I didn’t realize before I became a marriage counselor how many couples don’t have boundaries. Don’t get me wrong; everyone has boundaries. But in marriage, we tend to overlook their importance. We think our spouse is supposed to know our needs and wants already, or we feel having boundaries creates unhealthy walls in our marriage.
On the contrary, all healthy relationships have boundaries. And it is our ability to communicate what those boundaries are — and our spouse’s ability to respect them — that keep us from allowing unhealthy feelings or actions into our relationships.
Boundaries keep the good in and the bad out
This is the first in a series of blogs on boundaries and why they are good for your marriage that you will see over the next several weeks. We want to approach boundaries from several angles so that everyone can benefit. But before we do that, it’s essential to define what boundaries are and what they are not.
Boundaries are defined as rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave toward them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. They aren’t meant to control anyone. Rather, boundaries are meant to differentiate us from someone else or show where we begin and end. They are 100% natural, but the problem is that many people don’t think they are necessary for a marriage — that is, until the same issues keep happening over and over again.
Do any of these boundary struggles sound familiar?
- You don’t like it when you’re trying to sleep, and your spouse repeatedly turns all the lights on to get ready for work
- You struggle with being yelled at or controlled by your spouse, often having to put your needs aside for their demands
- Your partner continues to use your personal belongings without asking first
- You worked hard to set a household budget, however, your spouse continually exceeds it
When situations warrant setting boundaries, we must follow through with getting these in place. The risk of not creating them is a lot of unhealthy feelings. This can lead to bitterness, anger, fear, and even resentment.
Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. They give us:
- A sense of self
- Open and honest communication with our spouse
- Clear understanding for how we want to be treated
- Empowerment to make choices that are best for us
- A spouse who cares about and respects the differences they have from their partner
What boundaries are NOT are walls. As June Hunt wrote, walls are built as a reaction to hurt, trauma, or abuse. They hold the bad inside. We don’t want to stay behind walls continuously. The gate needs to open up, or the wall needs to come down. This lets the bad out by communicating with someone about it and help the healing begin. Healthy boundaries help us guard our hearts and promote the safe and connected marriage we all want so badly. Boundaries result from speaking our limits directly to our spouse, saying what we will allow and what we will not allow affecting our hearts.
What we’re trying to say is that there is nothing wrong with having boundaries in a marriage. Those who do will find that they can have more safe and trusting relationships as a result. Their spouse will know where the line is, they will respect it, and everyone’s heart will feel honored and protected.
Check back with us as we continue this conversation on boundaries in the coming weeks. The next installment will include healthy tips on how to establish boundaries in an effective way.
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. That means – 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? Send us a quick email and let us know. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.