Recognizing our Limits

Before I get going on this blog post – I want to let you know I sent out a survey in my most recent newsletter.  I would love for you to take the survey (it’s only seven questions) so that I can begin planning what I want to talk about here on the blog moving forward as well as for other things we are developing – courses, the podcast, curriculum, etc.  Your thoughts and your voice matter and I would so love to hear from you!   You can subscribe to the newsletter and blog posts here. I might even make a printable with the steps below and include it in the next newsletter – let me know if that would be helpful!

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Hi Ladies!  Happy Summer!

I just love this time of year.  I love the warm weather, the water, the laughter, the refreshments.  I love seeing my kids run around with smiles on their faces – playing and being creative!

One of the things that goes along with summer is that people come out of hiding after a long Colorado winter.   It’s fun to see everyone again – for the most part.  I had a “situation” come up a couple of weeks ago where someone wasn’t too happy with me.  Without going into all the details – suffice it to say that after the interaction, I threw myself on my bed, crying and feeling so raw – and as I was lying there, I realized – within me was a little girl that was heartbroken – and this is what made the situation so very painful.  The little girl within.

{As a side note – we all have the child within us that we are continuing to help “grow up”.}

I ended up fairly quickly recognizing that I didn’t stand up for myself during the interaction – I froze.  This happened a lot as a little girl, too – I didn’t know how to use my voice.  I made sure everyone else around me was okay.  And when I did use my voice, it was often met with resistance.  What precipitated my cry on the bed was a reenactment of what I would go through as a child.

So as I pulled myself up – I knew what I needed to do and what I could do – I could use my voice.

What followed was a back and forth interaction between me and said person and I was able to put into practice a lot of what I teach to the ladies that are in my support groups, the ladies I do coaching sessions with, and my team of women that help me help even more of you on a weekly basis via groups and 1:1 support.

I want to share with you the steps I put into practice as I navigated yet again a wonky interaction with a fellow human being on planet earth.  Here is the play by play-

1 – I started with just recognizing that I wasn’t okay with something and sitting with it.  I know this might sound super elementary – but a lot of women struggle to just recognize – “I’m not okay with this” AND THEN – pausing.  We don’t HAVE to do anything  else yet – all we need to do is recognize it, say it and pause.

I’m sitting here contemplating – why has this been so hard for me?  My MO for years has been to half recognize I’m not okay with this or with that and then I just tell myself “oh well” and then I move on and my “circle” continues to grow smaller and smaller because I’m not protecting myself.  For myself, I haven’t been able to comfortably sit with the awareness of having a limit (and the discomfort that brings) so it’s been easier to ignore my limits.

Thank goodness – we are always given opportunities to learn and grow – and as I have been working on limits and boundaries and taking up space – I recognized I was not even close to being okay with the interaction and then I said it out loud (well, actually via text) – “This is not okay with me.”

2 – Next, I asked for what I needed.  In this particular situation – I needed to have a conversation.  In this conversation I wanted to make it really clear that moving forward, I would be fine to talk as long as we could both express our points of view. {Boom!} Unfortunately, it became really clear that this person wasn’t interested in a follow-up conversation.

This is where it can become complicated.

3 – I needed to pivot and set a boundary or series of boundaries to protect myself.  So I thought through what I needed to protect ME.  This can feel empowering and truly is how we can take our power back when someone doesn’t respect our limit.  I looked at this from several different viewpoints.  Specifically:  relationally, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Here is what I came up with:

Relational boundary – I don’t need to engage in small talk with this person at this point.  (This could get awkward given we see each other several times a week outside.

Physical boundary – I can’t walk by their house – feels too vulnerable right now.  If I am biking or running, I feel safe but if I am walking I will go a different way.

Emotional boundary – I am going to be careful not to give this person power over me or my feelings.  (What this means is – I will be really aware of my feelings and if I start to feel insecure or scared or like this person isn’t going to treat me nicely – I will acknowledge those feelings but not compromise what I am doing out of fear.)

Mental boundary – I am going to be really careful to not make up stories in my head about what this person might be saying about me, thinking about me, etc.

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Keep in mind that these boundaries are pretty personal in nature – they aren’t so much about the other person but rather they are about ME.  Also – it’s important to remember that the closer the person is to you – the harder it is to set the boundaries.  It will affect you more.  Since I don’t live with this person – this is actually much easier (but still a challenge for me).

By doing this work – my circle (or all the things that makes up who I am and what I need to protect) is getting bigger.  And that’s a good thing because ladies – it’s important that we take up space.

This betrayal process does a number on the amount of space we take up – we can explore this another time if you would like, just let me know in the comments.

