What does setting healthy boundaries in marriage look like? We’re often good at getting mad or resentfully accommodating, but usually not so good at setting healthy boundaries.
That is a topic I’ve never really addressed on the blog because in all honesty I don’t really know how to think about them.
Oh I know how to lay down my desires to get what I want, but I’ve never really had a firm grasp on what setting healthy boundaries looks like exactly.
That is, until I’ve spent a lot of time researching it for my upcoming book about mixed-faith marriages (sign up here if you are interested in that). I’ve thought A TON about this topic recently.
Some people I’ve interviewed for my book are in a situation where they legitimately need to set down some boundaries in their marriage.
And its hard.
Because our knee-jerk reactions in these tough situations are generally either to get really mad or to withdraw.
Now, it should be said that perhaps I don’t understand about boundaries because I’ve never been in a serious situation where I’ve needed to set some.
The credit there all goes to Rich. Realizing that gosh, Rich really doesn’t make demands of me filled me right up with love and appreciation for him.
But some people do make demands of their spouse. Some people make a lot of demands.
We aren’t in control of how demanding our spouse is, but we are in control of how we react. Do we get upset? Resentful? Vengeful? Do we withdraw? Do we let them have their way but disconnect emotionally?
Brene Brown (bless that woman!) says when you are faced with a demand that violates your personal integrity (which is when a boundary needs to be set), you don’t puff up and you don’t shrink. You stand your sacred ground.
Brene defines boundaries as knowing what is ok and what is not ok. When you are faced with something that is not ok, you don’t start fighting and yelling (although this is a natural reaction, it’s not helpful) and you don’t shrink (resentful accommodation). You don’t become a doormat to accepting things that violate your personal integrity.
You stand your sacred ground and you do it with love.
If you are wondering (as I did) if you are in need of setting a boundary– ask yourself, “Would this boundary come from the best in me or the worst in me? Who would benefit from this boundary- just me or both of us?” A good boundary should actually benefit both parties, and should be coming from the best in you.
When asked this, it became clear to me that I’m not in a position where I need to set any boundaries in my marriage. Sometimes I don’t get my way and I want to “put my foot down” (that would result in me getting my way), but that is coming from the worst in me, not the best in me.
For example, I would love to get rid of stuff Rich wants to keep, but I know that that is not coming from my personal integrity- it’s coming from wanting to get my way. Keeping stuff around that Rich wants to keep does not violate my morals or harm me in any way other than bothering me. So we’ll keep talking about it and compromising, but its not worth setting a line in the sand over.
Setting lines in the sand always comes with a consequence, and your friendship and connection is what will take a hit.
While I couldn’t find anything in my marriage that needs a boundary, I actually did find a few behaviors in my parenting that did. I think I have unintentionally become a bit of a doormat to my kids’ demands, which often causes me to be resentful towards them.
So I lovingly set some boundaries recently that would benefit BOTH me and my kids. And for maybe the first time, I didn’t create boundaries out of anger (I formerly didn’t know that could happen). I set them calmly and lovingly. And I’m happy to report, it’s been working wonderfully. I feel like I have more respect for myself and have been less resentful toward them.
So if you need to set some boundaries, don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just stand your sacred ground.