Have you just walked down the aisle with the most amazing person and are you now looking for helpful tips for setting boundaries in your marriage?
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Healthy boundaries are very important in any healthy marriage. But what are boundaries, exactly?
To understand healthy relationship boundaries, look at the four walls of your house. Those walls are the structure that holds your life together. They hold your food and your bed and your possessions and it’s where you live your life.
Healthy relationship boundaries are the same as those four walls of your house. They are the things that support your relationship as it grows. To have a healthy marriage, one that can grow and be fruitful, it is important that it has structures, boundaries, that support it.
Healthy relationship boundaries come in many shapes, sizes and colors and they are essential and appropriate for every relationship, whether it be new and exciting or more settled and safe, like marriage.
Now that you know what boundaries are let’s talk about how to get them.
#1 – Look at individual needs.
The best place to start when setting boundaries in your marriage is for each of you to look at your own individual needs. A key part of identifying potential boundaries is for each of you to see what is important for your own individual happiness.
I know, in my relationship, what is important to me is that I have quality time with my partner every day. I also know that I want to be given the freedom to pursue my hobbies and my interests, I want to have openness and transparency in our communication and I want to be treated with respect.
Knowing what I need in my marriage allows me to understand what the composition of my boundary walls should be. If I didn’t do that consideration, and figure out what is important to me, then I might have built those walls out of things that weren’t strong enough to frame my marriage and that might cause those walls to fail.
So, both of you, take some time and identify what is important to you as an individual in your marriage.
#2 – Compare lists.
Once you have each individually defined your needs it is time for you to share those needs with your partner.
I took my list to my partner and I was not surprised to learn that our two lists overlapped. It was very important to him that he have time to spend pursuing his hobbies, mainly skiing and woodworking. It was also important to him that he spends time with his mother, that we don’t yell at each other when angry and that we not to be rigid in our boundaries.
It was good for us to compare our lists because by doing so we had a conversation about what was important for each of us, raising awareness that we could use for creating boundaries and, as we go forward, living our life together.
I know, with my ex-husband, we never did this. We just entered into married life with no thought as to what it would look like and, within a few years, we were both drowning, confused and at a loss as to what was going wrong.
#3 – Set priorities.
Once you have merged your lists, it’s important that you set priorities. Sometimes it’s impossible to accommodate every one of each other’s needs but it’s important that everybody’s most important needs are met.
For me, my most important needs were face-to-face, regular quality time and being honest with each other. For my partner, it was important to him that he could spend time on his own and that yelling at each other would be taboo.
Of course, the other things, like his mother and my need for effective communication, are important and part of our definition of our boundaries but we both expressed what were deal breakers in the composition of our boundary walls. We knew that these priorities would be respected and, if they were, our marriage would be stronger.
#4 – Define success.
A very important thing to do, once you have defined your boundaries and set your priorities, is to write down what success would look like. Specifically.
For me, regular face-to-face quality time meant that for at least 15 minutes every night we put down our phones and our computers and turn away from the television and look each other in the eye and talk to each other. For my partner, being able to ski two weekends a month and working in his woodshop on Sunday mornings would be important to him.
It is essential that each of you understand specifically what the other sees as success. For many of us, we just guess at what our partner wants from us and, because of that, sometimes we fail.
So, be as specific with each other as you can. Set yourselves up for success.
#5 – Put it in writing.
The final step for setting boundaries in your marriage is to write it all down.
Conversations are great but putting what you discussed in writing allows you both to more clearly see, and remember, the boundaries that you have established. You can refer to them when you’re questioning what they might be and trying to remember what they look like specifically.
So, write them down and keep them some place where you both have easy access. As your marriage moves on through the months and years, you should regularly revisit the boundaries that you have set, updating them as necessary and re-familiarizing yourself with what they look like.
There is nothing better than writing things down to keep us accountable and familiar.
Setting boundaries in your marriage is an essential part of setting yourself up for success.
Marriages are long and they can be challenging and doing whatever work you can do ahead of time is key.
Work individually to define what you want, come together to see where you overlap and are different, set your priorities, define successes and write it all down.
Doing these things early in your marriage will help ensure a long, healthy, happy marriage, the kind you committed yourself to on the altar that day.
You can do it!
Are you struggling with setting boundaries in your marriage?
I know it can be really, really hard. Let me help!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.