Marriage – The Need For Boundaries
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One difficulty which arises in many marriages is the lack of boundaries. In some instances either or both spouses may not be clear about this subject; in other cases, other people in their lives can go a long way in creating the problem. It cannot be stressed too strongly: the very best, healthiest, happiest marriage is one where clear boundaries exist and are consistently respected by both spouses and those around them!
For some people, boundaries are a familiar way of life; for others, however, the concept is something which must be learned. A person’s nuclear family and the environment of his or her upbringing makes up the manner in which the person views this subject; but it is no less relevant, regardless of one’s background.
There are a number of boundaries which are essential for a healthy, happy marriage. One of the most important is the marital relationship itself. In a healthy marriage, both partners are aware of, and respect, the fact that certain things are between the two of them and should remain between the two of them.
Keeping each other’s confidences is absolutely essential. The privacy between a husband and a wife is so universally-recognized that it is even protected by law! When your spouse shares with you something which is extremely private to him or her, he or she should be able to feel completely confident that you will not repeat this information to anyone. It does not matter whether you think the subject to be silly or frivolous, or a difficult burden which you may not wish to carry by yourself, or something which you think your friends may find “interesting”– being able to keep private communications private is one of the main foundations of trust.
While we are on the subject of friends, it must also be said that you should resist sharing the problems of your marriage with your friends. Airing your grievances about your spouse, especially if done so on a regular basis, will not only undermine your marriage but can also serve to generate bad feelings between your friends and your partner. Even though everyone has a legitimate complaint every now and then, you should make a point of resisting the urge to fill your friends in on “What a jerk George is!” This habit does nothing but cause strife for everyone involved.
It is unfortunate to hear how many married couples believe that their sex life is also something which should be “up for discussion” with other people. The sexual relationship between a husband and wife should never be brought into the public view– to do so destroys the intimacy which is
One of the main parts of married life. Unless there is a serious difficulty which necessitates the assistance or intervention of a medical professional, a married couple’s sexual relationship should never go any further than between the two of them.
Important boundaries are also violated when a spouse feels the need to solicit other people’s opinions and input on subjects which should remain between the couple themselves. Although it is natural to want to know what others think about various issues, if there are matters of disagreement between you and your spouse it is unfair to attempt to get others on your side.
Some couples also experience problems with boundaries when one or the other person does not realize or does not respect the partner’s individual boundaries. Even though it may seem odd in this modern day, there are still far too many married people who fully believe that their partners have no reason or right to personal privacy, personal space, or personal possessions.
In such cases it should be clearly and firmly stressed that simply because one has gotten married this does not mean he or she has ceased to be an individual person, or has ceased to have the right and the need for personal boundaries. Whether the problem has arisen due to one spouse’s lack of full trust in the other person, or does not acknowledge the other person as a separate individual, or has the distasteful and destructive characteristics of needing power and control, it is a problem which must be resolved– not only in the interest of the marriage, but also the well-being of both spouses. Such a person must learn that there is a difference between “Yours,” “Mine,” and “Ours”!
When other people do not acknowledge or do not respect your boundaries, this too can create huge problems if it is not addressed and resolved as quickly as possible. For example, you may have a meddlesome relative who consistently pries for information about your personal life, or a friend who believes that your home should be accessible to him or her at any hour of the day or night. In such instances, the best manner in which to deal with the situation is for you and your spouse to present a “united front” so that the intrusions are ended.
You may be familiar with the old saying about “building a hedge” around your marriage. Far from being an outdated concept, it not only continues to be true but continues to be the most important thing you can do to ensure a healthy, happy marriage.
In addition to the topics you just read about, which are universal to all married couples, individual needs also play a role. For example, you or your spouse may be uncomfortable with physical contact from the opposite sex, and feel that hugs should be reserved only for each other; or you may object to the other person’s friends having an “open-door policy” on your refrigerator. These, and any number of other topics, are often very important to one spouse yet seem trivial to the other.
The point in resolving such potential conflicts before they become real problems is to reach a conclusion which both spouses can comfortably accept. The key is in taking your partner’s needs and feelings into consideration– and that should be your main priority. For you to place a boundary which is necessary for your spouse’s well-being and peace of mind should not be seen as a sacrifice, but rather as a positive act.