Last week we spent some time looking at three of the major reasons betrayed wives find boundaries difficult. Today we continue with two more reasons: hopelessness and inconvenience. Next week we'll finish this series by examining the issues of low self-worth and reliance on the addict.
Many thanks to boundaries expert, Cat Etherington at the Naked Truth Project for the inspiration and outline for this post. For more on the topic of boundaries, consider joining the Whole Hearted program and checking out her webinar on this topic.
Just as we may have been conditioned to believe that our needs are not important, we may also have learned from experience that confronting our husband does not result in the change we want. In fact, as mentioned last week in our “fear” section, we may have learned that the results we will get are actually just scary (i.e., various kinds of abuse). Thus, predicting that we will not get our desired results when we confront our husband, we throw up our hands in despair and stay quiet.
While on one hand this may seem practical, and even like self-care, on the other it doesn’t work as a long-term strategy. As I explain at length in Beyond Betrayal, boundaries are not just for the purpose of a given end result. When we voice our boundaries we are doing ourselves and the other person “good.” We are living true to our values and we are showing them unconditional love (i.e., what is best for them, not necessarily what they want).
In The Pandora Problem, a book on narcissism in Christians, Jim Wilder writes:
“We do not allow the response or anticipated response to keep us silent… Knowing ahead of time that angry people will not listen to us does not make it easier. We think, ‘It will make him/her mad, and it won’t make any difference… But it is like God and God’s people to engage even when we know the listener is in enemy mode.”
Jesus set an example for us of speaking truth to people who were hard-hearted and unwilling to change. God regularly asked the prophets to do the same. Our boundaries are one way of delivering a vital message our SA husband needs to hear, “your ways are not my ways… or God’s, but we’re inviting you into living our way. God’s way includes protecting women/myself, not preying on or exploiting them. My boundaries are about how you can enter in and protect.”
That is a very Jesus-like message, full of truth and grace.
I realize I’m comparing “facing a narcissist” with “voicing boundaries” a good deal here. However, I do see that the issues are very much related. In the above quote by Jim Wilder, he also mentions that in some instances we may defer from facing a narcissist because “we may consider the cost too high.”
As many of you know, I’m not a fan of using the “C” word (co-dependent) on betrayed wives. However, this type of behaviour is labelled by some as “co-dependence.” In the Pandora Problem it’s a term that is applied to those unwilling to face narcissists in their midst, because it’s easier and more convenient to just ignore the issue. Wilder explains it as:
"Co-dependence is a lifestyle built on false savings. Co-dependence is a pattern of fearfully trying to avoid big losses through accepting many smaller ones. I give so I will not lose more...”
There are definitely many (seemingly) big losses that can come with boundaries. If he accepts them, we might find ourselves having "to do" things our husband previously did or do things alone, for example going alone to places that now feel they'd be triggering to be at with him, e.g., our daughter's ballet performance. We might find ourselves "not doing" things we'd like to because of a boundary, e.g., watching movies, going to the beach as a family. Moreover, boundaries take time and energy. Nobody sets up boundaries in a relationship just for fun.
In Beyond Boundaries, John Cloud and Henry Townsend write that with regards to challenging others:
“There is some value in pain avoidance and predictability, but it is far from how you are designed to live. More than anything in the world, you are meant to connect and relate in deep, meaningful, and positive relationships — with both God and people. This is the means and the end of a good and happy life.”
This kind of life is worth inconveniencing and stretching ourselves for. Even if our spouse is not willing to enter into this fulfilling life, learning to voice our boundaries is a skill needed for deep, meaningful and positive relationships with any person.
Fortunately, the "friend that is closer than a brother" is the one we can trust to always approach us as a loving protector. He can also help lead and strengthen us as we challenge others (and ourselves) to operate more as He does.