How to Set Yourself Up for Success in Boundary Setting (Boundaries Series Part 1 of 2)


Beginning to set boundaries in relationships can be a difficult process.  It often requires you to change a pattern of relating that’s been ingrained into your lifestyle.  It might feel like swimming upstream. 

When you’re first learning to set boundaries, you’ll come up against resistance, including resistance within yourself.  Others might not respect your boundaries.  You might notice yourself having a hard time maintaining your boundaries because it feels uncomfortable.  Perhaps you’ll even begin to question or doubt yourself.

What makes a boundary a true boundary is holding to it no matter what resistance you come up against.  If a fence topples the second someone leans against it, it doesn’t function as intended to keep the bad things out.  Similarly, if your boundary is communicated with words but isn’t followed by actions, it isn’t functioning the way it should.

In the case of sex and love addiction, often spouses of sex addicts will threaten divorce or separation if the behavior doesn’t stop.  This can come from an honest place of desiring protection or safety.  However, if the boundary is not followed through upon, it’s an empty threat and therefore cannot effectively lead to change or safety in your relationship.

How can you begin to set boundaries in your life?

Identify what needs you’d like to have met as a result of the boundary.

How does the lack of boundary affect you? For example, if your spouse consistently communicates that they will be home at a certain time but consistently arrives much later, you may have spent time or energy on meal prep or childcare that you weren’t expecting.  If they have a history of addiction, you might also be fearful and feel unsafe as a result of their lack of communication.

Another example could be when you are asked to pick up one more volunteer responsibility at your church.  You might feel overwhelmed by the lack of time you have available for your family and friends.

What needs do you have that a boundary could provide?  In her book Moving Beyond Betrayal, Vicki Tidwell Palmer lists several needs that might be present in response to a lack of boundaries.  These include examples such as:

  • Safety

  • Empathy

  • Understanding

  • Freedom

  • Peace

  • Authenticity

  • Honesty

  • Love

  • Rest

  • Time

  • Communication

  • Respect

  • Trust

  • Affection 

Once you’ve identified your needs, you will be able to brainstorm possible ways to set a boundary with yourself or others to fulfill that need.

Clarify your vision for an ideal response to your boundary.

Imagine this: what would your ideal solution be?  Even if that solution feels silly or unrealistic, allow your mind to go there in search of the “perfect” solution. 

When you’ve created this ideal situation in your mind, ask yourself where you have the power or control to make that happen.  If your ideal solution to your need of rest is taking Saturdays off, you may have the power to set a boundary to say “no” to activities on Saturday.

Then identify where you’d need support or buy-in from others.  If your ideal solution to your spouse’s late arrival at home is his or her on-time arrival, you may need to request that they arrive home when they communicate they will.

You will also need to identify the consequence or result of a broken boundary.  Palmer explains that consequences are not meant to be punishment or attempts to control the other.  Rather, consequences are to be thought of in terms of cause and effect: the broken boundary is the cause, and the effect involves meeting your need.  A consequence to your spouse not arriving home when they say they will might be that you will not make dinner for them.  This meets a need for freedom to complete the other tasks that need to be done that evening.

Pay attention to what resistance you feel when holding that boundary line.

As you start this process of brainstorming solutions, you might notice doubt or misgivings arising.  Be curious about those: what’s getting in the way of setting those boundaries?  Is it fear of the other’s response?  Do you worry that you don’t have value or you’ll be forgotten if you say “no” to requests for help?

See if there are any areas of insecurity that you need to work through.  Remind yourself of statements of truth, such as, “My value doesn’t come from what I do for others,” “I have control over my thoughts and actions,” or “I can walk away if things get too heated.”

Communicate your boundaries clearly and directly.

The biggest issue I often see is deciding on your own boundaries but neglecting to communicate them and/or their consequences clearly and effectively.  Sometimes that can be as simple as saying “no.”  Other times you need to clearly state your request and the consequence if that request is not followed through.  For example, you might say, “If you continue speaking to me in a sharp and harsh tone of voice, I will leave the room.”

In some cases, it may be more appropriate to know your own boundaries and make choices to care for yourself that don’t involve the other person’s buy-in.  For example, you  may realize that going shopping with one of your friends is hard on your budget, as you tend to overspend while you’re with her.  You may choose instead to suggest different outings together that don’t involve shopping in order to maintain the friendship, but it may not be necessary to communicate that directly.  If, however, your friend pressures you to go shopping with her more often, there may come a time where you choose to communicate your boundary more clearly to her.

Recommended Resources for Boundary Setting

  • Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend – This book is a great primer on the concept of boundaries.  You can also purchase the corresponding Boundaries Workbook to help you put into practice the concepts you learn from the book.

  • Moving Beyond Betrayal by Vicki Tidwell Palmer – While this book is written specifically for partners of sex and love addicts, she does an amazing job with her 5-Step Boundary Solution in explaining a concise, step-by-step process in setting boundaries.  I would recommend this for anyone interested in setting boundaries, whether or not you are a partner of a sex addict.

In Part 2, we’ll address what to do when you set a boundary and it doesn’t work out the way you expected.


Are you learning how to set boundaries in your relationships?  Do you feel like a doormat, unable to stand up for yourself or ask for what you need?  Is your partner an addict and you’re wondering how setting boundaries can help to rebuild trust?  I’d love to help you understand how setting boundaries can revolutionize your relationships and help you grow in confidence.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me  to set up a counseling session today at Restored Hope in Ann Arbor.

