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. The Bible teaches it this way: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" and "each one should carry his own load" (see Galatians 6:2, 5). The word burden indicates a backbreaking boulder, such as a financial, health, or emotional crisis.
Spouses actively support each other when one is carrying an overwhelming burden. The term load, however, indicates one's daily responsibilities of life. This includes one's feelings, attitudes, values, and handling of life's everyday difficulties. Spouses may help each other out with loads, but ultimately, each person must take care of his own daily responsibilities.
Two extremes occur in marriage when the law of responsibility is not obeyed. On the one hand, a husband will neglect his responsibility to love his wife. He may become selfish, inconsiderate, or hurtful. He will not consider how his actions affect and influence his mate. This is being irresponsible to a spouse.
On the other hand, a husband may take on responsibility his wife should be bearing. For example, his wife may be unhappy, and he may feel responsible for her happiness. Perhaps he feels that he isn't making enough money, showing enough interest in her activities, or helping enough around the house. So he tries and tries to make an unhappy person happy. This is an impossible project. While a husband should be sympathetic toward his unhappy wife and take responsibility for his own hurtful behavior, he shouldn't take responsibility for her feelings. They are hers, and she must handle them herself.
Couples have a duty to set limits on each spouse's destructive acts or attitudes. For example, if a husband has a gambling problem, his wife needs to set appropriate limits, such as canceling his credit cards, separating their joint accounts, or insisting that he get professional help, to force him to take responsibility for his problem. The law of responsibility in marriage means that spouses refuse to rescue or enable the sinful or immature behavior of their partners.
Whether you're a newlywed or married for many years, learn how Boundaries in Marriage will help you build a foundation for your relationship to flourish.