A Beautiful Marriage Begins With Good Boundaries
A beautiful marriage begins with a husband and a wife who love each other and have the desire to live happily ever after. How do two spouses keep a beautiful marriage? In the book, Boundaries In Marriage, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend explain the way to live in a happily-ever-after marriage. By learning how to contribute to a loving marriage, a couple can experience a strong and healthy marriage. Cloud and Townsend give specific ways to create a better environment for the marriage to grow and develop. This book is an excellent guide for any spouse who wants to have a good marriage, for any divorced person who wants to learn how to have a better marriage, or for a single person who wants to learn what a good marriage looks like. Every spouse should learn what to do when a difficulty arises in his or her marriage. Sooner or later, for example, a spouse will need to know how to deal with hurt feelings. It is wise for a spouse to learn how to avoid different kinds of immaturity. It is wise to learn what to do when a spouse is struggling with selfishness. While some married couples make marriage look easy, other couples openly reveal how unresolved conflicts can seriously wound and cause strain on a relationship.
In the first chapter, the author takes a closer look at seven couples who have experienced a conflict of one type or another. Specific problems are presented, and good solutions are offered. The key to a good marriage is to find good solutions, discovering both general principles and specific solutions, and put them into practice. A good marriage will have at least one spouse who is willing to find good solutions. Hopefully both spouses will be willing to put forth an effort to make the relationship work in a way that blesses the marriage. “Marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. It is the mystery of living as one flesh with another human being” (Ephesians 5:31-32). We will take a closer look at several marriages and find out what makes a marriage fail and what makes for a beautiful marriage. It will be beneficial to look at each marriage and find out why they are either not working or why they are working.
Chapter 1: Finding Boundaries
Two couples with similar problems are introduced. Harold and Sarah are emotionally disconnected just like Frank and Julie, living with hearts that are not very well connected. The difference is that Harold and Sarah have not yet learned how to identify what is causing a problem and what should be done about it. Sarah has not yet made an effort to put any solutions into action, nor has she found any solutions that work, whereas Julia has been able to confront her issue in an effective way that helps bring her marriage back together. Being emotionally disconnected is the symptom of a bigger issue. In these two cases, the main issue is that one spouse is dominating in a disrespectful way while the other spouse allows it to happen usually because there is no knowledge of what to do about it in a way that is the most loving way possible.
Harold was bossing Sarah around, and Sarah let him control her. This is a common issue where the wife thinks she must be her husband’s servant in order to keep peace in the relationship while he orders her around like a slave. Sarah has not yet figured out how to protect her boundaries in a bold and loving way. Until Sarah realizes her responsibility in specific situations and in certain kinds of conversations with her husband, she will continue to struggle with not being able to set limits. Sarah needs to discover that she has the ability and freedom to protect her boundaries in a kind and loving way. Sarah has been neglecting the important aspect of taking responsibility for her part of letting Harold control her. She needs to learn how to use her freedom in a way that can actually help the marriage grow. While Sarah does not have control over Harold, she can learn to take responsibility for the following things: her feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, limits, desires, thoughts, values, talents, and expressing love. In a very real way, Sarah needs to work on perfecting how she is expressing her love toward Harold. “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). In a very real way, Sarah has lost control over her own spirit. “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28).
Julia was in a similar situation, but she decided to confront the problem by learning what she could do to properly conduct herself. By setting limits and establishing healthy consequences in a loving and effective way, Julia took ownership of how she could respond to Frank’s dominating comments. Julie decided to honor her boundaries by controlling her own responses in a way for love to grow in their marriage. In a very real way, Julie made an effort to express a better, more mature kind of love toward Frank. “Love is at the heart of marriage, as it is at the heart of God himself” (1 John 4:16). Julie made an effort to respect her own boundaries even if Frank was not. She figured out how to confront the issue by setting healthy limits in her own life and establishing loving consequences. She also realized that healthy marriages need more than just love. Julie found the freedom to set her own boundaries for the sake of her marriage to grow. She gained the knowledge of being responsible for her own responses in specific situations.
