You Are Not Responsible for Your Spouse

Boundaries in MarriageWhen 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.


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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.

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  1. Connie says

    What is a wife’s obligations to her husbands family. When asked to do something you know will pull you down physically and mentally.

    • says

      That’s a very TOUGH one. I’m of mixed parentage with the African connection taking precedence, though I was brought up in Europe most of my life. I am married to an English Lady, whom I knew from my University days. I’m often under a lot of pressure from the African side of my family (not the Irish part) to do a lot of things for my African extended family, and I’m often expected (though not always) to provide for relatives financially and emotionally and to put them first ahead of my wife/”new family unit”. My wife was often unintentionally reduced to tears. In the end, I had to stand up to my relatives, explaining to them, that although I loved them very much, I was NOW part of a “new family unit” and needed to give priority to that. (I didn’t say this to my relatives, but it says in The Old Testament Book of Genesis, and JESUS also says in the New Testament Book of Matthew that A man shall leave his family and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one, and that what God has joined together, let no man pull asunder). Some of my relatives were extremely angry with me for a VERY LONG TIME, but I had to make a decision. Although I loved my extended family very much and wanted to provide for them and support them in every way, I had to decide whether I wanted to be married to my relatives (I.e. Put my relatives first in EVERY WAY after my relationship with Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour) or be married to my wife (I.e. Love and support and cherish her the way CHRIST loved the church, His Bride and gave Himself for her – Chapter 5 of Ephesians in The New Testament). May the Lord our God give both you and your husband wisdom and discernment in what must be a VERY DELICATE and sensitive situation. With prayers.

      • Zaira Wheatley says

        Well said man of God. Family forget very easily what becomes priority once you are out of the family circle. You love them and help when you can because you choose to not because you have to. Their is a difference. My husband and I are learning boundaries with our family and grown adult children who sometimes feel entitle. My God first and my husband second. We are solid like a rock for we both stand on The Rock that is higher than us! Jesus Christ!

      • Toni says

        Very beautiful, Ade! The world needs more Christian men and husbands like you!
        God’s blessings to you, your wife, and your new marriage.

  2. Vicki A. says

    When does grace become enabling? I do think that my spouse had crossed his own internal boundaries (or was never aware to make them), and took on a burden of making me happy. However, I was working and walking my own path of recovery the entire time, and working hard at it. I never expressed or expected him to take this on, but he repeatedly accused me of doing so based on his feelings. Though I hung on to empathize with his struggle, I could no longer be abused by the blame and shame messages he turned to when his own perfectionism overwhelmed him. I love him and cannot continue to enable his passivity, but it looks like without his willingness to face himself, we are doomed to divorce.

    • Donna G says

      Vicki, I don’t know anything about your situation but for any marriage that feels doomed to divorce, I would recommend a program called ReEngage…it helps couples to Reunite, Reignite and Resurrect their marriage from a biblical standpoint. Perhaps you can find a church nearby that has classes or can ask your church to get the training necessary to provide the class–Gateway Church in Dallas, TX was one of the first churches to run the program–my church saw 84 marriages rekindled in the last year from couples completing the 16 week class, some of which already had papers drawn for divorce! Regardless of the help you find, I pray that your marriage would be rekindled and that God would bring you closer with every day.

    • Kevan S says

      Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. Does Christ divorce the church when the church misbehaves?. Hardly. The example we have in Hosea shows that Christ’s love remains steadfast, even when we play the part of a prostitute. Jesus said in Matthew that Moses permitted divorce because of hardness of heart, but that it is not God’s plan. In 1 Corinthians 7 , Paul instructs married couples to stay together, even if one is a non believer, because, if you do your part,and live a Godly life, perhaps your unbelieving spouse may actually get saved. Look to God for strength, search His word diligently and you will find your answers.

      • Catherine Taylor Thompson says

        I do sincerely agree with you here. I am sure structzres existed too to take care of phsical and other abuses that today result in fatalities.

        Would you continuously return a sister or daughter to a marital home if she run to you for refuge cos she couldn’t anymore take the brojen noses and blue black eyes? Would you send her to hospital to recover then send her back to it again? May the eyes of our understanding be opened.

      • Carol says

        Kevan, maybe you are a tad too legalistic. Forgive me for being direct and straightforward.

        I get what you are saying. At the same time, I do not believe I read in the bible that women or men are to stay in marriages, allowing abuse to happen.

        If there is physical abuse happening, it is actually life threatening to the person. Staying in the marriage is the last thing God would ask of us.

        If the spouse is open to correction, repents and going for therapy and all, then yes definitely with God’s blessings the marriage would work out. But if the spouse doesn’t think abuse is wrong and is hardened to that fact then it’s best to keep away.

        I believe there are other passages I have read in the bible talking about how to deal with a believer who has sinned and is u repentant. Bible is precept upon precept. We do not take 1 verse and just focus on that.

        Also, I think you need to look at the context of the passage. Jesus was being challenged. So he is rebuking the Pharisees.

      • Csd says

        There are situations when a spouse has a hardened heart and it presents itself with verbal and emotional abuse as well as physical abuse in many situations. In those times I don’t believe our God would expect someone to stand by and receive this. You can pray and live a Godly life and step away from the situation in a separation of if warranted a divorce. When you have set your boundaries and have been clear and they continue to use you as their punching bag either verbally or physically I feel that there is a fine line between enabling and showing Grace.

  3. Austin says

    I really hope I can get my wife to read this book. Boundaries are an area we never worked on before the relationship progressed to the point where it seems too late. I know that I feel a great deal of love, but where boundaries are not properly set and agreed on, wrong assumptions will set in and this has been a very contentious issue for us.

  4. KEDA says


    • Louise says

      Have faith; in yourself, in your marriage partner to be, in Jesus as your best man who you can both go to for strength and support and at the end of the day do it scared! i was 23 years ago, and we still are sometimes but we have always found a way to come back and be reconciled when our selfishness or fears have caused barriers between us.

  5. says

    I read all the comments. I just want to add this:

    MANY, if not MOST of marriage crisis are demonic fueled!

    From my little experience in the ministry, I see a lot of fight and disagreement as a result of demonic influence and interference.

    I have also resolved that, in tackling any crisis in marriage, no matter how small it may be, FIXING THINGS UP IN THE SPIRIT should be the very first approach!

    The bible says in Ephesians 4:27 that ….. and give NO PLACE to the devil in your life!

    It may not solve it all, I beleive it will handle the main issue.
    Thanks Donna for that program in Dallas Church. It’s the way to go!

    Pls if you have a crisis in your home, try fixing it with GOD first before addressing it physically or logically.


    pst tomowo

    • Alisa says

      That is fantastic.. and is how it should be done to fix things between the couple.. the only problem is that usually one or both aren’t willing to see beyond themselves. In my experience.. the little that I saw.. my now ex husband refused to communicate. He refused to take responsibility for his part in the problems. He was abusive emotionally and psychologically and placed all the blame on me. No one in the church was even willing to talk to him a out what he could be doing wrong. I didn’t want a divorce, but he pressured until I didn’t know what to do any more because no one was willing to help and put an end to his evil design to get his green card and continue on without me. I believe that the government, courts, etc.. make it too easy to divorce.. and it’s very costly. If only fixing things was the simple solution to things.. and people were hardier than they are…

  6. Peter says

    What is one’s load to carry for a partner with mental health problems? Mild but sometimes that feels like a greater burden as they appear to most around to be normally functioning, but there is a lot of problems that are masked to those around even their family are oblivious and possibly don’t want to see.
    I have traveled that road for 10 years into financial difficulties, but now hopefully recovering. It has been my greatest challenge to staying and support to try and keep my children with a family. I sometimes though wonder if I do the right thing staying. If this has been Gods challenge for me to learn and somehow make a difference in mental health it has been a hard lesson to learn.

    • Bridget says

      Yes! I concur. I have a grown husband who is passive along with extreme case of ADHD which is highly burden able when I already have a slight case of it. I am the financial provider and yet credit cards from 2010 with little balances of $1400 have only gotten down to $1100 as of today and this is two credit cards with the same story. They are closed and in collections and one hasn’t been paid on since sept but we have a house full of guitars and guitar equipment. I also have a husband who doesn’t lock his car door at night and I find it unlocked at least twice a week. Well, last night he left it unlocked again and his wallet and meds were stolen.

  7. CB says

    My husband and I met at church many many years ago. Its been a struggle, but, we do what we have to do. We’ve made it to 40 years. The one thing is in the last three yrs. he tells me I am responsible for his happiness. No…I am not. He must rely on our Lord for that. That comment has put me in the doghouse big time. I am NOT responsible for him being happy. I have searched scriptures shared them, but, it has made no difference. Any advice and ALL prayers welcome. Thanks.

    • Randi says

      Dear CB, Take a moment and look on this feed until you come to the name “Tomowo”. Read that. Many, if not most, issues are demonic in nature. The next step is 1- believing what God says about you, and 2- learn to appropriate it through prayer. I have begun to pray for some issues I never thought I could touch…and am seeing results.

  8. Alisa says

    “The law of responsibility in marriage means that spouses refuse to rescue or enable the sinful or immature behavior of their partners.” I was expected to do everything in my marriage, initiate everything, Do his papers, work, there was no emotional intimacy and physical intimacy was expected if his member popped up(forgive me if this is inappropriate saying this), in other words no effort from him for anything. There was no communication on his part and I was expected to read his mind. Not even church leadership, no on recognized this, nor did they want to if they did. How could I have refused to enable him so that it didn’t go on ..? It was such a maddening, frustrating situation. I don’t know how I can avoid it in the future.

  9. Samson says

    If there’s only one article that I would put up with through all the junk that I receive by subscribing, this one easily was worth it!

    Thanks team!

  10. Laura Wilson says

    I would like to get the Marriage Boundaries book could anyone put me in the right direction ? Does Miracles Book Store in Bayers Lake carry it or does one need to order it ?
    > Thank You
    > Laura L. Wilson

  11. Jack says

    My wife is a very specific oriented person. By that I mean when she asks a question or makes a statement, she needs more back as far as a reply goes than just ok. For instance, it can be something as simple as her asking “I’m making this for dinner. Is that ok?” If I reply with sure, that’s not enough.
    These are the senseless things that we get into heated arguments about. So this leads to me saying “ I’m walking away from this for a few minutes.” Because that’s how bad the argument is getting. So while I’m away I get nasty calls and texts saying I don’t care about our marriage and she continues to scream and swear at me. I know what the Bible says about anger and tempers and I follow it. I’m desperate for help.

    • Susan says

      Your wife is a high-context person. My husband is the same way. They need lots of information and love all the little details. Marriage counseling can help you work on your communication. There may be more underlying her needs since it seems you can’t please her. Even if she doesn’t want to go, the counselor can help you address issues at home. My husband rarely came to counseling and was very resistant when he was there, but I changed the way I interacted with him and he adjusted some of his behaviors accordingly.

      • Committed to Grow says

        What a word of encouragement! Thank you for sharing that as you made changes, your husband responded. How long did it take? While I don’t believe that we can change anyone, I do believe that by our “responding” instead of “reacting” and setting healthy boundaries, we can bring about a different way of interacting. I’m hopeful that will be the case in my marriage. I also agree that it is a spiritual battle. We must be humble and actively “push down the flesh” so that the Spirit is more and more in control.

  12. One Growing Wife says

    The Boundaries books can be ordered through Amazon. Another book by the same authors is “How to Have That Hard Conversation”. It is full of actual communication examples and practical advice that is based on biblical principles. For those suffering in an abusive marriage, another helpful resource is “the Emotionally Destructive Marriage” by Leslie Vernick. She provides solid teaching, again biblically based, about how to stay in the marriage “well” and how to leave “well” if it comes to that. Our spouses cannot/should not make us happy. That is idolatry. But they do need to be responsible to us in how they treat us. We must find our identity in Christ alone and “guard our hearts as it is the wellspring of life”. We must learn how to set appropriate boundaries and then stop enabling bad/sinful behavior. Otherwise, we are at risk of sinking into our own sin: bitterness and unforgiveness

  13. Hope Restored says

    ” … 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.” Statements like this one from the article above drive me up a wall! The writer is a clinician, and therefore, when he uses words like selfish, inconsiderate and hurtful, he means a particular set of characteristics and behaviors. When a person is unwell in their emotions or hasn’t matured or has been abused they tend to spew out these very same terms when in actuality the accused person is not truly being these things. I know that everyone can improve upon their boundery setting, however, those that are unwell and their spouses will end up arguing over these words if not clarified with specific examples. I hope the book they come from provides these.

    • Committed to Grow says

      I agree that an emotionally immature person will use such terms against their spouse when it is their own behavior that is hurtful or selfish. I’ve come to realize that my husband is emotionally immature. It’s helpful to understand his behavior, but I still need help to know how to deal with it. The book really helps. I can give specific examples of his angry outbursts, name calling, threats of divorce, etc. Yet, he accuses me of not being completely committed and being “mean, selfish, materialistic, demanding” etc. I used to think that the “doing good” in Gal 6:9 meant being more patient. I now understand it can also mean having that difficult conversation so that he has opportunities to grow. I am trying to stop enabling his immature behaviors.

  14. Lora says

    My husband and I have been separated for a month living in separate homes. He rather blame me for most of our issues than take responsibility and find solutions to remedy them. By no means am I a perfect angel as I set my expectations to high for myself and those around me that may be too unrealistic. I tend to take the on too much of my husband’s problem and always ready to put out the fire. It’s exhausting. He ignores my 10 year old daughter most of the time but does show some minimal effort which is not enough. His 16 year old son is lazy in general and it’s a challenge to get him to do his chores so I feel like mother and father to him as Dad rather avoid. I need to learn about boundaries on all of these situations as my marriage will not survive anymore issues. I pray all the time for our Lord to please show me what to do to salvage what we have left. I do love my husband very deeply but my respect for him as a father and a husband is weakening .

  15. Kera says

    I am responding to the section, “Couples have a duty to set limits on each spouse’s destructive acts or attitudes.” My example, my husband has alcoholism and I flied for divorce to protect myself financially and have custody of our 3 young children. He has made leaps and bounds but I still don’t trust him financially and/or he still doesn’t share many aspects of his recovery and financial life with me. The time has come for me to sign the papers. Either I don’t sign them and again resume 100% responsibility for him and his actions or sign them and keep myself financially separated. I am having an enormously tough time because I love and care for him and want to keep our relationship going forever. Because I can’t force him to go to marriage counseling or do the financial sharing that a marriage requires. I can’t force him to take responsibility for our marital problems. “The law of responsibility in marriage means that spouses refuse to rescue or enable the sinful or immature behavior of their partners.” If that is the case, what other options do I have other than divorce?

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