Mastering the Art of Play


When we were kids, our main objective in the world was to play.  We could spend hours traipsing through the outdoors, creating our own games and imagining stories we’d act out with our friends.  But somewhere along the line, that sense of play was slowly overtaken by work –schoolwork, university, careers, and family life.

According to the Google, the verb “play” is defined as “engaging in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”  As adults, this time can feel wasted or pointless because nothing is accomplished. 

But we need to bring play back into our lives.  There’s a simplicity to the idea of play that is missing from adult life.  When we were children at play, we weren’t worried about anything other than the game or the imagined story in which we found ourselves.

There is an inherent value to engaging in play.  Play is an expression of freedom where I choose what I want to do right now and stop my play when it is no longer fun or enjoyable.  In this freedom, we experience greater creativity.  Children are encouraged to engage in play as a therapeutic technique to help them process pain and trauma they’ve experienced.

Oftentimes, play gets confused with leisure time, defined by distraction, disengagement, and emotional disconnection.  This is a sign that we’re using our leisure time to escape instead of rest.  In contrast, when you watch a child at play, you can see how engaged and curious they become in whatever exists around them, even if it seems trivial or unimportant.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on how to incorporate play in your life.

Remind yourself of how you used to play.

Over the course of time, we can lose touch with the playful spirit we had as children.  Dan Allender, in a series of podcasts on play, names a few questions to consider when you think about this topic.  What games do you enjoy playing?  What activities do you engage in that bring a sense of joy?  What did you used to play as a child that you enjoyed?

Be a kid on summer vacation again.

Think about all the ways you used to play in the summertime as a child.  What were some of the activities you loved?  Playgrounds and swings?  Exploring in the woods?  Schoolyard games?  Swimming in the lake?  Drawing with chalk?  Flying a kite?  Playing pick-up soccer or football?  Spend an afternoon doing some of these things!

Go to a museum or park designed for children and explore.

Some of my favorite memories of class field trips or family day trips involved visiting a zoo or a children’s science museum.  There was always so much to see and do, and I’d always learn something new.  Visit one of these parks or museums that you loved as a child with a curious and playful attitude.

Do a summer reading challenge.

As a lifelong book nerd, I always loved tearing through books as a kid to win a prize at our local library for amount of books read.  Many libraries have now extended the fun for adults and have broadened the ways you can earn points to include exploring the library buildings themselves, writing reviews for books, or attending library events.  I’ve joined in on the Ann Arbor District Library summer game for the past few years, which has plenty of options for fun and encourages me to attend community events I may not know about otherwise.

Throw a kid-themed party!

Friends’ birthday parties were always some of the highlights of the summer growing up.  Typically these parties involved themes, games, favors, and all the candy you could eat.  Invite your friends to a party and have a water balloon or water gun fight, get a piñata, or play children’s games like pin the tail on the donkey.

Learn from a child in your life.

Spend a day with a toddler or kid in your life, whether it’s your own child, a niece or nephew, or a friend’s child.  As you interact with them throughout the day, pay attention to how they view the world around them with curiosity and a sense of play.  Find ways to imitate that childlike spirit in your own life.


As you start to incorporate play into your life, pay attention to what emotions you feel.  You might find yourself distracted by embarrassment or shame.  You might feel silly or childish.  This is normal, especially at first, because play isn’t always encouraged in our day to day.  Observe your emotions, give yourself space to feel them, and know that the more you practice play, the more natural it becomes.

How will you begin to play this week?

This article was originally posted on June 24, 2017.


Having a playful spirit can seem difficult when you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or trauma in your life.  When these issues are present, self-care is one of the most important things you can do, but it can also be the hardest thing to practice.  I’d love to provide support for you on your journey of self-care and health.  Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor-based counseling office where I focus on helping you experience freedom from patterns that prevent you from living a wholehearted life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear how I can help.

How Do I Stop Myself? Seven Ways to Cope with Triggers of Addiction


Andrea is walking through the mall when she hears a familiar sound playing through the speakers.  She can’t quite make it out at first, but she notices a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.  She stops in her tracks and listens, finally making out the melody.  It hits her – this was the song she and one of her previous affair partners had called “their song.”  Flooded with emotions of fear, anxiety, longing, and dread, she turns on her heel and exits the mall at close to a sprint.

What Andrea experienced in that moment is what therapists who specialize in addiction treatment call a “trigger.”  Often sensory memories, such as the taste of a delicious meal, the smell of perfume, or seeing a beautiful view can remind you of fond memories.  However, for addicts, triggers like these can bring back thoughts, memories, or feelings that have to do with the addiction.  These triggers often cause an immediate, visceral response in the addict.  This response can be accompanied by reminders of the drug of choice.  Triggers become particularly impactful when the addict is facing stress.

If you often find yourself in a spot where you’re feeling triggered, what can you do about it?

While the ultimate goal of recovery from addiction involves identifying triggers and planning for them ahead of time, as well as reducing the effects they have, you may come across a time where you are triggered unexpectedly and wondering how to handle the ensuing emotions and memories.  Here are some ideas of what to do:

Stop and ask yourself the question: “Do I want to get well?” 

Marnie Ferree, in her book No Stones, references the story in the Bible recorded in John 5 of a crippled man who had been waiting at the healing pool of Bethesda to wash himself in the waters.  When Jesus approaches him to heal him, He first asks him this question: Do you want to get well? 

