Healthy Sexual Boundaries

Lesson 39 of Recovery Nation speaks of broken boundaries and of establishing new boundaries. It lists a few examples of broken boundaries that are sadly familiar to me:

Unprotected sex with a stranger

Extra-marital sex that jeopardizes life stability

It then asks me to follow several steps. It says, “The following is intended as a step-by-step guide for rebuilding your sexual values and for developing the boundaries that will protect those values. It is not intended to be completed in a matter of hours, but to be developed over the course of weeks, months and years. This is certainly not the only way to develop healthy sexual values, but it is a guaranteed effective way.”

“Step 1 Take Inventory of Your Current Sexual Values

Your first step in redeveloping healthy sexual values is to brainstorm a list of all sexually-related values that you currently hold. Don’t worry about how socially acceptable this list may be, nor concern yourself with whether a particular value is healthy or unhealthy. Your goal here is only to identify your current thoughts/attitudes relating to your own sexuality.”

I borrowed some of their examples, and added a few. The following list may be incomplete. I’m trying to explore whether there are any I have forgotten. Also, the list includes some items I’d like to keep and ingrain and some items I should probably work to change. The first three seem healthy and the remaining five seem unhealthy.

I will only have sex with my wife.

I will only think about sex as it relates to my wife.

I will focus on the emotional relationship, not the sexual relationship, with my wife.

Women want to have sex when they are physically attracted to someone

I am insecure about the size of my penis

I need to make my partner orgasm for sex to be successful

If a romantic partner won’t have sex with me, there’s something wrong with the relationship

My sex drive is unusually strong

“Step 2 Define an Ideal Ending

Your goal here is to define three to five ideal sexual values that you will begin developing into your life.”

Here’s my attempt:

I will only engage in sexual activity with my partner

I will never engage in sexual behavior that places my sexual partner or myself in physical, legal or social danger

I will be a compassionate, considerate sexual partner; as opposed to a sexual performer

I will not engage in sexual behavior that I know to be high risk for destructive consequences

“Step 3 Define a Beginning

I. Take out the list of current sexual values that you developed in Step One

II. Remove each value that is unrelated to, irrelevant towards and/or contrasting with the values identified in Step Two.”

Here’s what remains on my list:

I will only have sex with my wife.

I will only think about sex as it relates to my wife.

I will focus on the emotional relationship, not the sexual relationship, with my wife.

“III. All remaining values on your list should now represent your current healthy sexual values; and all should be related to helping you achieve your immediate developmental goals.

This filtered list is your starting point — your beginning. This list is the foundation for the remainder of your sexual development. From this point forward, your goal will be to add only healthy values to this list — values that will bring you closer and closer to the goals identified in the previous step.”

“Step 4 Define Your Existing Vulnerabilities”

One obstacle is the constant parade of attractive women on television, in print media, and in real public spaces that tempt a man to look too closely, to retain a mental image, or to ask oneself whether the interest might be mutual.

The other obstacle I can identify is impatience. Patience is another one of my goals, and I need to employ it in order to keep myself focused on emotional issues, rather than sexual desire, with my wife.

“You will not be able to identify all potential obstacles, nor should you try. This step requires only that you look ahead to identify the most realistic obstacles that you might face. Additionally, it is intended to address only those obstacles that will keep you from achieving the developmental goals set forth in Step Two. With each obstacle identified, an action plan should be developed (not now) that will outline exactly the course of action that you will take should such an obstacle appear.”

“Step 5 Ask for Feedback

Step Five suggests that you take your list of healthy sexual values and discuss them with someone you trust.”

“Step 6 Select Initial Value for Development

Step six requires that you select a single sexual value from your current foundation of sexual values to begin actively developing.”

I will focus on the emotional relationship, not the sexual relationship, with my wife.

“Step 7 Define the boundaries that will protect the selected value”

When I feel sexual desire, I will convert that feeling into a feeling of concern for my wife and a genuine attempt to understand what she wants and needs at the moment.

When my wife expresses something, I will make a genuine effort to put work, sex, household chores, and daily objectives out of my mind and focus on active listening.

“Step 8 Observe Others”

“Step 9 Look for Opportunities to Apply Your Values”

“Step 10 Evaluate the Consequences”

“Step 11 Continue to Ask for Feedback”

“Step 12 Redefine Values/Boundaries

From the feedback received from others…from your own assessing of the consequences of your value-based decisions…continue to make adjustments to your existing values and boundaries.”

“Step 13 Update Your List of Vulnerabilities”

“Step 14 Return to Step Seven

As mentioned, value development is a long process that will continue for the remainder of your life. That does not mean that you must put forth a conscious, sustained effort for the remainder of your life, only that development will occur slowly, through a process of change.”

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