In the previous post, we discussed the importance of boundaries in marriage. It is worth repeating that healthy boundaries lead to healthy relationships. Boundaries don’t detract from the marriage relationship, they enhance it. Eldemire (2020) puts it this way: “… boundaries aren’t restricting or limiting. They provide the freedom to express your needs and values while also honoring the needs and values of your partner … Setting healthy boundaries can transform your relationship and elevate your own self-respect.”
Setting boundaries is often challenging. Setting a boundary might mean clearly stating what you can or can’t do, or what you will or won’t accept. Trying to do what you are not able to do is apt to produce resentment. Stating what you can’t or won’t do, though, risks unpleasant feelings. The negotiations that support boundary-setting, though, will help your marriage become more resilient.
Eldemire (2020) gives practical examples of the clear communication needed to effectively set boundaries:
- “Please don’t speed when I’m a passenger in our car.”
- “Please respect my privacy.”
- “I am not OK with raised voices during conflict.”
- “I need a half-hour to myself when I get home from work to decompress and better help with the kids.”
Eldemire recommends sitting down with your partner to discuss your values, express your needs, and agree upon boundaries that you are both prepared to respect and honor. In addition, set clear consequences. For example, if you have agreed not to raise your voices during an argument, a consequence might be pausing and taking a 30-minute walk alone (2020). Do follow through with consequences. Model respecting your own boundaries (we will expand on this in our next post.)
Dashnaw (2019) recommends starting to practice boundary-setting by creating small, incremental boundaries, with no whining, blaming, or criticizing. Instead, ask for what you want while being “concise, emotionally clean, and conciliatory”.
An example would be:
“Bob, I heard that your mom wants us over again for Mother’s Day. My mom is starting to notice and has expressed disappointment because this would be the fourth year in a row that we would have spent Mother’s Day with your mom. I would feel more comfortable if we spent Mother’s Day with my parents this year and offered to be with your family on Father’s Day. I’d really like it if you would call and offer this to your mom.”
How we communicate our boundaries can make a difference in how effective they are, as well as make it possible for us and others to respect our boundaries.
Dashnaw, D. (2019, July 23). Why You Need Boundaries in Marriage. Couples Therapy Inc. https://www.couplestherapyinc.com/why-you-need-boundaries-in-marriage/
Eldemire, A. (2020, November 3). How to Set (and Respect) Boundaries With Your Spouse. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/couples-thrive/202011/how-set-and-respect-boundaries-your-spouse