Keep Boundaries in Your Marriage
By: Ryan Frederick
Healthy boundaries will protect you from overextending yourself in life. They will also protect the health of your marriage when they’re clearly defined.
Every season of frustration in our own marriage (“season” = many months) can usually be traced back to some issue with boundaries. Usually I’m overworking, or we’re making poor decisions in areas where we haven’t clearly defined our “walls”.
Quickly, let’s consider this verse:
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
This, and many proverbs like it are all about boundaries… limits… edges that define the difference between wisdom and folly. This particular passage is especially vivid, as it gives us a glimpse into what life must have been like in Solomon’s day.
Nowadays, castle walls and gates are tourist attractions. Back then, they were critical for survival and societal growth. Without walls, a city was vulnerable to all manner of attack, which was a real and ongoing risk. Surely a city “left without walls” is destined for ruin.
I’m here to confirm that the same is true for your marriage. A marriage without healthy boundaries is destined for ruin.
Boundaries are important for two reasons.
- They keep bad things out
- They keep good things in
When you stood (or will stand, if you’re not yet married) at the altar on your wedding day, you made a covenant that drew a boundary around the two of you. A wall was built that is meant to protect you from attack, and allow you to flourish within. You agreed that some things would be exclusively within your boundaries (exclusivity and privacy of sex, as one example). You also agreed that some things would be exclusively outside of your boundaries (divorce, for one).
This concept is deep and could take hours to unpack.
For now, here are three tangible ways you can create boundaries that protect your marriage, while also making sure you’re BOTH on the same side of lines drawn:
3 Boundaries to Protect Your Marriage
1) The Time Boundary
A lack of connected, quality time is the #1 issue couple’s face today. It’s ironic, since the world is more “connected” than ever.
You must understand that your time is finite… you have a very limited amount. This means you must draw boundaries to block out wasteful or frivolous uses of it.
Do this by turning off devices and spending quality time together. In 20 years, you won’t remember whatever is on your phone but you will absolutely remember the moments you spent together.
2) The Reconciliation Boundary
You will have arguments and fights, which means you will need to reconcile. Draw boundaries around the reconciliation process by agreeing not to bad-talk each other to friends or coworkers in ways that are destructive.
It’s good to seek counsel and advice, but venting anger to those outside your marriage is never helpful.
Then, WITHIN the boundary of reconciliation, work together to resolve conflict in a biblical way. Talk, repent, forgive, make-up, and move on.
3) The Integrity/Transparency Boundary
Those without transparency live by themselves in a boundary they’ve created. They do this by engaging in wrong behavior and then hiding it (think: explicit websites, spending habits, emotional and physical affairs, eating habits).
The first step toward living with integrity in your marriage is being transparent with each other. Open up the unhealthy boundaries and let your spouse in. If you have a secret other than a surprise gift, etc., then something is wrong.
There are many boundaries we could discuss, but hopefully this will get you thinking.
The first step toward living with integrity in your marriage is being transparent.
The big idea: there exists an absolute standard
The big idea here is that there are definite things that are bad and good for your marriage; healthy and unhealthy; wise and foolish.
We live in a world where morality is no longer seen as absolute. I’m urging you to reject that lie. Yes, there are cultural norms that are relative; but there are also norms that transcend culture. There are aspects of you, reality, and God that are hardwired and fixed. There is a standard by which we can measure wisdom and folly; right and wrong.
Here’s the kicker: when it comes to right/wrong, you will never be perfect. That’s why Selena and I must rely on the person and work of Christ for right standing before God. It’s an amazing, undeserved gift. Oh, to receive God’s grace and adoption as His own children because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross!
It’s God’s gift of grace that enables us (and anyone who experiences it) to live with any hint of wisdom or righteousness. For that reason, I urge you to place and keep Christ at the center of your marriage. But what does this mean? How can you have a Gospel-centered marriage? That, my friend, is a topic for another post (soon).
- Can you think of any other healthy boundaries for marriage?
- What are some other boundaries you have or shouldn’t have in your marriage?