Bottom line is – There is a systematic way we can go through this.  It starts with recognizing our limits, stating we aren’t okay with xyz, figuring out what we need, and if we can’t get protection there – setting boundaries.

As always, I would so so so love to hear from you. I make it a point to respond to every comment these days.  Sometimes it takes me a while,  but I do it!

xo – Shelley

photo credits here and here

 

Developing Our Internal Power

After a really rough morning getting the littles to school – I trudged toward home in the snow and truly believed that it was only me and no other mother in the neighborhood that struggled so much to make life happen and it wasn’t even 8:15am yet!  (I hate it when I start to believe those lies that simply aren’t true!)

I sat down and put pen to paper and naturally started to figure out how to “fix” my woes.  I’m a one on the Enneagram (love this book if you want to look more into it!) so looking at things and trying to improve upon them – well, that’s my specialty!

I started with my little that was giving me so much trouble – crying and whining all morning long.  Then I moved onto Jason.  Then someone or something else.  Before I knew it – I realized that my “problems” had so much less to do with them and so much more to do with me.

I couldn’t fix anyone but me.  I held the power, not them.

(I hate it when I realize this!)

So often we give others power in our lives that only belong to us.  Sure – other people’s actions affect us.  We experience a lot of emotions – all across the board – based on our interactions with others.  This is a given.

But when we start to operate from a mentality that everyone around us needs to change in order for us to be okay – that’s when the slope can get slippery.

* To Be Clear *

Because most of you reading this have a similar story to mine – one of betrayal, lies, deception and manipulation from the one that was intended to protect you the most – I need to insert a caveat.  I am NOT saying that you should just ignore or move on or only work on yourself in the midst of your husband’s betrayal.  Not even close.

The absolute best way to work through betrayal is when he goes first and leads the way on doing the *hard* work of repairing the marriage.  You are working hard, too.  Grieving, finding your voice, grieving some more.  He is the one working on fixing the damage done.  His choices are not your fault and you don’t need to even begin to look into yourself for why he did what he did.  Absolutely ridiculous.  He can look into himself for those answers.  You are an innocent bystander to his choices.  (Don’t even get me started, I feel my heart pumping just typing this out.)  This is the way we have done things at Redemptive Living for the past 13 years and we stand behind the methods we use.

– Back to the Story –

What I am speaking to is more from a 30,000 foot view in the way we operate with others.  In our day to day interactions.

As I continued to journal – I realized that it was me and only me that could enforce what time my boys go to bed.  Clearly part of the morning melt down was lack of sleep and the boys going to bed too late the night before.  It was me that needed to change the bedtime routines and push them up by about 60 minutes.

I realized that I couldn’t change Jason’s demeanor and the heaviness he brought into our house this week (did I mention he is a four on the Enneagram?!).  Can I care about his heart and where he is at?  Absolutely, I can and I do.  But at what point do I need to separate myself from the heaviness and weight that he is carrying and not allow it to take me down?

These are the questions I have been pondering this week, my friends.

If you are into psychology – there is a word for this – it’s called internal locus of control (versus external locus of control). It’s something that I talk about ever so often in my groups and it’s a great way to conceptualize figuring out what we can own and have agency to change.

With that said – here are three practical tips to help cultivate and strengthen our internal power (or internal locus of control):

Get Grounded

First and foremost when I start to circle the drain in this way (think:  me freaking out in my head and thinking I am the only mom that ever struggles in the morning) – the first thing I have to do is get grounded and get some perspective.

This oftentimes mean wading through the situation and then stepping away from it to breathe a bit.  Getting outside and walking can help, expressing my feelings by getting them out of me (writing them out or processing out loud to a friend or to Jason) is also super helpful.

Vision Casting + Implementation

Don’t let this scare you.  We can set a vision for the small things just as much as the big things in life!

Once I am grounded mentally – it’s important to think through where I want to be.  For myself – I realized that I really needed to set myself up for success in the mornings.  While I can’t control if one of my boys spins out – I can control managing my time better.  I can either get up earlier to give myself more time for the hiccups or I can take a couple of tasks off my plate by making lunches the night before, having the boys set out their clothes, etc.

It’s important to note that tweaking just one or two things can often make a big difference.  I’d encourage you to start there (with just one or two tweaks) else you might risk becoming incredibly overwhelmed and aborting the entire mission – then you’ll be back where you started.  No bueno.

Detachment + Visualization

I talk a lot about detachment as it pertains to setting boundaries and also in regards to self-care in the healing process.  Think of detachment as an intentional buffer or space between you and someone or something else.  It doesn’t mean you don’t care but rather that you’re going to need (for your sake) to move forward with your day even in the midst of the crazy (with your husband, someone else, or even the crazy you might feel in your head).

