Partner's Workshop: Stage Three; Lesson Eight

Managing Boundary Violations

One of the more substantial consequences in discovering that you are involved in a sexually-addicted relationship is that any lingering fantasies about the 'sugar and spice and everything nice' of a partnership is shattered. Never again will values like trust, intimacy, honesty, sexuality, respect, equality, etc., be taken for granted. Never again will you experience the ignorant bliss that comes with a belief in the fairytale. What will take the place of that naivete is the hard-earned reality that you come into every relationship as an individual first, and a partner second.

Now, this doesn't mean that you must redefine the potential love that you can experience with another human being; or that you must sacrifice the depth of intimacy and/or commitment. Quite the opposite. It is often only after you have clearly defined your individuality within a relationship that you are free to explore the true potential that relationship holds. Much too often, 'unconditional love' is the term given to what is actually 'love blindness' — one's willingness to make themselves vulnerable to someone without having a clear vision of either themselves, their partner or the partnership. This typically isn't a problem, as most long-term relationships grow into this awareness. But in a relationship marred by addiction, it is critical that you re-establish your own identity. As well, you will be redefining your partner (several times, likely) and your partnership.

Protecting Your Values

Ignorance and naivete are the biggest threats to your values. You are no longer either. You have already learned that your boundaries are the protectors of your value system. Hopefully, you now think of them as your personal shield in protecting your healthy identity. With this shield in place, you should come to easily recognize any ongoing threats to your value system. Note that every such threat must be managed. You cannot allow any threat to your value system — and boundary violation — to go unaddressed. You must protect your individual health — especially the year following any personally traumatic event — at which time you will be more vulnerable to such violation.

This doesn't mean that every boundary violation is intentional or potentially catastrophic. Or that every violation must be met with equivalent of an atomic bomb being dropped on a pedestrian who jaywalks. It will be a part of your responsibility in managing your life to determine which threats are major, which are moderate and which are minor. Again reminding yourself, NO BOUNDARY VIOLATIONS should go unaddressed. But at times, that may mean that you address those violations simply by recognizing that they occurred and making the decision to take no further action. At other times, a violation may be so severe and/or likely that you recognize it as a genuinely catastrophic threat that is too potentially damaging to take any further risk. And so you immediately end the relationship with the violator.

No one can tell you exactly what the right actions to take in response to a boundary violation are. What is right for one person may be completely wrong for you. What may be right for you today is completely wrong for you next month. This is where the clarity in your own individuality must come in. This is where your connection to your personal vision comes in. Having the ability to use that vision as a means of predicting potential damage and/or threat. And, this is why you must continually stay connected to both your values and boundaries — evolving them as you evolve.

Exercise Twenty-One

1. List five of the most likely major boundary violations that you will face over the next year. How will you recognize them as they are occurring? How will you respond to them if they happened tomorrow?

2. List five minor boundary violations that you will likely face over the next month. Write out how you will likely respond to each.

3. Over the past six months, you have no doubt violated the boundaries of others (innocently or otherwise). List a few of these and share whether or not you were aware that you were violating their boundaries at the time.

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