In addition to a good amount of love needed in a marriage, it is also important to know what boundaries are needed. In order to find one’s boundaries in life, he or she first needs to know what kind of personal responsibilities are in one’s own life. Once boundaries are discovered, it will also be just as important to find the freedom to take ownership of our own responses. As an analogy, it is similar to a person who lives in a house on a piece of property that has literal property lines. Finding boundaries in one’s life is analogous to finding property lines in one’s yard. A person needs to know what he has on his property in order to protect it. A person needs to locate the boundaries, too. If someone crosses his property line, he needs to know how to respond in a loving way. The best way to describe a boundary is to think of a property line because property lines can help keep the bad guys out. Once we learn how to guard the boundaries of our heart in a good way, our communication and responses will improve with other people.
In Stephanie and Steve’s marriage, Stephanie was the silent sufferer who was suffering from a one-sided relationship. Steve had been going about his life by saying that what he was doing was for the good of both of them, but what he was really doing was he was living for his own good. Stephanie had been sacrificing and giving up her entire life for the sake of serving Steve. She was working very hard at trying to reject her anger and reject being contemptuous. She did everything she could to avoid living in pain. This is perhaps the worst kind of misery a marriage can suffer. Unless Stephanie makes the loving decision to say what she wants, explain what she likes, and explain what she does not like about how Steve is living for himself, she will continue to lose herself. Stephanie’s case of passivity places her in the position of feeling like love is missing. In order for intimacy to develop, Stephanie should find her boundaries, learn what she is responsible for, and use her freedom to help make the marriage grow.
Joe and Caroline’s marriage suffers from both of them engaging in a vocal match of playing the blame game. In an unproductive attempt to solve the problem, they both find fault in the other spouse, which causes them to live in an unloving downward spiral of unending blame. Just as Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed Satan, the couple who does not own his and her poor responses will end up feeling helpless. They will live in a deadend cul-de-sac of negative reactions until a newness of empowerment takes place. Empowerment enters into the picture once responsibility takes place. Instead of saying, “If it weren’t for you, I’d be a more loving spouse,” both spouses must realize the unproductive and incorrect nature of continuing to not admit how unloving he or she has been acting. Each spouse needs to take responsibility for finding new and more mature ways to respond. Both spouses should learn how to take control of their own words, learn how to lift-up one another, set limits, exercise kindness and patience, bless one another, and respond in a much more loving way.
Jen’s marriage suffers from the conflict of Jen continuing to rescue her husband from a number of irresponsible and immature actions. She is left feeling helpless because she has trapped herself in a kind of a mental prison where she thinks she is a victim of whatever he does or does not do. Until she stops paying for his mistakes and until she stops bailing him out, her husband continues behaving in a very immature way. Jen needs to realize she is a free agent to find new and better ways to respond. She should discover her boundaries, stick to them, and make decisions for the benefit of making her marriage grow. She can learn to limit the ways his behavior is affecting her. By learning how to feel differently, react differently, and behave differently to her husband’s issues, she can avoid being the victim of his problems. Even if her husband is not interested in changing or growing up, Jen can take responsibility, owning her part in the situation. A healthy marriage will have two spouses who love each other freely. It is not meant for one spouse who feels enslaved by the other spouse’s sin, self-centeredness, or guilt. Jen should start protecting her boundaries and take responsibility of finding new and healthy ways to love her husband.
Regina and Lee’s marriage is another case of the silent sufferer. Regina does not know how to deal with Lee’s many problems of drinking alcohol, living in anger, and regular use of biting remarks and hurtful sarcastic comments. Regina has already tried to confront Lee, but Lee either does not listen or he apologizes only to end up committing the same offenses. Regina finally ended up setting limits to protect herself. She gave Lee a loving consequence. She finally drew the line by telling him if he kept getting drunk, she would not live with him. She told him to take ownership of his problem, get help, or move out. Lee ended up moving out, but he found help. After a year and a half, their marriage was saved in the end. Other times, the situation might be less severe such as a husband speaking disrespectfully on a regular basis. The wife can discover her boundaries and tell her husband, “If you speak to me that way again, I will leave the room.” In certain situations, one spouse will need to set limits and develop a consequence of emotional distance such as saying, “I can’t share deep feelings if you are going to punish me for them. When you are serious about getting help and making some changes, I will feel safe enough to open up to you again.”
