Boundaries in Marriage


In their Boundaries in Marriage* Workbook, Cloud and Townsend offer ten laws to guide couples in establishing boundaries and respecting the boundaries of  others as well as eachother.  Here are the ten ‘Laws.’

Law #1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping

The things we do will impact those we love.  When we act in loving, responsible ways we draw closer to each other.  Conversely, unloving, irresponsible actions will drive relational wedges between people.  Choose to act in loving ways that honor and encourage each other and the relationship will flourish and grow.  When one or both partners begin to choose to do things that irritate and aggravate the other a negative feedback loop can develop, breaking down the relationship into never ending payback and score-keeping.

Law #2: The Law of Responsibility

Being responsible to each other is very different than being responsible for each other.  While helping each other through the challenges of life is a significant part of a loving relationship it is important that each partner ultimately takes responsibility for their own responsibilities.  Taking responsibility for a partner’s lack of responsibility feeds a co-dependency that can become unhealthy, skewing the relationship in ways that cause the enabler to lose their own identity.

Law #3: The Law of Power

While we can influence others we are powerless to change them.  What we do have power over is our own actions and reactions.  Self-awareness and taking the initiative to adjust our own hurtful behaviors is an important part developing as a person of integrity, honesty and dependability.  The locus of power is within ourselves and the choices we make based upon our own personal values and principles.

Law #4: The Law of Respect

Respecting each other is such a fundamental ingredient in a civil society and there are few other areas in life where it is more critical in our marital relationships.  Just as disrespect breeds the same in others, so also, respecting each other gives impetus to respectful responses from others.  It is illogical to expect others to respect our boundaries when we practice disrespecting theirs.

Law #5: The Law of Motivation

A grudging “Yes” in response to pressure to conform is not the same as wholesale endorsement.  Without permission to say “No” there is no wholehearted “Yes”.  Choosing to give to each other is most precious when we give to each other freely based upon our own values and principles; it is most destructive when given under coercion or fear.

Law #6: The Law of Evaluation

The simple decision to establish our own boundaries can cause pain in others.  Stated simply, when a person says “Yes” to any one thing they are, at the same time, saying “No” to other options.  Sometimes those boundaries can cause pain in others and it is important to discern whether the pain they feel will cause injury to them or whether it will lead them to growth and maturity.

Law #7: The Law of Proactivity

Proactive people solve problems based upon their own values, wants and needs.  When a person takes takes responsibility happy-couple-david-castillo-dominicifor a problem-solving action based upon his or her own principles and personal boundaries a quiet word with conviction can displace blowing up, anger and confusion.

Law #8: The Law of Envy

The opposite of envy is contentment.  When we set boundaries around our marriages it is important to be satisfied with working within those boundaries to improve, grow, mature and prosper as individuals and as a family.  A danger to this is envying others for what we perceive others to have…which we want.  Envy both devalues what we have within our relationship and creates a hunger for something that we desire outside of those boundaries.

Law #9: The Law of Activity

When we are hurt by our partners it is important to actively work to resolve the pain honestly, always examining ourselves as we evaluate the hurt caused by another.  Giving up and becoming passive in reaction to our pain lays the groundwork for resentment and stepping outside of our boundaries for resolution.

Law #10: The Law of Exposure

Love struggles when we are not aware of each other’s boundaries.  Communicating those boundaries to each other and exposing our personal preferences can make a significant difference in connecting with each other as we choose to respect them instead of accidentally stumbling upon points of offense of which we were not preventatively aware.

* Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John.  Boundaries in Marriage Workbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 2000, pp. 31-46.


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