Empowering Yourself Through Boundaries: A Review of Moving Beyond Betrayal by Vicki Tidwell Palmer


If you’ve recently become aware of your spouse’s sex and love addiction, you’re likely reeling from the new information and the trauma caused by the discovery.  You feel completely blindsided, powerless, and victimized.  You likely didn’t ask to be married to an addict or expect that your spouse would be involved in sexual betrayal.  Deception and denial on the addict’s part have led you not to trust your intuition and potentially believe the betrayal is your fault.  You might feel swept up in a whirlwind of emotions and trauma reactions, not knowing how to calm yourself down or stop the mood swings.

How can you regain a sense of control when it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you?

In Moving Beyond Betrayal*, Vicki Tidwell Palmer gives you the solution.

In this book, Vicki outlines an understanding of boundaries for partners of sex addicts that puts you back in the driver’s seat.  You’ll come to understand the importance of self-care in setting boundaries, and you’ll learn her simple 5-step plan for getting your needs met through understanding your power center and making requests.


What I Liked About This Book

Boundaries as self-care

In the book, Vicki explains that boundaries come from an understanding of self-care and clarity about your own needs and the level of power you have over getting those needs met.  The purpose of boundaries is to provide protection for yourself and others, as well as defining yourself and your personal space.  They are not intended as a punishment or a means to control the behavior of your spouse.

A healthy boundary expresses what one will and will not accept in a relationship, and clearly states how the person setting the boundary will practice self-care if the boundary is violated.
— Vicki Tidwell Palmer

I like this focus on self-care because often boundaries are misconstrued attempts to control the addict or influence his or her personal recovery.  Instead, framing boundaries as a way to practice self-care makes it about you and your needs, rather than about others.

Understanding and communicating your needs

If boundaries are based in self-care, you first need to know your needs.  Vicki includes a step in her 5-Step boundary solution involving recognizing your own needs and adopting methods of meeting those needs in a way that creates safety and strength.  Relationship with God can be highly involved in this process, as you look to Him or to the church body as a source of support in meeting your needs.

Once you become aware of your needs, the next step is to communicate them.  Rather than believing the myth that others should be able to read our minds or give us our needs without our saying anything, Vicki teaches how to communicate needs using a simple talking formula.

Authentic personal power

The pervasive feeling of powerlessness in the early days after discovery of addiction can be debilitating.  But this is not entirely true: even though you cannot control your spouse and their behaviors, you do have power over yourself and your own responses.  You are able to fight for your own self-care by following through on your boundaries and taking action rather than fluctuating between passivity and demands.  In my opinion, the definition of and emphasis on authentic personal power in the book has the potential to be life-changing.

Effective and healthy boundary work means you’re willing to take action to get your needs met, even when the addict says no to your request.
— Vicki Tidwell Palmer

Responding when your boundaries “don’t work”

The feelings of helplessness can creep back in when you attempt to set a boundary and it doesn’t go as planned.  But Vicki gives several options for revisiting your boundaries and taking back power over getting your needs met.  Perhaps your spouse says “no” to your request: you have options to negotiate a different boundary. Or you might accept your spouse’s “no” and use that as data to assess their willingness to work on the relationship.  You can look at the priority level of the boundaries and re-communicate them as needed.  You might even realize that admitting powerlessness increases your power because it prevents you from getting caught in the vicious cycle of trying to change the unchangeable.

As paradoxical as it may seem, doing nothing is sometimes the most empowered choice you can make.
— Vicki Tidwell Palmer

A positive view of boundaries

Vicki encourages you to look at boundaries as a way for you to practice self-care and give your spouse the opportunity to rebuild trust.  You are empowered to make choices through your boundaries rather than being stuck.  You can move from being the victim to being victorious!  And not only can you use boundaries with your spouse, you’ll likely find yourself effectively implementing them with family members, coworkers, or others you interact with on a regular basis.

I’d highly recommend purchasing Moving Beyond Betrayal* if my review sparks your interest.  You can also introduce yourself to Vicki’s work through her website.  In particular, she gives an overview of her 5-Step boundary solution here.


Are you struggling to set boundaries with your sexually addicted spouse?  Do you feel like you’re constantly in a tug-of-war where everyone loses?  Are you clueless about how to practice self-care in the wake of the trauma of discovery?  At Restored Hope, I offer specialized counseling and care for partners of sex addicts who are seeking healing from the pain of their spouse’s addiction.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule an appointment at my office location.




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