Marnie names this as the most important question for recovering addicts, adding, “Your recovery will depend on how you answer this question on a daily basis.  Your yes will simplify many of the choices you’ll have to make.  Let your vision of sobriety and healing motivate and encourage you."

Questioning yourself in this way is a technique that comes from the theory of motivational interviewing, which has been shown in some studies to change a nicotine addict’s response to the trigger of tobacco.  It helps you to connect with the delayed consequences of your actions, rather than just being caught up in the immediate gratification that addictive behavior gives.

Practice quality self-care.

In our driven and self-motivated culture, self-care strategies are very often pushed to the side or forgotten about completely.  In fact, lack of self-care can a contributor to addictive behavior, as cravings are often worsened by stress or a desire to escape from the realities of life.

While self-care can include such activities as exercise and journaling, a self-care strategy that is particularly potent for fighting back against addiction is gratitude.  Practicing gratitude helps to slow the deprivation mentality that accompanies addiction, instead replacing it with joy in response to the good things present in your life.

Practice acceptance.

If you have struggled with addictive behaviors, your brain has been trained to respond to triggers by turning to the addictive behaviors.  Part of the reason this connection is so strong is because often, addictive behaviors met what they promised, even if it was only for a moment. Rather than shaming yourself for that tendency, offer yourself grace and remind yourself that these thoughts are normal for people in recovery.  Remind yourself that you’re re-learning new patterns, and take time to engage in those new patterns right then and there.  Accepting the past and making a choice to live differently puts you in a position one step above the addiction, as you reclaim your power and strength over the behaviors.

Engage with your desires.

Often, the underlying cause of addictive behaviors is a desire to fulfill a legitimate need, but the fulfillment is carried out in a way that is destructive.  The acronym HALT is often used with addiction: that triggers are more likely to affect you if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  Instead of choosing to run to addiction, take some time to slow down, name the desire (even if it’s just for a delicious meal!), and find ways to meet that desire in a healthy way.  For sex and love addicts, the underlying desire behind addictive behaviors is often intimacy and connection, which is why relationships with others in 12-Step groups or therapy groups can often provide a healthy way to meet that desire.  For Christians, engaging with desire can look like connecting with God in prayer, naming the desires you have, and seeking to trust him with the desires not yet met.

Reach out to your social support.

If you are in recovery, it is important to link yourself up with people who can support you and who know the whole story.  While this support network may begin with just your therapist, your therapist will likely encourage you to join a 12-Step group (like Sex Addicts Anonymous) or support group in order to find others with whom you can empathize and receive help.  If you notice a trigger, call your sponsor or a trusted friend from your support network to be able to talk you through it or be with you in it.  The most effective way to interrupt your addictive cycle is to talk through it with someone.

Take a mindful moment.

Mindfulness helps you to re-center yourself on the present moment, rather than getting caught up in memories of the past or desires for the future.  Practicing mindfulness forces you to slow down, pay attention to your emotions, and acknowledge what you’re experiencing.  It also helps you to identify how your thoughts and actions are being influenced by those emotions.  Take some time to practice this grounding exercise that engages your senses: notice five things you see, four things you hear, three things you can touch, two things you smell, and one thing you taste in the environment around you.

Use affirmations to remind yourself of truth.

As you begin to walk through recovery, you’ll realize how your self-image and negative core beliefs about yourself have influenced your behavior as well as your response to triggering events.  Find words that you can repeat to yourself in the moments where you feel weakest that are in direct contrast to the negative self-talk you use in moments where you are triggered.  These statements can be something along the lines of “I am strong enough to overcome this” or “I am loved.”  Scripture can be used as affirmations as well, with verses such as Philippians 4:13 (“I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” NLT) or Psalm 23:1 (“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” NLT)


Ultimately, you will not be able to avoid or eliminate triggers altogether in your recovery from addiction.  You cannot control the sights, sounds, and smells that are around you on a daily basis.  What you can do instead is learn to cope with those triggers and put supports in place so that when you are facing a trigger, you know how to best handle it.

This article was originally posted on April 20, 2017.


If you’ve been fighting back against triggers toward sex and love addiction for a long time, or if you are realizing you don’t have the support system in place to handle those triggers that come up, we are here to help.  Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor based counseling office that specializes in treating sex and love addiction.  We’d love to help you on your journey of recovery to find freedom and healing from addictive behaviors.  To hear more about how we can support you, give us a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to contact us.

*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

How Focus on the Essential Could Save Your Life


When you wake up in the morning, are you overwhelmed with the many tasks on your to-do list?  Maybe you’re a parent who feels stretched too thin between caring for children and keeping up with work tasks.  Or perhaps you feel under the thumb of the “tyranny of the urgent,” where every task seems to be top priority.  Maybe the things that really matter to you are slipping through the cracks.

How freeing might it be to focus on just one thing at a time?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown* is a slim volume that helps you focus on one priority at a time instead of trying to spread your time and energy over too many tasks.  He helps you hone in on what’s important instead of what’s urgent.  He encourages trimming down on non-essential tasks in order to focus on what is truly vital to your well-being and your values.  He offers practical steps on how to define your priority, or “essential intent,” cut down on extra tasks, and create time to do what’s most important to you.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
— Greg McKeown

Impacts from Essentialism

He shatters the expectation of multiple “priorities.”

