Soon after my husband proposed to me, our pastor asked us to set up a few “pre-marital counsel” sessions. One of the things that we discussed in one of our meetings was about setting boundaries within our marriage. I did not really think much of it at the time. I am not sure that I quite understood the impact that boundaries really have in a relationship, and especially in a marriage. After almost eleven years, I can now see what an important role they should have played all along.
This is one of those things that you will never know about until you begin talking through it with your spouse, but it is so essential to the livelihood of your marriage. One of the most important areas to set boundaries in marriage, in my opinion, is in relationships with friends of the opposite sex.
When we were married, both my husband and I had friends of the opposite sex. We both went into the marriage thinking that these “friendships” were fine and that they really didn’t need to CHANGE any because, after all, they were just friends. Then, as I would listen to my husband talk about the times he spent with these female friends before he and I met, I started feeling a little sad. Then, I realized that he wasn’t responsive or showing any expression when I would tell him about times that I shared with my friends that were men. But, neither of us talked about it–which made for a bigger mess as the years passed.
After realizing that these friendships were causing some distance between us, I set up a meeting with our pastor and
his wife for another “counsel session,” except this time it wasn’t so light and giddy as it was in those engagement days. I explained to them what had been happening and how I felt. They stated that they had talked to us about this at the beginning and how important it was to have boundaries, especially in our friendships with those of the opposite sex. Basically, neither of us “got it” until we had already hurt the other. If we had just kept going, the faithfulness in our marriage could have been jeopardized.
From my experience, these boundaries with friends of the opposite sex need to be set in two areas.
The first would be in communication with and about the “friend.” In my opinion, communication boundaries should involve three things:
1. How often? You are part of a family now. The friend has his/her own family. Do not take time away from your family to give to him/her.
2. How much? As husband and wife get to know one another throughout the marriage, friendships from the past will come up in conversation. Dwelling on them and letting those memories take over is where a problem can begin. You can usually sense from your spouse when he’s heard enough. I certainly know that I have been able to with my husband.
3. Public phone conversations only. If the need arises for a phone call to a friend of the opposite sex, my husband and I have decided that we have these conversations in each other’s company. This way, nothing can be assumed about what was said in that phone conversation.
The second area for setting boundaries would be in spending time together. In our marriage, we have decided that it is best to always keep company with friends of the same sex. If a situation arises that would require time spent together one-on-one, it should be discussed and different arrangements made.
These boundaries may seem drastic to some; they certainly did to my husband and me during those first “counsel” sessions. However, as our marriage continued, we saw the importance of these boundaries. If boundaries like these are kept, the likelihood of any compromised faithfulness within the marriage is greatly reduced. My pastor and his wife have followed these same boundaries in their own marriage; this year, they will celebrate 44 years together!
I have been doing a series of posts on marriage. You can find the previous posts here:
How Familiar Are You With Your Husband?
A Failure to Communicate?!