To understand what goes on inside a women when someone threatens her boundaries, I will use a story that I often use in therapy. (Any Native Americans out there who read this, please ignore the stereotype. I could use any various characters in this story. I apologize for not trying very hard to be politically correct.)
Pretend you really are a pioneer woman, and you are crossing the plains, all by yourself (other than your children) in a covered handcart wagon. The journey is tough; you are wearing boots and overalls instead of the pretty and soft clothing you would rather be wearing, but you are whistling a happy tune and making the best of it.
Out of nowhere, a half dozen Indian warriors on horseback come riding out of a nearby valley and proceed to circle your little wagon. You have a little anxiety at first but then you do what any woman would do in the situation, and you greet them kindly in hopes of making new friends! How kind of the local tribe to send out a welcoming party! After greeting them with smiles, waves and pleasant chatter, like the sweet woman you are, you are surprised to see them retaining their stonefaced expressions.
The Indians sternly tell you, “Actually, we are here to rape you and take your children for our slaves.” Awkward!
So, now observing that a pleasant interaction style didn't work, you drop down a level and try a different intervention. You try to establish a Boundary or a Wall. You reply, "Ummm, that idea doesn't work for me. Perhaps we could try something else." It occurs to you that these men have women and children at home and may have some unmet needs. “I have a little bit of extra flour and a few extra blankets we made in our quilting group back home. Perhaps I could give you those and you could take them back to your families and we could go on our merry way without that other stuff. Yes?”
The Indians look at each other, shake their heads and begin closing in. “Lady, we are here to rape you and take your children for our slaves.” Double awkward!
At this time, the female brain starts to go through something that is almost like a ripping sensation. 1000 miles per hour she tries to come up with alternatives. She is now being pushed out of the world of communication as she has known it and into the darker world. Words didn't work. Walls didn't work. Weapons are all that is left. The opposite of Nurturing. She remembers she has a shot gun in the wagon, but she also remembers these men probably have women and children back at home. She seeks for a way out, but eventually, the dark persistence of the men forces her to make a decision. For the protection of her children, she decides to use the gun on the Indians.
As the smoke clears, she finds 6 dead Indians on the ground and her children are safe. Then, she does what most women would do, she drops the gun, falls to the ground and bursts into tears; tears of guilt. And every day for many years to come, she is going to feel guilt, “Did I really have to kill those Indians? Maybe if I had listened to the Spirit more closely, I could have found a better way.”
We all know that a man in the same story would have skipped the first two interventions, killed the Indians, put six notches on the side of his wagon, and six scalps hanging from the back as tokens of his bravery!
Women are designed to nurture and men are designed to provide and protect. Activities that are the opposite of nurturing cause women in general to feel out of sorts, or in other words, guilt.
Boundaries are not needed in healthy, nurturing relationships, because everyone consecrates all they have and all they are to the welfare of others. People do not abuse each other so there is no need for selfprotection. Because women enter marriage expecting it to be a nurturing experience, they find it awkward and uncomfortable when they find a need for boundaries.
So, ladies, when it feels awkward and uncomfortable to create and maintain boundaries for your own protection, you are probably doing it right. And, you wouldn’t need to do it if the other person was truly functioning like a friend.
Now, a word on how long you need to maintain boundaries (or walk down the Pioneer trail alone). Let’s say someone pulls up next to you while you are pulling your wagon and offers to help and then did so for a while. Then out of nowhere smacks you over the back of the head with a 2x4 and steals some of your goods. How long would it take you to trust him again, if he came back to offer to help pull? What would he have to do for you to let him help again? Why would you be inclined to pull by yourself instead of accepting his help?
In most relationships, men are not all bad. If they were, the decision to end the relationship would be a lot easier. Most men are a mix of good and bad qualities. Every case is different. What I teach women to do is to begin preparing for a long journey without the help or involvement of a man, just in case he is unable to do his part. Solidify your life, pack your wagon, with everything you need.
Men who are in recovery, men who are improving and have reached the point where they are experiencing empathy toward the pain of their wives, will understand boundaries and will respect them. Men who have not reached the point of empathy will not understand boundaries and will blame the wife or will become significantly unpleasant when she attempts to maintain them. A true man will be patient and compassionate with what you you are going through.
The converse of the story above: a man pulls up on a horse near your wagon, and quietly but consistently helps your situation. If he helps to lead (Preside), fight (Protect), and Provide then you will want to encourage him to continue doing so. In conclusion, when a man is accurately presiding, providing and protecting, then encourage (nurture) him. When he is not, put up the right degree of boundaries: Words, Walls, and Weapons. If he complains about the boundaries, then he is still not recovered enough to be able to have compassion for you. This is not your fault.
He married his wife, Nanette, shortly after graduation. At that time he became the adoptive father of his then 3 year old son, Nikolas, who had been born to his wife in a previous marriage.
Maurice spent three years working at Decker Lake Youth Center, Salt Lake City’s maximum security facility for teen-agers. He went on to work for the State of Utah as an Independent Living Specialist helping youth who had been in foster care to transition into adult living. Maurice teamed up with his wife to run a group home for girls with Utah Youth Village for a year, followed by a few years working in treatment foster care.
As he was finishing his Professional Counseling Master’s Degree program at the University of Utah, he took an internship counseling position at Davis Counseling Center in Farmington, Utah. Upon graduation he also started working as a counselor at LDS Family Services in Farmington, Utah. His daughter, Syrena, was adopted during graduate school.
In May of 2005, Maurice opened the private counseling agency Life Changing Services, while still working part time at LDS Family Services, primarily as the Pre-Mission Evaluation Specialist for northern Utah.
In September of 2005, Sons of Helaman was created due to the influx of young men struggling with sexual addiction issues. The development and expansion of this program has been a major focus since then. In his ongoing private practice at Life Changing Services, Maurice specializes in marriage therapy (especially if sexual misbehaviors are part of the problem). He trains adult men to overcome sexual addictions. He works to help heal the wives of sexual addicts. He works with individuals fighting anxiety and depression issues.
He runs another program called The W-O-R-T-H Group: Women of Rebirth, Therapeutic Healing: designed to help women work through difficult issues relating to any form of abuse in their marriages. He still sees clients for various issues once a week at LDS Family Services in Centerville, Utah.
Memoirs of an LDS Therapist