Personal boundaries are like the bumpers along a bowling lane. Or, the rumble strips on the side of the road. They help us identify the truth from the myth.
Too often, we look at boundaries as something to challenge or remove.
If, like me, you dislike being told “no” about anything, then when I say “boundaries” you might think I’m telling you, “No!” And that’s not fun.
But…what if boundaries create space and freedom instead?
Does that help you look at your boundaries, or lack thereof, as safe zones? The rumble bars keep you safe on the highway. The bumpers keep your bowling efforts in a better, happier place. Both allow you to flourish or perform better with their assistance.
When your marriage experiences damage and division from porn addiction, if you want to heal you need to step back and set some healthy boundaries. These boundaries create an environment that promotes a new lifestyle, changed thought patterns, and behaviors. A happier, healthier life.
To learn about healthy boundaries, it helps to understand some myths about your marriage and your husband’s porn addiction.
Stephen Arterburn and Jason B. Martinkus, in their book Worthy of Her Trust, reference several of these myths. As I read this information, I recognized which myths I believed and how that damaged my relationship. All these myths have a nugget of truth that gets blown out of proportion. Funny how we do that.
Time heals all wounds.
We apply this myth to many difficult situations when we desire to paint over the pain because we’re uncomfortable. Yes, memories fade with the passing of time. But, as an abuse victim, all it takes is one whiff of the right cologne and I’m back to when the abuse occurred.
Our minds have a greater capacity to store information than the most complex computers (computer=1TB to a human brain=1 petabyte [1,000 TB]). I had to look that up. ? While computers might recall information in a split second, it cannot make a qualitative ranking to information like the human brain. That’s why that whiff of perfume, a certain image or setting, or an innocent action toward an abuse survivor causes immediate recall of the abusive incident.
Time alone doesn’t heal the wound. It simply lies dormant until the next trigger.
When it comes to healing, setting the boundary is the first step. The rebuilding of trust and securing the new boundary comes through repetitive steps by your husband to prove his promise to leave the porn behind.
Your healing requires an honest assessment of your husband’s actions and your feelings. It involves relying on God to do the work He promised to do in your husband AND you. You cannot change your husband. He must desire change for himself, not for you.
I’ll trust him when he stops watching porn.
Nice thought, but it’s not true by itself. Simply stopping the behavior won’t build your trust. This is tricky to work through. You want the pain and problem to stop. That’s what you want, right? It’s what I wanted. But, even though Dave proved to me he wasn’t watching porn, installed monitoring software on his internet-enabled devices, I discovered I still didn’t trust him. Why?
God tells us that redemption involves acknowledging the sin and turning away from it to new behaviors and choices. Did you catch that?
To make true life change and heal from the addiction, you must observe your husband discovering and practicing new choices. King David wrote about this in Psalm 51. He recognized that his sin broke his relationship with God and others. The only way to achieve healing from that sin was to turn away from it and change his behavior.
Trust is built in the simple, dependable moments of authenticity. As Martinkus says, “It’s what you do in lieu of acting out that will build trust.”
If I gain control, then maybe I can make him stop looking at porn.
Really? Since when can you control another person? Control won’t cause heart change.
At the beginning of your recovery, control gives you a semblance of peace and may be appropriate. I get it. You need to protect your heart from further damage. In a way, you’ve employed damage control in your life. I understand you need to do that right now.
But, in the long run, you need to identify why you feel this intense need to control.
Do you feel insecure in your relationship? Do you believe you aren’t enough for your husband? What drives your controlling behavior? When you recognize what’s going on, you begin to discover new ways to change your thoughts, actions, beliefs, and attitudes toward your husband. It sets you free to allow God to do His work in you and in your husband.
When I faced the reality of Dave’s porn addiction, eventually, I had to let go of the way I wanted Dave to recover. God needed to work in Dave’s life just as He was doing in mine. But, the way that recovery work looked in Dave wasn’t up to me. When I finally began to pray for Dave more than try to control him, that’s when I saw what God was doing in my husband.
I just need to pray more or become a woman of prayer.
Yes, prayer is essential for you even more than for your husband. However, without a plan of action to change the behavior that got you into this situation, you won’t see the results you desire. Don’t misunderstand me on this one. Your lifeline is your communication with and dependence on God. Period. God alone is your anchor in this crisis. As James says, faith without action is useless. And, if your husband says he’s not responsible to heal the hurt you feel, he’s dodging recovery.
While your husband works on his recovery, I encourage you to pray for him. Absolutely. Pray for yourself as well. Talk openly with God about the real pain you feel. Where do you feel destroyed? Tell God. Journal your fears, thoughts, anger, and tears. Get it out in the open where you can deal honestly with it all. Pray diligently for healing for both of you. Ask God for the strength to walk this path one more day. Pray for the restoration of your relationship and marriage. Pray for your children.
At the same time, pay attention to your husband’s behavior. Does he keep his word? Is he acting out still? Recovery depends on both of you facing what got you into this situation. Your husband has to admit his part in your pain. He caused it by his choices and actions. Therefore, you need to see the daily steps he makes toward wholeness. Words won’t cut it. It’s him living out his faith before you, his heartfelt repentance. How do you know it’s real? You will know. Prayer helps you discern the truth from the lie.
If I have enough faith, God will miraculously deliver me from this pain and my husband from his porn addiction.
Every time I hear this one, I cringe. Could God miraculously remove any desire for porn from your husband? Yes. However, what if the porn addiction creates a depth of dependency on God and character strength your husband wouldn’t develop any other way? What if God uses the healing journey He brings in your life to show others there is a better way?
Asking God to miraculously remove the pain circumvents the process of sanctification—the journey of grace God intends to develop in us. We miss out on deepening our relationship with God.
This kind of prayer feels like a “get out of jail free” type of prayer. “I know I screwed up royally, but I expect God to simply make it all go away so I don’t have to face the consequences of my decisions and actions.”
Thirteen years after our marriage crisis, Dave and I both know that we wouldn’t be where we are today, who we are, or understand the character and grace of God if we’d been miraculously delivered from the porn addiction, pain, depression, and struggle we went through. I tell my coaching clients honestly, “We don’t wish what we went through on our worst enemies. But we wouldn’t change this part of our story, because we discovered the greatness of our redeeming God. We’ve learned more about receiving and extending grace through this crisis than we would any other way.”
If we received a get-out-of-jail-free rescue, we wouldn’t need God to walk hand-in-hand with us every day. We wouldn’t turn to Him when the temptation hits. Understanding Who God is and experiencing the daily work of the Holy Spirit in my life and in Dave’s means more to me than being miraculously rescued from this addiction.
There are more myths we inadvertently believe. Also, sometimes those myths get dumped on us by those who seek to spiritualize away your pain and angst.
Which of these myths do you believe?
Don’t beat up yourself for believing them. Once you identify the lie attached to the truth, you begin to heal. Each myth attacks your belief about boundaries as well. You cannot set healthy boundaries if you believe the myth.
Need help uncovering the myths? Do you wonder if your boundaries are healthy or simply self-preserving?
Let’s talk. I’ve been there. The truth is there is a path to healing and boundaries that set you free. You will feel different, better, and find God’s purpose for your life beyond this pain. I’d love to help you discover it.