McKeown talks about the history of how we view the word “priority.”  In the past, calling something a priority meant it was the number one thing in your life at the top of the list.

But now the meaning of the word has changed.  We have “priorities” in the plural.  When we spread our priorities over multiple areas, then everything becomes a top priority and you can’t juggle it all.  You end up failing in some areas, struggling with decision fatigue from the weight of choices between priorities, and feeling less satisfied.

Instead, McKeown suggests focusing on one “essential intent” as a top value, truly making it your top priority.  This makes decisions easier as you hold up this top priority as the main factor in making deliberate decisions.

You don’t have to do it all.

Focusing on one essential intent takes you out of the trap of “I have to do it all” and allows you to make choices that support what you value.  It can be easy to fall victim to outside circumstances or urgent tasks.  You can feel out of control and powerless to change.

In truth, you do have a choice.  You can choose to respond to that “urgent” request or stay late at work to catch up, or you can choose an alternative behavior that supports your values.  When you frame decisions as choices, you’re more likely to feel more power and control over your life.  Choices can be hard, but they put you back in the driver’s seat of your own life.

You have permission to say “no.”

It can be difficult to say “no” to urgent tasks, especially when they feel constant and demanding.  Not only does McKeown encourage you to say “no: in order to make your essential intent most important, but he also gives practical, step-by-step advice on how to say “no.” Realizing you cannot do everything and being willing to say “no: allows you to give others the opportunity to step in and showcase their own strengths or abilities. 

I can do anything but not everything.
— Greg McKeown

Your “no” can still be hard.

What makes saying “no” more difficult is that it involves a trade-off.  Typically we are saying “no” to something that is good in order to say “yes” to the best.  Acknowledging the reality of the trade-offs and the potential for missing out or feeling disappointed allows you to accept those feelings as normal.

How to Apply Essentialism in Daily Life

Discover what you value.

Find a time and space where you can reflect without distractions or interruptions.  Get out a journal or a pad of paper and write down a list your priorities and values.  Look through this list and identify which of those values leads you to feel truly alive.  Clarify your vision as a way to identify your essential intent.

Choose one priority to focus on for the next week.

As you reflect on this list, choose your essential intent for the upcoming week.  Let it guide your decisions.  When you’re called on to make a choice, pause and ask whether or not it supports your priority.  You might focus on family, mental health, friendships, taking care of your body, an aspect of your work – you name it.  Whichever goal you focus on, allow your decisions to reflect what will best contribute to that goal. 

Identify your obstacle.

What is most likely going to get in the way of you sticking to your essential intent?  A demanding boss?  A tantrum-throwing toddler?  An unsupportive spouse?  Endless lists of work tasks?  Plan ahead for these obstacles and seek to address them in advance.  This preventative approach will save you from reacting in the moment to urgent interruptions. Create a routine that will help you avoid doubt or questioning your priority.

Pause before saying “yes.”

When someone makes a request of you, don’t automatically say “yes.”  This automatic response feels polite and avoids conflict, but you may regret it later.  Either tell the person you’ll get back to them or take 24 hours before you respond.  During that time, consider whether saying “yes” will support your essential intent for the week.  After some time has passed, if your response is not a 100% “yes” and in alignment with your essential intent, then the answer is no.

Give a clear “no.”

While it can be difficult to say “no,” communicating that no is more effective than a noncommittal yes where you will avoid or have difficulty with completing the task.  McKeown offers several ways to say “no” in the book, some of which involve suggesting another person who could complete the task, creating a compromise, or using humor.  Regardless, know that saying “no” will feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but with practice, it becomes easier. 


Any change you make toward creating your one essential priority is worth celebrating, even if it feels tiny.  Find a way to celebrate the small victories.  Using this form of positive reinforcement helps you give yourself credit for changes you make.  If you deal with anxiety or depression, giving yourself credit as an important part of overcoming the negative messages you repeat to yourself.  Allow yourself to feel happy and enjoy the feeling of making a change.


Do you feel as though you are spread too thin?  Is it difficult for you to tune out the urgent requests that come across your table?  Do you have a hard time setting boundaries and saying “no”?  Are you dealing with symptoms of depression or anxiety as a result?  At Restored Hope, I help you quiet your negative self-talk and approach yourself with kindness, guiding you in focusing on what’s most important to you.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment.

*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

Finding Your Power Center: How To Leave Victimhood Behind and Own Your Power

If you’ve been on the receiving end of a spouse’s betrayal through an affair or sex and love addiction, there are times when you feel completely powerless and out of control.  Your partner’s behaviors and decisions baffle you.  Oftentimes the behaviors affect you directly, and it can be maddening to feel out of control.

Moments like these lead you to feel like the victim of someone else’s chaos or poor decision-making.  You may feel trapped, angry, or afraid of confrontation or change.  You’re probably also exhausted from trying to manage the emotional upheaval from dealing with the fallout of someone else’s actions, questioning whether or not you can trust them, and doubting your own self-worth.

How do I know I’m not in my power center?

When someone else’s actions or the circumstances around you leave you feeling like a victim, here are some symptoms you might notice:

  • Reacting rather than responding

  • Feeling trapped and stuck: “I just have to sit down and take it.”

  • Intense and overwhelming emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or anger

  • A sense of hopelessness: “Things will never change.”

  • Powerlessness: “There’s nothing I can do about this.”