Sandy and Jerry’s marriage was another case of Jerry overpowering Sandy, but Sandy did not have any backbone to deal with the conflict. She did not know how to take refuge, protect her boundaries, or respond in a productive way. Finally, she decided that she needed help from a third party. Sandy made good use of a support group where she discovered her boundaries and learned new ways to guard her heart. “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12). Sandy began to use her support group to find healing and strengthening. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Chapter 2: Ten Laws of Boundaries In Marriage
Learning the ten laws of marriage will help one or both spouses build a good marriage on a structure made for success. These laws are basic principles that can help a marriage grow and develop into the happily-ever-after goal that was set from the beginning. By learning the ten laws, a spouse will better understand where the boundaries are located, how they work, and how to solve problems before they start. These laws can benefit one or both spouses because they will bring empowerment to the one who knows how to use them.
Law #1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping
This law states that our actions have consequences. The goal is to identify how a spouse is contributing to marriage and find ways to make a better contribution for a better result.
Law #2: The Law of Responsibility
This law refers to each spouse being responsible to the other spouse and responsible for one’s own feelings, attitudes, values, and handling life’s daily difficulties. Other responsibilities include loving your spouse, knowing your boundaries, and not enabling sin, destructive behavior, or immature attitudes.
Law #3: The Law of Power
This law states that a spouse has power over some things but not other things. A spouse does not have the power for the other spouse to have self-control. Each spouse has the power to have self-control, not other-control. Spouses have the power to influence, but they do not have the power to change one another. Each spouse has the power to identify the way he or she is actively or passively contributing to a problem.
Law #4: The Law of Respect
This law states that if a spouse wants the other one to respect boundaries, the spouse should first learn to identify and respect boundaries. Each spouse should learn to respect the other’s freedom of making choices, the freedom to say no, and the freedom to say, “If you don’t stop being angry with me, I will have to distance myself from you.”
Law #5: The Law of Motivation
This law states that a spouse should make choices based on values, not out of fearing the other will be angry. It means freely choosing to do something and freely choosing to love without being motivated by fear of loss, anger, loneliness, guilt, or loss of approval. We must be free to say no or free to love before we can wholeheartedly say yes.
Law #6: The Law of Evaluation
This law refers to allowing a good kind of pain that leads to growth and maturity, not a bad kind of pain that leads to injury or revenge. A spouse should evaluate the pain that our inappropriate boundaries might be causing others. In order to develop a better marriage, we might need to give consequences that might cause temporary growing pains, which leads to growing up.
Law #7: The Law of Proactivity
This law states that one spouse or both spouses can take appropriate action to solve problems. These actions should be based on good values, wants, and needs. A spouse should protest against hurtful behavior in a positive helpful way, not in a lashing out, blowing-up kind of way.
Law #8: The Law of Envy
This law states that the feeling of envy is miserable because it focuses on what others have instead of valuing the good parts of what we own. Each spouse should own his or her shortcomings such as resentment or helplessness, and then confess and repent. The solution is to find better solutions, recognize how to live out good desires that preserve goodness, and replace a sense of helplessness with better responses, better words, better attitudes, and better solutions.
Law #9: The Law of Activity
This law refers to finding loving solutions and taking action that leads to growth and maturity. A spouse needs to take charge of what he or she can do, take charge of finding healthy boundaries, take charge of speaking truth in a loving way, take charge of setting loving goals, and take action based on thoughtful values. The first move is always available. It is a matter of realizing what it is and putting it into action.
Law #10: The Law of Exposure
This law states that we are to communicate our own boundaries in a loving way. A spouse should know that he or she can become empowered, using personal power to interact in better ways such as appropriately communicating his or her feelings, attitudes, behaviors, values, choices, limits, desires, thoughts, talents, and love.
