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Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships

Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships

3.9 30
by Henry Cloud, John Townsend

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Only when you and your mate know and respect each other's needs, choices, and freedom can you give yourselves freely and lovingly to one another. Boundaries in Marriage gives you the tools you need. Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, counselors and authors of the award-winning bestseller Boundaries, show you how to apply the principles of boundaries to your marriage.


Only when you and your mate know and respect each other's needs, choices, and freedom can you give yourselves freely and lovingly to one another. Boundaries in Marriage gives you the tools you need. Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, counselors and authors of the award-winning bestseller Boundaries, show you how to apply the principles of boundaries to your marriage. This book helps you understand the friction points or serious hurts and betrayals in your marriage -- and move beyond them to the mutual care, respect, affirmation, and intimacy you both long for.

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Zondervan Publishing
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560 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

A Tale of Two Couples
Recently, I (Dr. Townsend) had two separate dinners with two married couples who are friends of mine. These two couples are in their later years, and each of the couples has been married for more than four decades. They are in what we call the 'Golden Years,' the period of marriage in which all the love and work over the years culminate, we hope, in a deep and satisfying connection. However, I was struck by the huge difference between the two couples.
With Harold and Sarah, I enjoyed a buffet dinner where you get a ticket for various parts of the meal and you have to leave the table with your ticket and go get your item. The dinner was winding down; we were ready for dessert. Harold reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his dessert ticket. Tossing it in front of Sarah, he said casually, 'Sarah. Dessert.' Not 'Please, Sarah, will you get my dessert for me?' And certainly not 'Can I get your dessert, honey?' Harold was assuming Sarah would obediently comply with his two-word command.
I didn't know what to say, so I sat there and watched. Sarah was clearly embarrassed by Harold's public display of control. She sat there for a couple of seconds, apparently deciding what to do. Then she seemed to gather up her courage and quietly but forcefully said, 'Why don't you get your own dessert?'
Harold looked surprised. Evidently he wasn't used to her refusing to obey his commands. However, he recovered, made a weak joke about uppity women, and left the table to redeem his ticket. While he was gone, Sarah said to me, 'Sorry, I just couldn't let it go this time, with my friends here.' I felt so sad for Sarah, realizing that her reaction to her husband tonight was the exception rather than the rule. I also realized that, on a deeper level, while Harold and Sarah were legally connected, they were emotionally disconnected. Their hearts were not knit together.
Frank and Julia were different. I was traveling, and they were hosting me. We went to their home after dinner. After a while, it was time for me to return to my hotel, and I needed a ride. Julia, a counselor like me, was primarily responsible for my trip and had been chauffeuring me to various speaking engagements and meetings. So clearly she was the person to take me back.
However, Frank looked at his wife and said, 'You look tired, honey. I'll take John back to his hotel.' I could see the conflict in Julia's face between her duty to me and her need for rest. Finally, she said, 'Okay, thanks.' And Frank drove me to the hotel.
The next day, at the conference, I talked to Julia. I remarked on Frank's kindness in offering the ride and on her struggle with taking the offer. She said, 'It wasn't always that way. In our twenties, he wouldn't have offered, and I wouldn't have taken the offer. But we worked on this issue a lot during those days. I had to put my foot down on some issues, and we almost divorced. It was a difficult period, but it has paid off. We can't imagine not being each other's soul mates.' During my time with them, I had observed that Frank's and Julia's hearts were knit together, that they were emotionally connected.
Though both couples had many years of marriage experience, each couple's love and relationship had taken very different turns. Harold and Sarah were unable to love deeply and relate to each other, because Harold controlled Sarah and Sarah allowed him to control her. They had what are called major boundary conflicts, in which one person crosses the lines of responsibility and respect with another. When one person is in control of another, love cannot grow deeply and fully, as there is no freedom.
Frank and Julia could have very likely ended up the same way. From what I could tell, they started off similarly in their early married years. Frank dominated, and Julia complied. However, she confronted the problem, she set limits and established consequences, and their marriage grew. Clearly, both couples were reaping the results of how they had conducted themselves in the earlier seasons of marriage. The first couple harvested a sad result; the other, a joyous one.
Your Life Begins Today
If you are reading this book, most likely marriage is important to you. You may be happy in your marriage and want it to keep growing. You may be struggling and dealing with major or minor problems. You may be single and want to prepare for marriage. You may be divorced and want to prevent the pain you went through if you remarry.
Most of us have no greater desire and prayer than a lifetime of love and commitment to one person with whom we can share life. Marriage is one of God's greatest gifts to humanity. It is the mystery of living as one flesh with another human being (Ephesians 5:31 -- 32).
Marriage is first and foremost about love. It is bound together by the care, need, companionship, and values of two people, which can overcome hurt, immaturity, and selfishness to form something better than what each person alone can produce. Love is at the heart of marriage, as it is at the heart of God himself (1 John 4:16).
Yet, love is not enough. The marriage relationship needs other ingredients to grow and thrive. Those ingredients are freedom and responsibility. When two people are free to disagree, they are free to love. When they are not free, they live in fear, and love dies: 'Perfect love drives out fear' (1 John 4:18). And when two people together take responsibility to do what is best for the marriage, love can grow. When they do not, one takes on too much responsibility and resents it; the other does not take on enough and becomes self-centered or controlling. Freedom and responsibility problems in a marriage will cause love to struggle. Like a plant without good soil, the marriage relationship will struggle in an unfriendly environment.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
'Drs. Cloud and Townsend have created another masterpiece! No one understands the issue of boundaries better than they do. Counselors and couples alike will greatly benefit from their articulate and in-depth exploration.' — Archibald D. Hart, Ph.D., Professor

Meet the Author

Dr. Henry Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert, psychologist, and New York Times best-selling author with his books selling more than 10 million copies. As a speaker, Dr. Cloud has shared the stage with many business and global leaders and experts, such as Tony Blair, Jack Welch, Condoleezza Rice, Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, and others. In his leadership consulting practice, Dr. Cloud works with Fortune 500 companies and smaller private businesses alike. He has an extensive executive coaching background and experience as a leadership consultant, devoting the majority of his time working with CEO's, leadership teams and executives to improve performance, leadership skills, and culture. Dr. Cloud lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Tori, and their two daughters, Olivia and Lucy.


Dr. John Townsend is a leadership consultant, psychologist, and New York Times bestselling author. He has written twenty-seven books, selling 10 million copies, including the 3 million-selling Boundaries series. John is founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling and conducts the Townsend Leadership program. He travels extensively for corporate consulting, speaking, and working with leadership families. He and his wife Barbi have two sons, and live in Newport Beach, California. One of John's favorite hobbies is playing in a band that performs in Southern California lounges and venues.


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Boundaries in Marriage 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All three of us married into the same family and loved our spouses. The parents of these 'adult' children never gave our marriage a chance to work. They trampled our relationship boundaries. They demanded our time, required our constant devotion and attention, and used us to fulfill their miserable lives and compensate for their empty shell marriage. This book has given us the insights into understanding the wreckage of our relationships. We learned, as well, that marrying a weak child in the guise of an adult will bring you unceasing misery. Good riddance to the remnants of that Rockport, Texas clan. Buy this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a licensed mental health therapist, I have had clients read this book and process it in session. The results have been changed lives, balanced marriages and persons finding their ownership of life in a way that also respects the other person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every couple should read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was very insightful and helpful
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book after having yet another fight with my husband about the same things. I expected the book to lay out specific techniques I could do myself to help solidify my marriage. Instead, I found myself reading it from my husband's point of view and thinking of all the ways HE could change. The underlying message of the book was good...but the strategies were very vague and did not work for me. I got about halfway through it and decided that I needed to stop reading, because I was actually feeling WORSE after reading each chapter. This book made me look not only at the actual problems that existed in my marriage, but also at things that could happen. This made me obsess about the 'what if's' instead of focusing on changing the few things that actually were problems. My husband and I do not have huge marital troubles, just minor things to work through. After reading this book, I felt like everything was wrong in my marriage. I also found a lot of the authors' points to be contradictory. One minute they say set a boundary to protect yourself, then the next they say don't ever focus on your own happiness. Very confusing. Maybe it was just a bad match for me, but I wouldn't recommend this title. I will continue to look elsewhere for guidance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Cloud and Townsend's Boundaries books! I have been to a seminar by Dr Cloud and he is as enlightening in person as in the books. I bought this book for our daughter and future son-in-law. There are so many excellent things to think about pre-marital as well as once you've tied the knot. It's refreshing to have something written in plain English that applies to both parties. No blaming, no arguing, just learning how to work on having a healthy relationship.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excedllent book. Most of us lack or have weak boundaries in one area of our lives or another and this book instructs and informs us how to strengthen these boundaries so that we can know ourselves better and have healtheir relationships. This book is also important because boundaries are learnt and if not learnt then we don't know what our boundaries are or other's as well. This is a must read!!! Excellent!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having been married for 18 years, this book addressed nearly every issue of problems we faced. The advice is not only reasonable, and realistic, it is the real basis for which one should approach such issues. I found that this book was something I wanted to hand every friend and family member, I know. It was that good. Watch out Dr. Phil!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, in conjuction with counseling, made a tremendous difference in my marriage. My wife and I both had control issues that we were not even aware of. My wife told me I was controling, but could not explain why. This book showed me what she was trying to tell me. It also showed her that she had control issues too. Highly recomend to anyone!
jayi More than 1 year ago
A real eye opener. I have read all of their boundary books and have bought multiple copies as gifts. This last one is a wedding present.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
nrocpop More than 1 year ago
This book made me think about things in a different way than I ever did before. I have read many self-help books, too. I think the ideas in this book could, potentially, be very helpful. It would be hard to sort out, though, what is a solid boundary and what is selfish. I might need further help with that.
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ChristinaBreen More than 1 year ago
I liked the first book the best. Simply called "boundaries"; it has been an inspiration to me.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Helpful addition to our home library for future reference and for daily application to an interdependent growth mode relationship.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book, haven't finished it. Thus far, I've enjoyed it and learned a lot - still have more to learn.
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