted a separation happened to be a Friday. Little did I know that my resolve would be immediately tested. When you express a limit (also known as a boundary) to someone, it must come from a place of clarity and commitment. If emotions are running high, you’ll be tempted to make threats and issue ultimatums. The problem is that ultimatums and threats are almost always hollow because they’re not grounded on a firm foundation. When requests and boundaries are based on a foundation of clarity and personal authentic power, you will be unshakable. You will feel calm in the midst of the storm.
When I told my husband I wanted a thirty-day separation I was unshakable. He attempted to buy time and perhaps convince me to change my mind. He told me he was fine with leaving but he wanted to wait until Sunday. Without skipping a beat, I told him he could stay in our home until Sunday, but that I would be leaving that day with our son to stay in a hotel until he left. Had I not been clear and resolved I might have gone along with his request or gotten into a power struggle with him about who was going to leave.
Countless times I’ve heard partners ask questions like, “Why should I have to ________ (leave the family home, take a time-out, get tested for sexually transmitted infections)?” Although the frustration is understandable—after all, you didn’t cause the breach in trust—the truth is that you’re the only person you have control over. When you lose focus on your goal and engage in power struggles, you’re stuck in the victim role, and caught up in attempting to use control versus doing good boundary work.
One of the ways you’ll know when a boundary you’ve set is right for you is when you feel a calm, grounded resolve even in the face of pushback, resistance, or outright hostility. You will know by how you feel that it’s right. And that’s exactly how I felt in that moment.
That fateful day was a turning point in our marriage. It wasn’t the end of conflict or disappointment—those are part of being in any relationship. But it marked a fundamental shift in me and in the relationship that has lasted to this day. Of course, it also required a commitment from him to his own personal growth, and to our marriage.
The effective use of boundaries is one of the best ways
to determine whether or not your relationship is salvageable.
In my case it was. However, if my husband had made different choices I would have gotten the information I needed to decide whether or not I wanted to remain in the marriage. One of the gifts of good boundary work is that it enables you to see your own limits and the limits of others. You learn how far you’re willing to go with others and how far they’re willing to go with you. When you’re clear about these two things, you avoid wasting time in relationships that aren’t healthy or fulfilling.
My request for a thirty-day separation wasn’t about threats, manipulation, punishment, ultimatums, or the many other ineffective ways we attempt to get what we want and need in relationships. My request was about reaching a limit and knowing what I needed to do to take care of me.
Limits are boundaries, and boundaries are self-care.
I would even go so far as to say that boundaries are an act of self-love.
Special Praise for Moving Beyond Betrayal
Finally. THE book to help partners of sex addicts reclaim the most powerful part of their life after suffering from intimate betrayal!
Following Tidwell Palmer’s compassionate, no-nonsense guidance will insure the discovery of a vital, healthy sense of self.”
—Alexandra Katehakis, Founder and Clinical Director, Center for Healthy Sex, Los Angeles, CA and co-author of Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
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