Now that we have learned what boundaries are, how to set them, and their importance in terms of helping us feel safe and connected in our marriage, there’s one more thing to discuss: knowing the difference between safe and unsafe people and how boundaries and safe people go together.
We’re betting you read that sentence and said, “Well, Mike and Susan, I think I can tell the difference between a safe person and an unsafe one pretty easily.” We bet you can, too! But true character discernment — knowing who is good for us and who isn’t — can only be accomplished after you’ve established boundaries. It is then, and only then, that we will be able to discern if our spouse and other important people in our lives will draw us closer to being the people God intended us to be, or if they’ll be judgmental, closed off to our limits, and leave us when we need them most.
Boundaries and Safe People: Safe people are confront-able
Setting healthy boundaries is key to safety in marriage because they help us learn about ourselves AND the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. They also help us change destructive patterns. As Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend said in their book, Safe People; safe people are confront-able. As you express all of your boundaries to them, they will listen, be empathic, and do all they can to respect you as a person.
- Accept you as you are
- Love you unconditionally
- Allow you to be yourself
- Help you grow as a person and Christ-follower
- Touch your life and leave you better for it
- Apologize for their actions and change their behavior
On the flip side, an unsafe person is someone who may start off in the relationship looking like a safe person, but over time, they show they have no room for grace, forgiveness, and even your individuality.
- Won’t admit their weaknesses
- Are defensive instead of being open to feedback
- Will apologize but never actually change their behavior
- Demand trust instead of earning it
- Resist freedom rather than encouraging it
Are you safety-deficient?
How do you evaluate if you are low on the amount of safe people in your life? Cloud and Townsend came up with a safe relationships questionnaire that we use with our clients all the time, and we have shared it below. Just remember that the quality of our important friendships can tell us a great deal about how much safety we are receiving.
If you can identify with a number of these questions, you may have some safety deficiencies in your life.
- Are you the “giver” in relationships rather than having a mutual give and take?
- Do you find that people approach you when they want something from you and less to just spend time with you?
- Is it difficult for you to open up about your real feelings and problems?
- Is it hard for you to see other people as a source of emotional and spiritual support?
- Do you prefer to be alone to deal with your problems?
- Have you become aware of a pattern in which things are okay when you’re not disclosing yourself but that people withdraw from you when you are honest about yourself?
- Do you feel that God is the only person who really knows and loves all of you?
- Do you find yourself choosing people who invariably let you down over time?
- Are intimate, vulnerable, two-way conversations with others more of a rarity than a regular event?
- Do you find most of your personal connections revolving more around activities than relationships?
What we are saying is that boundaries and safe people go together. And while you may think you have enough safe people in your life, you will only know for sure when you set boundaries in those relationships — especially your marriage.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is and always has been devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to express yourself with your spouse. Plus, we want to help other couples just like you. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here. Join us on social media. IG – MikeandSusanDawsonCo. FB – MikeandSusanDawson
What do you think? What are a few boundaries — big or small — that you and your spouse have set? How did those conversations go? Do you feel safer in your marriage as a result? Send us a quick email and let us know. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com