Love Only Exists Where There Is Freedom

Boundaries in Marriage"His irresponsibility is making my life miserable," Jen began. She then went on to tell me (Dr. Townsend) a terrible story of how her husband had successfully avoided adulthood for many years at her expense. She had suffered greatly at the hands of his behavior, both financially and sexually.

As I listened, though, I could see that her deep sense of hopelessness kept her in prison. I could see countless ways she could be free from her husband's patterns of behavior. She could make numerous choices to help both herself and the relationship. But the sad thing was that she could not see the same choices that were so clear to me.

"Why don't you stop paying for his mistakes and bailing him out? Why do you keep rescuing him from the messes he gets himself into?" I asked.

"What are you talking about?" Jen asked, alternating between muffled sobs and a scornful expression. "There's nothing I can do. This is the way he is, and I just have to live with it."

I could not tell if she was sad about what she perceived as a hopeless case or angry with me for suggesting she had choices. As we talked further, I discovered an underlying problem that kept Jen from making such choices.

She did not experience herself as a free agent. It never occurred to her that she had the freedom to respond, to make choices, to limit the ways his behavior affected her. She felt that she was a victim of whatever he did or did not do.

God designed the entire creation for freedom. We were not meant to be enslaved by each other; we were meant to love each other freely. God designed us to have freedom of choice as we responded to life, to other people, to God, and to ourselves. But when we turned from God, we lost our freedom. We became enslaved to sin, to self-centeredness, to other people, to guilt, and to a whole host of other dynamics. She did not experience herself as a free agent. It never occurred to her that she had the freedom to respond, to make choices, to limit the ways his behavior affected her.

Boundaries help us to realize our freedom once again. Listen to the way that Paul tells the Galatians to set boundaries against any type of control and become free: "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (see Galatians 5:1). Jen felt herself enslaved by her husband's patterns of behavior and did not see the choices available to her. But God tells us to not be subject to any kind of enslaving control at all.

For love to work, each spouse has to realize his or her freedom. And boundaries help define the freedom we have and the freedom we do not have. 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. Where there is control, or perception of control, there is not love. Love only exists where there is freedom.


For more helpful advice to enhance your marriage, read the award-winning book, Boundaries in Marriage, by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

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  • Persha on

    Beautifully said Tanya. I rejoice with you that you’ve found healing and true intimacy with the Father. Continue walking in freedom and love.

  • Hope on

    Just reading the comments…relationships are hard work. So sorry to hear of the challenges and heartaches. I get it for sure. I am going to offer a suggestion. From my experience, a Professional Counselor (and some have Marriage and Family designations) can make all the difference in personal/relationship growth. I have found fresh perspectives and strength to make positive changes because of good counseling. You might want to ask someone you respect if they know of a good counselor in your area. Maybe seek a seasoned counselor with a good reputation. Going to counseling is a personal investment and it’s hard work. So I don’t want to fool you there. However, it’s an investment that will not only help you to live more fully, but to thrive. Best to each of you!

  • Sister Warrior on

    If single, ask God to bring the person He wants you to have. Tell Him what you need ((such as Must Love Jesus, must be faithful sexually, emotionally, financially, must love kids, kind to everyone and animals, willing to go to church, raise children in Christian faith, willing to make a budget together and stick to it, not use drugs or abuse alcohol, etc).
    Set Godly boundaries. Treat each other with love and respect. Work on an agreement of boundaries for when you argue (such as never lay hands on each other in an unloving way, stick to the subject, don’t emotionally hit their weak spots, ask yourselves and each other if you are trying to solve the problem or are just trying to win the argument, and is it worth losing your marriage. #1 rule: God first, then the marriage, then the individuals. But both of you have to keep #1 rule.
    If these things aren’t working, get good counseling, first from your pastor, then from a Professional who is a Christian. If your spouse won’t go, go alone.
    If you or your children are ever EVER in physical danger, leave immediately. Don’t threaten, just leave. Abuse is never ok and is absolutely a reason to leave.
    Don’t play games.

  • The Boundaries Books Team on

    Thank you for sharing. This will encourage many.

  • Nore on

    Thats a hard situation to be in. Could you choose with your kids to have fun and live your life without him? I mean plan a holiday and talk about it as a family even whilst he is around so he hears. Then go on the holiday without him. Talk about it after you get back so he hears how great it was. Id give him a taste of his own medicine

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