Psych Central

In sex addiction treatment and in therapy in general, we talk a lot about people needing to have good “boundaries.”  (Take the quiz on relationship boundaries.)

Boundaries are limits on what you will or will not do. 

Boundaries are basic internal principles guiding your behavior through which you can keep yourself safe, calm, rational and respectful of those around you.

Addicts use their addiction to self-medicate, escape or rebel.  When emotions such as anger, fear, loneliness and shame pile up in difficult situations addicts reach for their “drug.”

If you are calm, effective and appropriate in getting your needs met then you diminish the feelings that can trigger your addictive behavior.

In sex addiction treatment the term “boundaries” is often used in a narrow sense to mean rules about what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are part of your addiction.  These boundaries identify behaviors that signal relapse.

The broader meaning of boundaries in sex addiction treatment and therapy in general includes things like:

3 Comments to
Why “Boundaries” are so Important

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  1. This is a wonderful argument for why boundaries are not just important for addicts, but for any of us who are alive and kicking.

    This is why so many of the world’s religions place such moral strictures on various kinds of conduct. Those strictures allow people to construct boundaries from their youth, when they are most pliable and subject to influence.

    What I have seen is that the weak boundary to strong boundary continuum seems not to be easily classified. There are plenty of addicts with strong boundaries on everything but their addiction, while there are many with weak boundaries who are not addicts at all. And then there are those with solid boundaries who are suffering various psychological maladies, too.

    Also, it is crucial to be aware of the Fundamental Attribution Error, where we might ascribe a person’s boundaries to their character or psychology, when in actuality they are better defined by the person’s life situation. Change the situation, change the boundaries.

    Good posting.

  2. Since this article is about boundaries which I seem to need to put up even though not in the context of sex addicition, I feel the need to comment. (see that, I even had to sort of apologize for posting here in case I offend anyone – that’s how screwed my head is)
    Having spent a life trying to please people and believing that I have to be perfect and of course not being able to, I had reached a low point. I went to therapy supposedly to “fix myself”, as my wife put it, but it was really to fix my relationship. Learning to express your feelings and believe that you have value actually can be a really bad idea, I’ve found. Instead of fixing my relationship, its now really on the verge of destruction and I suppose has actually ended but my wife cannot leave me because she says she has nowhere to go – she could go live with her mother who is in her childhood home about a mile away but they are like fire and gasoline. I do not express my emotions but I am a very sensitive person I believe although I can get caught up in things and be insensitive. My lack of ability to express my emotions is at the crux of the issue with my wife I guess. The other problem is that I have no life beyond work – I work from home so don’t leave the house, have no friends, really go nowhere. I suppose I should get back on track here – when you set up boundaries or decide to believe that your feelings are important or that you have value, you have to be prepared that this newfound thinking may not sit well with others in your life who have relied on you being the way your were and that it could bring parts of your world crashing down around you. Stability in my family life for my and my children’s sake is of paramount importance to me so much so that its probably best that I just go back to not worrying about me or what I need but really it may be too late for that. The wife is starting to throw around terms like “irreconcilable differences” to which I respond I bend over backwards to try to be a better person and make things work and she does nothing. I’m beginning to think she’s a bi-polar narcissist and she’s much better at arguing than I am. I’ve tried to explain to her that when she says I’ve done something wrong or said something too late, or did not say something just right that she has a choice how to react – she says no that when I upset her because of something I feel that I’m the wrong one and need to immediately respond in a way that will make her feel better – rather than me respond negatively to being attacked (she’s got a temper). Whatever, I give up.

    • Dear Me, always nice to have non addiction folks stop by! As to your situation,I’d recommend reading Carnes’ Betrayal Bond or Pia Mellody’s Facing Codependence. Also quoting something a wise person said to me: “It’s OK to do something somebody doesn’t like.”
      Linda Hatch

      • Dr. Hatch, thank you, I’ll check those out. Sorry to be so negative. I just looked up Betrayal Bond and am previewing it and something struck me about the very first pages – how do I know that I am not the problem (as my wife tells me I am) – am I the person who is the destructive bond? she could easily be the person who is continually hurt by me not meeting her emotional needs. a year in therapy and all I’m really left with are questions. thanks for the info.

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Relationships in Recovery & Living with a Sex Addict.

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