Lately, I have used visualization to help myself detach.  Case in point – as I was starting to lose my internal power because of Jason’s heaviness – I imagined myself walking down a road.  There were beautiful old oak trees on either side of the road reaching their arms over the road like a canopy shielding and protecting me (I like my visualizations to be pretty, ladies) and there is also a yellow painted line on either edge of the road (not so pretty but important).  As I am walking down the road – taking the next step in my day and in my journey – there are all these distractions and things that keep crossing the yellow line.  I then mentally and visually push those things back to the other side of the line with my hands to make way for me to move forward with my day.  I then I take a bunch of deep breaths.

What About You?

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts as to how you help develop your internal power.  I would also love for you to join me at Restore which is in just two weeks in sunny California.  You can get more details here.

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

Staying in my Lane

I was reminded of a clip from the 1987 Blockbuster – Baby Boom as I wrote this post. In the movie, Diane Keaton plays this high-powered corporate executive in New York City. She happens to inherit a baby girl from a distant cousin and I remember at one point in the movie – she is trying to keep up with the other women power walking to work.

As I recall, for a moment, she tries to keep up with the other high-powered exec’s but then realizes – she can’t do it anymore. So she slows down and this look of resignation comes over her.

It’s crazy that I remember that clip so well from a movie that I watched when I was just a kid. Maybe because I find time and again that I’m that woman. Trying to keep up, to be the same, and then realizing I just can’t.

Case in point, I’ve been on the treadmill lately. Running around like a crazy mama to sports practices and games like no. body’s. biz. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that we have 11 sports practices and 10 games this week ALONE. And my 2nd half is headed out of town. Oh my.

With the marathon that has been my life over the last 6-7 weeks, I have slowly started to slip away from some of the habits that continually keep me grounded. Namely spending time reading my Bible (being connected to God), journaling (being connected to myself), and working toward staying connected emotionally to Jason (being connected with others).

This fraying of the cord that anchors me has started to infiltrate other areas of life. I have started to feel pressure “to be the same”. To do whatever it takes to “fit in”. The problem is – fitting in changes with every situation.

I’ve also started to get super caught up in what other people (both near and far) are doing with their time (I hate social media in this way) while I have just gotten more and more frustrated and disappointed with how much I am NOT doing. Discontent is the word that comes to mind.

And this, my friends, is NOT how I want to live.

So on Sunday night – after a day of feeling pretty much anxious and powerless – I took some steps in the right direction. I ran a couple of errands to better help me be ready for the week (self care people). I wrote Jason a note and left it by his keys. I dusted off my Bible on Monday morning and picked up where I left off months ago.

Then yesterday, while I was prepping for this talk – I picked up this book that I read a couple of years ago – and flipped to a page speaking to what I have been struggling with. He mentions differentiation and this is what he says:

Differentiation involves the ability to hold on to who you are and who you are not. The degree to which you are able to affirm your distinct values and goals apart from the pressures around you while remaining close to the people important to you helps determine your level of differentiation. People with a high level of differentiation… can choose… how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others.

Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality p 82

Ironically – out in the margin, written in my hand writing from 2017 – it says “I think I have some work to do.” (You don’t say!)

This, my friends, was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. I need to get in my own lane and stay there for a while. I need to get super clear with God on what my next steps look like. I need to go back to my values and what makes me unique. I need to think boundaries and seeing myself apart from others while also being connected to God, self and others. I’m not running someone else’s race. I’m running my own race and God hasn’t forgotten about me.

Here is the deal – I know I’m not alone in looking at others, seeing what all they are doing or not doing and wondering – what went wrong. {Heck, I was texting with a sweet soul yesterday and we were talking about what we thought this season would look like versus what it actually looks like. I told her – and I’m serious – I thought by now I’d have another book in the world (um, not happening), I’d have a well-thought-out designed home (bahaha), and I’d have time to take a shower and wash my hair on a daily basis (for the love). She as well was sharing where she expected to be by now, but wasn’t.}

We all have big plans. And for a lot of us – those plans went into the porta-potty when life blew up before our eyes. (And for some of us, we had big plans and then we had a baby.)

Either way – know that God hasn’t forgotten about you. Know that if you are in a season of barely keeping up, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and exhausted from recovery and from life – He is doing a good work in you and through you even in the wait.

Let’s stay in our lanes. Let’s be ourselves, be different. Let’s encourage one another, support one another and cheer each other on. And let’s take a lot of pit stops – preferably with comfy restrooms and not porta-potty’s.

