Q&A with Rhyll Croshaw: What do I do if my addict crosses the boundaries I have set?

Once a month on our blog, we will be featuring Q&A’s with Rhyll Croshaw. This content was originally found on our sister site, rhyllrecovery.com, but will now be a part of our Women’s Discussion here. Thanks to Rhyll for her insights and willingness to share her strength, hope, and experience with all of us.  Please let us know if you have more questions for her.

Q: What if I set a boundary for safety and I feel as though he has lied and broken the boundary?


First of all, we need to understand the difference between clarifying our wishes and truly setting a boundary.

For example, clarifying my wishes sounds like, “I don’t want you to lust after women in the grocery store.” And that is where we leave it. That is simply clarifying our wishes, which is easily ignored or walked over.

On the other hand, setting a boundary sounds like, “I don’t want you to lust after women in the grocery store. If I feel like you are lusting after someone in the grocery store, then I will be honest with my feelings and tell you that I am not feeling safe. Then I will detach from the pain and agony of your behaviors.” You must hold that consequence regardless of what his response is.

In setting this boundary, we need to define the terms early on. For example, in this case we would define the consequence: detaching from the agony of the involvement of his behaviors. For each person and situation detaching will look a little different. In this scenario the woman would need to detach emotionally in that moment and go to place of inner safety. If possible it would be helpful for her to make a phone call to a sponsor who has worked her own recovery as well.

If we have defined the terms early on, then implementing the consequence later will be much easier. For me when I feel unsafe, my husband knows that I will move into the other room or ask him to move into the other room for the night. This gives me space and time to find my balance, and reminds me to go to the only power that can help me regain my serenity-my Higher Power. So, when I feel unsafe, my husband is not surprised when I do this.

It is essential for me to follow through on my boundaries every time, even if other people feel uncomfortable with that.

Here is another example:

If my husband frequently grabs me and makes sexual comments and I don’t like it for ANY reason I must act now! This is how I would set a boundary.

“I feel disrespected and objectified when you grab me or make sexual comments. If you grab me or make sexual comments, then I will . . .”

   Go to my room for the rest of the night

   Detach emotionally

   Go take a bath

   Go to the library

   Take the kids to McDonalds

   Sleep in the other room

(take your pick)

After having this discussion, your partner may or may not be happy or agree with the boundary you have set. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if he agrees or not because these are YOUR boundaries. This is your chance to validate your own emotions and be true to yourself.

Then, later if this boundary is broken, you MUST hold to your boundary. You may feel confused or unsure of what to do, you may be manipulated or lied to, and this is why you set the boundary in the first place.

“I forgot,” “I don’t know,” “You can’t read my mind,” or any other excuses are not valid reasons to back down on the boundary you have set. The boundary that is set in love.

Boundaries are set because we do not want to enable our loved ones. In a behavior that is, “Mood-Altering, Belief Changing, Relationship Damaging, Addiction Forming, Socially Harmful, Spiritually Deadening, and Life Crippling” (Dr. Jill Manning) it is essential that we stand for our truth at ALL times. Boundaries are for safety and an expression of love for ourselves and for others.

1 thought on “Q&A with Rhyll Croshaw: What do I do if my addict crosses the boundaries I have set?”

  1. Wonderful response Rhyll. Thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope. I will admit trying to understand boundaries, set them and follow through with them was a big part of my recovery experience in the beginning. The first big boundary I set my husband was beyond angry about it. That itself was very scary for me. With the help of God, my sponsor and therapist and reading a lot about boundaries my courage grew and I had more confidence with my boundaries. My husband would still push back for awhile, but as we both grew in recovery and I continued to follow through with the boundaries he began to trust me that these boundaries we about love and safety for him and myself. He has respected my boundaries and for himself setting his own bottom lines became turning points in both our recoveries. The journey of recovery is a process with victories and failures. For me the mistakes on his or my part usually needed to happen to bring understanding of the next needed step for progress. Steps 1,2,3 have been vital with the my process of setting and following through with boundaries.

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