Boundaries are the lines that separate us from others. While it may seem strange to be talking about separation in the context of marriage, I want to argue that boundaries are crucial for healthy relationships. They give us the opportunity to embrace a secure sense of ourselves as whole beings, separate from others.
Setting good boundaries prevents extremes in relationships
Setting good boundaries prevents extremes in relationships, such as being too close or too distant, giving too much or too little, idealizing or devaluing others. None of these extremes is healthy. I often tell clients that a boundary is a gate around my front yard that keeps positive stuff in and negative stuff out.
If we grew up in a healthy family, we had the chance to build a secure and complete sense of self. If we grew up in a family where we were abused, neglected, shamed, or abandoned, we didn’t learn appropriate boundaries.
Inability to set boundaries is a misguided attempt to be loved
Marriage junkies generally grew up in families where boundaries were hazy at best. Often these are families where the parents were emotionally and physically unavailable. These parents typically expect their children to handle responsibilities way beyond their age. Children learn that there are no boundaries to what may be expected of them.
The inability to set boundaries is a misguided attempt to be loved no matter what. Marriage junkies become over-givers as adults. Because boundaries are blurred, there is no dividing line between where they end and others begin. They take on other’s feelings and behaviors and interests. They lock their authentic selves away. Marriage and relationship junkies are easily trampled on, out of a need to please. They describe their relationships as if the other person is living inside their skin.There is a desperate need to merge with their partner.
Learn how to set limits with others
The way to develop healthy boundaries is to learn how to set limits with others and recognize the lines between you and those you love. So often, marriage junkies believe they are responsible for someone else’s inappropriate behavior, such as abuse, addictions, cheating, and/or unlawful activity. But we are responsible only for ourselves. Everyone must own their actions. When you set appropriate boundaries, you see that you are not responsible for another person’s behaviors.
You know you are gaining a stronger sense of self and developing boundaries when you realize “No” is a complete sentence; you don’t have to explain or defend yourself. You stop feeling guilty, believing everything that’s not perfect in your relationships is your fault. You become just as comfortable giving as you are receiving. You learn to differentiate your needs from the needs of others.
When you set boundaries, you create space for a true partnership
You begin to feel a sense of safety being you, you honor your own feelings, ask for what you need, are not afraid to have a different opinion, know what is someone else’s business and what is yours, learn to nurture yourself, do what you want to do without depending on another’s suggestions, stop blaming yourself for everything that isn’t right in your relationship, and finally, know how to set limits. When you set boundaries, you create space for a true partnership in your life.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.