Boundaries in Marriage

Following are the bits that I highlighted in the chapter “Boundaries and Your Spouse” out of Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s book Boundaries:

~  One of the most important elements that promotes intimacy between two people is the ability of each to take responsibility for his or her own feelings…  Feelings are also a warning sign telling us that we need to do something… Not dealing with hurt or anger can kill a relationship.

~  Desires are another element of person-hood that each spouse needs to take responsibility for…  Your disappointed desire is what hurts you, not [your spouse doing XYZ].  The problem lies in who is responsible for the want.  It is your want, not his.  You are responsible for getting it fulfilled.  That is a rule of life.  We do not get everything we want, and we all must grieve over our disappointments instead of punish other for them…  The truth is that neither one of you is selfish.  You just have conflicting wants.  This is what marriage is about – getting conflicting wants worked out…  Problems arise when we make someone else responsible for our needs and wants, and when we blame them for our disappointments.

~  We are finite creatures and must give as we “decide in [our] heart to give” (2 Cor. 9:7), being aware of when we are giving past the love point to the resentment point.  Problems arise when we blame someone else for our own lack of limits.  Often spouses will do more than they really want to and then resent the other for not stopping them from over-giving…  The key here is that the other person is not responsible for our limits; we are.  Only we know what we can and want to give, and only we can be responsible for drawing the line.  If we do not draw it, we can quickly become resentful.

~  The Law of Sowing and Reaping – Many times one spouse may be out of control and may not suffer the consequences of this behavior…  Natural consequences are needed to resolve these problems…  let the out-of-control spouses suffer the consequences of their actions…  These moves are not manipulative, as the other spouse will accuse.  They are examples of someone limiting how they will allow themselves to be treated and exhibiting self-control.  The natural consequences are falling on the shoulders of the responsible party.

~  The Law of Responsibility – … taking responsibility for ourselves and having responsibility to others…  People who set limits exhibit self-control and show responsibility for themselves.  They act responsible to their partners by confronting him or her.  Setting limits is an act of love in the marriage; by binding and limiting the evil, they protect the good…  Instead of taking responsibility for people we love, or rescuing them, we need to show responsibility to them by confronting evil when we see it.  This is truly loving our partner and the marriage.  The most responsible behavior possible is usually the most difficult.

~  The Law of Power – We have looked at our basic inability to change another person…  Accepting someone as she/[he] is, respecting [their] choice to be that way, and then giving [them] appropriate consequences is the better path.

~  The Law of Evaluation – When you confront your husband or wife and begin to set boundaries, your partner may be hurt…  When you set boundaries, be lovingly responsible to the person in pain…  Remember that a boundary always deals with yourself, not the other person.  You are not demanding that your spouse do something – even respect your boundaries.  You are setting boundaries to say what you will do or will not do.  Only these kinds of boundaries are enforceable, for you do have control over yourself.  Do not confuse boundaries with a new way to control a spouse.  It is the opposite.  It is giving up control and beginning to love.

~  The Law of Exposure – In a marriage, as in no other relationship, the need for revealing your boundaries is important…  Passive way of showing people that they do not have control over you never lead to intimacy.  They never educate the other on who you really are; they only estrange.  Boundaries need to be communicated first verbally and then with actions.  They need to be clear and unapologetic.  Remember the types of boundaries we listed earlier:  skin, words, truth, physical space, time, emotional distance, other people, consequences.  All of these boundaries need to be respected and revealed at different times in marriage…  Physical Space – … your spouse should not have to guess why you do not want him around for awhile.  Emotional Distance – … a hurt heart takes time to heal.  you cannot rush back into a position of trust with too much unresolved hurt.  That hurt needs to be exposed and communicated.  If you are hurting, you need to own that hurt.  Time – Each spouse needs time apart from the relationship… for self-nourishment…  spouses need time apart, which makes them realize the need to be back together.  Spouses in healthy relationships cherish each other’s space and are champions of each other’s causes.  Other People – Some spouses need the support of others to set boundaries…  If you are too weak to set and enforce boundaries, get help from supporters outside your marriage.  Consequences – … Spelling out consequences in advance and enforcing them gives your spouse a choice about whether or not he or she wants the consequences to happen.

~  A Question of Balance – … “Every marriage is made up of two ingredients, togetherness and separateness.  In good marriages, the partners carry equal loads of both of those…  They both do things on their own, and that creates some mutual longing for the other, and the togetherness creates some need for separateness.”  … Balance… Every system tries to find balance in any way it can.  And many dimensions need to be balanced in a marriage:  power, strength, togetherness, sex, and so on.  Problems come when, instead of trading places in these areas, one spouse is always powerful and the other powerless; one spouse is always strong and the other weak; one spouse always wants sex and the other doesn’t.  In each case, the couple has struck a balance, but it is not a mutual balance.

~  Resolution – 1)  Inventory the symptom…  2)  Identify the specific boundary problem…  3)  Find the origins of the conflict…  No other relationship repeats parental conflicts more often than the marriage relationship.  4)  Take in the good…  We need bonding and support before we build boundaries…  Do not set boundaries alone…  Get help.  5)  Practice. Practice new boundaries in safe relationships, relationships where people love you unconditionally…  6)  Say no to the bad…  7)  Forgive…  Setting people who have hurt you free from an old debt is to stop wanting something from them; it sets you free as well…  8)  Become proactive…  Decide what your limits are, what you will allow yourself to be a party to, what you will no longer tolerate, and what consequences you will set…  9)  Learn to love in freedom and responsibility. Remember the goal of boundaries:  love coming out of freedom.


~ by Eva on September 7, 2009.

2 Responses to “Boundaries in Marriage”

  1. Accepting your spouse for who they are…and not trying to change every little thing…it’s a tough lesson…one that’s hard to learn but makes such a big difference when you finally figure it out.

  2. isn’t it a prerequisite of setting boundaries to make sure that both parties know what the boundaries are and the consequences- i mean if you just set boundaries in your own mind without communicating them to your partner and his/her consequences, does that justify carrying out the consequences if said spouse was in the dark.

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