How can you safeguard your marriage to make sure it remains strong and healthy? This article discusses how to put boundaries in place that guard and protect your relationship. We cover how to create these healthy safeguards, and the two types of boundaries you need to put in place for your relationship.
How To Safeguard Your Marriage With Healthy Boundaries
People often ask, ‘How can I safeguard my marriage to make sure we don’t drift apart?’
In order to safeguard your marriage, you need to figure out what your boundaries are. If you don’t set boundaries for yourself and others, it will be hard to know when they have been crossed.
Boundaries are one of the most important aspects of healthy relationships. Boundaries define who you are and how much you allow others to have access to you. There is a fine line between setting boundaries or being selfish, but it comes from a place of love, not fear.
Boundaries help to protect you, your relationship, and your marriage. In order for a marriage to be successful, the spouses must agree on what their personal boundaries are and how they will communicate them to each other.
Here are four things you can do to set healthy boundaries.
1. Respect your own feelings, opinions, and needs
Socrates said, ‘Know thyself.‘ When you know your own limitations, weaknesses, and insecurities, you can create boundaries that work for you instead of against you.
Boundaries are defined by your own feelings, opinions wants, and needs. It is important to care about yourself enough to recognize your boundaries and communicate them clearly to your spouse.
2. Respect your spouse’s feelings, opinions, and needs
You must also be in tune with your spouse. You must understand that you can’t expect someone to respect your boundaries if you don’t respect theirs. You can learn more about the boundaries of your marriage by paying attention to how the other person reacts when they feel like their boundaries have been crossed.
Remember, at this stage, we are setting boundaries so our spouse feels secure, safe, and respected. Your boundaries should be about them, not you.
3. Understand the ‘why’ behind your boundaries and commit to it.
In order for boundaries to work, you must know why you are setting the boundary and be committed to it.
You must have a reason for wanting to set a specific boundary. By knowing your ‘why,’ you can communicate your boundaries with conviction and genuine concern for others. Make sure that the purpose of your boundary is not something that is selfish or out of fear.
4. Communicate your boundaries to your spouse
When you set boundaries for yourself and then communicate them clearly to others, you are protecting yourself from being hurt or taken advantage of.
Think through how you would like to be treated and what you would like to experience in your marriage. This is an important step. It follows the ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ rule. Never engage in an activity that you do not want your spouse to engage in.
When we keep this in mind, we will create boundaries that protect our relationship because we have our spouse in mind.
Boundaries in marriage are essential for your relationship’s safety. These boundaries should be created together as a couple and not unilaterally imposed by one spouse. Establishing boundaries is an important step toward making sure that you and your partner feel safe and happy in your relationship.
Why Are Boundaries So Important In Marriage?
Your relationship with your spouse is one of the most important connections in life. It trumps other friendships, coworkers, and even children. Some people bristle when I say this in a group setting, but it’s true.
Your children (if you’ve raised them in a healthy way) will one day leave home and start a family of their own. This doesn’t mean you lose touch with them; it only indicates your relationship role changes.
But your marriage is designed to last forever. After the kids are grown and gone, you will be left with your spouse. Question is, are you investing in your relationship in a way that future-protects it? Do you have safeguards in place to ensure you have a great relationship after the children are raised?
Quick story: Bumper Guards Bowling With Addie
Last month my wife spent the day with one of our grandkids. We have eight (at present), so we try to do this occasionally; take one of them for the day and focus our attention on ‘that one.’
This day was Addie’s day. She is mildly autistic and has a few communication and learning difficulties. But she loves her time with us.
Michelle took her shopping and ended the day with a late lunch and bowling. She loved it.
When they came home, she told me all about it. She boasted of her ‘high score.’ My wife smiled and let her glory in her bowling conquest. Then she looked at me and said, ‘We used bumpers to help a little bit!’
The bumper guards are railings you can put up to keep your bowling ball from going in the gutter.
