Phase 2
Fear of Loss: Boundary Setting and Enforcement

Reassurance leads to more manipulation and cake-eating. If you reassure well, your Clinging Boomerangs will feel secure that you’ll be there whenever they need you. This level of comfort gives them a license to commit adultery. They know you’ll take them back whenever they want. They know you’ll let them visit and hang out whenever they want. When you see an increase in cake-eating—it may come with a sense of entitlement or comments about how you won’t do anything to lose them—it is time to transition to the next phase: Boundary setting and enforcement. I’m talking about rule-boundaries; respect-boundaries are something that should always be in place whether an MLCer is being disrespectful or not.
The main boundary tool for this phase is No Contact.

Sure, you’ve been setting boundaries during the reassuring phase, but how was your enforcement? That was practice and sometimes you failed, sometimes you decided you were being too strict or not strict enough—you lacked consistency. The reassurance phase was like your Boundary Apprenticeship—practice. Now you get to apply those skills and all the testing you did with different boundaries or ways of applying and enforcing boundaries. You may now have a better idea what sets off Monster and what your MLCer will accept versus what they will resist and how to approach a situation from a place of strength and confidence. You accept that sometimes you won’t avoid Monster and you know how to deal with it.

The No Contact Boundary Conversation

Wrap the boundaries in reassurance.


  • Start with your Big Goal: Reconciliation.


  • Introduce the No Contact Boundary.


  • Validate
  • Praise
  • Reassure

Repeat the Boundary

  • Reiterate Benefits and Importance of No Contact

Big Goal: I want to remain married instead of I am uncertain.
Introduce No Contact

These are integrated and back-and-forth. Start with the Big Goal, introduce the boundary and then explain why the boundary is important in the context of the Big Goal.

You do not want your MLCer to think there is no way out and that they have lost you forever, rather you want them to think they can lose you—whereas when building reassurance you wanted them reassured that they would not lose you.

This is not yet an ultimatum in most situations; though it could get to that point. You are choosing to limit contact because of your goal for reconciliation; maintaining contact when your MLCer is cake-eating obstructs reconciliation and enables the abusive pattern of living in two worlds. It is counterintuitive and so your MLCer may be confused, believing that No Contact is a punishment and it means you are not only giving up on them, but you are disgusted with them. It may be true that you are disgusted with their behavior, but reserve that for behavior and not their character.

Put this in the context of your wanting to remain married and not wanting contact with them until they choose to be a full participant in the marriage as an appropriate spouse.

Your MLCer needs to understand how to end the No Contact boundary: they have the power to end it by choosing to be an appropriate spouse. Choosing to be an appropriate spouse means an end to No Contact, but it may not mean they are allowed to immediately move home. That step depends on the conditions and past return attempts.

Then validate. Your MLCer is cake-eating, but given their high-level of reassurance, they also feel safe with you and so they may have confided their feelings of ambivalence or fear about reconciliation or their continuing need for freedom—which they may verbalize as a desire to avoid rules or as feeling stifled or confined. Your MLCer may verbalize insights into their own negative behaviors and while simultaneously expressing the desire to continue them.

Ex: Your MLCer acknowledges they are seeking happiness externally; they are dating in search of an elusive soul mate. Validate their feelings. They may intellectually understand that the grass is not greener, but that rationale has not reached a level of acceptance yet.

Give Praise: I believe in you.
Highlight the benefits by telling your MLCer that you believe in them and that you trust them to work through this and come through and encourage them to get through in part by spending time alone or in some sort of reflective time that is conducive to them. I tend to lean towards recommending solitude because it’s what works for me as an introvert, but that may not be what works for everyone, so keep it general.

Then assure your MLCer that the outside world is not going anywhere. You are still here, your children are still here and you all believe in him or her.

The Benefits of the Boundary
Let your MLCer know that the No Contact boundary is for both of you. It is for you because it’s too hard for you to deal with the coming and going and without fully committing. It’s too hard emotionally and you need a break. You need time to heal because the frequent contact is like ripping off the scab—and usually a Clinging Boomerang doesn’t stay away long enough for a scab t even form.

But you don’t want them to focus on that as an excuse for the boundary without also accepting how it is a personal benefit. Talk to them about the positive benefit of that reflective time. Validate how their feelings are normal and that you understand or realize that sometimes they may be feeling depressed or uncertain. If they get defensive at that, apologize and tell them that you are not trying to diagnose, it just seems that way to you and then go on.

