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The Shifting Truth of Boundary Blowout

by Confluence
Reading Time: 8 minutes

By:  Lisa M. Hayes – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.


Sean was like a movie star that specialized in rom-coms. He had southern boy charm with a chiseled jaw and beautiful green eyes. He had a great job at an engineering firm where he helped design buildings for wealthy people and made big money doing it. He had all the right friends and all the right hobbies and interests. He got invited to all the swanky parties and pretended like he didn’t enjoy having to go, but he did. Sean laughed a lot and that laugh was contagious. Bottom line: Sean seemed like a catch.

Crystal had been dating Sean about five months when her roommate cornered her one evening and spilled it. The roommate said Sean had always made her a little uncomfortable. However, the weekend before he’d leaned in on her in the kitchen of their apartment when Crystal was out running an errand. Crystal tried to blow it off like her roommate must have misunderstood. However, the roomie wouldn’t budge. She insisted Sean tried to kiss her and got angry when she pushed him away.

Crystal didn’t know what to do with that info. She had really strong feelings for Sean. He was a great guy and had a lot of things going for him in his life. Crystal thought their relationship was going somewhere. Which by the way it was because he proposed two weeks later, the day after she finally got the nerve up to confront him. So, she made what seemed like a rational decision. Crystal decided once and for all her roommate was either exaggerating or jealous and she let him put a ring on it.

Their wedding was beautiful. Everyone was there, except Crystal’s former roommate. It was like a dream come true and she was really very happy. However, on their honeymoon, they got in a blowout fight when Crystal came back from the bathroom at a restaurant and saw Sean flirting with the server, and when I say flirting, I mean he had his hand on her ass and she was practically sitting on his lap.

Sean admitted maybe he had too much to drink, but he mostly suggested Crystal was paranoid and crazy. He railed on about how her roommate had turned her against him because she was jealous and said Crystal was just dumb enough to fall for it. Crystal knew what she saw, but she did begin to wonder if her compass was somehow off. Maybe he was right. Maybe she was feeling paranoid. Later she learned from a credit card receipt Sean had tipped that waitress $50.00 on a $60.00 tab.

They’d been married almost a year when Sean lost his job. He told her he had no idea it was coming. However, a few days later a mutual friend accidentally slipped, assuming she knew, that Sean had been under investigation for inappropriate advances towards his assistant.

When she called him on it he “came clean” and admitted he’d done it, but that it happened before they were together. He claimed the investigation had taken more than a year. Sean also said the reason it had taken so long was that other men were involved and investigated also. Sean said that “hoe” had a pattern of coming on to her supervisors. Sean had been her last supervisor so he insisted they made an example of him. His story somehow added up. So, Crystal made what seemed like a ration decision and decided she had no choice but to believe her husband. Sean got another job at another firm within days and before long the whole thing was in the rearview mirror.

A few months later within two weeks, Crystal found out she was pregnant and got the promotion of a lifetime. It wasn’t long before she learned she was pregnant with twins. She talked to her bosses about working from home part-time and being in the office part-time after the babies were born so she could continue to work at her new position and take care of the babies. They agreed. Sean suggested they would need a nanny and Crystal agreed.

Six months later, six weeks before the babies were born the nanny moved in to help take care of Crystal while she was on bedrest. She really liked Sarah and having her there felt like a Godsend. After the twins were born Sarah was like a lifeline. Sarah was a caretaker, personal assistant, nanny, and friend. She was worth every penny they paid her because she was an all in one support system and with her help Crystal was back to work in record time.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was hard. A lot of things were hard. Sean seemed disconnected and wasn’t being particularly supportive. Crystal felt very alone and dependent on Sarah. Sean surprised Crystal by saying yes when she suggested they needed to go to therapy. Several sessions in Crystal felt like their marriage was getting stronger. They were working on the important stuff and it seemed like they were headed in the right direction.

And I’m sure you know what’s coming next, but for some reason, Crystal didn’t. One afternoon Crystal was exhausted at the office and decided to cut the day short and head home a couple of hours early. Not too surprisingly, to anyone but Crystal, she found Sean and Sarah in bed, with the twins in their port-a-crib in the hallway outside the bedroom.

I’d like to say it ended there, but it didn’t. Sean blamed Crystal and Sarah. Crystal didn’t want to believe it, but she didn’t have any fight left in her. So, they got a new nanny and a new therapist and marched on.

Eighteen months, two full-blown affairs, and three one night stands later, Sean actually walked out on Crystal. In the custody hearing, Sean made it clear to the judge that he could easily handle half-time physical custody of the twins despite his incredibly long hours at work because he was engaged to the twin’s former nanny, Sarah. That was the first time Crystal was aware Sean had rekindled his fling with the Sarah.

