Why Setting Boundaries is Important in Recovery from Betrayal Trauma

small town house, analogy to setting boundaries

I grew up in a small midwest community where neighborhoods existed without fences.

It was common practice to leave car doors and front doors unlocked, even at night. Gated communities and security systems were basically non-existent.

I never had a bike stolen, even though I didn’t own a bike lock and left it in public places regularly.

It was convenient and comfortable living in such an environment — no locking yourself out of the house or your keys in the car, no extra expense for alarms and no secret codes to memorize, pass on and reset, let alone the time it takes to do so.

A strong sense of safety and trust had developed over generations and without personal experience to cause me any degree of concern. Such a level of vulnerability, living without fences, gates and locks, was a completely reasonable lifestyle for me.

This is how I felt in early marriage.

I was confident my husband was completely honest and true to me.

Bride and Groom

We had made the highest covenants of devotion and fidelity. He held a temple recommend, which required a spiritual screening process every year. He served a church mission where he was spiritually stretched and psychologically matured.

A majority of the marriages around me modeled this same pattern of integrity. It was convenient and comfortable not having reason to wonder where he was or who he was with or what he was doing.

It was sensible for me to assume he had the best of intentions when something felt “off.” It was equitable for me to question my own accuracies when things were disagreeable between us.

It was entirely appropriate to keep the peace and overlook his shortcomings because they seemed benign and innocent. Being open and vulnerable by sharing my whole self with him felt completely reasonable as we moved through life together.

When I moved to the Phoenix area, six-foot, solid block walls encased every property in my neighborhood.

Many communities were gated, while front doors and car doors were habitually locked, even during the day. Security systems were sold door to door and car alarms blared wherever I went.

locked door

I remember learning not to leave valuables visible through my windows and how to hold my car key between my fingers in case I needed a weapon in the parking lot.

I did my best to practice the security measures modeled by those around me. There was a lot to learn and I found myself afraid of what might happen and annoyed at all the inconveniences these safety measures introduced into my life.

At times, I questioned whether all of these extra efforts were even necessary. 

About six months into my new residency, I had my car stolen.

As I was still only practicing the common safety practices and had not yet been convinced of their importance, I was inconsistent in my application. Thus, my car was stolen when I had left my car unlocked overnight, with the keys in it and my wallet on the front seat.

A stolen car is a threat to security and violation of personal property.

A D-day is also a threat to security and deep emotional violation of personal connection.


Just as my stolen car alerted me to the importance of consistency and dedication to the physical safety measures I needed to thrive in a new environment, a D-day also was an alert of sorts.

An alert that I wasn’t in the kind of marriage that I had imagined.

An alert that my patterns of goodwill and positive assumptions were not going to work for me in a relationship with a lust addict.

An alert that my emotional safety measures were not sufficient to sustain my peace of mind given the reality of my environment.

After my car was recovered, I did better than removing my valuables and locking my doors, I also purchased a steering wheel lock bar and used it religiously every time I parked.

The experience of having my personal safety violated naturally led to an increased vigilance and additional layers of safety protocols, or boundaries.

The bar was heavy and cumbersome; it took time and effort to put it into place and to keep track of it and the key. It was in no way convenient, but it did offer me the confidence and peace of mind I needed to leave my car parked and not be frantic because I’m worried it would be gone when I got back.


finding hope after betrayal trauma

Boundaries can be cumbersome and inconvenient, but they are essential to regaining my confidence, having peace of mind, experiencing healing and being my best self moving forward.

They are what I need to protect my well-being in an area that has proven to be vulnerable to safety threats.

The experiences of having my emotional safety violated by my husband has naturally led to additional layers of safety protocols applied with rigorous consistency.

In relationships, boundaries take time to develop.

Relationships are complicated; there are a lot of old patterns that are so ingrained, it is initially difficult to picture new ways of relating.

Boundaries are about becoming aware of what is threatening to me, whether internal or external, and discovering ways to protect myself effectively from those threats.

Over time, I became consistent with locking my car and removing my valuables. When I moved into a home with a garage, I felt less vulnerable and stopped using the lock bar.

Boundaries change as my situation changes.

As I evolve and grow, I learn better ways of doing things. The level of security measures required for peace of mind in the present depends on a combination of security threats experienced in the past and the perceived likelihood of threats to security  in the future.

Let’s be clear, leaving my keys in an unlocked car does not give others the right to steal, just as trusting my husband was not permission to be disloyal.

Locking a car does not guarantee it will not be stolen or vandalized, nor do boundaries keep others from doing harmful things.

However, boundaries can provide a greater peace of mind as I limit, to the degree I am able, opportunities for the actions of others to negatively affect me.

Awareness of my safety threats empowers me to set appropriate boundaries as I navigate this new-to-me relational environment of dishonesty and betrayal.

Living like a Midwesterner while residing in the Phoenix area is just not sustainable.

I'm not okay, you're not okay, but that's okay

To learn more about the importance of setting boundaries in recovery, get the FREE EBOOK I’m not Okay, You’re Not Okay, and That’s Okay.

If you find yourself feeling betrayed because of the choices of your husband, or if you are in the beginning, end or middle of a divorce because you husband has been unfaithful, WORTH can help.

WORTH offers free therapeutic support for married and divorced women experiencing betrayal trauma due to a spouse’s pornography use, sexual addiction, and/or sexual acting out.

If your husband struggles from a pornography challenge or any other sexual misbehavior, we offer the Men of Moroni program, a gospel-based pornography addiction recovery program for men. Have him visit the Men of Moroni website and join that program so you can both begin your healing process.

Marriage Repair Workshops

Happy couple

For the women who are looking for extra support and training to address marital issues, we now offer Marriage Repair Workshops.  Specialist, Maurice W. Harker, Director of Life Changing Services, will be discussing the work women need to do in order to do their part in helping a traumatized marriage recover.  This class will cover different, related topics every week.  This Workshop gives you direct access to the Spiritual and Scientific interventions Maurice uses in his therapy techniques for less than 1/4th the cost of therapy!  

For details CLICK HERE.

Lazarus Lectures: A series of online multimedia lessons proven to revitalize marriages using Christ-centered therapeutic tools and principles. You’ve dreamed of eternity together, catastrophe has destroyed your marriage. Maurice and his team will show you how to re-birth and revitalize your marriage, making it vibrant and healthy.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Written by guest author Kara Bagley. Kara found the WORTH program in 2017 after another devastating d-day and navigating 18 years of betrayal trauma on her own. After working through a portion of her own healing in a WORTH group and building strong bonds with the other women in group; she had some big ideas for expanding the programs in WORTH. She was involved in the development of psycho-educational classes, the mentor groups and Sisters in Arms program.

You can listen to a podcast with Kara on the Healing with WORTH podcast channel where she talks about her experience in healing from betrayal trauma.

Kara is a Latter Day Saint and mother of four. She resides on a farm in Gilbert, Arizona, where she raises animals, grows her own produce, and is finishing her schooling to become a Certified Holistic Nutritionist.