As a family, we love playing games. We have a whole closet full and love to play with whoever comes to visit. We even take them on the road to play with other families. Games require rules or boundaries to be played without argument. When a rule is broken or someone cheats, we hear about it right away from another player and rightly so. No rule breaking is allowed. It’s a protection between players.
Continuing in our discussion of relationships, particularly in marriage, there are many boundaries that need to be kept there as well. Those spoken and unspoken boundaries between a couple. Just like when we play games, these boundaries help protect the marriage.
In the place where I work, the radio is set on a station which includes a spot on couple relationships. This five-minute conversation is started when one person in the relationship has a complaint about the other and calls the DJ. The DJ then calls the other person involved and poses questions on the air to allow an explanation of what is going on.
Almost always an argument ensues between both parties on the air which ends with one caught in another relationship or an affair and the other with a broken heart. It’s shocking not only because of the end result of the relationship but that they are willing to publicly display their private life.
There are boundaries in marriage and even between couples in a pre-married state. These need to be discussed between a couple and ground rules laid, if you will, for the protection of both parties. Here are a few of them.
Speaking ill of the other:
This rule (or boundary) has far-reaching effects on any relationship. Whether we speak to friends or other family members negatively of our spouse about anything they do, we do everyone a big disservice by not keeping the fires at home burning. It is way out of bounds and just not right. There is no defense for the other party and the negativity causes a ripple effect in our circle of our loved ones.
“There is a line from the Apocrypha which puts the seriousness of this issue better than I can. It reads, “The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones.” (The modern King James Version of the Bible shows Ecclesiastes to have only 12 chapters. This quote is from chapter 28 verse 17. Any of the chapters after 12 are considered Apocrypha because they were removed from the King James Version of the Bible in 1885 A.D.) But you get the idea.
Evil speaking of anyone can and is considered breaking the 8th Commandment which says “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”. Whether it’s false or true, evil speaking of a spouse break emotional “bones”. Confidence is lost and feelings are hurt. It’s just a big no-no and we should keep the negative thoughts of our significant other to ourselves. (That’s not including abuse.)
Abuse is not allowed:
Whether it’s physically or emotionally, this is unacceptable in any relationship. I know it happens and sometimes subtly and unknowingly but we need to be aware of how we treat each other. As a society, we see all kinds of terrible examples of relationships in movies, television, and books.
Bruce Porter, religious instructor and a member of the LDS Church has said in several of his presentations about the standard of faith: “That which you expose yourself to affects how we think.” How we see the world react in a situation, affects how we react ourselves. It’s human nature. When we watch garbage, we tend to imitate it.
“We condemn most strongly abusive behavior in any form. We denounce the physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse of one’s spouse or children. Our proclamation on the family declares: ‘Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. … Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs. … Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations’”.
Abuse is so prevalent in all aspects of life in the world; we need to safeguard ourselves against it. It might not happen from the beginning but sometimes it will creep into a relationship which needs to be removed in a kind, loving manner.
Confiding in conversation with each other:
Confiding in another person of the opposite sex about the personal aspects of our life only causes great tribulation in a couple. If we keep secrets with another, we are already traveling down the road of resentment and divorce. This is part of the fine-tuning of a relationship. We learn to talk with each other about how we feel and not run to others for comfort. In many marriage therapy articles, it is said that we are “emotionally cheating on our spouse when we confide in someone else.”
Los Angeles based psychotherapist Foojan Zeine says:
“When a partner begins to give that special place of friendship, closeness, and intimacy to another person, we feel cheated. Your spouse shouldn’t take the place of your best friends, but he or she needs to have the security and openness of being the person you turn to the most. To foster a close emotional relationship that goes over and above what you have with your partner feels like a betrayal.”
There are other boundaries we might discover along the way in fine-tuning our spousal relationship but those listed above are the major boundaries we keep up between couples. We can learn to be trustworthy too which leads to a lifetime of happiness within the bonds of marriage.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.