Have you ever been driving down the road and then someone crosses over into your lane unexpectedly, causing you to either blow your horn to get their attention to move back into their lane or even worse causing an accident? Boundaries on the road help to keep us safe. They tell us where to go and where not to go and it’s for everyone’s best interest.
Boundaries are not here to punish you but to protect you and others. Yet, somehow when we think of boundaries in relationships, especially in a marriage, all sorts of uncomfortable and conflicting feelings arise. But just like those boundaries on the road that help to keep you and others safe, so are boundaries in your marriage. Boundaries in your marriage let you and your spouse know what is and what is not okay.
They help you to honor and respect one another more fully because you know where the lines are. Mistreated boundaries are often the cause of a lot of the challenges couples experience. It’s when we don’t know the boundaries, don’t enforce the boundaries or don’t honor the boundaries in our marriages that lead to a lot of pain. There’s no question that boundaries are necessary and are for your best interest, but how exactly do you set them?
Boundaries help to guard and protect one of your most valuable assets—your heart.
It’s actually quite simple.
To set boundaries involves understanding who you are, what you want, and what you need in your marriage. And to honor boundaries you have to fully understand what those boundaries are and what it means to honor them. At the root of setting and honoring boundaries is open and honest communication. This means you will need to be honest with yourself and then be honest with your spouse. But this isn’t always so easy because in being honest we may uncover some things that we judge as being wrong or selfish. Especially considering how we were raised or our culture.
For example, in being honest with yourself you may uncover that something you really need in your marriage is for your husband to serve you by doing things around the house. But maybe this makes you feel uncomfortable because you were raised to believe that the bulk of the housework was for the wife and that you should be able to handle it. Despite the fact that there is another well and able-bodied human being living in your household who happens to be your husband. When you combine this with the mixed messages that women receive in the culture regarding our roles in the home, it’s no wonder that sharing this need, despite it being one that you have, could be a challenge. This is where you’ll have to push past your discomfort or else you’ll find yourself resentful and overwhelmed because your unspoken needs aren’t being met.
Boundaries have to be clearly spoken, sometimes repeatedly. Not because they’ve been intentionally or maliciously crossed, but because maybe your spouse needs some more time and grace in figuring out how to honor your boundary. Boundaries and expectations go hand in hand but just because we set them doesn’t mean they will always be met. That’s where our patience and grace must come in. However, it remains important to do our best to honor the boundaries in our marriage.
Another important step to setting boundaries is to give yourself permission to change or move certain boundaries. For example, perhaps you have a boundary that says that your spouse isn’t allowed to talk to his friends about the details of your sex life. However, over time you begin to feel more comfortable with honest and healthy conversations regarding sex in your marriage and you’re okay with your husband conversing with his friends about your sex life. Maybe you still need to set some guidelines, but the conversation that was once off limits is now permissible, and that’s okay. And this can also work in the reverse. Something that used to be okay in your marriage may change and you no longer find it to be okay. For example, maybe it didn’t bother you before that your husband would come in the bathroom while you were showering, but now you’d prefer that he waits until you finish. It’s okay to be open and honest about your needs even if they’ve changed over time.
Now I’d like to share a couple of ways to set boundaries in your marriage.
Start with a list of things that matter to you.
Make a list of things that are important to you regarding all aspects of your life. For example, is it important to you that after dinner you and the hubby spend time talking about your day? Or is it important to you that you save a certain percentage of your income every month? What things matter to you?
Make it plain
After you have your list, next to each item list what you’d like for your husband to do to honor these things. Express clearly and specifically what it would look like for your husband to honor this boundary.
Do not go there
Now make a list of things that are off limits for you. Consider the things that you feel like he “better not go there.” And this doesn’t have a be a concrete list (remember you’re allowed to change) and this doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list. But make a list for each aspect of your life (relationships, finances, spirituality, intimacy, etc.) that are a big “no-no” for you. For example, maybe you’re not okay with your spouse hanging out with women who you haven’t had a chance to meet, or maybe you’re not okay with your spouse making big purchases without discussing it with one another first, or maybe you’re not okay with certain things in the bedroom and it would bother you if your spouse pressured or repeatedly asked you to do those things. I don’t know what’s on your list, but if you think about it you can probably come up with a few things that are a “no-go” for you. Make that list.
Now that you’ve made your list, it’s time you share it with your hubby. And after he makes his list, ask him to share it with you. The clearer and more specific you both are with one another regarding your needs the better you can honor and respect those needs.
These are just a couple suggestions for setting boundaries but remember, the key to setting and honoring boundaries is open and honest communication.
Have your boundaries in your marriage changed over time? If so, in what way?
Are you and your hubby struggling with open and honest communication? Have some boundaries been crossed that has resulted in a loss of trust or intimacy with one another? You don’t have to figure this out on your own. Your marriage can be happier and healthier, so let’s schedule a time to chat. Let’s talk about the change you’d like to see in your marriage and how I can walk alongside you and support you in seeing that change happen. Simply send me an email, so we can schedule a time to talk.
Your marriage is worth it.