Chapter 3: Setting Boundaries
The author stresses the importance of taking ownership in our half of the marriage, doing what we can to create a better environment and taking good steps to solve issues in both halves of the marriage. A spouse must take full ownership of one’s self by admitting our own limitations, confessing specifically where our own character falls short (Romans 3:23). This new awareness includes finding our own character flaws and learning how to set healthy boundaries with ourselves. We should always keep our heart humble by focusing on our own need for God’s love, understanding that we need His forgiveness each day, and turn away from taking on a morally superior attitude. Healthy boundaries become easier to identify once we learn what we need to stop doing and what we need to start doing. Confessing and repenting is a part of becoming more mature and more Christlike.
After a spouse realizes the difference between being half responsible for the marriage and completely responsible for one’s self, it will become much more productive relating to our spouse’s issues. Two practical steps exist when the other spouse is being selfish, irresponsible, withdrawn, or controlling. The first step is to admit what part we play in the problem. There could very well be something we need to stop doing. For example, we might need to stop nagging or criticizing the spouse for being a failure. We might need to stop blaming, protesting, stop reacting negatively, stop feeling helpless, stop enabling a problem, or stop trying to change the other spouse.
The second step is to figure out what we can do to start helping the situation get better. Instead of seeing our own half of the marriage as the “good spouse” or the “innocent spouse,” it is much better to do what we can to take some steps in solving a problem even though the problem might very well belong to the other spouse. Figuring out what we need to start doing is the way to start making progress.
Chapter 4: A Complete Individual
In a healthy marriage, both spouses will understand how important it is to be a complete individual person (Matthew 19:4-6). In addition, both spouses will honor the other person as a complete individual. A complete individual is a person who values the following ten abilities: giving love, receiving love, being independent and self-sufficient, living out values honestly, being responsible, having confidence, dealing with problems and failures, living out his or her talents, not looking at marriage as the place where one gets completed as a person, and having a life. When two complete people become one in marriage, they both increase in maturity and knowledge together more than they ever could if they had been alone.
How does a person become complete as an individual? Without borrowing basic human requirements of good character from the other spouse, each spouse needs to put forth the ability to express and develop certain things. The following list describes a complete individual: able to connect emotionally, able to be vulnerable and share feelings, has an appropriate sense of power and assertiveness, saying no when needed, has initiative and drive, has at least a minimal amount of organization, ability to be real and mature, accepts imperfections, has grace and forgiveness, grieves in a healthy way, thinks and express one’s opinions, learns and grows, takes responsible risks, understands and uses one’s talents, ability to be responsible and follow through, ability to be free and not controlled by external or internal factors, ability to be sexual and spiritual, has a moral sense, values being complete and the process of two becoming one, and has an intellectual life.
It makes good sense to value all the treasures in our soul and all the treasures in our spouse’s soul. These treasures include our feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, limits, desires, thoughts, values, talents, and love. A complete individual will take responsibility of these treasures by first valuing them in one’s self and then require the same from the spouse. Growing and developing individuals will care about the treasures in the soul of one’s self as well as in the soul of the spouse. Three things are required in order for a spouse to value the other spouse’s treasures. First, a spouse must see that the other spouse as a separate person with individual needs and feelings. Second, a spouse needs to understand the other spouse’s experience, identify with it, and have compassion. Exercising this kind of empathy is a bedrock of intimacy. Third, a spouse must allow the other spouse to exist in his or her own right by allowing the freedom to have certain differences without internalizing it as abandonment, rejection, or a challenge to change. When a person is free to cherish the spouse, a new sense of joy is being developed.
Chapter 5: Values
One of the treasures in our soul is the ability to have godly values. A healthy marriage will have two spouses who hold godly values up high, esteeming them, and pursue them together as a couple. One of the biggest mistakes a spouse can make is making happiness a goal instead of godly values. It is important to know the difference between seeking happiness and seeking values that result in happiness. The following seven main values will make or break a good healthy marriage: loving God, loving his or her spouse, being honest, being faithful, having compassion, forgiving, and welcoming holiness. When both spouses make an effort to value those seven values, the end result will be two happier spouses and a much better marriage. Chapters six through eleven take a closer look at each one of these values.
