Final Four

After the brief detour to talk about the many faces of a man in recovery, we’re getting back on track. Time to round out the discussion on Secondary Boundaries. What we’ve covered so far:

  1. Geographic
  2. Situational
  3. Relational
  4. Intellectual
  5. Psychological
  6. Financial

Now for the final 4.

7. Emotional feelings. This is the stuff going on at a heart level that might propel us into the addictive cycle. It is important to identify and acknowledge which emotions increase your propensity to medicate. That said, we have to go to the deepest levels. For example, Anger is easy to identify. However, underneath that anger may be hurt, fear, failure, shame or disappointment. We must identify those. Stress is a common one. But when many people say stress, what they mean is they feel overwhelmed and fearful of failure. Some guys act out when they feel excited and happy. Others when they feel sad, lonely or rejection.

8. Spiritualwhere are you and God? We know we can’t fight this alone. And we know that if God doesn’t intervene we’re hopeless. Sometimes God is near, sometimes far. In one of my groups a guy described his relationship with God like this: “I feel like I’m a member of a large audience, 1000’s of people, and I know God the way I know the speaker on a stage. He doesn’t know me, he just knows I’m out there. I don’t really know him, but I know he’s up there speaking, and I should be listening.” Living in that relational space with God could be a space where you act out sexually. Or perhaps when you feel like God is miles away. Or maybe even when you come off a mountain top high with God, like after a mens retreat. The important thing here is again to raise your awareness and plan for those occasions.

9. Physiological – think body. It is unfortunately too frequent for guys to say that crossed a line and acted out sexually because of some bodily urge. Is there a reality to our cycles of sperm production and the feelings of needing a release? Yes. And did God make appropriations in our bodies for that release? Yes. Which means we don’t have to take matters into our own hands (literally or figuratively). Don’t let natural urges be the driver on acting out. Create plans around physiological boundaries. Limit time laying in bed in the morning, or limit time in the shower. Double check your motive for pursuing sexual intimacy with your wife. Don’t give yourself the excuse that your urges and just natural impulses and thus you are entitled to some behavior. I always come back to this verse when thinking about these boundaries:

Jude 1:10b – and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them.

10. Technologicalanything related to technology. We’ve heard so many of the stories of guys acting out using playstations, kindles, ipads, cellphones, laptops, etc. There’s an endless supply of media devices to be used for evil or good. Don’t be so careless as to think that using an online device is safe. It is not. There is always a risk, even if you have a filters in place. Create safeguards around how & when you use technology. Make sure your accountability folks know those boundaries and help you be accountable for them.

Hopefully this info is helpful. Another reminder, the goal isn’t to have a narrow, boxed in life. It is to have freedom because we have guard rails that keep us from getting off in the ditch.

Who is She Going to Get?

Even though we’re in the middle of posts about Secondary Boundaries, I felt compelled to write about this today. This one is written to husbands to help them understand some of the healing process. I would love to hear any feedback from wives though!

It is important for men to realize that in recovery a wife doesn’t know who she is going to get. She is dealing with at least 3 different people as it pertains to her husband. Let me explain…

First, there is the “man I married”. He’s the man she fell in love with, laughed at his jokes and thought he was brilliant. She thought he would love her through tough times, protect her in life and lead her well. He’s the one she dreamed about riding off into the sunset together. He’s also a fraud.

Then there is the liar. He’s the one who was faking it, putting on masks like nothing was going on. He’s the one who stole her voice and her confidence in what her gut was telling her. That guy ripped off her sense of security and hijacked her sanity. He made her think she was crazy because she could sense something was wrong but couldn’t put her finger on it.

Next there is the man in recovery. He’s the guy trying to get it right, striving to live well, but stumbling forward through trial and error. Understandably some of the error looks a lot like guy #2. A wife desperately wants to believe her husband is different, but she can’t trust whether he is safe or just pulling the wool over her eyes again. She wants to be close and comfortable with him, but doesn’t know how close she can allow herself to be before the other shoe drops.

Why is it important to identify these? Because a wife wonders who she’s going to get.

Wives can be incredible detectives. Not only in terms of going through phone records and internet history type things, but in reading the men they are married to. In recovery, wives are sensitive to clues as to which man she is getting. They are listening to tone, watching body language, paying attention to eye contact, listening for words that may be indicators. Most importantly, wives in recovery seem to have keenly sensitive radars to their husbands heart. They know when that heart is hard rather than soft, gruff and edgy rather than tender, defiant and emboldened rather than humble and contrite. She’s reading all that.

When you are having a good day together, she wonders who is present. When you return from a business trip, she wonders who is walking in the door. When you’re hanging with the kids, she wonders who they are getting. When you are about to be physically intimate, she wonders which man is in bed with her. It happened at our house this week. During the conversation in an intimate moment Shelley asked, “are you manipulating me?”  In effect, what she was saying was, “which man are you? Can I trust you? Are you safe? Am I safe?

I urge you, husbands, to go overboard in reassuring your wife that she’s getting the new you. To be sensitive to her fear when she senses the old you. Whichever old you that might be. I advise you to roll with it and be patient when she sends a shot over the bow and it feels like she is trying to pick a fight; she may just be trying to see which man will show up.

Be the new you.



More Fences

Picking up from the last post about secondary boundaries, today we’ll look at 3 more. Again the idea isn’t to manage our lives by avoiding these boundaries at all costs. Instead it is about using these boundaries as signals to help us navigate life in a God honoring way, especially as it pertains to sexual integrity. Let’s jump in.

4. Intellectual – think curiosity. Intellectual boundaries are those places in our minds where we may end up triggered. The most common example of this is when a guy says he saw something on TV or in a magazine, then felt curious, so he jumped online and googled it. He is basically asking to be slimed. It is something that has or could have a sexual hook to it. It could be a person’s name, a product or object, or even an article. If your radar is up and your mind starts to wonder towards something with a sexual edge to it, it is probably an Intellectual Boundary.

5. Psychologicalmental health issues. Some people act out sexually in times of depression. Others in the swings of a bipolar disorder or in the manic phases of bipolar disorder. Still others in the midst of anxiety or when they feel panicky. Mental health issues play an important role for some people and seeing a doctor to discuss medication is the right next step. If you (or someone close to you) can help see a trend or pattern of sexual volatility around mental health struggles, it’s time to get that checked out.

6. Financialmoney. I’ve talked to guys who act out on payday and for very different reasons. Some because they feel powerful and in control, they feel adequate and want to celebrate their achievements. Others because payday is a reminder of their inadequacy and shortcomings, knowing there is too much month and not enough check. Financial talks with spouses can be stressful, as can figuring out how to pay for your son/daughters next semester at college. Mounting debt, unexpected auto expenses, medical bills, etc. can all be a factor. With financial boundaries, the goal is to have a plan in place to handle the issues that will arise. Perhaps on the front end that looks like taking a Crown Financial or a Financial Peace class. It also looks like be on the same page as your spouse, which those classes can help with.

I urge you to discuss these boundaries with your accountability partners. Ask them to help you identify trends and to see your blindspots. Get their input on what appropriate boundaries are and what the plan should look like to deal with them. Be prayerful with them to invite God in, and ask His input on your structure and path forward.