Do you want to be proactive and get ahead of problems before they start and do you know that setting some boundaries, some ground rules, is a key way to do this?
Good for you!
Unfortunately, many of the most common and most effective boundaries are often the ones most easily violated, sometimes by mistake and sometimes on purpose.
Let me help you review what are the most common boundaries in marriage, learn why they are important, see how they can be violated, and understand what can be done to prevent this from happening.
1. The importance of time apart.
When they are falling in love, couples want to spend every available minute together. The feelings that accompany falling in love are addictive and hard to walk away from, even for a short while.
It is important, however, that you spend time apart from the one you love.
You know the old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” It’s true!
Think about how you feel when you go on a diet. How you can’t eat ice cream for a month while you lose those give pounds and, man, do you miss your ice cream. It’s the same thing in a relationship. Stepping away from your partner, even for a bit, makes you both notice the void that is created in his or her absence.
And then the heart grows fonder.
Unfortunately, this is one of those boundaries that are easy to violate, oftentimes unintentionally. As a matter of habit, we tend to fall into patterns that include spending all of our time with our partner. And while that can seem great at first, over time that can create issues such as losing touch with friends and getting sick of spending time with our partner.
And being sick of spending time with your partner can be a real relationship killer.
So, spend some time apart. Miss each other. Value each other. Keep that spark alive.
2. Don’t let one person be in charge.
In many marriages, at some point one person becomes the one calling the shots. And while this seems to work on one level, ultimately the relationship will become uneven. And when things are uneven, a marriage changes.
At the beginning of many marriages, the decisions are largely shared. What to do, where to eat, where to travel—these are all decisions made by a couple together. What often happens, though, is that after the kids are born, decision making tends to fall to the primary caregiver.
This doesn’t happen for any reason other than efficiency—raising children is a chaotic job, and the family usually revolves around them. Decisions need to be made quickly, on the fly sometimes or more deliberately at other times. And more often than not, the primary caregiver is the person present to make those decisions.
And this, while efficient, will ultimately create a power imbalance that can kill any strong marriage.
So, make an effort to keep the decision making even in the marriage. If you are good at organizing your social life, then do that, but give your partner the opportunity to choose events. If they are good at managing the finances, let them do that, but continue to have input into where the money goes and why. Work together to make as many decisions about the kids and your family together.
Not letting either one of you be in charge is important.
3. Respect each other.
One of the biggest romance killers in marriage is lack of respect and contempt. Working hard to maintain respect for your partner is essential.
The saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is an accurate one, and something that happens in many committed relationships. As time goes on, personalities can clash and unsettled issues can simmer. As a result, partners can lose respect for each other. How can you be in a happy marriage when you don’t respect your partner?
Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the trap of losing respect for each other. You can keep yourself out of the trap by speaking to each other honestly and sharing your feelings and needs in an open way. By not attacking each other personally and criticizing each other’s behaviors and actions.
Furthermore, it’s important to not criticize your partner out in the world. The general rule of thumb is that you don’t tell people something about your partner that you haven’t already shared with your partner.
When I was married, I talked to my friends WAY more about the problems in my marriage than I did with my husband. This didn’t do our relationship any good because we weren’t communicating and giving our relationship a chance to improve. And when we were together, I treated my husband with contempt because I no longer respected him.
I am no longer married.
So, make sure you treat each other with respect, both inside and outside the relationship.
4. Be your own person always.
One of the most important common boundaries in marriage is always staying true to yourself, no matter what.
So many people become less of themselves when they get married.
They take on their partner’s friendships, their hobbies, and their ways of doing things.
It is VERY important that everyone stays themselves when in a relationship.
Why? Because every healthy relationship is based on truth, and if you are anything other than your true self, your relationship will never be really healthy.
It is also important that you continue to respect yourself, and you will respect yourself by being yourself. By continuing to have your friends, to do your own hobbies, to have a career that you love and a healthy lifestyle that serves you, you will wake up every day feeling good about yourself.
And when you feel good about yourself, your partner will love you even more because he knows you are being your true self, someone who is ambitious and smart and willing to take risks to get what she wants.
Unfortunately, staying ourselves in a relationship can be difficult. Marriage is hard and long and it’s hard not to evolve in such a way that mirrors our partner.
In order to maintain connection, one person might take up golf at the expense of their favorite game of tennis to be with her partner. Or one person may give up a career because their partner is threatened by their success.
When these things happen, marriages are tested and often fail. People can fall out of love with the changed person next to them or perhaps become sick of this person who has lost themselves completely.
So, be yourself in your relationship. A healthy relationship requires it.
5. Be forgiving.
One of the most important and common boundaries in marriage is the importance of being forgiving.
Everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes. Over the course of a marriage, there can be many, many mistakes. And if those mistakes are left to fester, a marriage can be destroyed.
It is important that people learn how to forgive in relationships. This doesn’t mean to forget but to work to understand why your partner did what they did and to learn to accept it and move on. To not let the transgression fester by not dealing with it.
Unfortunately, being able to forgive in a marriage can be very difficult, hence the very high divorce rate in America.
More often than not, when one person betrays another in ways large or small, the betrayal is not properly dealt with. The person betrayed doesn’t adequately expresse their dismay or the betrayer doesn’t sufficiently take responsibility for their actions. Instead, the transgression gets added to the bank of resentment that exists on both sides of the relationship, creating an imbalance between contempt and love. This can often lead to divorce.
So, if your partner has betrayed you, work hard to forgive them. Talk with them openly about how you feel and give them the opportunity to apologize and take responsibility for the hurt they have caused you. Give yourself the opportunity to forgive them so that you can both move on and be happy!
There are many common boundaries in marriage that, when established, can proactively help you keep yours healthy.
Unfortunately, many of them are easily violated, but with some awareness and action, you can prevent those violations from happening and keep your relationship strong.
Don’t ever forget the importance of spending time apart, of keeping the balance of power equal, of maintaining respect for each other, of being yourself always and working hard to forgive.
Forgetting these things, either by mistake or on purpose, can derail your marriage in a way that you might never get back.
And I know that you don’t want that!