After the custody hearing, Sean and Crystal met in the hall of the courtroom and looked her deep in the eyes. He said, “I always loved you. If you hadn’t been so suspicious and paranoid, things could have been so different…”

Crystal liked to tell herself she was didn’t see the divorce coming, but even in her state of shock and delirium, she couldn’t convince herself of that. Clearly, she wasn’t that stupid. But if she wasn’t stupid, how did it this happen?? How did they end up here, Crystal working a full-time job, single mother of twins and Sean engaged to his stay at home nanny, with everything coming up roses?

This happens more often than it should. I know this because although this isn’t the story of my first marriage, it could be. The similarities are certainly there. I too stayed with my ex-husband through multiple affairs until he ultimately decided our marriage wasn’t working anymore. So, when I heard Crystal’s story, I couldn’t judge because I understand that cycle all too well.

It starts with what I like to refer to as “boundary blowout”.

When someone you love and trust does something so unimaginable that you really can’t wrap your brain around it, a state of shock and awe sets in. From that state of shock, your decision-making capacity is really compromised. Crystal lost her bearings when Sean hit on her roommate. That’s easy to see from the outside looking in, but when you’re in it, it’s much more complicated.

He cheats, or he shoves you to the floor in a fight and you didn’t see it coming. You freeze in place, like a deer in the headlights. Then one of two things is going to happen. Either you’re going to flee or you aren’t, but if you don’t flee, chances are you will experience “boundary blowout”. Then, because you have to, you will start lying to yourself and everyone else. You won’t see it exactly that way, but that’s exactly what it is.

If you don’t kick him to the curb, you will have to rationalize his behavior and chances are pretty high that if you do that, you’ll do it again, and probably again after that a few more times. It’s not that you don’t see the signs. However, your survival depends on explaining them away and once survival behaviors set in, all the rules change and secrecy and shame become a vail you hide behind, from your friends and family, and from yourself.

The number one priority when you live in a relationship where there has been boundary blowout is to just get through the day.

When I went through this cycle, (and to be fully transparent, it’s happened more than once), the only way out for me was being seen. When I was in a physically abusive relationship it finally ended for me when the abuse erupted in public and the police were called. It wasn’t the police that ended my relationship. It was the hard, come to Jesus moment that happens when you see your life through someone else’s eyes. Nothing will drive that moment home harder than having to answer questions for a police report.

I was no longer in the mood to fight for my marriage to my philandering husband after going through the drive-through window of a coffee shop and having the barista tell me my husband had been there a few minutes before with “one of his new girlfriends”.

The burning shame of being seen is usually the cure for boundary blowout because when someone else knows the truth, you can no longer explain things away in your head.

If you’re wondering if you’re in boundary blowout, here are the top seven signs you might be in trouble:

1. You are withdrawing from people you’re close to, and you may or may not be sure why. You find yourself spending less and less time with friends and family or doing anything much in public that isn’t necessary.

2. You are not feeling physically well, but nothing is actually medically, “wrong”. You’ve got a lot of headaches. You’re sick to your stomach too often. You’re exhausted almost all the time. Your body is wearing down in fight or flight and you are ignoring it.

3. You are regularly covering for, or flat out lying for or about your partner.
You’ve adopted a “Nothing to see here – everything is great!” attitude. You avoid conversations about your relationship beyond that at all costs for fear you’ll slip up and bleed some truth.

4. You find yourself noticing nothing in your life makes sense. You feel unsteady and disoriented a lot, if not all of the time, waiting for the next shoe to drop. You ARE paranoid, but it’s for good reason.

5. Your partner tells you often that you’re crazy, or you over-react, or that you are unstable. You will frequently be accused of lying or blowing things out of proportion – and maybe you start to believe it, maybe just a little, but that voice echoes in your head.

6. You know your partner’s behavior is wrong, but you’ve either started to take responsibility for it, or you have given him a hall pass because he’s damaged in some way. Somehow, someway, it’s not his fault.

7. You live for the make-up after the blowout because you get a high of adrenaline every time he promises things will be different, even if you know it’s probably not true.

If you see yourself on this list in more than a couple of places, chances are very high you are in some kind of trouble and the longer you stall there, the harder things are going to get.

If you’re living with boundary blow-out, the truth will set you free and it will happen quickly. Hopefully, that happens before you’re talking to a cop over a police report. You get to decide when you tell the truth. However, once you allow yourself to be witnessed, things will shift.

Call your mother, your sister, your best friend.
Get a coach, a therapist, or see a healer.
Let someone see you.
Let someone witness your story.
Tell the truth, all of it. Speak the raw, honest, ugly truth of your life. Until you do, there will be no next steps.

But when you do, your next steps will become abundantly clear, and you won’t be hiding alone with your truth anymore. Boundary blowout can only live in secret. Find a way to get yourself into the light and no matter how hard you want to think you can, you cannot get yourself into that light alone.

*This story was shared with permission. Names and details have been liberally altered for privacy. 


More by Lisa:

Confessions of a Drama Addict




Lisa is an LOA Relationship Coach. She helps clients leverage Law of Attraction to get the relationships they dream about and build the lives they want. Lisa is the author of the newly released hit book, Score Your Soulmate and How to Escape from Relationship Hell and The Passion Plan.





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