Boundaries In Marriage
Copyright 1999. Boundaries In Marriage is the follow up for Boundaries which was a best seller that made its way into our vernacular. Boundaries promises to help “you” and “me” become “we” in marriage. This is a very important task. If you are unfamiliar with what a boundary is and how they are good for you, I suggest you choose the original Boundaries over this one. There was a fair amount of good material that can help increase ones insight and that can be useful in the process of changing. The message with boundaries is this: you are responsible for you and in order to exercise your responsibility you must choose your feelings, thoughts, behaviors, limits, desires, etc. and these are the treasures we find within our boundaries.
Boundaries are Useful
A boundary is a property line:
- A prerequisite for being good neighbors
- denotes ownership
- outlines where one begins and the other ends
- defines responsibility
- shows us where to be free
After reading through this material that is almost 20 years old, I became aware of how relevant one particular chapter is for today. This chapter outlines some “adult abilities” and it inspired me on several levels. If you look at the list of adult abilities and see room for improvement or if your spouse says you need to improve in these areas then working on these points is a powerful step toward maturity. Maybe the list is enough to inspire you. Note where you are weak and choose which one you will work on.
Adult Abilities include:
- Connect emotionally
- Be vulnerable and share feelings
- Have an appropriate sense of power and assertiveness
- Be responsible and follow through
- Say no
- Be free and not controlled by external or internal factors
- Have initiative and drive
- Have at least a minimal amount of organization
- Be real, but not perfect
- Accept imperfections and have grace and forgiveness
- Think for oneself and express one’s opinions
- Be spiritual
- Learn and grow
- Take risks
- Grasp and use one’s talents
- Have a moral sense
- Be sexual
- Have an intellectual life
Boundaries outline ways in which we deal with conflict, protect us and our marriage from intruders. One of the ways we deal with conflict is by triangulation. This is a fancy way of saying we draft an unwilling participant into our civil war. A married couple might triangulate one of their kids to lessen the conflict and increase a sense of connection and belonging in the family. Triangulation can be seen as a boundary violation or trespassing. There are trespassers who will cross your boundaries and will need correction. When it comes to your marriage boundaries be on the lookout for these intruders.
- Outside hobbies
Raising Your Bottom
What you value is what you’ll have. This is so important. Some people settle for so little. They are always starting over and recycling to square one. Boundaries can help you raise your bottom so even if you go there it won’t be as bad as it used to be. This is a critical concept for changing your life. It is easiest to illustrate with money.
If you are tired of being broke when your bank account says $20 and that is when you adjust your spending then you have to learn to act as if there is $20 when in fact there is $50. If you can repeat this behavior change, eventually you will have a wealth of self-discipline. With self-discipline you can accomplish great things. Imagine if your arguments never got that ugly again, and each argument become more and more a relationship enhancing conversation or a blessing of encouragement that satisfies the soul. This is what is possible if you are responsible for raising your bottom.
Too much of this book is disjointed and far from a systematic way of approaching marital problems. I believe that stating boundaries sounds a lot like making ultimatums. One would need to work on connecting a lot before such statements are well received and understood. There wasn’t enough time spent on the misuse of boundaries or how to communicate them without triggering fear and doubt in your partner. You can say the right thing, the wrong way and it will be wrong to do so.
The list of treasures in your boundaries is a deep and life changing lesson but there are other books that do a better job of it. Choice Theory and 6 Pillars of Self Esteem are two secular titles that come to mind. Finally, there is a good section on values conflicts that includes how “happiness” is dangerous. “People who always want to be happy and pursue it above all else are some of the most miserable people in the world.” What value(s) could be more enduring than my happiness?
- Love God
- Love others
If you are well versed in boundaries and find that your marriage is still on the bottom visit our Services page for counseling or coaching.