Maybe you're uncomfortable because your husband is texting with his work wife a little too often. Maybe he brings pornography into the home, even though you've requested that he not. Or maybe he inappropriately flirts with waitresses or friends, and then calls you a nag for trying to address your concern. Your concerns, no matter what he says, are valid: Emotional affairs are on the rise for both men and women, flirting excessively can deplete the emotional reserves of a marriage, and men's pornography use is tied to lowered self-esteem in women.
If you've tried to talk with your husband about your concerns with other women and he's blown you off, it's time to set some boundaries on his behavior.
We hear the term "setting boundaries" thrown around a lot in pop psychology and self-help books. Personal boundaries are the limits that a person establishes to identify the words and behaviors that are acceptable in his or her presence, and the consequences that follow when those limits are broken.
Unfortunately, we cannot set boundaries for other people. We can only tell other people what our boundaries are, so they will know what will happen when those boundaries are crossed. According to Dr. Henry Cloud in his book Boundaries, "We can set limits on our exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can't change them or make them behave right."
If your husband or boyfriend continues to hurt you or make you feel uncomfortable through his inappropriate relationships with other women, you should set boundaries. But remember that setting boundaries doesn't mean taking away his flirtation, his relationships or his pornography. It means that you need to clearly define for yourself which behaviors are hurtful, and then think through the natural consequences that will follow if he continues to perpetuate those hurtful behaviors. What you're doing is identifying boundaries for yourself so he can't continue to harm you.
Only you know the ins and outs of your relationship, and which of your partner's behaviors are no longer acceptable. Here are a few steps to begin building and communicating your boundaries. These steps hold true for your discomfort with other women, as well as many other areas of life:
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