What "Boundaries in Marriage" is Really All About | Enduring All Things

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What "Boundaries in Marriage" is Really All About

Well guys, it's time for another collaboration with Amberly of A Prioritized Marriage. (You can see our previous monthly collaborations here, here, and here).
This month we decided to read a book and share our thoughts on our own blogs. We picked the book Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
I honestly thought this book was all about setting up ridiculous boundaries outside your marriage like "I can't go to lunch with just one co-worker of the opposite sex" and I was skeptical of the book. Not that I think we should go out to lunch with one co-worker of the opposite sex all the time, but the thought of putting a hard and fast rule on it was not my cup of tea. Especially back when I wasn't working outside of the home and having that rule would just seem like me controlling Pearson's every move.

But that's not what the book was about at all. In fact, the first chapter explains that the book was written for the purpose of setting boundaries within the marriage so that one partner doesn't dominate the other. That I can certainly get on board with.
Setting personal boundaries means taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, attitude, actions etc. Your spouse isn't causing you to be angry or to nag or lash out. Take responsibility.
The book goes on to talk about being free in God and how we don't have to be controlled by our spouse or anyone. Boundaries help us to know where our spouse's control begins and ends. "Just as your neighbor can't force you to paint your house purple [referring to a property boundaries analogy], neither can any other human being make you do anything." p. 24.

I think the word "boundaries" has a weird, negative connotation. As I read this first chapter, all I could picture was "putting boundaries on the controlling partner." But really the boundaries are on the marriage. The partner who is being controlled needs boundaries on his or her own reactions as well.

And really, we are not setting boundaries "on" another person. Boundaries are about ourselves. I can only control myself. I cannot control my spouse. So if my spouse is doing something I do not like, instead of saying "you cannot do that anymore" I can say "if you continue this behavior, I will do this" and follow through. Sometimes people need consequences in order to see their faults and be motivated to change.

On of my favorite analogies is that boundaries need to be permeable to keep the good in and the bad out. Like a door that you lock to keep out what's unwanted and you open to welcome in friends.

Also, there is an entire chapter about setting boundaries with yourself because we are the only ones we can control and we should remove the plank from our own eye first. Sure sometimes one spouse is more at fault than the other for an issue in marriage but usually the other spouse is contributing in some way whether they realize it or not. So we should take a step back and look at our own feelings and actions first.

Basically, "Boundaries" is a way of looking at your relationship and remembering that you are your own person. Your partner and the relationship don't own you. And yet, you have to become one with this person. You cannot get too comfortable and take each other for granted. Marriage is work and a lot of people (myself included until a few days ago) think that since there are no huge fires or disasters, their marriage is fine. But it's often not.

And on top of all this, the chapter that I thought I wouldn't agree with (entitled Three's a Crowd) was not what I expected at all! It only talks about "affairs" at the very end of that chapter and doesn't ever mention that one should never hang out with the opposite sex.
It does however mention that "intruders" come in many shapes and sizes. Some examples include work, kids, outside hobbies and work, TV, in-laws, church, internet, financial involvement, friends, addictions, and affairs. Not all these things are bad in and of themselves. But they cause problems to the marriage when they take love away from the marriage.

In short, I want to finish the book (I've only read the "Understanding Boundaries" section and the "Three's a Crowd" chapter). I'm excited to see more insights. I will say that it's a bit of a dry, yet deep read. The language isn't pretty and the concepts could prove even more ugly. But I do recommend the book. Especially if you have been shying away from it because you thought it was about putting strict rules on everything or putting your marriage in a box. Here's to constantly working on and protecting our marriages!

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