Boundaries Blog — Boundaries in Marriage
What Are Boundaries Really All About?
There is a lot of misunderstanding about boundaries, especially in the context of marriage. Some people are against boundaries because they see them as selfish. Other people actually use boundaries to be selfish. Both are wrong. Boundaries in marriage are basically about self-control.
A client once said to me (Dr. Townsend), "I set some boundaries on my husband. I told him that he could not talk to me that way anymore. And it did not work. What do I do now?"
"What you have done is not boundaries at all," I replied....
You Are Not Responsible for Your Spouse
When you marry someone, you take on the burden of loving your spouse deeply and caring for him or her as for no other. You care about how you affect your spouse; you care about your spouse's welfare and feelings. If one spouse feels no sense of responsibility to the other, this spouse is, in effect, trying to live married life as a single person. On the other hand, you can't cross the line of responsibility. You need to avoid taking ownership for your mate's life.
The law of responsibility in marriage is this: We are responsible to each other, but not for each other....
Love Only Exists Where There Is Freedom
"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....
The Secret to a Successful Marriage (Hint: It Involves Boundaries)
When two people marry, two lives blur together to make a new one, two become one. The blurring of expectations and feelings can become an issue. Many times a spouse will automatically expect that the love in the marriage means that her spouse will always see things her way. She may feel unloved when her otherwise-loving mate says, "No, I'd rather not take a walk. I'm sleepy." Sometimes this happens during the "honeymoon period," when both parties tend to see eye-to-eye on everything. But when the reality of two different wills, needs, and perspectives comes in, the honeymoon is over. This is when the Law of Respect must be applied.
For example, a couple with whom my wife and I (Dr. Cloud) are close, Nick and Colleen, mentioned the same problem at dinner one night....
How to Guarantee that People Will Want to Be Close to You
Amy and Randall had been married for eight years, and they loved each other. However, when he was angry or upset, Randall became moody and would withdraw from Amy and the kids, except for occasional outbursts of anger.
When his manufacturing business was struggling, he would sit silently through dinner. Once, during this period, the children were arguing at the dinner table. Out of the blue, Randall said, "Amy, can't you keep these children in line? I can't even have a moment's peace in my own home!" And with that, he stormed out of the kitchen into his home office, turned on the computer, and stayed there until the kids went to bed.
Amy was hurt and confused. But she had a pattern of "handling" Randall's moods. She would try to cheer him up by being positive, encouraging, and compliant....