Most people think of boundaries as something that restricts or confines them. But when it comes to marriage, boundaries can do just the opposite – they can actually help you to thrive and grow in your relationship.
Boundaries are important because they define who we are and how we interact with others. They help us to set limits on what we’re willing to do and what we’re not willing to do. Without boundaries, we can end up feeling overwhelmed and taken advantage of. In this article, we’ll talk about boundaries in marriage and how setting strong boundaries can actually strengthen your relationship instead of hinder it.
What Is A Boundary?
A boundary is a line that defines who we are and what we’re willing to do. It’s a limit that we set in order to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of or getting hurt.
In marriage, boundaries can be physical, emotional, or spiritual. For example, a physical boundary might be setting a limit on what is acceptable and isn’t acceptable when having sex. An emotional boundary might be setting a limit on how we handle intense feelings like anger. And a spiritual boundary might be setting a healthy limit on how involved we are at church whilst raising a family and building a business.
Why Are Boundaries Important In Marriage?
Boundaries are important in marriage because everyone has different values and beliefs. If you don’t set limits and boundaries in your relationship, you’re likely to run into conflicts over time. For example, if you have different ideas on how often you visit your extended family or what type of language is acceptable to use in the home then those differences are going to cause problems.
When two people come together, they sometimes need to agree on their definition of what is and isn’t acceptable. That’s where boundaries come in. By setting clear boundaries, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary fights and arguments.
When Should You Set Boundaries?
There are many situations in which it makes sense to set boundaries. In general, it’s a good idea to think about what your limits are on things like finances, sex, time together, and the division of labor around the house. This will help you avoid many common issues in marriage – for example, if you are comfortable setting flexible limits around how much time you spend together, resentment won’t build up over not spending enough time with your partner.
Some couples choose to set boundaries during pre-marital counselling. Others set boundaries early on in their relationship when they decide what values and beliefs are important to them as a couple. Some indications that it might be time to set or reestablish boundaries may include:
You Haven’t Set Any Boundaries Yet
If you haven’t set any boundaries in marriage, it’s probably a good idea to start thinking about what your limits are. You don’t need to rush into setting hard and fast rules, but it’s helpful to have some general guidelines in mind so you can avoid arguments about things like vacation time, finances, and chores.
Conflict Is Arising Because Of A Lack Of Boundaries
If you’re arguing a lot with your partner, it might be time to think about what boundaries would help your relationship. For example, if you regularly have fights because of a difference of opinion on how to spend money wisely, that could indicate that setting financial limits would be helpful for you.
Trust Has Been Broken
If you or your partner have broken trust in the relationship, it may be a good idea to think about what boundaries would help to rebuild that trust. For example, if one person has been unfaithful and engaged in an online affair and the couple want to try to repair the relationship, setting limits on social media and on-line use make be appropriate for a while to help them get past those feelings of betrayal.
One Partner Is Feeling Taken Advantage Of
If one person in the relationship feels like they’re always the one doing all the work or making all the sacrifices, it may be time to set some boundaries. For example, if one person is working long hours and never has any time for themselves, they might need to set a limit on how much overtime they’re willing to do. Setting a boundary together will help that person clarify what they can and can’t do with their boss.
One Or Both Partners Are Unhappy With The Current Situation
If you or your partner are feeling unhappy, it can be helpful to reassess what boundaries would help. For example, if one person wants more time together and the other is happy with their current schedule, hitting that limit might open up new possibilities for compromise.
No matter when you decide to set boundaries in marriage, it’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to keep talking about the situation. If your limits aren’t working, it might help to switch things up or try a different approach.
How To Set Boundaries In Marriage
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re setting boundaries in marriage:
Make Sure That Your Boundaries Are Realistic
One of the first things to keep in mind when setting boundaries in marriage is that you have to make sure that your boundaries are realistic and reasonable. This means that you shouldn’t set a boundary for something that’s never going to happen or for something unreasonable. For example, if one partner wants the other partner to give up online gaming, but the other partner doesn’t want to, then that’s not a realistic boundary. A realistic boundary is to work on a compromise and decide what is a reasonable amount of gaming that keeps both of you happy.
Communication Is Key
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re setting boundaries in marriage is that communication is key. When you first set your boundaries, it’s important to sit down and communicate with your partner so that they know what you’re asking of them. This will also help make things clearer for both of you.
For example, if you’re setting a boundary around how often you have friends over, then you need to explain what you each think is an acceptable amount and what contributes to that decision. If having friends over regularly causes the other to feel overwhelmed, or makes one feel too isolated, you need to understand that before you decide on a boundary that considers both of your needs.
Set Boundaries Around In-laws
In-laws can be a big source of stress in a marriage, so it’s important to set boundaries around them as well. For example, if you’re not comfortable with your in-laws coming over to your house every week, then you need to communicate this to your partner. It’s also important to set boundaries around how much time you spend with your in-laws and what you’re comfortable with when it comes to discussing different topics with them.
Set Boundaries Around The Opposite Sex
Setting boundaries around the opposite sex is essential to keeping your relationship safe, especially if there has been a breach of trust in some way. For example, if you don’t want your partner to text or talk to someone that has caused trouble in your relationship before, then you need to communicate this to them clearly. This way, they know that this is a boundary for you, and they need to respect it.
Boundaries are a really important part of a healthy marriage. You probably have many boundaries in place that you don’t even know are there. Healthy boundaries unite your beliefs and values and help you set acceptable guidelines to keep you both physically, emotionally and spiritually safe.
Fiona Leeworthy is a counsellor & family therapist and the author of the book – The Marriage Playbook. To learn how to purchase this book and other resources, please visit Unbreakable Love.