This didn’t distract Addie from taking pride in her score. In her mind, we should all use bumpers because they keep the ball in the lane. It was a logical conclusion to her.
I think she has a point.
I’m not sure why more couples don’t use bumper guards to make sure they don’t wind up in the gutter.
When we put the right boundaries in place, we keep our marriage in the right lane and out of the gutter of a marriage crisis.When we put the right boundaries in place, we keep our marriage in the right lane and out of the gutter of a marriage crisis. Click To Tweet
Two Types Of Marriage Boundaries
What kind of boundaries protect marriage? I think there are two basic types each couple should consider. There are external boundaries and internal boundaries. By far the most important (in my opinion) is the internal boundaries we have in our own hearts.
Let’s breakdown the difference in external and internal boundaries, and why we need both to make our marriage safe.
These are guardrails we put in place to monitor our actions and behavior.
For example, every couple should have boundaries about what is acceptable and unacceptable social media behavior.
External boundaries are the physical commitments we make to our spouse to give them security, confidence, and trust that we will not do anything to damage your marriage.
They define the parameters of the relationship. They provide a safe place between two people who are in a relationship.
There are many different types of external boundaries that can be used to achieve this purpose.
Vows, covenants, agreements, marriage commitments, and other rules are all external boundaries that can be put into place to protect the marriage.
For example, I have a friend who travels frequently to speak at churches. He has a great marriage and he understands the temptations of being away from his family, and the insecurity his wife might feel about his travels, so he always travels with a male assistant.
They set this boundary as a point of accountability. He knows he would never hurt his wife by being unfaithful. But he puts this safeguard in place for both of their protection. It provides security in their relationship.
This is just one form of external boundaries used to protect your relationship.
We recommend taking time as a couple to discuss areas of insecurity, vulnerability, and potential danger. Then construct safeguards to put in place that will hold you accountable and protect your marriage.
They are external boundaries because they comprise physical limits we put on ourselves to guard our behavior.We recommend taking time as a couple to discuss areas of insecurity, vulnerability, and potential danger. Then construct safeguards to put in place that will hold you accountable and protect your marriage. Click To Tweet
The principle is, if I don’t put myself in a bad situation, I won’t fall for the temptation. If I’m not alone with another woman, I can’t cheat. At least, that’s the concept. It has some flaws, but it does help.
Internal boundaries are those we set for ourselves to monitor our thoughts and words. These are the lines we draw on ourselves to stay in control, and sometimes they’re invisible, like the boundary between “going too far” and self-control.
You see, we can be our own worst enemy. We can cause ourselves to fail if we aren’t careful. We can do damage to ourselves and the one we love.
We have to pay close attention to our thoughts, beliefs, and self-talk. If our inner conversation is too negative, there is potential for damaging our marriage and sometimes ourselves in the process.
Let’s call these heart boundaries. Bumpers we put up in our own hearts and mind to keep us positive and faithful.
The Heart Boundary Of David
David put up heart boundaries in his life.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.–Psalm 19:14 (ESV)
The important thing to note is David understood the impact of both words and thoughts. He knew his thoughts directed his behavior, and his words validated his beliefs, so he committed those areas to God.
We would do well to establish heart boundaries in our own life.
One way to do this is to set boundaries on what we allow into our thoughts. Guarding what we watch on television, what music we listen to, and what we expose our eyes to on the internet are all important bumpers we can set up to protect our hearts.
This is not about religious legalism. It is about valuing our marriage so much we protect it by safeguarding our thoughts.
What we continually think about, we pursue. It’s the way we were designed. Our minds are like heat-seeking missiles. Once they acquire a target (what we think about), they move us in the direction of that target.
If you fill your thoughts with negative things, your life will move in the direction of those things.
If you fill your mind with positive things, you will move in that direction.
It’s an unwritten, invisible law of nature.
If you continuously have self-talk that complains about your marriage, you will eventually BELIEVE that inner dialog. I put the word believe in all caps to draw attention. We often say things we do not really ‘believe.’ When we constantly affirm something, we eventually take it to heart and that belief will dominate our life.
