Boundaries are inherent in every healthy marriage.
Within a marriage, fidelity is a normal expectation. When that expectation is violated by a spouse viewing pornography, the question of how it will be dealt with is inevitable. During this decision-making process, the emotional health of the spouse who did not violate the fidelity of the marriage needs to be protected. This is best accomplished through the establishment of boundaries.
Our Father in Heaven has shown us an example of appropriately setting boundaries by giving us commandments. These commandments allow us to maintain our relationship with Him, and certain blessings depend on our obedience to the commandments. Similarly, it is appropriate for us to describe what is needed for others to maintain their relationships with us. Setting boundaries helps us to remember our worth as children of God and know that we are worthy of love and kindness in our lives.
How do I find stability and safety?
Many find greater emotional stability in their lives by setting appropriate boundaries. A boundary is a limit around certain behaviors that we do not allow our spouses to cross without consequences. The goal of boundaries is to keep us safe from emotional harm. Boundaries aren’t intended to change the behavior of our spouses, though that may be a secondary effect. Setting boundaries may change the dynamics of our relationships, but whether this action leads to the destruction or the growth of our marriages, boundaries protect us emotionally and help us remember our worth.
We can feel empowered as we seek to understand and appropriately set and enforce boundaries. As we start to feel this strength, we will be better equipped to meet our spiritual, social, emotional, and physical needs regardless of the choices our spouses make.
Ideas for Taking Action
Here are some ideas that others have found helpful. Prayerfully consider what actions might be best for you, taking into account that they may or may not be listed here.
- Learn about and practice establishing healthy boundaries.
- Consider involving your spouse in setting boundaries. Establishing viewing pornography as an inappropriate behavior that violates trust may be a good place to begin.
- Make specific boundaries. The behaviors that violate a boundary should be clear, measurable, and easy to define.
- Consider establishing boundaries that encourage progress. Some have found success by establishing consequences that are progressive in nature. (For example, after the first time your spouse views pornography during a month, he or she sleeps on the couch for one night. If your spouse views pornography for a second time that month, he or she sleeps on the couch for two nights.) Others have found success by establishing consequences that reward honesty. (For example, if the user tells you about his or her pornography use, he or she sleeps on the couch for one night. If he or she isn’t forthright, the consequence is more severe.)
- Follow through on maintaining your boundaries after they’ve been established. When enforcing boundaries, remember not to act in emotion, anger, or vindication. Boundaries are not meant as a punishment for your spouse but rather to protect you and your emotions.