Holiday Boundaries Keep Us Safe

Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, invites one woman to share her story of setting boundaries around the holidays.

“V is sharing today her Thanksgiving experience. Many of us have experiences like this, where we desperately want our families to be a safe and peaceful place, but because of our husband’s behaviors it’s not an option, right now.

“I have felt the terror of realizing, my husband hates me, or my husband is always angry and irritable. That terror caused me to ruminate about our interactions, instead of taking action to keep myself safe.”

Even around the holidays, when your greatest desire is to be around family, we need to set boundaries and hold them. We deserve to be safe, even around the holidays.

Boundaries Keep Us Safe When Our Husband Isn’t Working Recovery

V talks about her experience setting boundaries around holiday activities.

“My husband and I are currently separated. We've been separated for three months. He is not working recovery right now. That is what led to me asking him to move out—because he was lying constantly and was emotionally abusive. I felt like I was going crazy and it came to a point where I said you have to be working recovery or you can’t live here.

“He said he would go to a meeting. I found out that he lied and didn’t go. I asked him to move out, at that point. That was one of the first boundaries that I enforced.”

V only wanted to have peace in her home. Her husband’s choices prevented that. She needed clarity, so she set a boundary.

“I remember feeling so desperate for a peaceful home, that it was as if I had no other choice than to ask him to leave. I was surrounded by trauma and pain, constantly, because of his lack of recovery.”

It can be difficult to hold boundaries, especially when you just want your family to be together and happy. When V had to hold her boundary, it was painful and uncomfortable.

Boundaries Can Help Us Have Peace During The Holidays

“I’ve held that boundary. It’s been very difficult. I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I did spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, and he was there. It was very uncomfortable because I don’t spend much time with my husband, other than interacting when he’s coming by to watch our son while I’m at therapy or group.

“Thanksgiving was really hard. Physically being around him was very triggering.”

V wanted her family to be together for Christmas.  

“We talked about getting a Christmas tree. I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday, and I love the idea of my family being together and doing the holiday traditions together.

“There are so many things I want to do as a family. I realized this morning that I needed to make a boundary about the amount of time I spend with him. I thought about it for a long time, and I talked with a recovery contact, and I prayed about it.”

V let her husband’s actions show her whether he was safe or not.

“I came to the conclusion that, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t feel I was safe enough to go get a Christmas tree with my husband, He has not shown me that he is safe for me to spend that time with him and that time as a family. I don’t feel comfortable spending that time with him.”

Some women find it helpful to write out their boundaries or what they want to say. It helps them to stay in the moment and focused on what they need.

“I wrote out what I would say to him.

“I told him I wanted to feel comfortable with him. I expressed that the way I would feel comfortable is if he would work recovery with a sponsor and a therapist.

“After I was finished reading, he ignored what I had to say and asked about our plans to get a Christmas tree. Even though I had made it clear, in the boundary I had made, that that’s not something I’m comfortable doing when he’s not working his recovery.

“When I restated my boundary to him, he immediately started verbally attacking me.”

V’s husband was clearly not safe.

“It was aggressive. He started asking ‘What are we going to do about Christmas? Am I gonna get to spend Christmas with my son?’”

V knew she wasn’t going to get anywhere with her husband.

“I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t expect that. I tried to restate my boundary, but then I realized I had to remove myself from the conversation, because I wasn’t going to get anywhere with trying to explain my boundary to him.

“I said, ‘How about you take some time to think about this and we can talk later.’

“I got off the phone. Since then, I’ve felt uneasy, but not because I did the wrong thing. I feel uneasy because my desire is to spend time with him and to enjoy the Christmas spirit and holiday because I feel very lonely sometimes.”

As lonely as it may be, setting and holding boundaries can protect us.  

“I strongly believe that I’m protecting myself and doing the right thing by holding a boundary with my husband when he’s not in recovery.”

Reactions To Our Boundaries Can Confuse Us

V knew she was doing the right thing, but her husband’s reaction caused her to doubt herself. It’s been said that those who don’t like our boundaries are the ones who took advantage of us before we had them.

“His reaction to my boundary caused me to doubt myself—am I doing the right thing? All those questions ran through my head.

“I was able to get back in contact with my recovery friend who helped me realize I was putting my husband at my center, and I needed to re-center myself. Which is what I’m doing this evening.”

Boundaries Can Be Hard To Hold Around The Holidays

V desperately wants her husband to work recovery so they can be together as a family.

“This has been the hardest boundary I’ve had to hold with my husband because it seemed like getting the tree, as a family, would be a positive and harmless thing. I know that, even though I’m excited to see my husband, once I'm in his presence, I realize how uncomfortable I really feel.

“His lack of recovery makes being around him so undesirable.”

“I really do love my husband, and I sincerely desire to work out our marriage. It’s really hard when it doesn’t seem like that’s what he wants. I’m trying, one day at a time, to connect with God and follow His will for me.”

Though we aren’t perfect, we deserve to have and hold boundaries. We deserve a peaceful holiday.

“I, definitely, don’t do it perfectly. I struggle with knowing what His will is for me. I’m just trying to be open and to let Him know that I desire to carry out His will and surrender my desires and my will, because I know that He has a plan for me. His plan is the best plan.

Boundaries Can Help Us In Our Own Healing

V recognizes that her boundaries have played a vital role in her recovery.

“Boundaries have been really important in my recovery. I’ve learned a lot about God through boundaries, and how He holds boundaries with each of us."

“I’ve also gained a stronger testimony that He desires me to hold boundaries to protect myself. He wants me to keep my son safe because it’s my responsibility to keep my son safe physically and emotionally—that’s where boundaries come into play, for me, and, when I think of it that way, it gives me a lot of strength.

God wants us to be safe. Boundaries don’t mean we don’t love our husband. Boundaries mean we are worthy of love and safety.

“I do feel like I’m carrying out God’s will when I protect myself and my son. I pray for my husband that he will find healing and recovery and that he’ll find God. I can’t make him do any of those things.

“I’m grateful for the support I feel from my sisters in recovery, and the strength I get from them. I’m trying to take life one day at a time, even one moment at a time right now. I believe that things will get better.

“I have found peace and happiness through working my recovery. There are hard days, and today is one of those days. I have faith that it will get better, and I’ll have good days again.”

Anne says, “Like so many other women, V is a warrior and I love her so much. I’m so grateful for all of you listening.

“I’m so grateful for all of you. Keep coming back. It works when I work it, and I am worth it.”

You are worthy of boundaries. You are worthy of love and respect. If you are struggling with boundaries, try an Individual Session on Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries.

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