That’s why we need to erect boundaries around our thoughts, words, and beliefs. They will ultimately determine the course and success of our lives. Including our marriage.
Does Your Marriage Need A New Set Of Boundaries?
To help answer this question and come to grips with your relationship boundary needs, let’s pose a few questions.
- Is it OK to hug another person of the opposite sex?
- Should a married person be alone (isolated) with the opposite sex?
- Should a husband defend his wife against insults from his immediate family?
- How important is parental approval in your relationship?
- What constitutes an unhealthy emotional connection with another person?
We get these questions frequently. Some questions are easier to answer than others. For example, it is unhealthy for a man to take another woman to a private dinner. It’s not only unhealthy, but it is also dangerous. You are setting yourself up for moral compromise.
Other questions are not as easy to answer. These are what I call ‘borderline questions.’ We all have this unseen line that determines when things are wrong – out of bounds. It’s not just a moral line. It is a moral and mental line. We will talk more about this in the next section.
The borderline questions are answered according to the direction of your relationship. If you are headed ‘toward’ your spouse, you are in a safety zone. If you are headed ‘away’ from your spouse, you are in danger.
The video below explains this in more detail.
If your marriage is headed in the wrong direction, there are many things that are unhealthy that might otherwise seem legitimate. It all depends on where you are and where you are headed in your marriage.
Strong Marriages Keep These Boundaries In Place
It is not my aim to tell you what boundaries to establish. That is something best done as a couple. Boundaries (as I’ve tried to make clear) are personal. They should be built around your needs as a couple.
That said, here are a few boundaries we consider healthy for all couples. If you desire a strong marriage, consider these.
1. No One-On-One Private Meetings With The Opposite Sex
I use the term private for a reason. Your work situation may require you to have an office meeting with a co-worker or business associate of the opposite sex. If that is the case (and it is unavoidable), make sure you stay accountable with your spouse.
It may be beneficial to discuss the meeting before and after with your spouse. This sends the message you care about their feelings and want to avoid making them feel insecure.
There are also practical things you can do to guard your reputation.
- Keep your door open
- Make sure the office has windows so people can look in
- Have a coworker present if possible (three in a room sends a different message than two)
- Set a time limit for the meeting
These are just a few safeguards you can put in place.
2. Keep Social Media Accounts Transparent
While social media (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) can serve a purpose, it can also be used to make someone feel uncomfortable. Make sure both your spouse has access to your social media accounts and are aware of any questionable posts.
- Give your spouse access to all of your social media accounts.
- Make sure that you and your spouse have access to each other’s passwords for their email, text, and social media accounts.
- Be aware of the content you are posting on the internet that may make your spouse feel uncomfortable or insecure in any way shape or form.
- Do not post anything questionable on social media without first talking with your spouse about it to avoid creating any tensions between the two of you.
- No private social media accounts.
3. Set A Schedule For Time Together
Quality time is how strong relationships are forged. That is why it should be a boundary (to protect it), and not just an item on your to-do-list.
Just as it is important to be transparent with your spouse, it is also important to make sure they are feeling loved and appreciated as well. You can do this by doing a number of things.
- Go On Dates
- Show Affection
- Give Gifts and Flowers (which are not related to anniversaries)
- Say “I Love You” 3-5 Times A Day
- Know your spouses love language
The bottom line with this tip: Make Efforts To Stay Connected
4. Be Safe And Practical In All Decisions Made With Finances
This is an often overlooked area of boundaries. Yet most couples live way outside their budget.
According to the Motley Fool, the average American household has debt in excess of $140,000 (as of November 2020).
They also surveyed Americans concerning their financial condition during COVID-19. This is what they discovered:
- Over 60% of Americans are worried about their finances because of the novel coronavirus.
- 52% of Americans have bought emergency supplies, and they spent an average of $213.53 to do so.
- Buying those supplies strained the budgets of 61% of our respondents.
