Boundaries. If you had said that word to me three years ago, my mind would have immediately gone to, “Was that ball in or out?” “Was her foot across that line?” Boundaries meant nothing more than sports lingo to me. NOW, that word is ingrained somehow in every aspect of my life. Lack of boundaries nearly destroyed my life, and then God used healthy boundaries to build up a life I never dreamed of.
I realize now that I had unhealthy relationships throughout my life, but one in particular turned my life upside down. About four years ago, my husband and I had moved away from our hometown and had been married about three years. I was a teacher and my husband was a firefighter. From the outside, we were the “American Dream” and living happily ever after. Behind closed doors however, it was not a dream. He was becoming very unhappy with where we were living and considering how to move back home, while I was very content and headed the other way by settling in through building relationships and making good friends. We were at odds since I was putting down roots, while he was trying to rip them up. Our communication was very superficial. We rarely discussed anything on a deeper level and were slowly but surely moving away from God, which in turn was moving us farther away from each other. I struck up, what I thought, was a normal friendship with a fellow teacher at my school. I tried to tell myself it was just like any other friendship, but deep down I knew from the beginning there was something very different.
She and I grew very close over the next year. We had both been married about the same length of time to our spouses, and the four of us became pretty close. If we all weren’t together, then she and I were. We saw each other at school, after school, and on the weekends. We were in constant communication with each other. It still astounds me that no one in our life said anything to us about how much time we spent together. The world tells us, especially women, that spending this much time with anyone is acceptable. You are considered “BFF’s” and boundaries are basically thrown out the window. After about a year and a half, the relationship was starting to go to another level. I could not get her out of my mind. Day or night, she was all I could think about. I tried to suppress it, I tried to think of other things…but she was like a drug. I had to be near her or in contact with her at all times. Where did I end and she begin? I had never had a homosexual thought in my life, but why am I always thinking about this woman?
I finally built up the courage to tell her about my feelings. I couldn’t articulate what they meant; I just knew I had to tell her. To my surprise, she felt the same way. That provided an open door the enemy needed. Not long after, we took our relationship to a physical level and were engaged in a homosexual affair that lasted about four months. During this time, we were both still very confused as to what this meant. We tried in our own strength to figure it out and put an end to the affair, but never with God’s help. Was I gay? Is this what being gay is like? I had so many questions, and no answers. I just kept trusting my flesh and feelings and letting them guide the way.
Eventually I was compelled to tell my husband, who was obviously devastated, however, he wanted to work it out. I did too but neither of us was really seeking God’s help. We were going to do it in our own strength. We began to make plans to move back home, to the mountains, but it would take a few months to make all the necessary arrangements. I tried to white knuckle my feelings for this woman and cut off all contact with her.
However, the devil always made a way for us to run into each other and see each other again. It wasn’t long after I told my husband of the affair and had put an end to it that it just started right back up where we left off. Just before we were to move, the curtain was pulled back on my sin and my husband was slapped in the face with it once again. I didn’t confess this time. I was caught.
I know what you are thinking. How in the world does a human being forgive after something like this? I couldn’t blame you for thinking that. God’s grace is the answer. My husband eventually told me he was not giving up on us, and we were going to get through this. We did quickly move back to the mountains, and I never spoke to this woman again. Looking back I can see that this was the best decision I made to completely cut off all contact. For the past two years my husband and I have worked everyday at building our relationship, but building it through Jesus Christ. The closer we have moved towards Jesus, the closer we have moved towards each other. Our marriage is stronger than it has ever been, and we say all the time how thankful we actually are that we had to go through this. Even though it was terrible at the time, we would never be at this place physically, emotionally, and most importantly spiritually if we had not went through this trial. I have experienced grace in a supernatural way that has literally catapulted me into God’s arms. I have been able to work through the reasons I was vulnerable to the enemy’s schemes in this type of “boundaryless” relationship.
Growing up, my parents provided for and raised me the best they knew how and in many ways did a great job. They raised me in the faith, and I always knew they loved me, although I’m not sure I was always able to receive that love. Part of the reason why is that I also dealt with a good deal of what felt like criticism. I came to believe that nothing I did would ever be good enough. I vacillated between “why even try?” and being very performance driven. I never had any real connectedness with other females either. I had many female friends, but they were mostly superficial or also “boundaryless.” Those types of relationships, even though they can look strong from the outside, do nothing to build you up as a person. I perfected the art of wearing the mask and while I let that down to some degree with my husband, I was also hiding my true self from him. All of these superficial or rejecting relationships really set me up, because I know now that it is our deepest desire to be fully known and fully accepted and loved for who we are. I had never truly experienced that; not even with God. So when she came along, and was the first person that I felt like truly accepted me for who I was, as simple as it may sound…she liked me for me, I was hooked. Because of this, I always wanted to be around her. Who doesn’t want to be around someone who makes you feel good about yourself? I know now that the constant communication was not healthy though. Because of both of our need, we became emotionally enmeshed, losing sight of where we each ended and other began. I would carry her emotions and she would carry mine. We were no longer two individuals; we were one big heaping emotional mess. Even though we were both Christians, Jesus was the furthest thing from our minds. We were both trusting our feelings and not looking to God for guidance.
When I finally ended it, it felt like a death. I had to go through all of the stages of grief to finally reach acceptance. I have learned so much from this season of my life, and it truly changed the way I make and build all relationships in my life. I have learned to be fully myself with my husband, and we now have healthy intimacy. He is my best friend and my life partner forever but my source of real intimacy is with God. Being fully known and knowing I am fully loved by Him has healed my soul and helped me to begin to love myself so that I don’t look to others to fill me up. One of the most healing parts of this whole experience has been how God has put other women in my life in healthy ways. Understanding that God created me for healthy connectedness with females has made a huge difference in my life. For a long time, after going through an affair with a woman, I thought making new female friends would be the worst possible thing I could do. I resisted any women being in my life. However, with healthy boundaries and under my relationship with Jesus and my husband, they have become the most healing relationships in my life. These friendships are so much more meaningful to me, and I know they please my Heavenly Father.
I have learned to not only set boundaries with these friendships, but in my marriage, my relationship with my parents, work, and hobbies…the list goes on and on. Setting boundaries is like a dance. You set them, people try to break them, you set them again, you might even step over them yourself from time to time…it is a constant practice that I have to use everyday. Most of the time it is not easy, but I know setting them is what God desires for me and he guides my way. It protects the relationships I care so much about.
My life feels so much more balanced and centered because it is around God. I am so in love with my Jesus now, and I know he is in love with me. Knowing and truly believing in my entire being that Jesus always wants what is best for me and can work everything for good, is what makes the foundation of my faith. No matter what kind of turmoil you might be in, Jesus can meet you there. He is always there waiting, patiently waiting with open arms. God used relationships and boundaries to teach me more about himself and made me want to know the one who can turn my upside down, messed up life into a life that can help build his Kingdom.
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalms 18:2
To learn more about setting healthy boundaries read Boundaries by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.