If you’re dealing with a partner’s sex and love addiction, here might be some other symptoms you notice:

  • Denying or ignoring your partner’s addiction

  • Avoiding signs that addiction is continuing

  • Obsessively checking on your partner’s whereabouts and actions

  • Enabling addictive behaviors by taking ownership/blaming yourself

  • Attempting to control the addict’s behaviors

  • Feeling like you’re the addict’s parent rather than partner

How do I reclaim my power center?

The biggest shift needed to reclaim your power is defining yourself as someone capable of creating change, rather than a victim.  This is difficult because it may be true that there are things outside your control.  The actions, thoughts, and decisions of others are not something you have the power to control.  However, you can choose how you think and act in response to these behaviors and meet your personal needs within difficult circumstances. 

Vicki Tidwell Palmer, in her book Moving Beyond Betrayal*, does a great job of outlining how to find your authentic personal power by moving from victim to victorious. She invites you to take a step back from chaotic situations to identify what you need and choose appropriate steps to get those needs met.  Be kind to yourself in this process, and don’t heap shame on yourself when you find yourself feeling like a victim again. Instead, feel empowered to make a different choice rather than feeling like your emotions are taking over.

At times, taking back power can be as simple as naming that you are powerless.  In the Twelve Steps, Step One involves admitting that you are powerless over the addictive behavior.  In truth, you are powerless over your partner’s behaviors, and admitting this truth frees you to make decisions that are best for your well-being.  This process can teach you to meet needs through supportive relationships and friendships, self-care, and spirituality.

In particular with addicts who are either in denial or in active addiction, it can be easy to get caught up in the cycle of feeling like a victim or enabling their behavior.  Instead, admit that you are powerless over the denial itself.  While you can communicate the effect your partner’s behaviors have on you, you will need to support yourself with appropriate boundaries.  Setting boundaries to protect yourself and meet needs in healthy ways will allow you to reclaim power over your own life.

Practical Next Steps

Practice grounding exercises when you’re experiencing intense emotional responses.

Grounding exercises are a way that you can reconnect with the present moment when your emotions threaten to take over.  Sit in a comfortable spot and pay attention to your breathing.  Place your feet flat on the ground and notice the sensation of the ground beneath your feet.  Hold an object that has a unique texture, such as a smooth rock or a soft toy and connect with your sense of touch.  Practice the 5-4-3-2-1 breathing exercise (outlined in this article) where you connect deep breathing with noticing sensory information around you.

Pay attention to your body to identify what you need.

Check in with yourself emotionally by noticing the physical sensations in your body.  Identify previous times you have felt those physical sensations.  Ask yourself about those memories: what did you need at that time?  Safety?  Comfort?  Time alone?  Love?

Journal and reflect on these needs and identify healthy ways you can meet each of them.  For example, you might give yourself safety by removing yourself from situations that feel unsafe.  You can find comfort by calling or visiting a friend and talking with them about your experience.  You can feel love by spending time with a beloved pet or practicing self-love through kindness toward yourself.

Set a boundary or Make a request to move closer to what you need.

Some needs aren’t as easy to meet on your own.  In that case, you can make a request of your partner or others in order to get that need met.  Keep in mind that this request needs to be made with acceptance of the other’s response.  They have the right to say yes or no, and you will need to prepare for how you will respond in either case.

Setting boundaries is a helpful way to practice self-care or self-protection.  Boundaries are not meant to be a weapon or a punishment.  Instead, they are a tool by which you increase feelings of safety and stability in your life and relationships.  For example, if your spouse tends to raise his or her voice while having an argument, you might set a boundary that when he or she raises their voice, you will walk away from the conversation.  Or if your spouse continues sexually acting out, you may set a boundary of sleeping in separate bedrooms to help you feel safe.

Make agreements with your partner about supporting one another’s boundaries and needs.

Work together with your spouse to find compromise about current needs you each have in the relationship, especially in light of any addictive issues at play.  Identify the needs you listed above and come up with several possible solutions of how to resolve them.  Have a discussion with your partner about those needs and come to a place of compromise where you can both be satisfied with your agreement.  This conversation is likely best done in the context of a couples therapy session, if your partner is willing.   

When you’ve gotten to a place of compromise, write down the actions to which you and your partner have committed and sign them as agreements, giving a sense of gravity to the document.  If these agreements are not being honored by one or both of you, you have this physical document to revisit and have additional conversations about what might have caused the agreement to be broken.

Have you felt out of control with your emotions after discovering your partner’s betrayal?  Do you struggle to set boundaries or know what you need?  Are you afraid of confronting your loved one’s addictive behavior for fear that you will lose the relationship?  At Restored Hope, I offer compassionate counseling and care as you walk through these difficult life circumstances and seek to regain a sense of power and control over your life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to set up an appointment at my Ann Arbor counseling office.

*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

Breaking Through Destructive Beliefs: How Discovering Your True Identity Transforms Recovery

Have you ever done an exercise where you’re asked to write down 10-20 adjectives that describe who you are?  This task can stir up all kinds of emotions.  Maybe it’s relatively easy for you to come up with several descriptors.  For me, I usually run out of ideas after about five or six. 

But what if the words that immediately come to mind are so negative and critical that you would never speak them aloud to someone? 

Often those hidden, negative words we wouldn’t say aloud cut to the core of who we are. These words embody the messages of shame that we either inflict upon ourselves or that we hear from others.   When we name ourselves with these words, we give them power.   

