Setting Boundaries in Marriage

A marriage cannot sustain without a well-defined ‘boundary’ and so did ours. I praise God how He allowed us through unpleasant circumstance just to make us realize that ours was one without it. Anything that’s precious needs to be preserved may it be a precious diamond kept inside a case or a precious garden surrounded by a fence. The things that we preserve these precious things from needn’t be something harmful – it could rather be something as good as the air  that we preserve most eatables from – by keeping them in a tightly closed container. So is the case of our marriage.

Well before we even could begin our life as a couple, I had faced a lot of objections from my family. My Uncle wasn’t very happy about my marriage nor were my parents. So, probably the leaving phase from me was very easy – I might say so yet it was heart breaking for my parents and Uncle. We were young – just married and zealous, we had heard so many messages about ‘the leaving and cleaving phase’and somehow the Lord worked things in the heart of Uncle that he did not interfere with our family except for the first month of our marriage. We were happy !!

Within a year into our marriage – I was carrying Oliver and after another year Theodore and our family was growing bigger. It was during this phase that things that wouldn’t have troubled me started troubling me a lot. Since it involved my ‘in laws – parents of my dearly beloved husband’ – I could not share these things with him. It began evident with a visit we had made to them. JFYI my in -laws are loving people and the only problem with us here was we did not communicate the boundaries that we should have done long time back. My husband who would not execute a small decision without discussing things with me ( that used to make me mad at times as he used to be so dependent on our mutual consent), made a few changes – literally overruling our plans when his parents had some other plans regarding that. I remember that night – I wept like a baby. I felt so low and my trust upon my husband suddenly was lost. Though it was a small- a very small matter – I felt betrayed. On the other hand no-one had a clue about it. I was good at covering things up and I wasn’t an honest person as I ought to be. I somehow gloried in this image of myself as a selfless – all adjusting –never complaining daughter in law that even my husband could initially not grasp how his action had affected me. The scar of that incident still remains and I have been asking God to help me forget it. And this was the first time…………!

After this incident – my husband couldn’t win my trust again whenever it came to his parents. I spent nights crying on the bed not able to discuss things that I should have spoken to him long time ago. I began carrying a load that was too heavy for me. I did not trust my husband that he would understand me – as this time it involved his parents. The only person I could share these things was a close friend of mine who too had undergone similar situations in her marital life and she encouraged me to speak it out to my husband and still I couldn’t. I realized looking around that setting up boundaries with parents and in laws is a very difficult thing especially if you are a loving daughter and an obedient son. My husband was brought up that way. He never dared to say a ‘No’ to his Dad ever. Implicit obedience was what was expected at home and which was good yet that was taking a toll in our marriage. Was it right for me to point this out to my husband or was it enough to pray about it. Oh ..how much I prayed ..! Lord You are a witness to this. It was a very sensitive and complicated issue and something had to be done with it. Few of the things that I believed had encroached my marriage was

  • Decisions made on our behalf, and us being expected to abide by it without even being asked for our preferences or choice.
  • Visits to our home without discussing things with us
  • Asked to do/say things which would be against what we believed.

All of these things would have never been wrong had my husband been a single man. Yet, now we were One – and any decision taken by my husband would mean I was one with him yet in many of these I wasn’t. This bothered me so much yet I kept it concealed it for a while. There were a few times when I broke out in front of my husband blurting out things which was done unwisely and he still couldn’t understand me.

God is merciful and true to His nature He came to our help around the time of my third pregnancy. As God was pleased to open my womb again just 7 months after my second delivery – I was very weak. Physically, emotionally and in all manner. The first three months of this pregnancy was something I even dread today. The first month I wept almost every night as my body was giving away. I couldn’t sleep-I was so hungry at all times and I couldn’t just eat anything. I wasn’t able to bear it. Theodore, my second born was just 7 months old and I was still breastfeeding him. I was so weak and discouraged. It was a time when my husband’s work was extremely taxing. As our financial needs were increasing, we were earnestly praying and seeking a change of job. The pressure at home was intense and I was fading away day by day. I should say that I was rock bottom and we who desire to have a big family, seeing my condition my husband would daily comfort me that we would stop it here …it’s too much for you. It was at this time my in laws planned to visit us (without discussing it with us) – it was for some work related to my brother in law. I who used to enjoy my mother in law’s company couldn’t take it this time. I wasn’t well, my mother in law wasn’t well herself and so was dependent to an extent. I wasn’t in a state to loose the comfort of home by having guest as we were staying in a small house. I am a person who cannot even stretch and sit in front of my in laws. The day we came to know they had planned to come until the day they came home – I never had a sleep. Every night I would wake up crying to my husband that I was not in a state to host anyone. I wasn’t ready to loose the help that he was currently rendering me as having guests would mean spending time with them and that meant my husband wouldn’t be available for me or the children. I had all thoughts of self pity that burdened me. Had they discussed their visit with us we would have gently told them my state and would have postponed it yet we did not communicate and that was the first step in failing to set boundaries. I was so insecure and had lost all faith. I was slowly deteriorating.

Yet God came to our rescue and through the same close friend of mine we realized that the issue was all about setting up boundaries in our marriage and communicating it to our parents !! We hadn’t set one – communicated one- and that’s why our fence in marriage was being trampled. Upon the arrival of my in laws – we came to know they had planned to stay for longer than a month (which came as a shock to us as we weren’t prepared or communicated about their plans). It was after this we realized something was wrong and we needed to rectify it. My friend had shared a podcast audio about setting boundaries with parents and in laws and it was an eye opener to us. One part of the message gave a testimony about a father who mentions that though he lived only a street away from his daughter. While she could anytime visit their home even without being invited, he loudly confessed that he dared not visit his daughter’s house unless he was invited. It also spoke about matters where we needed to be firm when decisions where laid down on the married children like … ‘you need to be here on so and so date to spend the vacation with us or you and your family need to do this or that etc’. This was a podcast show from Naked Marriage run by Dave and Ashley Willis. Though I listened to it all by myself, i longed my husband too could listen to it and he did it and he was greatly challenged by the message. That day I could sense that my husband was now able to understand me. We could now freely speak about things that I was earlier uncomfortable to speak about. In one of their videos Dave mentioned that ‘Trust was something that was to be gained ‘!! My husband was now seeking God to gain back my trust. He apologized for the times he had hurt me, mostly in ignorance. He slowly began to see that though we loved his parents yet there was something called ‘Boundary’ that was to be set. We had to protect our marriage !! It wasn’t a pleasant time. No..! We did not argue or debate – my husband gently spoke to his Dad that the sudden unsaid plan was not very comfortable for us especially for any daughter in law. I do not know whether he understood it or not !! Yet, for me – my husband had finally laid down a brick to set the boundaries !! He has been gaining my trust! Now – I have begun to see how important –‘TRUST’ is within a marriage. Today I can speak things freely to my husband – things that might be uncomfortable yet he being a Godly man has been helping me a lot in this phase.

We do not love my husband’s parent’s any less than before yet we have realized that marriage needs boundaries !!!

I wouldn’t have been able to write this article had it not been for the encouragement of my husband who told me to write my heart out if it could bless another jesse struggling in her marriage. May God be glorified through our struggles !!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *