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Rebuilding Trust in Marriage Through Boundaries

Last Updated: February 16, 2024

The following article is based on the course Rebuilding Trust in Marriage Through Boundaries. You can access this and other great content in the free Victory app.

In situations where a marriage has been affected by pornography use, it’s common for one person to feel responsible for the healing process, while the other doesn’t take enough responsibility. This dynamic can lead to resentment, self-centeredness, and controlling behaviors. For example, a husband might blame his porn use on his wife’s physical appearance or lower desire for sex, and a wife might start micromanaging and punishing every mistake. Both of these attitudes are unhealthy for the relationship.

To avoid or correct this issue in your own marriage, establishing boundaries is crucial. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend define boundaries as personal property lines that separate what’s your responsibility (feelings, attitudes, choices, and behaviors) from what’s your spouse’s responsibility. Boundaries provide a framework for your husband to take responsibility for his own healing journey and give you the space to focus on your healing, which is equally important for the marriage’s recovery.

Trusting your husband again should not be forced but should come naturally as he follows the boundaries set during the recovery process. Trust rebuilding takes time and should be based on his behaviors and commitment to change.

Setting boundaries is a starting point, and as your marriage progresses and trust is rebuilt, these boundaries can evolve. Regular discussions with your husband and a counselor are encouraged to ensure the boundaries remain effective.

The main goals of boundaries are not to turn into your spouse’s parole officer or to seek revenge. Instead, they serve to:

  1. Rebuild trust.
  2. Provide space for your healing.
  3. Offer concrete goals and standards for his recovery.

In the initial stages of crisis, demanding obedience might be necessary, but demanding obedience in the long term can sabotage trust rebuilding. Trust should be based on genuine care and commitment, not just following orders.

Here are three important boundaries to consider for rebuilding trust in your marriage.

Sexual Boundaries

Sexual boundaries are an essential aspect of recovery. During the early stages of healing, most counselors recommend a period of intentional sexual abstinence lasting 45-90 days. This abstinence has several benefits, including preventing sex from being used as a weapon, allowing time to observe his commitment to rebuilding intimacy, and helping him detox from porn’s impact.

Encourage your husband to pursue intimacy in non-sexual ways during this period. Focus on rebuilding emotional connection and romantic gestures, such as buying flowers or helping with chores. Sexual abstinence should not be seen as a punishment but as an opportunity to refocus on the emotional aspects of your relationship.

Rebuilding intimacy can also be facilitated through daily check-ins using the FANOS model, which covers feelings, affirmation, needs, owning actions, sobriety, and spiritual growth.

The timing to resume sexual intimacy varies, but it’s generally recommended to have at least 45 days of abstinence, with a true reboot possibly taking 90 days or longer. The decision to resume intimacy should be based on your readiness and trust in your husband’s commitment to recovery. If he continues to violate boundaries or threatens your progress, you may need to extend the abstinence period.

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries are crucial during the emotional volatility that often accompanies recovery. These boundaries aim to provide space for both partners to heal and avoid conflict escalation. If your safety is at risk, you should not tolerate physical or sexual violence and should seek help from appropriate authorities.

Common physical boundaries include:

  1. Exiting volatile situations: Remove yourself when conflicts become heated.
  2. Physical separation: Request personal space and time away to think and heal.
  3. Third-party mediation: Involve a trusted third party when communication becomes difficult.
  4. Financial and technological transparency: Request access to his phone, bank statements, email accounts, and credit card statements.
  5. Full disclosure: Consider guided therapeutic disclosure by a professional counselor to ensure honesty and openness.
  6. Recovery support: Encourage your husband to seek counseling, support groups, or accountability groups.
  7. Check-ins and transparency: Ask your husband about his recovery progress.
  8. Avoiding triggers and temptations: Request that he avoid situations that may lead to temptation.

Additionally, it’s important to encourage your husband to explore positive hobbies during the recovery process.

Accountability Boundaries

Accountability boundaries aim to hold your husband responsible for his actions and help build trust. Accountability is not about policing but about fostering openness and honesty. Common accountability measures include:

  1. Accountability software: Use monitoring software to track his online activity.
  2. Financial and technological transparency: Request access to his financial and technological accounts.
  3. Full disclosure: Consider guided therapeutic disclosure for complete honesty.
  4. Recovery support: Encourage him to seek counseling or join a support group.
  5. Check-ins and transparency: Discuss his recovery progress and triggers.

It’s crucial to emphasize that boundaries are not about revenge or policing but about providing structure and space for healing and rebuilding trust.

Personal action items may involve seeking personal counseling for emotional healing, along with creating a plan for different scenarios based on your husband’s response to recovery efforts. If he earnestly seeks help, you can commit to working on the relationship together. If he refuses help, you must follow through with consequences when boundaries are crossed.

Boundaries are essential in healing a marriage affected by pornography use. Boundaries create a framework for both partners to take responsibility for their healing, rebuild trust, and foster a healthier relationship. It’s important to focus on fostering trust, emotional connection, and open communication throughout the recovery process.

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