What are some of the negative labels that you apply to yourself?

For the female sex and love addict, there are plenty of labels that echo through her mind.  Whore.  Slut.  Dirty.  Easy.  Needy.  Too much.  Not enough.  These words give a glimpse of her low self-esteem with feelings of little value or worth.

For the addict, condemning herself can feel good.  Hatred toward herself or others can mask the shame that she feels.  If she can become angry at the behaviors in herself or at other people who practice them, maybe then she can force herself to stop.  Unfortunately, all the negative words she uses as a way of trying to motivate change in herself only increase her shame.  Since shame is one of the primary motivators of addictive behavior, she may instead cope with the pain by acting out more.

These shame-filled messages only increase the feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, and longing that drew her to the addictive behaviors in the first place.  They echo stories of trauma and pain from her past. Addictive behaviors provide a temporary relief, but they don’t solve the problem at the root: the issue of identity.

What are we to do about this?

Instead of using condemning labels and heaping shame on yourself, take a closer look at your identity.  Exploring and establishing a strong sense of personal identity is not work that can happen overnight.  It is a gradual process that is steeped in self-care, relationships, and substantial shifts in your way of thinking about yourself and others.  But If you rest in a true and authentic understanding of who you are, you are much less likely to act in ways that contradict that identity.

Here are some ways to explore your identity and have a more accurate assessment of your self-worth:

  • Practice nurturing yourself. If you’ve experienced any level of trauma or pain in your childhood, you’ve likely learned ways of coping or surviving that are more destructive than helpful. Begin to practice healthy ways of coping and self-care.

  • Identify what you need. Addictive behavior often stems out of a legitimate desire that either wasn’t met in childhood or earlier experiences, or that you’re feeling now. Ask yourself, “what do I need?” and look for opportunities to meet that need.

  • Speak words of kindness to your vulnerable self. In the moments when you feel the weakest and in pain, your tendency may be to heap more shame upon yourself. Instead, speak to yourself with words of love and kindness.

  • Make a record of your accomplishments. Giving yourself credit for accomplishments – no matter how small – can uplift your self-esteem and help clarify what’s important to you. This can pave the way for identifying areas of purpose and value in your life.

  • Spend time with a close friend or loved one. The people we are closest to can affirm positive aspects of ourselves to which we are blind. Ask them to name the positive qualities they see in you.

  • Spend time with God or reading the Bible. As Christians, our identity is founded in Christ. When you feel desolate and alone, reflect on God’s love and grace toward you, and become more firmly rooted in how He defines you as created in His image.

As you begin to explore your identity, you’ll develop a greater understanding of who you are, what makes you feel alive, and what gives you a sense of security and confidence in yourself.  My hope for you is to remind yourself of your true identity daily.  Make a collage of these words.  Write them down.  Place these words somewhere prominent so you can see them each and every day.   Be encouraged by these reminders when the messages of shame begin to grow.

This article was originally posted on July 27, 2017.

Are you tired of struggling with issues of identity?  Does your sense of self-worth feel shattered by past trauma and pain?  At Restored Hope, I know that addiction and trauma can wreak havoc on your sense of security and confidence in yourself.  Therapy can be a helpful tool for you to step into a more solid understanding of who you are.  I offer support through counseling sessions at my Ann Arbor office, and I’d love to hear your story.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to schedule an appointment.

An Attitude of Gratitude


A regular practice of gratitude has been shown to inspire health benefits including increased exercise, optimism, and reduced physical pain.  Gratitude has a multitude of mental health benefits as well, such as better sleep, reduced depression, and reduced stress.  Studies by the National Institute of Health indicate that gratitude can increase dopamine in your brain, which serves as a “reward” hormone to make you feel good.

Gratitude also has spiritual benefits.  When we thank God for the gifts He has given us, we are then better able to receive those gifts with gratitude rather than continuing to demand more.  Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.”  Meditating on this verse helps me to be aware of all the needs I have that are being met, rather than comparing my current status with what I wish I had.

Oftentimes, if we struggle with depression or anxiety, gratitude isn’t our first response.  Instead, we face hopelessness about our life circumstances.  We can have a thought pattern of only seeing the negative in our lives, without taking the time or energy to appreciate the good things we experience.  I personally can tend to default to a more “glass half empty” frame of mind.

But what if, instead of only looking at the bad, we chose to see all the good in our lives?  Have you heard of the difference between the “scarcity mentality” and the “abundance mentality”? The scarcity mentality says, “I’ll never have enough/what I want,” while the abundance mentality comes from the perspective of “I have all that I need.”  How might it feel if you chose gratitude for the abundance in your life rather than focusing on things you lack? 

Here are some ways you can practice gratitude in your daily life. 

Keep a gratitude journal.

Each night before bed, or each morning when you wake up, take some time to write out a list of things you are grateful for in a journal designated for just that purpose.  You could take Ann Voskamp’s approach and write a list of three different things you’re grateful for on a daily basis, culminating in over 1000 different things to be grateful for in one year.  In the past, I’ve combined this practice with the practice of an examen to reflect on my day and the good and bad that happened throughout.  Looking back over this journal, it is easy to see how full our lives are of good things, and to experience joy at the gifts we have. 

Practice gratitude in your relationships.

