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Understanding Boundaries - Tough Love

If you're going to use the Tough Love approach, I strongly recommend you do this with the guidance of a qualified therapist. Tough Love is not about "bullying" the betrayer into doing what you want...it's requesting what you want with a follow up of the reasons why. The dialog and approach doesn't consist of "you do this or else". If that happens, I guarantee your partner will rebel in a serious way. It's imperative that you both understand how to handle it...I say this because this is the exact angle Mangled and our therapist used with me.

Tough Love should be used the way its intended...its a firm yet caring way of sharing with your partner what you're willing to accept and what you're comfortable with. Tough Love is not something you do to "win" the power struggle, to get even or put your spouse down.

Here are some basic guidelines that will help you and your spouse establish the boundaries of Tough Love.

You need to write down "I will not" statements, this will provide the basis for your stand and it will be clear to your partner what is expected of them. They represent your absolute limits and they should be thought out carefully. They are "non-negotiable" and to back off your limit is to retreat and begin in crisis-supporting behavior again…and so the cycle repeats itself. This is exactly what you are working on curing. Once your spouse has proved himself/herself with abiding within the boundaries you've established, you both can re-negotiate and make adjustments to your original set of "I will not" statements.

Here are a few examples:

  • I will not tolerate dis-respect in our home.
  • I will not tolerate secrets kept from me.
  • I will not tolerate anything but total honesty from you
Now, in many cases, Mangled applied those same rules to himself…so we were always working in the same direction. Tough Love is not an alternative to effectively communicate with each other or listening and negotiating though out your marriage. It is a tool that you can implement early in the beginning of whatever crisis is happening within your relationship.

This may seem like your distancing yourself from your partner, but in reality, you're helping yourself and protecting your heart from further pain. You can let your partner know that, yes, you love him/her very much and want to spend the rest of your life with him/her…but by setting your boundaries, you're also giving your partner a clear message that you will survive without him/her also. This will pull you out of the "needy" stage that he/she may see you in right now and shake his/her world up a bit.

If your partner is unwilling to respect and accept your boundaries, explain to them that this is not a form of punishment to them, but rather a protective shield for you, the hurting one. Many WS's rebel after D-day, they feel invaded and defensive, they will become angry that they've lost their freedom and have forfeited all rights to privacy. This is an extremely typical reaction, do not become discouraged and feel that your boundaries are too severe…because they're not. This is something that the WS must face and accept…to do anything less indicates that they have not hit rock bottom and don't realize the severity of what their affair has done to you emotionally. Do not back down off your boundaries, stand strong and don't bend.

Set your boundaries, share with your partner what your intentions are and I think they will understand where you are coming from and what you are needing to get through this very painful time.

Deeply Scared

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