Chapter 6: Love God
One way to love the Lord God is to find out what kind of marriage He says works best and then make an effort to make the changes that are needed in order to achieve it. This effort is a life-long effort to continually maintain. The best way to make the changes needed is to first love God. Then we can experience the Spirit of God who empowers both spouses to make the changes necessary. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all our mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). If a spouse is led by his or her flesh to make the changes, then the spouse is limiting the marriage. The key to growing in character is found in a loving relationship with the Lord. In a loving relationship, a person will be led by and walk with the Holy Spirit. Once a spouse begins to love the Lord on a daily basis, he will find guidance. Once a spouse begins to love the Lord on a daily basis, he will begin to see the benefits of bearing good fruit. He will experience the empowerment needed to show godly attitudes and bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, goodness, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Chapter 7: Love One Another
What kind of love should a spouse have toward his or her spouse? The answer is simple. Each spouse should give agape love to the other spouse. What does this mean? In a very basic sense, agape love is concerned with what is good for the other. A Greek translation of agape is “love that is affection or benevolence or charity”. Each spouse should think about how to make the other spouse’s life better. Agape love is godly love.
Jesus gave the second greatest commandment to “love one another as He loved one another” (John 13:34)). What kind of love is godly love? In the gospels, we see how Jesus loved one another, and He told us to “do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Jesus was patient, kind, and humble. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Jesus had the heart of a servant (Philippians 2:1-8). How did he serve one another? He had empathy. He was committed, and He took the right kind of action. Three keys to showing agape love toward a spouse include empathy, commitment, and taking the right kind of godly action.
Chapter 8: Honesty
In order to have an honest marriage, it will be important to avoid deception (Lev. 19:11, Prov. 6:16-19, Col. 3:9-10). An honest marriage will value healthy communication that can share deep feelings, needs, hurts, desires, failures, or whatever else is tugging on a spouse’s soul. Healthy communication involves truth while being kind and loving (1John 3:11, 18, 4:7-11, 3John 1:4, 8, 12). Honest communication will help develop intimacy. In addition to speaking truthfully in a kind way, it is just as important to be able to receive the truth in a healthy way. When a spouse listens to a truthful statement, he or she will need to exercise giving grace.
Chapter 9: Faithfulness
What is a faithful spouse? A faithful spouse is one who can be trusted, depended upon, believed in, and one in whom you can rest (Ephesians 5:22-33). A faithful spouse will not commit an emotional affair with someone else. A spouse should not be faithfully emotional to someone else instead of being faithful to one’s own spouse. In addition to not getting involved in an emotional affair, a spouse should not get involved in a sexual affair (1 Cor. 7:1-16). A spouse is to remain faithful to his or her spouse (Prov. 5:15-23, Prov. 31:11-12, Eph. 5:33, Hebrews 13:4). Just as God remains faithful to us no matter what we do, a marriage requires faithfulness even if and when a spouse fails to love in a perfect way.
Chapter 10: Compassion and Forgiveness
The reality in this world is that every human person falls short of perfection, except for Jesus (Romans 3:23, John 14:9-11). Once we accept this reality, every spouse will need to exercise grace toward the other as well as heal from personal failures (Matthew 5:7). God calls us to clothe ourselves with compassion (Matthew 18:23-35, Luke 10:30-31). One way to be more compassionate toward a spouse is to say, “That could be me. How would I want to be treated if I were going through that?” Compassion should cause a person to become more kind, patient, and tenderhearted. In addition to showing compassion, we are called to forgive over and over, seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22). We have been forgiven by God, and He calls us to forgive one another.
