Couples and Marriage Counseling, Relationships

The Importance of Boundaries in a Marriage

“A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect.” – Anonymous

A view of looking down at shoes with another person coming up to a boundary

Divorce These Days…

It has become almost more common than uncommon to hear that somebody you know is divorced or getting divorced. According to the American Psychological Association: 

“Marriage and divorce are both common experiences. In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”

It is important to see and recognize these numbers, and although they are staggering, these numbers do not lie. To understand why marriages fail almost half of the time in today’s culture, it is helpful to know what some of the common issues are that may lead to divorce:

  • Lying
  • Cheating
  • Poor communication
  • Financial troubles
  • Bad habits, such as addiction
  • Differing desires for the future
  • Differing opinions regarding raising children
  • No mutual understanding of what it takes to make the marriage actually work

Marriage Defined

Whether you are married or not, it is important to understand the principles of what being married really means. So, what is marriage? In legal terms, marriage is the public and formal union of two people to one another. In cultural terms, marriage is the unconditional love and support derived from a commitment between two people who promise to be by one another’s side for the rest of their lives. It takes more than love; it takes hard work to make a marriage work and stand the test of time. It is important to find both the balance and realistic standards within a relationship in order to have a healthy and successful marriage that lasts.

What Makes a Healthy Marriage Last?

We all strive for the ideal relationships, the ones that involve love, balance, and equality in a lasting partnership. So what are the facets to really making a marriage be successful?

  • Love
  • Support
  • Commitment
  • Understanding
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Open and honest communication
  • Being able to voice your opinion
  • Finding the ability to agree to disagree
  • Setting boundaries 

Boundaries Defined

What is a boundary? Boundaries are simply limits or rules that are set in place to create harmony in a given scenario. Boundaries can be developed and set by an authoritative figure, such as a mother to her child. They can also be set in place and agreed upon by two parties who design a system of rules and limitations that is fair to everyone involved.

Setting Marital Boundaries

When two individuals form a union in which they desire the lifelong relationship to flourish, it is important to set some boundaries. As mentioned above, these boundaries must be fair, understood, agreed upon, and respected by both partners. So who can set the boundaries within a marriage? 

  • The individuals themselves
  • A third party
    • Marriage counselor or therapist
  • Social norms and commonalities
  • Examples of other highly respected relationships
    • Parent’s marriage
    • Friend’s marriage

Pros vs. Cons of Marital Boundaries

There are both benefits and negative influences of creating boundaries within a marriage. Just as with most other rule-setting, boundaries can create healthy limitations but also anxieties within a relationship. Finding a balance between setting realistic and effective limits can help to alleviate any stress the boundaries could be creating. Being aware of the types of benefits and consequences boundaries can create is important. 

  • Pros
    • Helps protect a marriage
    • Denies the individuals to manipulate one another
    • Allows individual contentment
    • Creates self-responsibility for your actions and your words
    • Enables self-control
    • Aids in resolving conflicts
    • Aids in problem-solving
    • Sets priorities straight, for the individuals and for the relationship
    • Gives you freedom and independence in the relationship
    • Allows for the individuals to feel confident regarding actions within the relationship
    • Creates a sense of security and a safety net for the marriage
  • Cons
    • May create anxiety if the limits are not followed and respected
    • Potential to create arguments if the boundaries set in place were not mutually established
    • Stress about following any rules could create an individual to not feel they are speaking their truth

Examples of Boundaries in a Marriage

There are all different types and examples of boundaries that can be set within a marriage. It is dependent on what is important to the mental and physical health of the individuals and of the couple. 

In order to combat some of the common issues in a relationship, listed below are a few examples of limits you can set to stabilize the marriage.

  • Trust
    • Do not snoop around each other’s personal text messages and email 
    • Texting, emailing, and any messaging with a person of the opposite gender (or same gender if involved in a same-sex relationship) should never be kept a secret
  • Communication
    • Confront one another if there is anxiety surrounding an issue
    • Maintain an open and honesty line of communication with one another regarding all issues
  • Commitment
    • Do not ever put yourself in a tempting situation with a person of the opposite (or same) gender
A couple sitting on a couch laughing together after setting marriage boundaries

How to Set Healthy Marital Boundaries

In order to avoid your relationship from spiraling downward in the direction of divorce or a breakup, it is critical that there are boundaries set in place. As mentioned above, these limits need to be designed in a fashion that embraces both mutual understanding and respect, in an effort to create balance and harmony in a relationship that will last. In order to find the successful means to reach this point, try out some of these tips in creating healthy boundaries within your marriage:

  1. Clear communication with regards to outlining what is important in the marriage
  2. Remaining truthful, honest, and open about your desires
  3. Listen fully to your partner’s desires and needs
  4. Be willing to meet in the middle, after all, marriage is about compromise
  5. Pick and choose what is realistic regarding your wants
  6. Do not try to change what is important to your partner
  7. Be willing to adapt and change your perspective in order to seek compromise and a mutual understanding
  8. Continue to set boundaries and communicate about what is working and what is not working

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