This post is Part 3 of a 6-week series celebrating the release of my upcoming book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts. Each week I will share an excerpt from the manuscript, along with one of the book’s endorsements.
This week’s excerpt is taken from Chapter 3, entitled First Things First: How to Recognize a Good Boundary When You See One.
The following section of Chapter 3 discusses some common myths and misconceptions about how boundaries work in relationships.
Common Misconceptions and Myths about Boundaries
The way boundaries work in relationships is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. Boundaries are sometimes seen as harsh, cold, or uncaring. They’re also mistakenly viewed as punishment carried out by rigid, uptight, or selfish people. Because boundaries create limits, they’re sometimes interpreted as repressive or as restrictions on personal freedom.
A common misconception about boundary work is that a choice to protect yourself—as an act of self-care—is a punishment of the other person. For example, if the sex addict has repeatedly been irresponsible with money and has broken financial agreements, you may decide to get a separate bank account. The choice to get a separate account is not a punishment of him. It’s an act of self-care for you and a rational response to repeated boundary violations.
One of the most damaging misconceptions about boundaries is that you don’t have a right to protect yourself because of what happened to you in the past.
Underneath this misconception is usually an unconscious belief that the person is defective or broken as a result of having his or her boundaries violated as a child or having experienced one, or several, traumatic events as an adult. If you were frequently abused—either verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually—you may unknowingly carry a deeply held belief that you don’t have a right to protect yourself. This is simply not true.
No matter what has happened to you or what you have done, you have a right to set limits for yourself around how others treat you.
One of the biggest misconceptions about boundaries is that they give us permission to tell someone else what to do or not do. In a parent-child relationship, a parent can tell the child what he or she can or cannot do.
However, in adult-adult relationships, you can make a request for a change of behavior, but you can’t demand any action or behavior from another person.
Sometimes partners say, “I told him my boundary is that he has to go to therapy every week.” Of course, it may be appropriate and even necessary for the sex addict to go to therapy once a week. You can request that the sex addict engage in a particular activity or behavior, but he has a right to say yes, to say no, or to negotiate an alternative agreement.
You have the power to create a boundary about what you will do if your partner says no to your request that he go to therapy, but you cannot create a boundary that requires another adult to do, act, or behave in a certain way. In future chapters we will cover, in detail, how to make effective requests in boundary work. In the meantime, it’s important to understand this crucial concept about how boundaries work.
Boundaries aren’t something you do to another person. Boundaries are something you do for your own self-care, well-being, and protection.
Special Praise for Moving Beyond Betrayal
“The sexual betrayal partners of sex addicts experience is extremely difficult to overcome. It’s easy to get stuck in the victim position, resentment, and reactivity. This splendid work by Vicki Tidwell Palmer provides a step-by-step process that will help partners of sex addicts move out of the trauma and into a more profound sense of intimacy with their partners. A wonderful read!”
Soon I’ll be announcing special bonuses available only to those who pre-order Moving Beyond Betrayal prior to the release date on May 10. If you’d like to be on the list to receive notices of bonuses, programs for partners, and more, sign up here.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
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