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 Life, 21 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!