Boundary Issues in Marriage
This is part 4 of a 5-part series on Boundaries by Megan Coggins.
Read Part 1 (Boundary Issues with Family) here.
Read Part 2 (Boundary Issues with Friends) here.
Read Part 3 (Boundary Issues at Work) here.
Marriage is a beautiful relationship where two people form one unified household, two people working together in one partnership. While this picture of marriage is wonderful, a marriage can also be a place where personal boundaries can become hazy.
One of the most complicated parts of marriage is that you become one with your spouse. You know them better than anyone else. You can tell what they are feeling and thinking without even asking them. This amazing bond between a husband and wife can become complicated because at times one spouse takes on the feeling of the other spouse. Has your spouse ever come home angry from work? You may have been having a great day before you saw your spouse, but now you find yourself feeling irritable and short-tempered. You have taken on their emotion!
Something that I see when working with couples is that it can be very difficult to share your emotions with your spouse. Conversations about emotions become more of an evaluation of the spouse’s behavior rather than sharing emotions of how that behavior impacts you. Couples spend years believing their spouse does not understand them and cannot figure out where this distance is coming from. By not sharing your emotions with your spouse, you are missing an opportunity for intimacy, an opportunity for them to truly know you. As Cloud and Townsend say in their book Boundaries, “Feelings are also a warning signal telling us that we need to do something.” Feelings are the prompting needed to help you look towards your spouse for support and vulnerability.
Boundaries in marriage also consist of sharing with each other what you feel comfortable and uncomfortable with. Many couples walk into marriage assuming that their values are the same as their spouse, but have never actually discussed with them specifics of their values. In marriage, it is best to be specific. Vagueness only leads to conflict, misunderstanding, and disconnect. Have you ever discussed with your spouse your values on drinking, pornography, physical boundaries with others, emotional distance with others, or how time is spent? Boundaries on these topics may seem obvious to you, but oftentimes couples do not see eye to eye on these topics. Getting on the same page with your spouse builds intimacy!
Cloud and Townsend, in their book Boundaries, have come up with some practical steps to integrate healthy boundaries in a marriage. The first is to take inventory of the symptom, try to determine where the problem lies. The next step is to identify the specific boundary problem that exists such as one spouse feeling that they do not have equal say in decision-making. Third, determine where the problem began, has it been occurring since the beginning of the relationship or is it recent? Fourth, find a support system whether that is a small group, counselor, or pastor to help support you both on your journey. Next begin to practice the new boundaries and forgive your spouse for any hurt they may have caused. Finally become proactive in deciding healthy boundaries and limits in your marriage with your spouse.