While her husband played video games for hours, Kelly felt alone. They’d been married for years, but she felt so disconnected. When she tried to initiate a connection, he’d reject it by being passive-aggressive or neglecting her. What Kelly didn’t know is that her husband felt alone, too, ever since Kelly started nagging and micro-managing him. They resented each other. But their resentment didn’t start because of something one of them did. It started because of something they didn’t do—create some boundaries.
We all know we need boundaries with extended family, coworkers, and friends. But boundaries in marriage are just as important. Without boundaries, couples tend to try to control each other, become self-serving, feel taken advantage of, and become resentful. But where do you start? Boundaries in marriage are different from ones you’d set at work or in a volunteer capacity. Start with these 12 boundaries every couple needs.
1. We speak with respect.
Some husbands and wives talk down to one another out of habit. Speaking with disrespect sends marriages into a vicious cycle that can spiral into verbal abuse. Commit to not cussing at one another, not interrupting, and not name-calling.
2. I don’t put myself before you at your expense.
Consider how your actions will affect the other person. Ask yourself if you are taking advantage of his agreeable nature if he always tends to agree with you.
3. I don’t put you before me at my expense.
Giving of yourself is a hallmark of a healthy marriage. However, denying your own needs over and over in preference of your husband’s needs enables selfishness on his part and depletion of yourself. There needs to be a balance between both people’s needs.
Denying your own needs over and over in preference of your husband’s needs enables selfishness on his part and depletion of yourself.
4. I don’t put others before you at your expense.
Keeping other people happy while neglecting your husband sends the message that he doesn’t matter. Your spouse should feel like a top priority with your time, energy, and resources.
5. We communicate our needs clearly.
Decide which five things are most important to you and share them with your husband. These might include being on time to events, being together for specific occasions, being told “I love you” daily, or having a tidy home. Then let other things go. Ask your husband to share his list of top needs with you.
6. We communicate about plans.
No one likes to find out about plans at the last minute. It’s disrespectful of each other’s time. Keep each other in the loop by communicating regularly about plans for schedules, expenses, and goals.
7. I don’t expect you to complete me.
This doesn’t mean you don’t need each other. It means you don’t expect each other to fix unhealed issues from the past, a sense of inadequacy, or emotional neediness.
8. I don’t try to complete you.
You can’t solve your husband’s emotional baggage. As nurturers, women tend to want to heal the broken places in their husbands. But he needs to take initiative to find healing for himself. Instead, focus on the behavior that is negatively affecting you. For example, if he shuts you out emotionally, tell him you feel lonely when he’s emotionally unavailable for days. Tell him you can see he’s going through something and that you’re here if he needs to talk about it, but that you also need him to be emotionally present with you and the kids.
9. I respect your no.
When your husband says no, don’t try to coerce him into changing his answer. It’s fine to discuss options and ask for a reason if you think his response is unreasonable, but go into the conversation with the intent to understand, not to change his mind.
10. I respect my own no.
There’s a very useful line in scripture that says, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’” Let your word be enough. Don’t say yes when you really want to say no. Remember, when you say no to one thing, you’re prioritizing something else.
11. I allow you to control yourself.
It’s easy to become a fixer and try to manage your husband when his behavior isn’t what you want it to be. But you can’t manage another person’s attitude, feelings, or behavior. You can’t make others happy, angry, or make them do what you want them to do.
12. I control myself.
Likewise, other people can’t make you happy, angry, or act out destructively. You are in charge of your attitude, feelings, and behavior.
A great book on this is Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
Where could you use some boundaries in your marriage?