After discovering betrayal, one of the most significant needs most partners have is to establish a sense of safety for themselves. And one of the most important ways to do this is by establishing boundaries. In this and next week’s blog posts, we are going to look at how to set boundaries in several key areas. The goal is to help you navigate the aftermath of betrayal and increase your sense of safety and stability.
Whether you are staying in your relationship, separating, or permanently dissolving your relationship, you will need boundaries. And remember, what you need may change as your circumstances change, so your boundaries might not be static. Moreover, you will need to develop the ability to determine what you need at different times so you can alter your boundaries as necessary to meet your changing needs.
In this week’s blog post we are going to look at two primary types of boundaries you will need: physical and sexual boundaries, and emotional boundaries. Next week we will look at financial boundaries, communication boundaries, and boundaries around people, places, and things.
Physical and Sexual Boundaries
Physical boundaries involve the proximity of your body or things to another person’s body or things. Physical boundaries include the sexual aspects of your relationship. For betrayed partners, physical boundaries are incredibly important, especially in early recovery. They give you the room and space you need to begin to process your feelings and rebuild some stability. Usually, before you can feel emotionally safe, you must feel physically safe within your relationship. Categories to consider as you determine the physical and sexual boundaries that will be appropriate for you include:
- Living area issues (whether you will stay in the same household, rules for in-house separation, and roles and responsibilities of shared or separated living).
- Non-sexual touch (the level of touch and physical affection that you are open to given the hurt and pain that has occurred).
- Physical property (privacy issues around personal journals, workbooks, etc., that you and/or your partner may be using as part of your healing journey, as well as any other physical property issues that may need to be considered).
- Sexual contact (the level of sexual touch and interaction you are currently open to as you heal from the betrayal that has occurred).
- Safety issues (areas in which you feel physically or sexually unsafe, and what you need in order to restore a sense of safety).
Emotional boundaries help you manage and regulate your emotions during the time of crisis and upheaval that follows the discovery of betrayal. For a period of time, you are going to be riding an emotional rollercoaster, with your feelings changing and shifting relatively often. Recognizing this, you will want to do everything you can to calm your body, stabilize your emotions, and otherwise care for yourself.
This means making a commitment to yourself to engage in self-care when feeling emotionally activated, and to not engage or stay engaged in conversations or situations that overwhelm your healthy coping and emotional regulation abilities. Here are a few examples of emotional boundaries that betrayed partners have created to help themselves:
- When I feel myself getting triggered emotionally I will take time to pray, journal, and/or call my sponsor or a friend.
- I will take time out from conversations that are too overwhelming for me emotionally.
- Knowing that enough sleep and consistent meals throughout the day are a significant part of my being able to regulate my emotions, I will prioritize sleep and regular meals for myself.
- Moving my body helps to move emotions through my body. I will do physical activities regularly to help my body move emotions through and out.
My hope is that reading this blog post has prompted you to think about your boundaries and to identify places where creating a new boundary would significantly help you in your healing process.
Next week we will continue this boundaries conversation by looking at financial boundaries, communication boundaries, and boundaries around people, places, and things.
About the Author:
Michelle D. Mays, LPC, CSAT-S is the Founder of PartnerHope.com and the Center for Relational Recovery, an outpatient treatment center located in Northern Virginia. She has helped hundreds of betrayed partners and sexually addicted clients transform their lives and relationships. Michelle is the author of The Aftermath of Betrayal and When It All Breaks Bad and leads the field in identifying and crafting effective treatment strategies for betrayed partners.
Braving Hope is a ground-breaking coaching intensive for betrayed partners around the world. Working with Michelle will help you to move out of the devastation of betrayal, relieve your trauma symptoms and reclaim your life.