Sticking to Your Bottom Line - Karla Downing - A Wife Like Me

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Sticking to Your Bottom Line – Karla Downing

April 22, 2020

Sticking to Your Bottom Line

Boundaries are challenging in marriages. I have gone from not being sure if I had a right to set boundaries, to knowing I did and should. But because my mother didn’t model setting boundaries and because I felt like I couldn’t in my marriage, it is still a challenge to figure out which ones are worth fighting for when my husband is often resistant.

When It Starts Off Rocky

We raised our three daughters in a dysfunctional home. My husband didn’t recognize the dysfunction and wasn’t willing to admit that our daughters had been negatively impacted by the problems. While many of the patterns were no longer happening, I still couldn’t have a conversation with him about the past where he could admit what he had done. I had given up getting him to see the truth, rationalizing that it didn’t matter since it wasn’t happening.

But that all changed. The girls began talking with me about their struggles related to the past and the emotions they had concerning it. It was good that they were talking but I had to admit, it was heavy to hear it from all three of them at the same time. I felt overwhelmed with bearing it alone. I tried to talk to my husband and was immediately shut down with his denial.

Processing Our Needs And Bottom Line

I didn’t argue with him and instead I spent some time journaling, thinking and praying. I allowed myself to feel the emotions including the pain and sadness. I focused on what I needed and how it felt to have him refuse to admit his part in the dysfunction the girls experienced. It hurt. I had to figure out what I needed.  After a week or so, I had come to a decision. 

I decided that I was no longer comfortable carrying the past alone. I needed to be able to talk to him and at least have some acknowledgement of what happened and that the girls were struggling. And I wanted him to work with me to heal the brokenness in our girls and that couldn’t happen if he stayed in denial.

Not What I Hoped For

I brought it up. I told him that I was no longer comfortable with him denying the past problems that impacted our daughters. I told him that it would affect our relationship if it wasn’t resolved and that it was too painful to carry alone and not fair to me. I told him I needed him to be able to understand and acknowledge his part. I recognized it wouldn’t be easy for him and that it would take work and humility. 

He reacted predictably by saying no.

Although I was disappointed, I didn’t react. I brought it up again a week later and a week later after that. He finally was able to ask questions to get a better understanding of what I was asking and then agreed to work on it.

How You Know Your Bottom Line

At this point, you are probably wondering how you can know what your bottom line is. It’s a process. You pay close attention to your heart, and you ask yourself some questions. 

What hurts? What would heal those hurts? What causes you to pull away from your husband? What makes you pull closer? What is wounding the hearts of your children? What do they need to heal? What do you need to keep your family and marriage healthy financially, spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally and emotionally? It takes a while to figure these things out especially when they are big things. Little things are easier.      

Because I didn’t know my bottom line early in our marriage, this situation would have led to a different outcome. I wouldn’t have been able to wait for him to think it through. I would have reacted to his initial negative response. I would have either argued to pressure him to agree or given in to fear and backed off my request. 

Growth and Understanding Your Bottom Line

I didn’t this time because I have learned that knowing my bottom line is an awareness I can’t let go of if I want to be true to myself. When we recognize our need for something and the only thing preventing us from getting it is taking a courageous and firm stand in our marriages, we need to face our fears and risk asking for what we need. 

I knew I needed this issue to be dealt with, and that to let it go was to shortchange myself. I needed to have a partner who could acknowledge the truth about the past. I wasn’t asking too much and I wouldn’t back down. I had also learned that quiet confident resolve is more powerful than arguing.

We don’t always know our bottom lines. It takes time to work through the issues to get to the heart of the matter and know what we need as women, as wives, as mothers, as daughters, as sisters. It is okay to take whatever time we need to figure it out through prayer and reflection. Once we do, we need to give ourselves the permission to be true to ourselves and stand up for what we need and stick to it—even when we face resistance.

For more on the difference between rules and boundaries, read here. For help creating boundaries in marriage, read here.

Sticking to Your Bottom Line


Wife Step: What are you struggling with that needs a bottom line? Do you need more time to figure it our or do you need to find the courage to take a stand for what you know in your heart you need?  

Karla Downing, the founder of, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.

Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image. 

She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.

Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.

1 Comment

  1. Michelle Moore

    I know that each of Karla’s books will be an essential part in refining & restoring my marriage. I know the resources are out there for me and I would/will take advantage of Whatever will help in my journey to grow deeper and stronger. The frustrating thing for me is that finances are what has/continues to be why I am not able to utilizes all the amazing resources out there for me….I am so thankful for #awifelikeme and the contributors that have/do create these formats for wives to access without the added burden of cost. I will purchase the books as I am able but until then I find comfort knowing I am not alone.


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I’m not who I was when I got married.


It was less than three years ago when I stood at an altar in front of a cross and said, “I do,” to vows we wrote and vows we borrowed. And in less than three years, I have become a different person.


My heart has changed. I’ve grown closer to God. And I’ve learned to love myself more. I have very different interests and concerns than the girl who stood in a white dress at 24.


My husband isn’t the same person either. His passions have grown. His friendships have changed. The goals he has for himself and his family are vastly different than they were three years ago.


Maybe you’ve changed a lot since your wedding day, and maybe your husband has too. Maybe there have been some beautiful changes and maybe some that aren’t so lovely. And while sometimes the changes are positive ones, other changes can be difficult. 


Some changes threaten to steal away the promises we made on our wedding day.


When we base the commitment to our husbands on how we feel he has changed for the worse or for the best, we are putting our hope in a pretty shaky foundation.


But God. Our God never changes.


“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)


When we put our hope in Him, and we plant our roots down into Him (Colossians 2:7) in our marriages, we stand on the firmest foundation there has ever been.


You’re not who you were when you got married, but God is the same God today as the day you made a vow to Him and your husband.


There are no coincidences and no accidents in God’s Kingdom. He works everything out for our good. Don’t believe me? Read Romans 8:28. He is working your marriage out for good, too.


Don’t let differences distract you from the divine gift God has given you in your spouse. 


When marriage gets hard and the fights feel never-ending, we look up. When we wonder who in the world we even married, we look up. When we think maybe we should have married someone different because we ourselves are so different now, we look up.


We’ll never be the same as we were the day we wore a veil and cut a cake, but we can make a decision to hold on to the same feeling of honor and respect we had for our husbands that day. We can take those promises with us no matter how many times we change in this life. We can continue to look up as the world around us and inside us shifts. Because our God never shifts.

We're Different Now

When we get married, we aren’t only agreeing to love the man in front of us for who he is that day, but for who he will be every day after that. Because we won’t always be who we are that day, and neither will he.


Wife Step: Write down three ways you’ve seen God remain constant and faithful throughout your marriage. Pray over those ways and thank Him for never changing, through the good and the bad.

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