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.
“What do you mean?”
“It was your feeble attempt at controlling your husband, and that never works.” I went on to explain that boundaries are not something you “set on” another person. Boundaries are about yourself.
My client could not say to her husband, “You can’t speak to me that way.” This demand is unenforceable. But she could say what she would or would not do if he spoke to her that way again. She could set a boundary “on herself.” She could say, “If you speak to me that way, I will walk out of the room.” This threat is totally enforceable because it has to do with her. She would be setting a boundary with the only person she could control: herself.
When you build a fence around your yard, you do not build it to figure out the boundaries of your neighbor’s yard so that you can dictate to him how he is to behave. You build it around your own yard so that you can maintain control of what happens to your own property. Personal boundaries do the same. If someone trespasses your personal boundaries in some way, you can take control of yourself and not allow yourself to be controlled, or hurt, anymore. This is self-control.
And ultimately, self-control serves love, not selfishness. We hope that when you take control of yourself, you will love better and more purposefully and intentionally so that you and your spouse can have the intimacy you desire.
For more insights to improve the way you interact with your spouse, read Boundaries in Marriage.