Before Boundaries: Part 3

Over the last couple of weeks we've looked at some of the major reasons betrayed wives find boundaries difficult. Today we continue with two more reasons: low self-worth and reliance on "him."

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.

Low self-worth

Low self-worth is the root of all kinds of problems: including an inability to use boundaries well. When we believe others are “smarter,” “better,” “more spiritual,” “better capable of making decisions” than us, it’s very hard to relate to them (or see ourselves) in healthy ways. It also makes us “easy prey” for the many, many predatory people in the world.

Overcoming low self-worth is not the work of days and it’s not work that tends to be accomplished in isolation. A healthy Christian community, support group and/or counselling are often needed. Above all a close, healthy, trusting relationship with God usually needs to be developed. When God becomes the source of our identity, he quickly also becomes the source of our strength, including the strength to protect ourselves from those who would harm us.

For now, if you feel a desire to use protective boundaries but really struggle with doubt that you are able to navigate that process well, find healthy support. Knowing our support group and/or specialist partner-counsellor, church group agree with our boundaries can go a long way to bolstering our confidence.

Also, if we feel we need "on the spot" support at the time of delivering our boundaries requests, we can ask our support people about this as well. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, Matthew 18:15-17 gives guidelines on how a healthy church deals with those in sin. In The Pandora Problem, the authors give similar guidelines for a group who wants to help someone who is qasheh (i.e., stiff-necked, rebellious, stubborn) change their ways and become a person of hesed (godly love).

Reliance on the addict

In today’s uncertain, and difficult economic climate, I increasingly hear from partners that they are not able, for financial reasons, to exercise the consequence of leaving and therefore feel disempowered to speak their boundaries. As long as the sex addict is willing to support them, they are willing to tolerate his behaviors… because the other options are dire.

This is a very, very tough situation to be in. Nevertheless, I have seen women helped by working on the following questions:

  • What in my lifestyle would I be willing to give up in order to be emotionally safe?
  • What in my lifestyle would I not be?
  • Are there some new and creative ways I could live more independently: with or without my SA husband.

For example, I’ve seen women come up with some very creative in-house separation ideas: in one case changing houses to one with two fully separate living spaces. I’ve seen women find relatives who were more willing than they had anticipated to help provide (housing, money, etc.) for them. I’ve seen women well into their retirement years begin to do paid work again: helping other women.

Perhaps more importantly I’ve seen women in incredibly dire circumstances find that God IS faithful to provide. I spent an evening last weekend with a young mother of two who relayed miracle, after miracle, after miracle of provision after her husband suddenly left her and her young children (with debt and no access to money) for his mistress. She had no job, no family in the country (she was an immigrant) and was still breastfeeding their baby. Did she suffer hardship: yes, absolutely, including cold and illness (with no ability to pay for medical help – for a short time). However, she empathically maintains that God provided for her again and again. Neither she or her children ever went without food, clothes or basic shelter. Counseling became available for free when she and her children needed it. A church member bought her the medicine she needed after awhile. Today, four years later, she is thriving in her home-based business while still home schooling her children (an important value for her).

I share this story to encourage you that when you do things God’s way—including risking losing your marriage for the sake of the gospel (e.g., standing against evil behavior)—God will provide.


Ultimately, it is God who is our refuge, hiding place and deliverer. Time spent with Him helps to strengthen us as we walk through this incredibly difficult journey.