This week in the LoveLetter, we’re talking about safety, which I know is a little ironic. We are living in very uncertain times…watching the news more than is healthy, the kids are at home unexpectedly and life generally feels disrupted and unpredictable.
If you’re the partner of a sex addict, you might feel like you have unsafety piled on top of unsafety. You’re already experiencing trauma as the result of discovering your husband’s betrayal, how do you manage dealing with betrayal in these uncertain times?
Safety is not an upgrade. It is a standard feature.
One of the first things I do with a new coaching client is assess her safety. It’s also the first step in my free guide book, Surviving His Sex Addiction. (Download it here if you don’t already have it.)
The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you (or your kids) are in physical danger. This could be because your husband is physically abusive or because he engaged in unprotected sex or other risky behaviors outside of marriage. In either case, you need to seek help immediately.
In the case of physical abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If there has been unprotected sex outside the marriage, then please go see your doctor for medical advice and STD screening.
Boundaries are how you create safety.
You have a right to ask for what you need to feel safe, and you do that through boundaries. For some of us, setting boundaries is not easy because we’re not comfortable asking for what we need. Boundaries are something that I still work on almost a daily basis! With my kids, with my clients, with my ex….
If this is your first time working with boundaries, ask yourself, “What are the specific behaviors that need my husband to either stop or start?” Get really clear about what your non-negotiable boundaries are; meaning, if he violates the boundary, then you’ll leave the marriage.
These should be limited and could include requests like no sex outside the marriage or no viewing of pornography. Also, don’t forget to include a request for a software that blocks access to adult websites. This is a boundary for both your husband and protection for your kids.
You need Support to set boundaries
Boundaries are so much more challenging if you don’t have a support network to back you up. Chances are, your partner has been “gaslighting” you for your entire relationship. Gaslighting means he’s altering your perception of reality to try to control your behavior and your thinking.
This is how he has been able to hide all of his acting out behaviors. You are going to need to surround yourself with lots of support to be able recognize gaslighting for what it is and to back you up in setting and maintaining your boundaries. Your husband is probably an expert of talking you out of them.
You can’t ground your nervous system, if you don’t feel safe.
In the Surviving His Sex Addiction Guidebook, I also talk about how to regulate your nervous system. It’s important to feel grounded in your body and grounded in your home. If your house isn’t safe, you won’t be able to feel grounded there.
Consider giving your nervous system a break and step out of your environment, even if it’s just for a few hours or a few days. Stepping out of your current environment for a place that feels safe can quickly show you how much uncertainty and risk you’re currently tolerating.
I know this probably feels really heavy to you right now – especially giving the state of the world, but I urge you to keep focused on your own hope and healing right now.
Maybe you’re feeling scared and the thought of blowing up your marriage during the middle of this pandemic event is too overwhelming. Who wouldn’t be? Just never forget that you have a right to ask for what you need to feel safe – in any given moment. Okay?
Until you feel safe, you can’t make the right decisions, you can’t protect your family, and you can’t protect yourself. It’s hard and scary to set boundaries and they are disruptive, but that’s how you create safety.
If you know you need more support with setting and maintaining boundaries, set up a free consultation with me here.
Until next time,