- 25% of people who didn’t buy emergency supplies said they couldn’t afford to do so.
- 4 out of 10 Americans reported no change in their work situations, but 5% have been laid off.
- The foodservice industry has been hit hardest by layoffs, but leisure and hospitality aren’t far behind.
- 44% of respondents have delayed a significant life event like buying a new car, getting married, or having kids.
In another study they found:
- Most Americans experienced their income loss in March, right when the pandemic hit home.
- 42.8% of Americans who lost income lost between 10% and 49% of their earnings.
- Workers earning less than $15,000 a year were most likely to lose all of their income compared to moderate and higher earners.
- 64.9% of Americans had to cut expenses due to income loss, while 26.2% took out some type of loan.
It’s easy to see how economic hardship impacts marriages. It is vital to put boundaries around our spending.
It is difficult to have a healthy, happy marriage without financial stability and being able to pay your bills.
In order to be able to pay your bills, you must be responsible with money. The more you spend, the more you are in debt. To offset this, you must create a balance of saving as well as spending.
Financial decisions are very important and will greatly impact your ability to live comfortably as well as the future of you and your family’s financial stability.Financial decisions are very important and will greatly impact your ability to live comfortably as well as the future of you and your family's financial stability. Click To Tweet
5. Keep Short Accounts With Each Other
Keeping short accounts is the art of discussing issues before they become big problems.
By making it a habit to discuss issues on a regular basis (daily check-in times) you avoid letting things get blown out of proportion. For a tool to help you let go of past ‘stuff,’ check out our Forgive and Forget Guide.
The best way to avoid creating big problems down the road is to talk about them. Talking about the issue raises awareness and helps create a culture of open dialogue where everyone feels safe raising concerns.
Follow the 2-minute rule.
The 2-Minute Rule is an easy guideline to follow that can help you avoid misunderstandings and relationship conflicts. It simply means give each other your undivided attention for two minutes. The two minutes don’t have a timer attached to it either, so there is no pressure to rush through the conversation.
Here are a few things to remember when using the 2 Minute Rule:
- You must be able to give each other your full attention for two full minutes without distractions.
- When you are done with the two minutes, let your partner know it is time to move on.
- Do not interrupt each other.
- Your full attention means no looking at your phone, computer or anything else.
By following the 2-Minute Rule, you will help strengthen your relationship by allowing yourselves time to vent and talk openly about what is bothering you. Time to express fears and worries without being interrupted or discouraged from doing so.
Follow this rule on a daily basis and you will find that you are able to avoid many of the big problems that arise in relationships and marriages in general.
Final Thoughts On How To Safeguard Your Marriage
To keep your relationship strong and healthy you need to safeguard your marriage from potential dangers.
My granddaughter learned she could use ‘bumper guards’ at the bowling alley to make sure her ball didn’t end up in the gutter. In her mind, this wasn’t cheating at all. It was being smart.
We can use healthy boundaries to make sure our marriage stays out of the gutter. If you want to safeguard your relationship, having clear boundaries is a great place to start.
A recap of the key points:
- How To Safeguard Your Marriage With Healthy Boundaries
- Why Are Boundaries So Important In Marriage?
- Two Types Of Marriage Boundaries
- Does Your Marriage Need A New Set Of Boundaries?
- Strong Marriages Keep These Boundaries In Place
We have resources available to help you create the marriage you desire and deserve.
The Healthy Marriage Quiz
If you want specific help for your marriage, or you want to know your healthy marriage score, take the marriage quiz. You’ll get immediate access with suggestions on how to improve your relationship.
The Healthy Marriage Toolkit
Books, Courses, Programs, and Tools designed to help you create the marriage of your dreams.
Five Simple Steps Marriage Course
Marriage doesn’t have to be complicated. In this 5 part mini-series, you’ll discover practical steps to redesign your marriage.
Healthy Marriage Academy
Our courses will help you build a strong marriage. Each course is designed to meet a specific relationship need.
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.