Boundaries: A Marriage Must-Have


Are you constantly giving and doing for others, and becoming resentful?

Does your mate continue with behaviors that you are complaining about?

Do you feel hopeless that these struggles will ever change?

 If you answered yes to these questions, it sounds as if you are lacking some serious boundaries.

Typically those of us without boundaries are seen as very caring and giving people who are afraid that they will be seen as “mean” if they put a boundary in place.

Despite these feelings, boundaries create a strength and power in you that will bring clarity and hope into your life.

Often when individuals or couples work with me intensively, I find that they know just enough about boundaries to create chaos in their relationships. When asked about how they communicate their boundaries, they say something like “you cannot talk to me that way” or “stop being disrespectful.” This would be considered a whine, threat, or complaint but not a boundary. Also, these comments are attempting to put a boundary on another person, which we have no control over.

Boundaries 101

Boundaries are like a fence around a beautiful cottage. The fence creates safety for the cottage. This fence has a gate with a lock on it, determining who can come into the sacred grounds and who must stay out.

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This fence with a gate is your boundary and YOU get to decide who can come into your life as well as which behaviors you will let or not let into your life.

Boundaries fall into two categories: internal and external boundaries.

Internal Boundaries – allow you to consider a comment or accusation before allowing it in your gate. You can ask yourself if this comment fits with who you are. If it does you can let it in and allow it to impact you. Though if it doesn’t fit with your character, you keep your gate closed and reject the comment kindly saying “I am not willing to take that comment in.”

External Boundaries – protect us from hurtful behaviors and pattern from continuing in your relationships.

There are 3 categories of external boundaries

  1. Casual boundaries — this may sound a lot like a wish, hope or complaint and produces no real change. Though this can be a healthy way of sharing preferences, such as “I really would like you to stop talking to me like that.” This is communicated with the gate wide open.
  2. Collaborative Boundaries — this is a boundary that you develop together that ends up in an agreement. “If you borrow my car, please fill up the gas tank.” The gate is cautiously opened.
  3. Concrete Boundaries — this is a firm boundary that addresses an intolerable behavior. This type of boundary is not optional and has significant consequences.  The gate is closed and locked until the person respects the boundary. It sounds like “I cannot tolerate your disrespectful words. If you chose to continue speaking to me with disrespect, I will disengage from our conversation.”

With concrete boundaries you are putting the boundary on YOU, clearly letting the person know what YOU will do if they continue with the intolerable behavior.

If you are struggling to put healthy boundaries in place, you are not alone. Most people struggle with protecting their value with boundaries. We see these people when they come to us for marriage counseling when their marriage on the brink of divorce and women who are incredibly depressed and feel totally powerless.

There is hope! We are here to help you implement healthy boundaries in your relationship and in your life

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About Henry Cloud

Dr. Henry CloudDr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist with a unique ability to connect with his audiences. Drawing upon his broad range of experiences in private practice, leadership consulting, and media, he simplifies life’s issues and gives easy-to-understand, practical advice. It is Dr. Cloud’s humor, compassion, and “in the moment” confrontation that make his approach to psychology and spirituality such a success. Dr. Cloud has written or co-written twenty-five books, including the million-seller Boundaries. His most recent books are Necessary Endings and The Law of Happiness. He has earned three Gold Medallion awards, and was awarded the distinguished Retailers Choice award for God Will Make A Way.
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