We often become so accustomed to loved ones in our lives that we begin to lose sight of the ways they love or serve us.  This is a particular problem in marriages, where the praise and appreciation that are so prevalent at first tend to taper as you spend more and more time together.  Sit down with your partner or with a close friend today and share with them ways that you are grateful for who they are and what influence they’ve had on your life.

Sit in nature and write lists of all the things you see around you for which you are thankful.

Have you ever watched the TV show Planet Earth?  Whenever I flip on an episode of this or any other nature show, I'm fascinated by the creatures and landscapes that exist in this world and their beauty.  When we take the time to sit outside and look at the world around us (even in the winter!), we can connect with a world that is much bigger than we are.  We can also experience more peace and calm as a result.


At times in the past, my gratitude journal has taken the form of a prayer journal, where I spend time thanking God for the blessings in my life.  Whether this takes the form of a nightly ritual or an extended conversation with God, it can be a refreshing and renewing practice for my faith and to remind myself that God has provided all that I need.  Sometimes combining prayer with a walk can be helpful, as it allows space to be in nature as well.  Another area we can practice gratitude in prayer is paying attention to answered prayers: what have you been praying for where God has provided an answer? 

Write a thank-you note!

We’re taught as children to write thank you notes for the gifts we get at parties, and we often continue that practice with other special events in our lives, like weddings and baby showers.  While this custom tied to formal events can feel rote and like a chore, what would it feel like for you to write a thank you note to a friend…just because?  Try sending a thank-you card to a friend or family member for no reason other than to practice gratitude for the ways they’ve been present in your life.

Stop comparing yourself to others!

This is a big one, and I can often be the #1 culprit.  When we compare ourselves to others, even if we do so in order to view ourselves more favorably, that is not gratitude.  In fact, when we do it, it often leaves us with kind of an icky feeling.  Gratitude is about finding the things that are positive in your own life, without comparing to anyone else.

What step will you take this week to practice gratitude in your life?

This article was originally posted on March 25, 2017.


Are you having a hard time finding anything to feel grateful about?  Maybe you relate to the idea of the scarcity mentality, where you feel hopeless and unhappy with your current life circumstances.  Here at Restored Hope, I’d love to help you on your journey to change your circumstances and your outlook to live a happy and fulfilled life.  Contact me at my Ann Arbor therapy office to hear more about how you can find support and help to live more wholeheartedly.  Call me at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to reach me.

The Importance of Learning Self-Love: A Review of Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody


In 1992, Pia Mellody wrote her book that reached out to those who felt compulsively drawn into toxic or painful relationships: love addicts. In Facing Love Addiction*, Mellody defines love addiction as an unhealthy relationship which involves obsessive time, attention, and value given to another person.  It includes unrealistic expectations on the other person to provide unconditional love, and a corresponding lack of self-care.  Love addiction involves a distortion of intimacy that involves obsessive desire for closeness at the expense of healthy relationships.

Who is this book for? 

As the title suggests, this book is primarily a resource for self-defined love addicts or individuals with codependent tendencies who are wondering if they may be love addicted.  At the same time, she addresses the partners with whom love addicts tend to pair: love avoidants.

Love avoidants are the object of the codependent.  They are typically drawn to the intensity of the love addict because it is similar to relationships with parents or family in childhood.  When this intensity becomes overwhelming, the love addict creates intensity outside the relationship with addictions.

This book includes journaling pages and exercises in the final chapters which provide ways for both love addicts and love avoidants to examine their compulsive patterns and identify the origins of these maladaptive coping strategies in relationships.

What This Book Taught Me

Love addiction and codependency are related, but different.

Mellody describes codependency as a pattern of unhealthy relationships.  Codependents make another person their higher power, leading to power struggles, resentment, addictions, and/or difficulties with intimacy. Individuals who struggle with codependency have difficulty loving themselves, using adequate self-protection, understanding their identity, practicing self-care and moderating themselves. 

Codependency is certainly an element of love addiction, but not all people who are codependent are love addicts.  For the love addict, the markers of codependency that are most notable are low self-esteem and poor self-care habits. 

Love avoidants can have toxic relationships too.

Love avoidants are highly self-protective in relationships, often due to a family history of enmeshment.  The love avoidant may have had to care for an emotional parent or was taken advantage of by a family member.  In their adult lives, they often seek to maintain control over relationships and can do so by threatening to leave the love addict.

Love avoidants also struggle to meet their own needs.  They were typically expected to deny their own needs in service of one or both parents, and therefore missed the opportunity to learn how to recognize and care for their own emotions and needs.

The patterns of love addiction or love avoidance begin in the past.

Present-day relationships are not the cause of love addiction or love avoidance.  Problems in relationships are usually a symptom of a pattern begun in earlier life.  Examining past codependent relationships or experiences of abandonment can shed light how you developed one of these types of relating.

Once you become aware of the ways these experiences have shaped you, it is important to learn to reparent yourself.  This is a tool I often encourage with clients who have experienced trauma in their family-of-origin.  Reparenting yourself involves caring for yourself in the ways you may have missed in childhood.  This can involve creating appropriate boundaries for yourself to increase safety, or to increase our self-care behaviors as you become aware of the unhelpful expectation that your partner will meet all of your needs.

Healthy people seem less attractive without the work of recovery.

If you struggle with love addiction, you may be baffled as to why you continue engaging in relationship after relationship that are toxic and destructive.  You wonder why you can’t find a partner who doesn’t pull you into this addictive cycle.  In relationships, you tend to be attracted to what is familiar.   Even if it is unhealthy, you know what to expect. 