Choosing to be an Appropriate Spouse

The conversation where you introduced the No Contact Boundary was the easy part. Yes, it was! I know it was hard to get up the nerve up to say all that stuff, but maintaining the boundary is even harder! Your MLCer may choose to be an appropriate spouse the day after the conversation. Huh, that was fast. But is it real? The challenge becomes how do you respond? Do you encourage ending the boundary because they said the right words, or do you encourage giving it a few days or weeks of space just to consider? Or maybe there are some conditions they must meet as evidence or a show of faith?

In my situation we got to this place so many times that I knew the conditions had to be strict. They had to be a continuation of contact boundaries, but no longer strict No Contact. It was about respecting the state of marriage and not replacing one person with another—no bed-hopping. We needed a transition between infidelity and marriage and we had failed without a transition.

What can act as a transition for you?
Not all MLCers live with the alienator, so a transition may be more natural. Your MLCer breaks up with the alienator and continues living in their own place or with their parents or friend. Coming home is a stepped process. Start with counseling and discuss the process with your counselor. Also discuss set-backs—continuing infidelity—and how to return to the stricter boundaries. In my situation, Sweetheart had been living with the alienator, so we had no natural transition residence. When he ended the affair for the final time, I moved in with my mother (to help care for my grandma) because we could not afford a 2nd residence. I came home every few weeks for a few days and we went to counseling. Over the months I increased my time spent at home from 2 days to as many as 5 in a row. I returned home full time after having been gone for 8 months. This boundary worked in part because Sweetheart accepted that my grandma needed help and so he did not focus on it as a punishment for his actions.

These phases (Establishing Reassurance and Enforcing Boundaries) may look simple on a chart, but both are cycling processes of learning and applying what you have learned. Clinging Boomerangs may choose to be an appropriate spouse several times a week and choose to continue their affair between each time. Learn the difference between testing and genuine intentions as well as the difference between genuine verbal intentions without action and those with action.

Series NavigationHow Do You Know When You Have Established Reassurance?


Fear of Loss: Boundary Setting and Enforcement11 Comments

  1. Another great post. Thanks for writing and sharing it.

    The principles you describe remind me a bit of a light-hearted but interesting book from a few years back, "What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage." I remember my husband and me laughing when we read excerpts. I so miss that man – wonder where he went.….

    Thanks for your great posts.

  2. Michelle Wiener Davis also encourages some of these methods – really NOTICING and praising the good stuff and ignoring/'dropping the rope" when it comes to things you don't like. I think it's important to realistically look for small improvements. In my case, there's been virtually no contact since he left with the first alienator but I have tried these Shamu and MWD tactics on the men at work (I work for the military so there are LOTS of officers my age to try this out on!) and they're on to something!

  3. My husband has returned under the guise of working on our marriage. He said his relationship with ow was over. Within two months, I found out that it was not over and he now refuses to leave. He is here quite a bit of the time but is still in contact and goes on dates with her. I have asked him to leave and he refuses. He has proposed that he buy me out of our home and has even started to look for a new house for me in the area. He has not mentioned it since but it has only been a couple of weeks. How can I apply this to my situation if he refuses to leave? I thought maybe going dim but we generally eat as a family as we have a son and his story now is that he returned for him. I was duped into believing that he was returning to work on us.

    • This is quite common.
      1.Stop Asking him to leave–when you ask, you are making a request and "no" is an option.
      2.Learn your rights. Do you have the legal right to force him from the household?
      To access the right to force him out would you be required to file for a legal separation or divorce?
      3.What do you know about your husband–what he will do? If you do not have the legal right to force him out, does he know that and will he hold you to it?

      Technically I did not have the right to kick Sweetheart of the house, prevent him access or change the locks–without notifying him and providing him with keys. But I knew he would not call me on any of those actions and so I was able to take those actions without a concern that he would force me legally to let him in or take my own legal action towards separation.
      What I did: Okay on one occasion I told him he needed to leave and he then took the action, but on another occasion I forced him out–the action was mine. While he was at work I packed his bags and put them in his truck–he had driven the motorcycle. When he came home–through the back door–I escorted him through the house and out the front.