Chapter 11: Holy Character
Holiness is not some kind of boring life. On the contrary, holiness is desirable and attractive (Exodus 3:5, 30:29, Leviticus 11:44-45). It means to be pure and blameless (Gen. 6:9, 17:1). In order to be a pure and blameless person, one needs to live a sanctified life, day by day, repenting from sin, walking in step with the Holy Spirit, and remaining in the Lord’s Word (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Timothy 4:5). In a healthy marriage, a holy spouse will take ownership with a certain issue, drive toward growth and development, give up what gets in the way of loving his or her spouse, turn away from anything that gets in the way of truth, and has a purity of heart, guarded where nothing toxic is allowed to grow.
Chapter 12: Resolving Conflict
The marriage union needs to be actively protected. It cannot revolve around other people nor can it revolve around other things like careers, houses, cars, or money. Protecting your marriage involves knowing your boundaries and making an effort to invest in your marriage. In a healthy marriage, a spouse cannot overlook the other spouse by saying yes to everything else. A good marriage will consist of leaving behind certain intruders that are keeping the marriage from being successful. Intruders could be inside or outside the marriage. If a marriage spends no quality time together then the marriage has been neglected. Spouses should set time aside for date night, for example, because it can help the marriage move forward in the right direction.
A good marriage will set good limits relating to time and energy. Instead of taking the marriage for granted or neglecting the marriage, each spouse should make an effort to resolve conflicts and invest in the marriage. If a conflict seems to be intolerable, both spouses should explore how he or she might be living in an immature way. When both spouses own his or her weaknesses and issues, they should move forward with a greater effort to resolve a conflict. If a spouse thinks the other spouse places greater value on other things, such as work or other people, a new awareness – of making a good investment in the marriage – is needed. Differences in a marriage do not need to be seen as an intruder. Differences can end up being a tremendous source of joy. In the next chapter, we will identify six different kinds of common conflicts.
Chapter 13: Six Kinds of Conflict
Every marriage will need to know how to resolve six different kinds of conflict: sin, immaturity, hurt feelings, opposing desires, marriage needs, and dealing with unknown problems. Once a spouse repents from being self-centered, the marriage will be able to deal with those six kinds of conflict much better. Whatever the conflict might be, each spouse will need to be patient and kind and pray for wisdom. In the next chapter, we will examine a six-step strategy to resolving conflicts.
Chapter 14: Strategy to Resolving Conflict
Once a spouse decides to invest in his or her marriage, certain issues will need to be dealt with. If a person is willing to deal with the issue, then the issue can be much more easily resolved. However, if a person is in denial, then the issue will not be as easy to resolve. In this chapter, a six-step process is identified in order to help resolve a conflict when the person is willing to deal with the issue. This process is a general process, and it is biblical. The six-step process includes the following: Observation, confrontation, ownership, repentance, involvement, and reexamination. What happens if one spouse is not resolving the issue? In the next chapter, we will address unwelcome boundaries. We will examine several ways to deal with a person who does not want to resolve anything.
Chapter 15: Dealing with a Resister
In a healthy marriage, two spouses should be willing to embrace the reality of receiving and respecting the other spouse’s boundaries. However, sometimes one spouse will resist. This chapter explores what to do if one spouse is resisting. It will help if the resister can at least listen to the benefits of respecting boundaries.
One way to deal with a person who does not want to resolve anything is to discuss what a good marriage looks like. A resister should at least listen to what a good marriage is all about. A good marriage has flourishing love; compassion develops, self-control and patience develop, appreciation for who a person is develops, and a greater dependence on godly values develop. The resister should know that values are the key to bringing about the end result of happiness.
A second way to deal with a person who does not want to resolve anything is for the spouse who is willing to discuss his or her desire of wanting to love God and grow in good character. Whether the resister might not care about boundaries or might lack an understanding about boundaries, the resister might need to sit and listen to the willing person discuss his or her own shortcomings as well as the benefits to the willing person setting boundaries. A third approach is to go ahead and try again to correct a particular issue or set certain limits, depending on what the issue might be. Even if the resister seems as if he or she is resisting, it could very well be that the resister is somewhat open to getting help in a new and fresh way.