These relationships can serve as an attempt to resolve childhood wounds in the present day.  When you have lived through a traumatic experience in childhood, you may repeat that experience in an attempt to resolve the pain that you once felt, or to try to rewrite the story to create a new outcome.

Entering into recovery breaks these patterns through building healthy relationships that involve self-care, individuation, and effective and healthy boundaries.  This work needs to be done so that the intensity of the addictive relationships becomes less appealing.

You don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to start working on the symptoms of codependency or love addiction.

While love addiction and codependency have the most drastic effects in romantic relationships, you can begin working on the skills you’ll need for healthy relationships even if you aren’t partnered up.  Begin by fostering healthy friendships with individuals you meet in your 12 step programs or elsewhere.  Learning to view others with realistic expectations and take care of yourself can significantly impact your awareness of these areas when entering a romantic relationship.  Learn from these relationships by examining your expectations about how others will relate to you.  Use that awareness as an opportunity shift to a more realistic or helpful expectation. 


Do you struggle with toxic relationships?  Do you constantly find yourself dating “the same person,” even though you’ve had several different relationships?  Are you repeating patterns you learned from your childhood in your relationships?  At Restored Hope, I specialize in working with female sex and love addicts to break through destructive patterns of relating that have been holding you back from living the life you want.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment and hear how I can support you.

*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

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.




*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

A Toddler’s Guide to Mindfulness


Have you ever watched what toddlers do or listened to what they talk about?  There’s something special about the way children interact with the world.  As adults, we can become consumed by timelines and schedules and priorities.  But those things don’t matter to kids – they see things through different eyes.

Before I became a therapist, I worked for a few years as a childcare provider for young children.  One 2-year-old I watched was notorious for getting easily distracted – a simple walk along the sidewalk could take what felt like ages, as he would stop every few feet to point out an insect, pick up a rock, or comment on the leaves scattered around the neighbor’s yard.

One day, I followed him up the stairs so he could get dressed, chatting about what we were going to do that morning.  In my mind, I was planning each step for our entire day, almost by the minute.  To be honest, I was rushing him a bit too.  (We were going upstairs, which is always a several minute production for a toddler learning to climb...and always having to do everything without my help.)

I started listing off our plans for the day.  "Okay, after we get dressed we're going to get ready to drive in the car, and then we're going to go to Target to get something and look at the Christmas trees, and then we'll have our playdate, and then..."  The little one suddenly stopped on the stairs and said, "NO."  I assumed he meant he didn't want to leave the house, so I started reminding him of all the fun things we were going to do and how he would have to leave in order to do those things.  He stopped me again, and said:

"No.  Getting dressed upstairs."

And it hit me.

While I was fluttering around thinking about all the things we were going to do that day, this little one was focused on the one thing right in front of him.

Which was, evidently, going upstairs to get dressed.  Honestly, I was probably overwhelming him by hitting him with all these plans and ideas when he could only handle thinking about one thing at a time.

How often do we do this in our lives?  We mentally jump so far ahead into the future and end up trying to juggle thinking about 27 things at once.  For me, it can start simply, where I'm thinking about whatever's coming next in my day.  Or it can happen on a long-term level, where I analyze my career or my relationships.  Or deeper still than that: I can feel such concern over my dreams and ambitions, or my fears of failure, or not measuring up to a professional or spiritual standard.  These worries can cripple me in a place of discouragement and hopelessness at my lack of progress.

And just like this 2-year-old, if I let all those worries flood into my mind, I get overstimulated, overwhelmed, and I shut down.

This moment spoke a truth to me that I needed to embrace at that point in my life: just stop.  Stop trying to figure out every detail.  Stop trying to think about the next big thing, the next stage I want to enter in life, or all those questions that I feel the need to have answered.  Let go of the obsessive anxiety and attempts at gaining control over my circumstances, which I think will keep me safe and protect me from harm.  The pride I had in believing I could control my life was being shaken by the wisdom of a toddler.

The truth reinforced in me that day was this: when we become caught up in negative thoughts about the past, or worries about the future, we lose sight of the beauty of the present moment.  We miss all that is happening right in front of us when we’re caught up in those stresses.  While planning and creating a vision for the future has a time and place, on a day-to-day basis, it is important to take things just one step at a time.  When we choose to be mindful of the present moment, we experience fewer negative emotions, less stress, increased focus and memory, less emotional reactivity, happier relationships, and plenty of other health benefits.

When I walk in the present moment of life, I feel so much more gratitude for the things around me.  I experience the grace that comes with knowing I don't have to have it all together, and I don't have to be perfect or achieve all the things I desire to achieve in my life.   And I can rest in the simplicity of life where I'm not always rushing ahead to the next thing and trying my hardest to control every outcome.

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

Who knew a 2-year-old would have a wiser outlook on life than I would.

One step at a time.

This article was originally posted on February 9, 2017.

If you’re in a place where the world around you seems to be moving too quickly, your mind is racing with thoughts and worries about what’s in the future, and you have a hard time slowing down enough to focus on the present moment, I’m here to help you. Restored Hope Counseling is an Ann Arbor therapy office where I focus on helping you navigate through anxiety and depression, giving you the support and tools you need to slow down your anxious thoughts and move toward a happier, more wholehearted life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear more about how I can be a support to you.