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.

walk through it

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.


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!





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.



















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!