Healthy Boundaries in Marriage: A Few Tips

The Bible  (which by the way is the first and best guide for how to be a human being), has a lot to say about marriage.  For this topic, let’s look at Genesis 2:24, King James Version:  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

What does that mean?  To keep it simple, it means a married couple becomes a unit, a partnership, a pair together.  They separate from their parents and join together.  During a recent counseling session, I quipped this to the couple I was working with:  “Three people can have a great relationship as long as there’s only two of them”.

Let me explain.  Have you ever had a relationship fail because of an interfering parent or friend?  Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your mom/dad or your spouse?  Have you ever had a well-meaning person who loves you sour a potential relationship by sharing their doubts about your date?  Have you ever had your interfering parents tell you how you’re messing up as a parent?

If you said “Yes!” to any of those, you’re most definitely not alone.  Here’s some quick tips on how to deal with this.

Tip #1:  Say No.

Tip #2:  Say NO again

Tip #3:  Say NO once more.

And keep saying no!  You will have a difficult time having a healthy relationship with anyone if somebody else is sticking their nose in.  You and your spouse have to learn how to work things out together.  If you need help, use a professional.  Don’t ask your parents or friends – they are not capable of being objective.  They will have a difficult time not taking sides.

If somebody tries to drag you into an issue between them and someone else (like your spouse) tell them that they need to resolve that with the other person.  Stand behind your spouse and refuse to be dragged into high school drama games.  Draw a boundary around your marriage and kids and don’t let anyone interfere.  Ask for help from objective people if you need it, talk to your pastor, talk to healthy friends, and talk to your parents – if they can keep their advice respectful.

If you ask someone to mind their own business and they respond with threats, guilt trips or manipulations, that’s a sure sign you’re in trouble.  You should not be made to feel guilty for asking someone to stay out of your relationship.  It’s YOUR relationship, not theirs!  They may be trying to protect you from making a mistake or getting hurt, but that’s part of life. You have to make mistakes to learn.

Tip #4:  Don’t let yourself get baited.

Text and conversational baiting is like chumming the water for sharks – people throw out their hooks and see what they can catch.  If you respond in anger, hurt or defensiveness, they’ve got you.  For example, if you share something you know they’ll disagree with, you might get a “What are you thinking?” or “What’s wrong with you” or a “How could you do that after everything he/she has done to you?” response.  If you try to explain or defend yourself, you’re hooked.  How do you respond to a manipulation like this?  Say no.  Either don’t respond (setting a limit) or tell them that’s none of their business (setting a limit).  Refuse to discuss it and end the conversation if they continue to badger you.  If you do that enough times, they will eventually realize that if they want to talk to you they’re going to need to change the topic and mind their own business.

Tip #5:   Remember, they want to have a relationship with you.

It’s pretty unlikely that they will abandon you because you say no.  They may think they are helping, they may be trying to protect you, or they may want to have control over things that don’t belong to them.  Bottom line, if they didn’t care they wouldn’t drive you as crazy as they do!  Stay the course, keep saying no and set the limits of what you are willing to talk to them about.  If you stick to your guns, they will learn to respect you.  If they can hook you, they won’t respect you.

You can do it!