On the journey with you – Shelley

When setting boundaries feels impossible

Hi girls!  It’s me again.  Today I’m at a local coffee shop typing away.  Thinking of you ladies out there and trying to figure out what would be worthwhile for me to share.

You probably don’t realize how much I think about this blog and what I want to share as the days tick by.  I LOVE being able to share this space with you and it’s been so assuring to see how more and more of you are leaving comments and talking about what’s on your heart.

So that brings me to today’s topic.  Boundaries.

It seems setting boundaries with our husbands can be so incredibly difficult to do.  And I’ve been thinking through lately as to why it can be so difficult to stand up for ourselves and set these boundaries and wanted to share it with you here.

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I believe that there are three big hurdles on the road to setting boundaries that it’s important for us to be aware of.  Here they are:

  • We must believe that we are worthy.

    Research has shown that in order to set boundaries and live a full life, we have to first own and live out the fact that we are worthy.  If we don’t think we are worthy and deserving of love and respect, why in the world would we ask for that from our husbands? Unfortunately for us wives, we are in a catch-22. Our most important relationship here on earth, the one we have with our husbands, is broken. We are left feeling anything but worthy. But in order to set boundaries, we must draw from our worthiness. (I want to note that it’s important for me to find my worthiness in Christ. Yet this doesn’t mean I don’t find my worthiness through other relationships, like my relationship with Jason. In addition, for myself, finding my worthiness in Christ has been hard. Still working on it.  It’s life work.)

  • Setting boundaries is vulnerable.

    When we choose to set a boundary, we are communicating to our husbands what we are okay with and not okay with in order to stay in relationship with them. This is incredibly scary because our husbands have already rejected us by turning to masturbation, pornography, affairs or the like. Thus, setting boundaries is vulnerable. Will we be rejected again? Or will our husbands choose to start respecting our limits? We don’t have the answer to this when we implement boundaries.

  • We must belong and feel connected.

    Cloud and Townsend write in their book, Boundaries, that it’s imperative to set limits only after we have secure attachments with others that will have our back no matter what. Otherwise, our boundaries will fail. Here is the reason why – one of our deepest needs in this life is to be in community – to belong, be loved, and connected.  If our husbands have betrayed us sexually and we don’t feel a sense of belonging elsewhere, chances are higher that we won’t set boundaries with our husbands. Instead, we will continue to try to fabricate a sense of belonging with them in exchange for setting healthy and appropriate boundaries.

As you consider these hurdles in setting boundaries, I want to encourage you that being aware of these potential pit-falls in and of itself can bring growth.  As our counselor always told us – the key is insight.

So if you find that you are having trouble setting boundaries and sticking to them, could it be for one of the above reasons?  And if so, what do you need to do to work through it?  This isn’t a part of the process that we can skip over or walk around.

I have to tell you, this is exactly what happens in support groups.  It’s a place to belong and feel connected.  It’s a place where us women with a similar story realize we ARE worthy.  And it’s a place where we each practice and bravely choose into vulnerability.  It’s hard messy work.  And I believe it’s necessary in order to come out on the other side thriving and not just surviving.  So if you are asking yourself – how do I move through these hurdles?  I have one word for you:  support.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – has one of these hurdles prevented you from setting boundaries or sticking to them?

 

Your Questions… Answered: The Five Minute Rule

Hello y’all!  Hope you are making it through the holidays okay.  I know this season can be incredibly difficult if you are in the beginning stages of this journey.  You’re almost there.  The tree will come down, the stockings stowed away, and the littles will be back in school before you know it.

yourquestionsanswered

I wanted to go ahead and start answering some of your questions from this blog post and decided to tackle this one pertaining to the Five Minute Rule first.  Here it is:

My husband still does not “get it” it when I go in to a tailspin when I can’t reach him by phone (work and mobile) nor by text. His “excuses” are that his phone was on silent, his phone was not charged, and day-time work meetings lasted hours. I want to believe he is telling the truth, but 2 years post disclosure after 35 years of infidelity does not alleviate my suspicions! Please tell me about the “5 minute rule” you and Jason have (had) such as:
*How did you and Jason come up with the “5 minute rule” ?
* Who initiated this plan and the time?
* How did you and Jason come up with the “consequences” for breaking the “5 minute rule”?
* How many months/years did you and Jason use this plan?
Thank you!!!!!!!

And here is my response:

First, I just want to say, I am so sorry that your husband doesn’t get it.  This makes me so sad because after 35 years of infidelity (which no doubt includes lying, manipulating, pride and lack of empathy), I don’t understand how he logically thinks that you could trust him when you can’t reach him via phone.

