One of the silent killers in many marriages today is the absence of boundaries. We often convince ourselves into thinking they are unnecessary in marriage. Many times, I hear spouses say they don’t want to appear controlling or they don’t want to be controlled. I’ve even heard married couples say, “I should be able to do whatever I want!” Yet the truth is we surrendered our “want” the moment we made a vow to “become as one” with someone else.
Now I’m not at all insinuating we are to give up our independence, individuality or identity as a person. On the contrary, we should be who God made us to be as individuals. However, in a marriage, we should be accountable to our spouses. It’s about being mature, responsive, and reliable-which can build trust in the relationship.
A few years ago, a newlywed couple came over our house to have dinner. I remember the husband sharing how he didn’t want to ask his wife for permission for anything, but he was willing to get her opinion on matters. I chuckled inside. I thought, “What is so bad about asking your wife for permission?” It doesn’t discredit him as a man, nor does it mean he has to abide by her instruction. After all, he is the head of their household. Biblically speaking, the final call has been assigned to the husband. Yet for him it was simply a matter of pride! He didn’t want to yield.
Honestly my husband and I ask permission of each other ALL THE TIME! We do it so often, we don’t even give it a second thought. In fact, we often tell our friends and family, “Let me ask (my spouse) first.” By now, friends and family expect that answer from us. Thankfully we dropped those prideful guards early in our marriage; but before it was a fight for what felt like our independence. It was pure immaturity on our part. We were putting up walls of contention and strife between us that would only lead to separation and distrust, all in the name of pride. Our only concern was what we wanted as individuals! Interesting enough, anytime we thought we could “get away” without telling the other, it seemed to always come back and bite us.
Sometimes our intentions were not bad at all, but without agreement in a marriage it’s opportunity for discord (Amos 3:3). I remember one time I thought I found this incredible business deal. Without consulting my husband, I went all in. Boy was I wrong! Juan knew it the moment I came home and shared what I had already invested our money in. Ouch! Sweetly he tried to work out my foolish investment but after a couple months, we both knew it wasn’t going to be successful. Thankfully it didn’t cut too deeply into our pocketbooks; nevertheless, it was a mistake I wish I never had to pay.
After a few other unintended mistakes, broken hearts and heated arguments, we learned we needed boundaries! We created a better environment in our home and marriage when we learned to simply consult one another when setting plans, making major purchases, and agreeing to family escapades. We had to trust ourselves, each other and our relationship. We wholeheartedly made the choice to be with one another, to become one, and develop a healthy, happy marriage; so that meant building a relationship that cultivated trust and required open communication.
Without a doubt marriage requires lots of change, flexibility, sacrifice, and adaptation. If we blindly make our vows because we are “in love” with someone, we may fail to recognize the difficulty and pain that we will endure to remain compatible to our spouse. We are different individuals after all with different opinions, backgrounds and preferences. Still, being so different as a couple isn’t a negative. In fact, it can work to your advantage! Bringing two different perspectives into a marriage can broaden your success as a couple. It boils down to learning how to work as a team.
One of the major changes that occur in a marriage is transitioning from a “single-type” lifestyle to a “married-type” lifestyle. It takes a significant amount of unselfish conscious effort and discipline to maintain a healthy marriage but it is worth every bit of toil. In Hebrews 12:11 it says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Our marriages benefit tremendously when we make the necessary changes. Peace, trust and joy are products of a marriage with boundaries.
Why are boundaries so important?
- They build trust in your relationship. Since both my husband and I set the boundaries in our marriage together, we respect them and we keep them. I can confidently trust in him because I know he will not step out of those boundaries and likewise he can trust me to do the same.
- They protect your marriage from possible corrupting situations. My husband and I have set up specific boundaries to safeguard against situations that would potentially compromise our reputation or give a bad impression. Whether the situations involve associations with the opposite sex or environments where our moral values could be viewed as compromised, we’ve set boundaries to protect our reputation, marriage and guard our hearts from those little foxes (Song of Solomon 2:15).
- They allow vulnerability and honesty within the marriage. As mentioned before, setting boundaries builds trust. Since I trust my husband, I can be completely open and honest with him. He knows my heart, my intentions, my weaknesses and strengths. He doesn’t have to assume or guess how I feel about a particular area, because we openly talk about it.
- They bring value to the relationship and it displays a high regard for your spouse. When you make a sacrifice for your marriage, you are showing your spouse how valuable he/she is to you and how you treasure your relationship. The more you sacrifice for your marriage, the more valuable the marriage becomes. Like a costly diamond, the more you sacrifice to purchase that diamond, the more you will treasure it when it is in your possession. You will guard it, keep it, and not easily take it for granted because you remember what you gave up to get it. In the same way, your marriage becomes so valuable to you. You realize it’s not something you want to give up so easily, because you’ve invested and sacrificed so much for it.
- It displays a common courtesy toward your spouse. Even though I may not see a particular area of my life or marriage that “needs” a boundary but Juan asks that we put it up; I’m going to yield to his request. If it will bring him ease and build his trust in me, I’m going to agree. I want him to know I respect and value his opinion. Sometimes we may not know at the time, but these requests can be due to a weakness, childhood trauma or bad memory. Whatever the reason, as a spouse, we’re here to help our husband/wife grow, heal and build their confidence.
What kind of boundaries should be in my marriage?
Honestly, this is a conversation for you and your spouse. Set up a date night where you two can have a candid, nonthreatening conversation about what matters to the both of you and then agree to keep those boundaries.
For us, as mentioned, we have them for major financial purchases, for situations or engagements with the opposite sex, and for making plans that will affect our family or each other.
Now it’s your turn, what boundaries do you and your spouse have? If you don’t have any, take time to set up a date night within this month. Discuss what boundaries you and your spouse would benefit from. Be open, honest and nonjudgmental. Let the growth and healing begin. We’re praying for you.