A fourth approach is to discover what is causing the resister to resist. One cause might be a lack of empathy on behalf of the resister. By discussing how it is good to become aware of how each person is affecting the other one, a new sense of compassion could begin to develop. Another cause might be irresponsibility. Another cause might be a lack of ability to recognize love, grace, and freedom. Another cause might be control. Another cause might be unresolved old feelings toward other people. Other causes might seem like denial or retaliation on the surface, but after discussing certain causes, the resister might open up to what is really bothering him or her.
A fifth approach is following the process of making a soul connection. It will help if a counselor or the willing spouse can be the example of growing and owning, identify a specific issue, validate feelings, make known that the goal is for two loving spouses to love each other, and create a welcoming conversation. A good soul connection will not have any fear about requesting a certain change. A good soul connection will identify boundaries with good consequences, giving time and patience for the resister to adjust. A good soul connection will not have any fear about giving a warning to the resister.
Leaving a marriage permanently is the last consequence called divorce. Is the resistor leaving or is the willing spouse leaving? The willing spouse can stay in the marriage and learn to make a better soul connection as much as it is possible. Boundaries are not designed to end a marriage. It will be important to understand how to avoid misusing boundaries in a marriage. In the last chapter, two ways in which boundaries can be misused will be identified. In the conclusion, ten keys will be given as to how we can avoid misusing boundaries.
Chapter 16: Avoid Misusing Boundaries in Marriage
Boundaries are designed to preserve and deepen a marriage. They are not designed to end relationships. If a person is found misusing healthy boundaries in marriage, it might be because an increase in alienation has occurred. Instead of increasing alienation, it will be important to make sure an effort is being made to increase the reality of showing love.
Some boundaries might cause temporary suffering, but healthy suffering is God’s way to move us into the reality of growing in character and maturing. When a marriage is growing, sometimes the spouses will feel some kind of discomfort, but in a healthy process, suffering should only be temporary. When we suffer for doing the right thing in God’s eyes, He will bless us for it. Godly suffering is actually good for us when we learn to trust and submit to God’s good and perfect will. Once godly suffering is welcomed and experienced as a fruitful process, maturity takes place and an increase in submitting to God develops (Romans 5:3-5). James said to “count it all joy” to meet various trials because it can produce good character (James 1:2-4). A mature person will understand that certain sufferings are like a stepping stone, moving us past something, toward better character.
The second way in which boundaries might be misused is if a spouse is using boundaries as a way to avoid growth. If boundaries are set in order to avoid repenting, for example, then the wrong kind of boundaries have been set. One of the best ways to avoid misusing boundaries is to make a greater effort to build a marriage on love, honesty, and freedom.
When a problem arises in a marriage, and problems will arise, the goal should always be to mature, nurture the marriage, and personally grow in character. The following are ten last keys to a successful marriage. The first key is for one spouse to establish and express that he or she has a desire for what is best for the other spouse. The second key is to make a commitment to speak in love, not out of anger. A third key to a healthy marriage is to receive loving care and support from outside the marriage, from God, from support groups, marriage groups, etc. The fourth key is to take ownership and be honest about what kind of contribution is being made to finding good boundaries. The fifth key is to request a change in a particular boundary, but the spouse should always do it with love and compassion.
The sixth key is to identify consequences to unchanged behaviors and discuss warnings about things that might happen in the future. Knowing about consequences can help avoid the reality of certain actions and help protect your marriage. The seventh key is to be certain about the difference between ungodly silent suffering and the process of patient endurance. The eighth key is to renegotiate boundaries as time goes by. A more mature marriage might find the need to develop new boundaries and find some of the old boundaries less useful. The ninth key is to practice forgiving every day. Walk in God’s grace each day and remember, it is important to receive forgiveness from one’s spouse. Give mercy just as mercy has been shown to us at the cross. The tenth key is to submit in a way that freely serves one another with a joyful heart.
Taking on the heart of a servant is the best way to bring glory and honor to the Lord. Serving one another with godly boundaries – and knowing what are within your boundaries – is the best way to have a good marriage.