By Stacey Tolbert
Communicating boundaries in marriage is an essential step for promoting harmony and understanding between you and your husband.
When you first started dating your spouse, how many arguments did you have in those first months? Probably very few if you’re like most couples. But as time goes by in any relationship, the “honeymoon period” wears off and disagreements begin to arise. That’s when communicating boundaries matters most so you can reestablish peace in your relationship.
Boundaries in Daily Interactions
I spent many years as a stay-at-home mom, finding joy creating a space of beauty, creativity, peace, and routine in our home. That often included preparing dinner each night. My husband would often ask before coming home, “What is for dinner tonight?” I would share what I was cooking and look forward to him coming home so we could eat together.
In later years, after a long day of teaching and coming home to help kids with homework, cook dinner and pick up the house, my husband started to ask before coming home, “Are we having dinner tonight?” This short question began to gnaw at my nerves and eventually caused me to irrationally react.
“What if we’re not having dinner? What if I’m too tired to cook? What if I want you to cook?”
The question had changed from “What are we having?” to “Are we actually going to eat or are you too tired?” I believed there was judgment behind those words, that maybe I couldn’t work full-time and care for our family. I know my husband did not intentionally try to hurt me with his question and maybe he thought he could offer to help if the answer was no.
After being frustrated each time he asked this question, I realized I needed to communicate my feelings and consider together how this could be addressed differently.
I began to set a boundary by requesting that he not ask me, “Are we having dinner tonight?” or “Are you making something for dinner?” These questions triggered my insecurities and were not helpful. We talked about ways he could ask the same question in a different way. This became a boundary that helped us to love each other better.
God Gives Us Boundaries
The Lord shows us in Scripture how living within his purposes and boundaries is right and good. He created these boundaries to provide a pleasant space where you can be at peace.
Psalm 16:5-9 NIV says, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
Some examples of boundaries that you may need to communicate in marriage include the following:
- I am going to focus on what I can do to improve my actions. I will not focus on trying to change my husband’s actions.
- I am not going to speak negatively about my husband to others. I may share concerns I am having, but I will not degrade him to others.
- I am not available for this conversation right now, so can we plan to discuss this at another time?
- I need you to seek to listen and respect my thoughts even if you do not agree.
You may have thought, as I once did, that when you have to be careful as you communicate with someone, this must mean that your relationship is broken and unhealthy. However, careful conversations and agreed-upon boundaries can only help provide peace and a positive way forward in your marriage.
Be willing to find those secure and pleasant places within the boundary lines God has for your marriage. Ask God to show you where those lines are, and talk about them with your husband. As you are communicating boundaries in marriage, you will grow as a couple.
Wife Step: Plan a time to talk about necessary boundaries with your husband.
Stacey Tolbert is a writer, Director of Engagement, and women’s ministry leader at the church her husband pastors in Northwest Ohio. Stacey and her husband have been serving in ministry together for over 20 years. Stacey has journeyed from college ministry to being a stay-at-home mom to their four children, to full-time teaching, and finally following the call to share her gifts through writing and ministry. Her heart is to help women discover their greatest potential, as they learn to embrace their God-given gifts, both in marriage and in life.