      You need to determine your boundaries and how to enforce them. Without children, I did not have to worry about the effect on them; you do need to keep that concern.
      If you are telling/asking him to leave, should you be having dinner with him–family dinner? Does that send a mixed message? But the flip: how do you not have family dinner with him when it is for your son?

      It's not as simple as it sounds: kick him out if he's home and refusing to leave and seeing the alienator. But since you are not a newbie—it's been a few years since Bomb Drop—your situation does need this sort of strong boundary. And yes, it is a risk.
      He needs to leave if he is openly seeing the alienator–you know and he knows that you know and he is refusing to stop.

      I wrote this series for situations like yours.

      Strong Boundaries Are:
      •No Contact with the alienator upon returning home. That means NONE. So no meeting with her—at her request—to make sure she gets the message and finish it for once and for all. No responding to her texts. Phone calls, emails. Change numbers and block her if that is what it takes.
      If an MLCer does not agree to No Contact, he is not ready for reconciliation—of course this is a gray area if they work together, so no situation is clear-cut. No one should answer her contacts—supposing you have caller ID and know a call is from her. What that means is you should not answer for him as a middle man or his protector. She may harass you, so do not give her that power by responding with anything other than nothing.
      •House Rules: Any contact with the alienator (once home) is grounds for immediate removal from the home. Of course that does not count if she harasses him and he has no control or if they accidentally (for real) bump into each other at the super market or if she is stalking him. But if he chooses to contact her—even if he's returning a contact from her, or he chooses to visit her…OUT. The important thing about that sort of boundary is that it needs to be swift. As soon as you find out AND your MLCer knows you have found out, you need to take action. Because a boundary is something known ahead of time and if he knows you've known and have done nothing…you are showing him a weakness and he will take advantage of it. That will enable Monster.
      •No Contact if he leaves again—whether he leaves because you force him out or he goes on his own. You need to find a mediator for dealing with your son. No coming to the house—he can sit in the drive way and your son can meet him out there, but no entering. For visitation, find a mediator who will be willing to act as a go-between so that you do not have to contact each other and that person may even be a neutral drop off person/location for visitations.

  4. 1- Good morning RCR – thank you for your very quick response.
    In our province, i am not able to force him from our home unless he poses a personal threat to myself or our son. His return home was prompted by his exhaustion over having to commute back and forth between his ow and our home early in the morning for childcare. His attachment is very much to the house and our son – i almost want to say in that order, only i have a hard time wrapping my head around that..

  5. 2- My husband is a generally mild person but can be imposing and of late, extremely arrogant. This is not a constant as he has been quite kind, even affectionate, doing acts of service, so on. This all seemed consistent with him "wanting to work on things" but now, in hindsight, even more consistent with manipulation and deceit. I do not feel threatened AT ALL for our safety. If i push the matter, he might move things along with the separation agreement in the hopes of settling and having me out of the home. He told me when he brought it up that it would make her happy and thus, make him happy not to have to deal with her anger over all of this.

  6. 3- I do not want to move, I am in no position to move, I would rather sell this home so my intention, at this time, is to leave when it sells. Our son has special needs and is now in a program very close to our home. I would not be able to afford living in our area, short of someone's basement, and considering i am our son's primary caregiver, i would have him most of the time due to husband's work (and social) schedule. It is in both of our best interests that we remain in our home. I believe i can handle this, but would like to know how to proceed as far as contact and boundaries. Him not contacting the alienator does not seem to be an option for him at this point at all.

  7. 4- As far as a mediator, i believe the before and after school care program our son is currently in could be a good candidate at some point, with either of us dropping off and picking up. He, unfortunately only has a year left in this program before he ages out.

    Thank you once again for your advice and comments. I'm not doing too badly but feel him leaving really is the best option.

  8. I have such a hard time with this. I live in his home, I can't kick him out legally, he could kick me out!!!
    He is supposed to pay me money to get my own home…so I helped him do his taxes…since that was first.
    He's with the alienator now for the next 10 days (just to "see" if she's his soulmate). He said I don't understand the emotion of love.
    I feel like I have been a doormat, as he holds the cards to whether I can leave…(no money of own, I work but don't have a big stash). So I have been "helping", and allowing behaviors and discussions that I shouldn't.

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