Our counselor in Dallas, TX  was the one that came up with the Five Minute Rule.  He proposed that the best way for Jason to rebuild trust with me was to always be available to take my call.  No matter what.  And if I called Jason, and he didn’t return my call within five minutes – I would assume the worst.

What this meant was that Jason had to be pretty intentional to stay in touch with me when we weren’t together.  This wasn’t my responsibility, it was his.  It was an excellent tool for him to start wooing me back and rebuilding the broken trust.  It also served as a way for me to see if Jason was serious about repairing the marriage.

There wasn’t really a consequence per say if Jason didn’t adhere to this boundary.  Rather, I was allowed (and given permission by both our counselor and Jason) to assume the worst.

We used the Five Minute Rule for the first 3 + years and we still loosely adhere to it today.  Jason does his best to be reachable by phone and keep his calendar updated so that I know his whereabouts.

During those first few years, there was one time that Jason didn’t call me back within five minutes.  I think it scared him more than it triggered me.  He looked down and noticed a missed call from me from 10 or so minutes prior and frantically called me.  We just talked about this yesterday (as I was starting this blog post) and he remembers his heart skipping a beat but me being fairly relaxed over it.  Probably because he had proven himself many times before this instance.

With that being said, I do think an occasional mess up should be expected, but from your question – it sounds like your husband is repeatedly making excuses as to why he isn’t able to return your call within five minutes.  It’s clear to me that his priority isn’t to do whatever it costs to rebuild the trust he has broken.  He doesn’t want to work at it.  Instead, he just wants you to trust him again.  No can do.  Not after something like betrayal.  It just isn’t possible.

Just a reminder – if your husband has agreed to do the Five Minute Rule but isn’t following through for whatever reason – this should definitely serve as a red flag.  At a minimum, it shows his lack of commitment to doing whatever it takes to rebuild the trust he has broken.

I hope this adds some clarity to the Five Minute Rule.  If anyone has any additional questions, please feel free to post a comment below and I will do my best to answer it.  In addition, you can find more details about the Five Minute Rule on page 169-171 in Worthy of Her Trust and on page 155 of Rescued.

Happy New Year Ladies!

xo-Shelley

 

 

 

Book Review – Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend

I mentioned recently my love for books.  Although not every book I read is geared toward wives working through the aftermath after being betrayed by their husband – I try to read quite a few of the books out there that are relevant.

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Earlier this year, i re-read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.  This was a book that was recommended to me during the beginning stages of our healing process some twelve years ago.  I thought it might be helpful for me to re-read it as I was preparing material on boundaries for the groups I facilitate.  So here is my review:

Name of the Book:  Boundaries:  When to say yes, when to say no to take control of your life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Trigger Level:  Low.  You can read a little more about why I include the trigger level in this post.  If you are working hard at minimizing triggers, in my opinion, this is a very safe read.

What I liked about this book:  I’m so glad I chose to re-read this book.  I just flipped through it in preparation for this blog post and I can’t even begin to tell you how many sentences I underlined and the number or notes in the margins.  Here are a couple of excerpts that really stuck out to me:

  • “Remember that a boundary always deals with yourself, not the other person.  You are not demanding that your spouse do something – even respect your boundaries.  You are setting boundaries to say what you will do or will not do.  Only these kinds of boundaries are enforceable, for you do have control over yourself.” (p158)  {This is so much easier said than done.  But I appreciate what they are saying here and know I need to keep this close to heart.}
  • “The ability to use anger to distinguish between self and others is a boundary.”  (p70)  {I’ve never thought of anger as a boundary.}
  • “Don’t even try to start setting limits until you have entered into deep, abiding attachments with people who will love you no matter what.”  (p64)  {Ahhh…I love this, it reminds me of the importance of being in a healthy group.  A place where you belong and where you are fully known and fully know another.}
  • “The past is your ally in repairing your present and ensuring a better future.”  (p62)  {I think this is a great perspective.  It re-frames the mistakes I’ve made and the pain that I have endured.}

In re-reading this book, I was also reminded that boundaries are healthy for all of us to have.  Boundaries aren’t just important in the after-math of sexual betrayal.  Maybe I will brush-up on my boundary skills by reading this book once a decade or so!

What I didn’t like about this book:  It’s a little long.  I get antsy when a book is more than about 250 pages and this one is in small print and close to 300 pages.  Otherwise, well worth the time.

Additional Thoughts:  Ladies, listen.  If you are reading this and you haven’t read Boundaries, put it in your queue.  It’s a must-read.  Setting boundaries is rather difficult so learn from the experts!