Whilst marriage is a union between you and your spouse, you should also understand that getting married should not mean that you lose yourself in your marriage. You and your spouse should continue to be able to remain as independent and fulfilled individuals albeit in a loving and positive relationship.
So what’s the key to maintaining your self-identity whilst still embracing what marriage should mean to both of you? The answer lies in being able to understand that even within a marriage, it is healthy to establish and respect certain boundaries.
What Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are lines which we draw around ourselves which define who we are. They are usually there to protect the values and beliefs that we believe we cannot change without fundamentally changing who we are as individuals. They are also there to protect us from abuse, discrimination and exploitation; behaviours which will diminish our dignity as human beings and rob us of our self-esteem.
Having boundaries in a healthy relationship is a way to protect us as individuals. Being able to respect your spouse’s boundaries means that you love, understand and cherish them. The best relationships exist because we are able to appreciate and respect each other’s boundaries. What this usually means is that you have married a spouse who shares the same values and treasures the characteristics which make you unique.
What Do Boundaries Allow You to Do?
Boundaries give you the freedom to grow as individuals and as a couple. They allow you to know where you end and your spouse begins. They act as a check against excessive control and dominance and they prevent one spouse from suffocating the growth and development of the other.
Boundaries mean that when you and your spouse don’t agree, you should be able to accept that:
Your spouse can say “no” to you
You will not try to control or force your spouse to take a position to an action which they don’t feel comfortable with
Practice self-control over your own emotions and suspend judgement of your spouse when they express views which may differ from yours
Refrain from using tactics such as withdrawal of emotional or financial support, physical attacks or guilt trips to control your spouse
Accept your spouse’s feedback on your own actions and views
What Happens When Your Spouse Can’t Respect Your Boundaries?
Boundaries don’t work unless both you and your spouse understand the consequences of not respecting those boundaries. You need to prioritize your boundaries and once you do, you need to be able to establish consequences if they are breached.
A well thought through consequence is designed to protect you and not to control or change your spouse. They should not be actions taken in anger or upon impulse and they should be related to the severity of your spouse’s actions against you. For example, if you spouse is constantly late for dinner, one consequence could be a decision to prepare dinner separately and to eat first. If however, your spouse has been unfaithful in your marriage, the consequence would need to be much more serious and related to a change in your spouse’s future behaviour.
In all efforts, consequences which you place on your spouse should respect their boundaries too. You should continue to respect your spouse and treat them with dignity and love. Always remember that the intent of setting boundaries is not to separate you from each other, but to establish an environment in which both of you can participate equally and grow together.