Got Any Boats That Need Burning?

I did a quick search for the phrase “burn the boats” and discovered it's used a lot as a metaphor in business.  I want to share a way I've come to occasionally apply this perspective in my Atlanta counseling and therapy practice for sex and porn addiction and other forms of problematic sexual behavior. 

"Burning the boats" is a saying that means taking an action that cannot be reversed, so that the only way forward is …..forward.  There are many historical examples of this concept. When the men of the ship "Bounty" mutinied against the captain they burned the ship after they arrived at Pitcairn Island to evade capture and prevent possible escape.  (Other origins of the phrase are associated with invading armies, which is problematic as an example but essential to understanding its meaning. When Cortez landed on Mexico, for example, his first order to his men was to “burn the boats”. By taking this decisive action a retreat was no longer possible.)

Sometimes in our lives we have boats that need burning.   A person with a history of of repeated sexual infidelities who admits this behavior to a spouse rather than continuing to lie will likely never go back to the marriage that used to exist.  A new marriage will have to rise from the ashes to take its place (and oh how much better those marriages can become over time!).  

Do you have any boats that need burning in order to move forward?   It may be difficult to light the fire, but sometimes that is the most courageous step to take.

The spirit of this idea is similar to my 2015 post called What Are You Willing to Do?   If you don't invest much you often don't get much in return, while big sacrifices can yield big rewards.


Bill Herring LCSW, CSAT is a psychotherapist and counselor in Atlanta.  He has special training in helping people overcome the effects of problematic sexual behavior patterns, including sex or porn addiction.