Boundaries hurt me more than him. Does setting boundaries always cause more pain and regret?



I work a lot. It is my Safe place. My husband hates it and always has. When we were newly married I was always home and he was always gone. When we had younger children he hated all their activities/ he hated all the time I wasn’t at home. I tried to change my schedule with work and the kids and again he was unsatisfied. I opened my own business 3 years ago and now revolve my store hours around him and all the rides he needs, his lunch, his start/end of work. Without me bending to his every need, we lose…the kids and I lose because if I don’t bend to his every need he don’t follow through with work, responsibilities or promises to anyone.

I have been married to an alcoholic for 15 years. We were separated in year # 7 for one year. Now 8 years later i am back at the same place I was when I left my husband, my farm, my way of life to protect my children. Now He threatened suicide in front of my 15 yr old son.

Year # 7 my boundaries were crossed when he started not coming home, had a girlfriend and then started bringing people to our home in the night while the kids and i slept. I left everything that year to protect my kids, my job and my sanity. This BOUNDARY hurt us more than him …

One year later he was sober and after we all moved back to the farm he got his first DUI , one year later his second and one year after that his third and last one while he sat in jail while his sister died of cancer at age 40. I was one of the caregivers for his sister.

He lost his job last year after texting his boss demands at work while we was drinking one evening. He sat unemployed for two months and we lost our financial security.

Now how do I set boundaries in the midst of all this knowing I can’t physically force change, him to move out or tear my teens out of my farmhouse. My only enforced boundaries are sleeping conditions and taking away family activities from my spouse when he is drinking.


Hi @Jsolt, thanks so much for your post. I’m so sorry to hear about everything you are dealing with. This is a lot for one person. Boundaries are one of the most important things when it comes to dealing with a loved one struggling with addiction— I’m interested in hearing how you feel when you aren’t with your husband (for instance, when you’re at work). Do you feel relief? Anxiety? Listening to how you feel when you’re with your husband and when you’re without him might give you answers to what steps you need to take towards setting boundaries. I’m particularly interested in how it was being separated at year #7 of being together, as you mentioned. What made you separate? What made you get back together?


Yikes, that’s a tough place to be. This is not going to be a quick fix, its going to take time.
The bottom line is , until he becomes uncomfortable he will never have a need to change. So that being said how can you achieve that, and remain ok while doing it. Id suggest a few things, first see if there are any local Al Non meeting or other support meeting in your area.
Also you need to ask yourself , what can I do to take my life back, Im sure your walking on eggshells waiting for the next outburst, or verbal abuse comments. You don’t have to take it, and you don’t have to allow your boundaries to hurt you, Set them around YOU and your life, what works for you ? Not him . Whats right for the family , if you change your priorities, then your boundaries will also change.
Again It takes time, and it’s not a one size fits all solution.
Always Here
Recovery coach and advocate


Reading your post 3 things come to mind…

Coping with his current state:

  1. Is there someone else who can help share the burden of care and worry for your husband? Perhaps someone in his family who might have more outside influence over him in this state and who might be able to take him in and lighten the load on you for a bit?

Setting boundaries:

  1. Set boundaries for you. I’ve always found the idea of boundaries hard to get my head around! But what makes sense to me is thinking about my limits and when I get pushed past them and setting boundaries around those. Communicating them ahead of time and getting alignment helps too. So I might ask, where are you getting pushed beyond your limits? What actions that he is or you are taking are not serving you?
    For example - perhaps we need one around his financial contribution to the family, and your ability to take time out without worrying about him?

I know I don’t know you but…

  1. I feel really proud of you that you started your own business in amongst all this and that you find sanctuary there!


Hey @Jsolt, boundaries can be really hard, and oftentimes we feel hurt more than our loved ones because while they numb their feelings, we’re feeling ours.

What I hear you saying is:
You want to set more healthy boundaries that don’t cause you to feel pain and regret.

Our professional perspective on the topic of boundaries and limit setting is:
Knowing your limits is part of being aware and having reasonable expectations - this allows you to work with your husband instead of being surprised and shattered by him. The conscious act of recognizing how much you can stand makes your situation more predictable. Awareness won’t change your circumstances, but it allows you to anticipate what’s coming and plan for it as best as you can. With awareness (which you already have a lot of), careful self-assessment, and practice, you can continue to work on seeing your limits from a safe distance and even use them as guides.

Let’s practically apply it: (I also want to mention I love what @polly wrote in her response, about setting boundaries for you),

Take a moment to begin to notice what it would be like if you began to establish healthy boundaries with your husband. If your boundaries are too rigid, that might mean opening up. If they’re porous, it might mean setting limits and saying “no” when you don’t want to do something. Questions to consider:

  • What are some specific actions you can take to improve your boundaries?
  • How do you think the other person will respond to these changes?
  • How do you think your life will be different once you’ve established healthy boundaries?
  • What barriers to enforcing these boundaries do you predict will come about, and how can you prepare for them?

Find more helpful resources here:
How do you handle setting boundaries?
What does boundaries mean to you?
When have you needed to enforce a boundary even though the outcome may upset you?

Please ‘comment’ below so we can continue this dialogue, @Jsolt . I’m here and happy to help!


Couple resources to add - Boundaries in Marriage by Drs Cloud and Townsend was AMAZING. I didn’t read it until my hubs had 6 years clean and wow do I wish I’d have had it before that!!

Also I’ve got a Boundaries Basics book as a freebie on my website (it does require an email address but you can always unsubscribe after you get the book!)

If you’re interested in a 90 min Boundaries Workshop I did, let me know. It’s paid content but if you reach out to me I can get it to you <3


What a wonderful resource on setting boundaries! A conversation that will always be relevant for those of us loving and supporting someone with SUD. Bumping back up to the top. :arrow_up::raised_hands: