Your Marriage Needs Boundaries

In Marriage, Relationships by Debra Fileta10 Comments

Anything of value is worth protecting.

And marriage, we can all agree, is something that is very valuable.

You may have caught the last week’s guest post here at TrueLoveDates.com, and the vibrant (aka heated) conversation that came about as a result of that article. In summary, it was an article written to encourage married men and women to be cautious of their close friendships with the opposite sex, as a way to protect from emotional and physical infidelity. You can read that article here.

So many of you read that article and agreed. But some of you read and reacted.

Many of you, particularly those who are single, felt like the article left you hanging…placed in the category of “temptation” to those who are married of the opposite sex, rather than the title of brother/sister in Christ as one young woman so eloquently put it. 

Many of you told stories of how you were abruptly “cut off” by a friend of the opposite sex after they got married, and how it left you deeply hurt and in pain. Many of you felt like there was room for explanation in the article, and to be honest, I SO appreciate your opinions and feedback.

So, in the aftermath of that discussion, I just want you to know that I am listening. I’m taking in these important conversations and taking them to heart, because I believe there is a way to set boundaries without leaving a trail of broken hearts and crushed spirits along the way. I’m SO sorry you’ve felt hurt in this way by those people in your life and even made to feel like you’re less of a person.

It’s the sad truth that some people don’t know how to actually set boundaries – so instead, they just withdraw. And that can be so hurtful.  In fact, because of your feedback, I’m in the process of writing an article to married people on exactly HOW a person should set boundaries with the opposite sex without coming across as a total jerk (so stay tuned for that up next).

But for today, I just want to affirm something that I deeply believe: anything valuable is worth protecting. And I think all of us can agree on one thing: marriage is extremely valuable.

It’s a precious gift: one that has the potential to bring so much joy, yet with it, the potential to bring the greatest pain. So in light of these past conversations, and keeping in mind you who have shared your honest hurts, I just want to leave you with a few thoughts on boundaries in marriage, and why, at the end of the day they really are so important to a healthy marriage:

Major relationship problems usually start with small innocent steps.

The truth is, no one wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’m going to have an affair today.” From all the people I’ve talked to and the work I’ve done as a professional counselor, most situations involving an affair started with an innocent conversation or a friendly interaction. Zero feelings. Zero intentions.

I get that sounds a little extreme to some people….but it’s not the conversation itself that leads to an affair, it’s the repetition of conversations, interactions, or behaviors with someone of the opposite sex being used to fill an unmet need or used as an escape.

And whether or not you want to admit it- every single person will experience a moment (or even a season) in marriage where they are struggling with unmet needs. And all of a sudden, that innocent interaction, behavior, or conversation turns into something just a little bit deeper. So it’s important for married couples (and those who aren’t married) to realize that it’s most often in the small areas of life where we need to set limits and have accountability with our partners. And it’s important for everyone (both those within and those on the outside of the marriage) to remember this: Don’t take it personally – but do realize that it’s a priority.

Boundaries are most protective when used BEFORE temptation comes up.

The problem with boundaries is that many times people end up putting them into place AFTER something happens. When feelings have been hurt, lines have been crossed, and trust has been shattered. If you’re in a good place right now in your relationship, this is the BEST time to think through what your boundaries are and how you’ll work to achieve those boundaries as a couple.

Think emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Think about your time, your conversation, your finances, and your energy. Strive to give the best of yourself to your spouse, and make sure there’s nothing competing for that place in your life. There’s no “cookie-cutter” one-size-fits-all approach to boundaries (the who, what, where, when, whys)…but that’s where each couple needs to have some hard conversations and decide what they are comfortable with, and what they aren’t (with all the feedback I’ve received, I want to share some of our personal boundaries from our marriage to give you guys some ideas and conversation starters).

Proper boundaries build trust – which brings more freedom, not less.

I got some feedback from the last article about how setting boundaries for how your spouse interacts with the opposite sex can come across as controlling, or even abusive. There’s an awesome book called Boundaries in Marriage, that goes over some really practical things that every married person should know about boundaries within marriage. But my favorite thing is the reminder throughout the book that basically explains: boundaries BREED trust. Boundaries make it easier to let your walls down with your spouse (and frankly, with everyone), because you know you’re honoring one another in your actions and interactions and you see that played out in your/and their decisions. Boundaries eliminate the need to be “controlling” because you’ve decided to achieve, and keep them, together. It’s the circle you draw around your marriage TOGETHER. And it offers safety, security…and ultimately, greater trust. 

There’s so much more to say on this topic, so stay tuned for the next post…definitely a bit of a rabbit trail from the “Q&A” series, but I think we need to camp out here for a bit. Thoughts?

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

Comments

  1. Debra ;U talk about Ur Marriage Needs boundaries; that s WHATs WRONG today;MARRIAGE has NO boundaries;Guys /&women just fall-in-love to have SEX-in-bed;in-the shower;& in-the jaccuzzi;thats What Love is about fooling around with more then 1 person! & that’s Why most Guys/women Don’t want to settle down & tie-the-knot; & stay together!! Debra ;theres NO commitment;NO Pride/&joy;No true dedication/loyalty/trust/Honesty/No true-Love;eveybodies in it for their own personal NEEDS/WANT/DESIRES/SEXUAL/instant Gratification!!! That’s WHAT Wrong with MARRIAGE!!!

  2. I totally agree with you, Debra. A friend of mine went thru a divorce last year and a contributing factor was HER BFF started spending a lot of time with my friends husband “as a friend”.

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen this all too often. Very sad. Boundaries give life and safety to a marriage!

  3. Excellent article Debra! As a woman who was married for 26 years, now single, a widow for over 6 years, I appreciate the advice you are giving to men and women. My husband and I had really good boundaries in our marriage, and even though he traveled often, teaching and preaching in churches all across this nation, being gone for 2-3 weeks at a time, neither of us ever had to worry about what might happen when we were apart. We didn’t create boundaries for our marriage out of fear, but out of wisdom and respect for one another.

    We decided ahead of time (not in the moment of temptation) what we would and would not do when it came to relationships with the opposite sex, and because of that, we remained faithful to each other our entire married lives. We didn’t have “rules” about never speaking to someone of the opposite sex, or being in the room with a member of the opposite sex, as that would have been impossible. (Can you imagine me needing to call a repair man to fix my AC and demanding a woman come to my house so I would not be “alone” in my house with a man????) Yet we did have clear boundaries when it came to “conversational relationships” with members of the opposite sex.

    As a single woman now, I am equally respectful when it comes to friendships with married men. As a single woman in ministry now, I have phone conversations with married men all the time, as I am contacting pastors about meetings I am doing in their churches, and following up on my speaking engagements, or even having doctrinal discussions with many of them on a regular basis, so I am not against all opposite sex relationships; however, I will say that the content of our discussions is always professional and not personal. These men I speak to on a regular basis are not my “friends” but colleagues and I make it a point to become well acquainted with their wives and make sure that they are comfortable with the ministerial relationship I have with their husbands.

    I am certain that as men and women, whether married or single, we KNOW when we are crossing a line. We KNOW when we are taking a conversation to a place of intimacy that it should not go. We KNOW when our intentions are pure, but when we have stirred up the emotions of a person of the opposite sex, and when that happens, we don’t need to keep moving forward with our declaration, “We’re JUST friends.” The moment we sense that anything in the relationship has gotten too close (either on our end or theirs) we NEED to back off. That is what loving others is all about! AND . . . if I might add — If there is NOTHING going on between the two of you, and a person’s spouse FEELS threatened by your relationship with their spouse, out of love and respect, you should back away and allow them to work through their issues without questioning why they have a problem with you. It may not be YOU at all, rather something happening in their heart that has nothing to do with YOU, but that YOU just happen to be a trigger for something happening much deeper that needs to be addressed.

    Marriage is hard enough, we singles (or even married individuals who want to have relationships with members of the opposite sex) don’t need to create more drama for married couples. My advice to anyone who has been in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex who is married is to quit trying to “claim” your right to remain friends. Your role changed the moment that person said, “Yes” to being someone else’s spouse. You may feel lost without that person in your life now, but that is something you need to deal with. It’s now up to this couple to decide whether or not to accept you into the relationship. It may or may not be comfortable for them to have you in “their lives” and it’s not for you to decide what makes YOU comfortable. It is up to them.

  4. Every relationship has its ups and downs and it makes such a huge difference if you have someone you can share the good, the bad and the ugly with that will help bring your focus back to your relationship with God first and then with others.

    I read an excellent book several years ago called Finishing Strong by Steve Farrar that encouraged men to have an accountability partner. This helps create positive boundaries and keep your focus where it should be.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with Everything you said Debra. The root of the problem based on what I see and hear from people is that they’re clueless as to how to go about setting, and/or establishing boundaries with their spouse in a way that the other person does Not deem as controlling. Can you please speak about when, and how that should be done, because most people don’t have a clue, and so it never gets done and no boundaries are set because you’re spouse sees you as controlling, and trying to act like their mother and/or father, or being bossy and it’s taken in a negative light. I believe these are conversations that should be had, and things that should be established Before there is even a proposal. At the very latest, before the wedding.
    Also, some married people I known have ended up straying because they were pushed away by their spouse. They’ve tried to explain and appeal to their spouse, and tried to ask for what they needed, and they never got it, and they got attacked. What’s should a person do when the person you’re married to refuses to listen to you, and take your requests at heart? You can’t force a person to do anything they don’t want to do, nor can you change them. I’m curious to know what’s your advice to Christian couples when their in the midst of going through major storms, and they’re dealing with a person who is inherently being selfish, and refuses to bend, compromise, or sacrifice? Of course there is the “worldly” way to deal with things, but what’s the Christian way to deal with a spouse who has little to no respect for your feelings, wants, needs, desires and just doesn’t care?
    I think these are answers that a lot of people need right now, because that’s what they’re going through. They’re trying, and doing their part, but they can’t make the other person do their part.

  6. This article is great. Boundaries are important since anyone is capable of infidelity (no matter how much they don’t want to: capable doesn’t mean inevitable).
    As a single I have strict boundaries set up with my married/dating/engaged male friends. Not because I’m anticipating an affair, but because I respect the relationship. All singles should have this perspective with their couple friends.

  7. Amen. As a single gal, I agree wholeheartedly. May I add that BEFORE people get married, if their partner is not showing the ability to increasingly have healthy, protective boundaries for the relationship as it grows in seriousness, then perhaps they may want to slow down and reassess?

  8. I recently got married and truth is what you are saying makes so much sense Debra. Thank you for sharing this. I do pray my husband and I can sit down and have a talk about setting boundaries sooner than later.

    God bless you and may He continue to increase your wisdom

  9. I appreciate this. I definitely anticipate changes when a male friend gets married, and I have definitely backed off when a wife hints or makes it clear she doesn’t want me around (even though I would have befriended her too). In fact, when that has happened in the past, I completely cut off contact with the couple, even avoiding eye contact with both spouses because I see where things are headed and I know I’m going to be the loser no matter what.

    However, even as singles respecting the boundaries of our married friends and acquaintances, we don’t need to make ourselves WRONG for desiring innocent friendships. I may back off because of an insecure wife, but it doesn’t make her right and it doesn’t make me wrong – it simply makes her insecure and me with one less friend. Always making the single person wrong is why the single person is always the loser in these scenarios – and there’s no friendly support for those people left behind. People are too harsh and can be more understanding of both sides of the issue even if at the end of the day, the friendship has to end.

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