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Boundaries. Yes/No?

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Boundaries. Yes/No?

I Say…

…Yes.

You must have boundaries for a happy marriage, in my opinion.

Through the years, in my experience with counseling couples, I’ve observed that the healthiest relationships and happiest couples are those who have agreed upon clear boundaries.

The concept of “boundaries” is natural for some but foreign for others depending on how they were raised. If you had clear boundaries in your home growing up then you probably have them in your own family now.

What Kind Of Boundaries?

There are a number of boundaries which are essential for a healthy, happy marriage. One of the most important boundaries in your marriage is deciding which topics and issues are to remain solely between you and your spouse.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not healthy to share everything about your relationship with your closest friends. A husband and wife must be counted on to keep each other’s confidences.

Even the law protects the privacy between a husband and wife.

Can your spouse share private matters with you knowing that you will keep everything confidential? And can you do the same?

Certain information is not to be shared with anyone else.

It doesn’t matter how important or unimportant you think the information is. What matters is how important it is to your spouse. And if he or she wants you to keep it private then that’s what you do.

Being able to keep private matters confidential, whether you think they are serious or silly, helps to create a foundation of trust for your marriage.

Boundaries With Friends

We love our friends and would do anything for them and they would do anything for us, too, which makes it tempting to share intimate marital details with them.

I recommend you don’t do it, though. Sharing intimate details or complaints about your spouse with your friends is rarely a good thing because it undermines your marriage relationship. The other thing it does is create bad feelings between your friends and your spouse because they will naturally take your side.

And whatever you do never do this: Never complain about your spouse to a person of the opposite sex because it opens the door to emotional or physical infidelity.

Not Even About Sex

I’m not sure why so many people seem to think it’s okay to share the intimate sexual details of their marriage with their friends.

Your sex life isn’t an open book – it’s not up for discussion. This is an area to be kept private between you and your spouse. Why? Because keeping this topic private between you and your spouse strengthens intimacy.

Sharing the sexual details of your marriage publicly deteriorates intimacy.

The only time it’s okay to share this aspect of your marriage with someone else is either with a marriage therapist or a medical professional. Otherwise your sexual relationship stays between you and your spouse.

Skating On Thin Ice

Sometimes a husband or wife will seek a friend’s opinion on matters that should be kept private between themselves and their spouse. Just seeking an opinion, even if it’s done innocently, opens the door for the private details of your marriage to become public knowledge.

What often happens in cases where one spouse actively seeks the opinions of others is that the other spouse feels ganged up on. It’s one thing to seek opinions but it’s another thing to seek allies to prove to your spouse that he or she is wrong.

If you and your spouse disagree on serious issues and are having trouble resolving any resulting conflict, then enlist the help of a pastor or marriage therapist because you need a neutral party.

Respecting Your Spouse’s Boundaries

Your spouse has personal boundaries that you need to be aware of and respect even if you think they’re silly.

Truth is, even in an age when everyone seems to think they’re entitled to know everything about you, you deserve your personal privacy.

Surprisingly, I’ve heard spouses express how they feel that their husband or wife shouldn’t have a right to personal privacy. Some take it even further by claiming that their spouse shouldn’t have personal space or own personal possessions.

I disagree.

Although you are married and have become “one flesh” as the Ancient Word puts it, you are still two distinct individuals; you are unique and have your own identity.

Three common reasons that tend to drive this issue are:

  1. One spouse distrusts the other for some reason
  2. One spouse fails to acknowledge that the other is a unique individual, free and independent
  3. One spouse has an unhealthy need for power and control

Regardless of the reason, this issue needs to be dealt with for the health of the marriage and well-being of each person.

Even in a marriage there are: “Yours”, “Mine” and “Ours.”

Dealing With Others Who Ignore Your Boundaries

When people ignore your boundaries it can cause conflict and distress.

Whether it’s a nosy relative or a friend who feels he or she is entitled to free access to your life and everything in it including the status of your relationship, problems will result.

Here’s what I recommend. I know this will be tough but you and your spouse need to present a united front and and confront the issue by very clearly communicating your boundaries.

Your marriage is your responsibility. It’s the most important relationship you will ever have next to God and your children. So it’s up to you to guard it.

In the old days people talked about building a hedge around their marriage. This is still a good practice today in my opinion because I think the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction in society today.

Don’t Assume It’s Trivial

You might be surprised to discover issues that you feel are trivial are very important to your spouse. When in doubt, talk about it. For instance, one spouse might not have any problem at all with friendly hugs from people of the opposite sex when greeting each other but the other might be very uncomfortable with physical contact.

To one spouse, it might not be a big deal for friends to help themselves to the refrigerator or other food, but to the other it might be very irritating to be “feeding the neighborhood.”

So when it comes to boundaries, you and your spouse will discuss a spectrum of issues that range from the important to the less important.

The Goal

The outcome we’re after is to discuss and resolve conflicts before they get out of control. One of the ways of doing this is by agreeing on boundaries that are comfortable for both spouses that they will gladly accept and support.

Take your husband’s or wife’s feelings into consideration; support them. Do what you can to meet their needs.

This is your main priority.

Creating a boundary that helps to create peace of mind for your spouse and enhances his or her well-being is an act of love not sacrifice. And when you do this, you and your spouse will be mad about marriage for years to come.

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