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.

Defining Secondary Boundaries

The next few installments of the blog will be about defining secondary boundaries. As a team at the workshops, the counselors and I have been raising the bar on what and how we present the material. We’re constantly discussing how we can make the workshop more effective and present a TON of important content in the most meaningful way.  A member of the team, Jim Phillis, recently presented a breakdown of 10 types of secondary boundaries that have been very, very helpful. I hope you’ll take this material and apply it to your own recovery. I have already applied it to mine, and am making some changes which I’ll share as we go.

First, what are secondary boundaries? They are the fences we cross on our way to going off the cliff of acting out. In other words, they are experiences where we can potentially enter the addictive cycle and ultimately act out. It is important to remember that secondary boundaries are typically innocuous in themselves; they are usually not sinful. However, when we encounter them, we must acknowledge that we are one step closer to sinning. By defining them, we are simply heightening our own awareness and raising our level of intentionality with respect to integrity.

Here are the first 3 types:

  1. Geographicalplaces that can be triggering. It can include particular cities or parts of town.  It could include places within your home. The idea is to define which geographical areas might activate lustful thoughts. Once defined, you’ll need to decide on a strategy to handle them. That could be avoiding them, but more likely will mean being on heightened alert when you are in them.
  2. Situationalcontexts that can be triggering. Examples I regularly hear are 3 B’s: Bars, Beaches and Ballgames. With situational triggers it is also important to look more deeply, to see if the issue is the emotional experience of the context. Other situational triggers might include:  issues at work, payday, church, meetings where women/men are present, when you’re home alone.
  3. Relational – think people. These are relationships and specifically, situations within those relationships, where you might be triggered. There is overlap with situational here as you’ll see. Again, it is important to look at what happens emotionally in these relational situations to see what makes it a boundary. Examples may include certain people: a flirtatious coworker, a “touchy” person, a family member whom you have a strained relationship with. It could also include particular situations within relationships: conflict with spouse, disciplining kids, dealing with parents or siblings.

To close, remember that we aren’t trying to define every single situation where we might be triggered and to stay away from it. That’s impossible. And unbiblical if we’re to be in but not of the world. The crux of the exercise is to raise our awareness and preparedness. When I worked at Arthur Andersen I was part of a team that developed DRP’s – Disaster Recovery Plans. (The plan at Andersen didn’t account for tax fraud, however). The goal was to assist clients in anticipating situations that might arise where corporate data systems could be compromised (natural disaster, theft, etc), then create a plan to keep the business functioning effectively in light of it.

Same thing here: we want to anticipate situations that might trigger us and have a plan to keep ourselves functioning effectively in light of them.