Why Boundaries in Marriage Are Important
I grew up in a home with a Christian mother who tolerated verbal, emotional, and physical abuse from my agnostic alcoholic father. It shouldn’t be surprising that after watching my mother tolerate abuse that I wasn’t sure whether I had the right to set boundaries in my marriage. Add to that my husband’s belief that I couldn’t say no to him and you can imagine the struggle I had.
I was a strong outspoken woman, so I spoke up when I thought my husband did something that wasn’t right to me or our girls, but I didn’t say, “No,” and therefore my protests were weak. Instead, I tried to convince my husband that my concerns were just. I put energy into trying to change him, but I felt powerless.
I wonder if you’ve ever felt that way.
Years later I learned that boundaries are essential and allow us to experience health within ourselves.
Boundaries allow you to state what you will and will not do. It includes things that are okay and not okay; acceptable and unacceptable; tolerable and intolerable.
You have a right and responsibility to be an active participant in your marriage. Your husband needs your input and viewpoint. You have a right to say no and yes to the things that come into your marriage, home, and life. Boundaries allow you to exercise that right.
Boundaries are necessary in marriage, as in all relationships, because boundaries protect us.
They allow wives to say no to abuse or unhealthy patterns of behavior. They empower mothers to protect our children from things that are harmful to them, even if those things are done by their fathers.
At this point, you might be asking, “Is it okay to set boundaries around things that aren’t harmful or abusive?” You are a partner in your marriage. Your husband is supposed to love you just like he loves his own body (Ephesians 5:28) and consider your needs and unique feminine nature (1 Peter 3:7). What those verses mean is that your husband must know what you want, like, and need, so he can care for you well. One of the ways you communicate this information to him is through your boundaries.
Boundaries put the focus onto you, and what you can control. You are accountable to God for what you allow in your life, your home, your marriage, and your children’s lives. You are able to take a stand even when your husband doesn’t agree. It isn’t about convincing your husband, it is about knowing when you need to say no and meaning it.
Wife Step: Share honestly with your husband about something you have accepted that isn’t acceptable to you. Tell him your new boundary.
How do you feel about sharing a boundary with your husband?
Karla Downing, the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com, 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.