All healthy marriages have boundaries. A marriage without boundaries can have disastrous consequences.
Boundaries are designed to protect something, not to prohibit it… A ski boundary line, a railing on a bridge, a divider in a freeway, directions on the back of a medication, these boundaries are not set in place to hinder you, they are set in place to hedge against danger. Boundaries within marriage are no different. They should be set in place to protect your marriage from division, bitterness, animosity, and miscommunication. When boundaries are broken, someone usually ends up getting hurt.
Recently there was a “disturbance in the force” over Mike and Karen Pence. Apparently, they are in a healthy committed relationship and guard it with some boundaries. “So, what’s the problem?” Well… One of their boundaries is that they won’t have one-on-one appointments with someone of the opposite sex. This created quite the internet storm, and people were absurdly defaming and criticizing the Pence’s because of their boundary.
What shocked me most about this outrage was that it was not just targeting their specific boundary regarding one-on-one time with the opposite sex… Oh no, the backlash via twitter responses and articles across the web extended to boundaries in general as being oppressive and disrespectful to women. How ridiculous! This boundary might be the epitome of respect itself!
Boundaries are a fundamental element of any relationship, business, or organization. Since marriage was created to be the most intimate of all human relationships, shouldn’t it be given more careful thought when it comes to boundaries?
1. Marriage needs boundaries.
Today we live in a culture that worships the self. If anything were to infringe on the ability to do what you want, when you want, how you want, culture considers it oppressive and puts some silly label on it to make it sound offensive. However, love is the complete opposite of selfishness. Love is selflessness. That means you need to give up some things in order for it to work, we must make sacrifices for love to thrive. (I know, scary word these days). Marriage is the definition of selflessness, it is the giving up of oneself for the benefit of the other. Marriage is a space where extreme vulnerability, intimacy, and closeness are possible, but not without sacrifice. Marriage should be protected with some boundaries, even if that means making some sacrifices! Without total commitment and boundaries to protect your sacred union, you will never reach the potential of deep intimacy within your marriage. Your heart won’t let you enter these depths of intimacy because it can’t trust that it will be protected. Boundaries enable trust because you can rely on them during times of vulnerability.
2. Boundaries have existed since the beginning of time – for our protection.
When God first created humanity what did he do? He gave us boundaries. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Gen 2:16-17 (NKJV) Why did He do this? Was it to oppress us? Was it to restrict us? Was it to trick us or make us feel inferior? Was it to be offenseive? No, not at all! It was actually for our GOOD. True love is only possible if it’s a choice – not forced. We can choose God therefore we can love Him. Likewise, we can choose our spouse, therefore we can love them. Anything outside of a choice is forced, and true love can’t be forced. God gave us a choice to trust in Him and be confident that His boundaries are established in love and designed to help us prosper. But what did we do? We were deceived and did not trust God because we let doubt dictate our choice. We selfishly thought, “Nawh, God didn’t really mean that you can’t pick from the tree…” We doubted reality, crossed the boundaries that were set up to protect us, and before we knew it we were neck deep up the creek without a paddle in sin and disaster. Put another way, this boundary set up by God was to protect perfect love. Likewise, we set up boundaries in our marriages to PROTECT our love.
3. Affairs don’t happen on purpose.
Very rarely does someone set out to have an affair… Perhaps no one ever does this. Affairs and/or emotional cheating is something that gradually happens over time. We’ve all heard people say, “My spouse would never cheat on me.” Well, are there boundaries set in place to ensure that? Every affair started with two people on their wedding day proclaiming their love to one another, but failing to protect that love with boundaries. It’s heartbreaking. But a wish without a plan is exactly that, just a wish. You need a PLAN to successfully achieve almost anything, including a healthy marriage. And this plan needs some boundaries.
Also, are we so naive to think that we are immune to the sin of lust? “Oh, I’m better than that, that’ll never happen to me.” Or, “I can handle it.” These justifications keep us walking the line between sin and holiness. We don’t sin “on accident” – we choose to sin. We sin because we’re walking the line…
Now, Auj and I are still considered newly weds, and DO NOT claim to know anything. However, there are some things you can learn simply by observing. If you’re reading this, you’re probably old enough to have seen, heard about, or witnessed an affair. They are almost always the culmination of a long string of “innocent” events that one day amounted to inapropriate feelings that they promised they’d never have, with someone other than their spouse, because they allowed it to happen. Boundaries keep you in the safe zone. They might feel “silly” but they work. Boundaries keep you from toying with the line, and instead, striving for holiness and selfless love in all circumstances.
“While many dynamics go into producing and maintaining love, over and over again one issue is at the top of the list: boundaries. When boundaries are not established in the beginning of a marriage, or when they break down, marriages break down as well…. For this intimacy to develop and grow, there must be boundaries.” – Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Now, concerning this one specific boundary that the Pence’s are being attacked for, am I saying that it is an absolute black and white matter at all times no matter what!? No. Am I saying that I believe it is a pretty darn good idea? Yes. It might seem extreme to some, and thats okay, but for people to shame someone who respects his marriage “too much,” is indeed shameful in itself.
There are some seemingly impossible circumstances and work requirements out there that might “require” you going to lunch and dinner dates one on one with someone of the opposite sex, but they are just that, seemingly required. Bringing someone else along is not that difficult. Go out of your way to air on the side of holiness, and abide by your set boundaries.
Now, you might be thinking, “We don’t have boundaries and we are fine!” To that I say – awesome! I’m stoked your marriage is fine, but if you’re following this blog, don’t you have a desire to give even MORE to your marriage and to always be looking for ways to further deepen your bond of oneness? Maybe you don’t have specific outlined boundaries, but maybe you do have some boundaries that are just “understood.” Kind of like moral law, it’s just “understood” by all decent humans – for the most part. Don’t kill another human, don’t stab a friend behind his back, etc.. I would still encourage you to talk about what your “understood” boundaries are and put them in writing. One day what was just “understood” might not be and you’ll be left wondering, “how did this happen?”
Again, this post is about protecting something that deserves protecting. That is all boundaries are for, protection. I encourage you to place some boundaries on your marriage. Maybe it’s no texting old girlfriends. Maybe its no dinner dates with someone of the opposite sex. Maybe it’s no leaving the milk out… Whatever it is, make sure your spouse knows your fears, thoughts, and concerns so they don’t “accidentally” find themselves wandering so far away that one day you both can’t find your way back home.
If you already have some boundaries, what are they? We’d love for you to share them in the comments so the rest of the community here at Beating50Percent can see them and get some ideas.
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