Out of Bounds

Recovery requires boundaries. Unfortunately we often think of boundaries as limiting factors. They’re the rules and regs we have to live by in order to maintain sobriety. But this is an entirely narrow view of boundaries.

Instead, I encourage you to think of boundaries as the guardrails you surround yourself with to protect your soul. These include what you look at, listen to, ingest, smell, where you go, and who you interact with. You are the primary protector of your soul. God gave you rule over that part of His kingdom. He owns it, but we are stewards of it.

When we relax our boundaries and engage pseudo porn, lustful looking, “harmless” flirting (quotes indicate denial) or drink a little too much we are dabbling with disaster. When we listen to podcasts or shows that pollute our thinking, go places or say or do things that violate our consciences we are fueling fallout. Its only a matter of time. Maybe you can relate in that when I relax a little boundary, it turns into relaxing bigger boundaries. And when I bump against them to see if they’ll really hold me, I’m actually seeing how far I can get. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Alternatively, when I live well within intentionally designed boundaries, I allow my soul to flourish. It’s life giving. It creates a lifestyle of abundance rather than a mentality of scarcity. The most important people get the best parts of me, rather than a dulled out version of me.

The sad truth though, is that when I live with poor boundaries I’m really being a poor steward of the soul God has given me. Rather than cultivating, sanctifying and treasuring it as a reflection of His glory, I’m covering it with grit, grime and pollution.

Recovery boundaries aren’t limiters. They’re life givers.

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Protecting Me at Your Expense

One thing a lot of married men don’t realize in the recovery process is that self protection always does damage to our wives’ heart. In effect when we lie, excuse, blame, hide, avoid, criticize and minimize we are saying, “I am willing to protect myself at your expense”. We like to think self-protection has a zero impact. We like to think that not acting out anymore is enough.

But it’s not.

We have to decide that we will stop protecting ourselves for the sake of our wives. We must deliberately engage their pain, some of which we caused and some we didn’t, to become an accessory to her healing. For some of us, that means we’re going to have to stop demanding that our wives fix themselves, and instead focus on creating a safe container for them to come to terms with their own brokenness.

If your wife feels like she’ll be blamed, shamed, criticized, rejected, abandoned, or will hear “I told you so” for admitting her own faults and insecurities you are NOT creating a safe container.

Just a few weeks ago Shelley qualified a statement she was about to make to me by saying, “I’m afraid to share this with you because I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me”. Translation: Jason hasn’t created a safe enough container for Shelley to be vulnerable with her deepest insecurities.

So what do we need to do to create a safe space for our wives’ to heal? I obviously haven’t done it perfectly, so here are 2 key things I’m working on:

1) Remembering that I’m no one to judge, and I am called to extend the grace I’ve been given. After being addicted to porn and committing serial adultery, I’d say I have no leg to stand on to judge her sin. I need to remind myself of that, not in a shaming way, but in a grace way.

2) Intentionally monitoring my response when she shares something less vulnerable. I realize that sometimes when she shares simple, kinda silly things with me I blow them off. I’ll dismiss them, laugh at them and minimize them. Logically, if I can’t take a small thing seriously, how can she possibly trust me to take a huge thing seriously?

After I post this, I’m going to ask Shelley what I need to work on to be more safe. I want to know what she thinks I need to tweak so that she can naturally share more of her heart.

Will you ask your wife the same question?