Saturday, November 18

Boundaries In Marriage … Do They Exist?!

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“Don’t you understand?! I told you thousand times this is not acceptable.”

“Never go out with this friend. I don’t like her.”

“I told you I don’t like this shirt. Why are you wearing it again?”

“Honey, you have to make a good deal of overtime this month. Don’t forget the Stuff I need to buy”

“Nice dress… But you will never find your size.”

 Only when you and your mate know and respect each other’s needs, choices, and freedom can you give yourselves freely and lovingly to one another.


In some cases, the confusion hides itself behind the simplest explanations that problems such as addiction, irresponsibility, control or abuse provide. “If he weren’t so controlling” Or “If she just would stop spending”. Partners think that they can explain why their relationship lacks intimacy by the presence of “the problem”. They are surprised to find that even when the “problem” goes away, the person with whom they can’t connect or find love remains.


In other cases, there may be no “problems”, but marriage does not live up to the promise that one or both of the partners had in the beginning. Commitment may be strong, but love, intimacy and deep sharing may not be present.


Why does this happen with two people who are so committed to the relationship?

 While many dynamics go into producing and maintaining love, over and over again one issue is at the top of this list: boundaries. When boundaries are not established in the beginning of a marriage, or when they break down, marriage breaks down as well. Or such marriages don’t grow past the initial attraction and transform into real intimacy. They never reach the true “knowing” of each other and the ongoing ability to abide in love.


What is boundary?

 In the simplest sense, a boundary is a property line. It denotes the beginning and end of something. In relationships, ownership is very important. If I know where the boundaries are in our relationship, I know who “owns” things such as feelings, attitudes and behaviors as well. A relationship like marriage requires each partner to have a sense of ownership of himself or herself. Once we know the boundaries, we know who should be the owner or responsible for whichever problem we are wrestling with.


Why boundaries?

 Boundaries help us determine who is responsible for what. If we understand who owns what, we then know who takes responsibility for it. Responsibility tells us we are the ones who must work through our feelings and learn how to feel differently. Our attitudes – not those of our spouse -cause us to feel distressed and powerless. How we behave or react is part of the problem and we have to change these patterns. We should not allow ourselves to get pushed beyond certain limits and then become resentful or powerless.


We are not at the mercy of our spouse’s behavior or problems. Each spouse can act both to avoid being a victim of the other spouse’s problems, better yet to change the marriage relationship itself.



God Al Mighty created us free and thus, God -intended relationship of marriage is not slavery. It is based on a love relationship deeply rooted in freedom. Each partner is free from the other and therefore free to love the other.


In some cases,

 Some spouses need severe consequences. Others need less severe ones like the following to define important boundaries:

Cancelling a credit card

Ending an abusive conversation

Going ahead and eating dinner when the spouse is late for the thousandth time

Leaving for the party alone when the perpetually late partner doesn’t come home by the agreed upon departure time


But sometimes, when all else fails, people must get away from each other until the hurt can stop. Distance can provide time to protect, time to think, time to heal, and time to learn new things.



We have to search our motives for establishing boundaries to make sure that they serve love and not our impure motives. Using distance, or withdrawal of love, for example, to punish the other is a sign that we are setting boundaries not to resolve the conflict, but to get revenge. Ultimately, boundaries define the freedom we have and the freedom we don’t have.


To establish boundaries,

Define yourself, take ownership and responsibility for what is yours, realize your freedom, make some choices, do the hard work of change in the relationship and not away from it and learn to love instead of comply.

Some parts are excerpts from the book “Boundaries in Marriage” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Sims Townsend

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