When we talk about boundaries, chances are you will think about privacy, “alone time”, or independence. And while these are all important aspects of any relationship, they don’t really capture what boundaries are all about.
Boundaries are also defined as things you do to take care of your marriage—the little (and sometimes big) things you do to keep your relationship happy, healthy, and strong.
It’s so easy to let our marriages fall by the wayside. We get busy with work, kids, and hobbies; before we know it, we haven’t had a meaningful conversation with our spouse in weeks. Or we’re so used to being around each other that we start taking each other for granted.
But if we want our marriages to thrive, we must prioritise them. And one of the best ways to do that is by setting some boundaries.
So why are boundaries so important in marriage? Because they create safety for both people and show that you are committed to your relationship and are willing to make sacrifices for it.
A boundary is an invisible fence line that keeps you both safe and allows you both to be on the same page. Of course, setting boundaries is not always easy. It can be hard to put structure around things when you’re not used to it. This post will explore some tips for setting boundaries in marriage.
1. Define your limits
The first step to setting boundaries is to define what they are. What are the things that you need to protect in your marriage? For example, what are the boundaries around what to do when an argument gets heightened, or a boundary around what is appropriate behaviour around the opposite sex. Creating boundaries when you have difficult in-laws, or have been parented differently is important too.
The truth is we all have boundaries, you probably just don’t recognize them as a boundary. When you start to talk about the things that are important to you both – your beliefs and values – you will soon discover that boundaries are already positioned around some of the things that you see as important. As early as possible in your marriage, start talking about your values and how you can protect them as a couple.
2. Communicate your needs
Once you explore the things that are important to you, communicate that to your spouse. Although there may be things you feel uncomfortable saying, it’s still important for your spouse to know what is valuable to you and where you stand on various issues.
Marriage doesn’t work well when we’re left to mind reading, so don’t expect your spouse to know what you need automatically. Tell them what makes you feel uncomfortable and why. This will help them understand your boundaries better.
3. Respect each other’s limits
Just as you expect your spouse to respect your limits, it’s essential that you respect theirs as well. If they say they’re not comfortable with something, try to understand why. Maybe they have a different perspective than you, or perhaps they just need some time to adjust.
Either way, it’s important to remember that everyone has different boundaries. Just because you’re okay with something doesn’t mean your spouse is.
4. Be willing to compromise
In any relationship, there will be times when you need to compromise. Maybe your spouse wants to go out with their friends more often than you’re comfortable with. In this case, it’s essential to be willing to compromise.
Perhaps you can agree to go out with them every 2nd time and find something else to do on the other occasions. The important thing is that you’re both happy with the arrangement.
5. Don’t take it personally
If your spouse wants to set a boundary that you disagree with, try not to take it personally. They’re not doing it to spite you; they’re just trying to protect the relationship. It’s important to negotiate and not instantly take offence. We all do, and want things for a reason, it’s essential to understand why.
6. Don’t be afraid to say no
It’s important to remember that you have a right to say no. Just because your spouse wants you to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Not telling your spouse what you feel will only lead to resentment. Resentment has a habit of getting bottled up and coming out in unhealthy ways. So if you’re not happy with something, speak up.
Discussing Your Boundaries Effectiveness
You’re never done discussing or setting your boundaries. They evolve as you grow and change as individuals and as a couple. But it is important to check to see whether they are effective or if they need changing. As time goes on, you’ll learn more about each other and what makes each of you comfortable.
You may also find that what once felt like a hard stance becomes more negotiable. That’s okay too. Just remember to communicate with each other and be respectful of each other’s needs.
One final note: don’t be afraid to start small. You don’t need to have all the answers from the beginning. Start with a few boundaries and slowly add to them as you go.
Setting boundaries in marriage is crucial because it shows that you are committed to your relationship.
When you have healthy boundaries, you are saying that you respect your spouse and their needs. This, in turn, will make your spouse feel more comfortable and secure in the relationship.
Boundaries can be challenging to set at first, but with time and practice, it will get easier. Just remember to communicate with each other and be respectful of each other’s needs.
For more marriage advice, please check out our “Marriage Playbook”—this book will provide you with a daily game plan for a happy, thriving marriage!