I get asked quite often about boundaries in relationships. The subject of boundaries is a topic tossed around a lot, and women sort of instinctively know they need boundaries in relationships, but they don’t exactly know the how, what, when and whys of healthy boundaries!
First let me explain that there is a difference between asking your boyfriend or husband to change and setting a boundary. A boundary is not a request for the other person to change. A boundary is deciding what YOU will do to protect yourself physically, emotionally or mentally from the other person’s harmful or destructive behavior. A boundary basically says to that other person, “I can’t control your choices, but there are some things I CAN do to control how your choices affect me”.
Let me give some examples:
- A husband refuses to stop looking at pornography and that choice wounds his wife’s heart. She makes a request for him to stop (and most likely to seek serious help for that addiction), but she can’t MAKE him stop. So, she establishes a boundary. She tells him if she continues to catch him looking at porn, she will move to a separate bedroom or even separate from him entirely until he gets serious help for his problem. That’s setting a boundary.
- A husband is emotionally abusive and that wounds his wife. She makes a request for him to stop, but she can’t MAKE him stop. So, she establishes a boundary. She tells him if he screams obscenities at her or degrades her even one more time, she will immediately leave the room (or the house) because she won’t tolerate that kind of behavior. If the emotional abuse continues, she might set an even larger boundary and tell him she will need to separate until he seeks serious help. That’s setting a boundary.
By the way, boundaries are Biblical. Here’s an example from Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. And 1 Corinthians 5:11 I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.