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You long for a marriage marked by lifelong love, intimacy, and growth. And it can be yours—if you set wise boundaries. Boundaries are the "property lines" that define and protect each of you as individuals. Get them in place and you can make a good marriage better and possibly even save a less-than-satisfying one. By the time you’ve completed this Groupware, you will know yourself and your mate better than ever before. You’ll also understand and practice the ten laws of boundaries in ways that can make a real ...
You long for a marriage marked by lifelong love, intimacy, and growth. And it can be yours—if you set wise boundaries. Boundaries are the "property lines" that define and protect each of you as individuals. Get them in place and you can make a good marriage better and possibly even save a less-than-satisfying one. By the time you’ve completed this Groupware, you will know yourself and your mate better than ever before. You’ll also understand and practice the ten laws of boundaries in ways that can make a real difference in your relationship. Step by step, the Boundaries in Marriage Groupware helps you apply the biblical principles discussed in the book Boundaries in Marriage so you can—
• Set and maintain your personal boundaries and respect those of your spouse
• Establish values that form a godly structure and architecture for you marriage
• Protect your marriage from different kinds of "intruders"
• Work with a spouse who understands and values boundaries—or work with one who doesn’t
What's a Boundary,
In this session, you will
• See that love, freedom, and responsibility are necessary ingredients if a marriage is to grow and thrive.
• Define "boundaries," look at examples of boundaries, and consider their importance.
• Recognize that you are responsible for your feelings, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, choices, thoughts, values, limits, talents, desires, and love, all of which lie within your boundaries.
• Freedom, responsibility, and love-something incredible happens as these three ingredients of relationship work together.
• Stephanie was suffering from the emotional distance that being on the wrong side of a one-sided relationship creates.
• Stephanie realized that there was really very little of her in the marriage. She had adapted to her husband and had complied with him so much that she could no longer even remember what it felt like to be herself.
• Stephanie realized that she could not blame Steve for her loss of herself. She was the one who, afraid of conflict, had complied with his wishes. She had to take ownership of her passivity.
• Stephanie took responsibility for her own misery and began to work on it in the relationship. She didn't-as many people do-leave the relationship to "find herself."
• As Stephanie took ownership and responsibility for her life, Steve was forced to take responsibility for his own, and their marriage improved.
• Steve also learned to love Stephanie's freedom. He began to be attracted by her independence instead of threatened by it.
Time for Thought
A Look in the Mirror
You will be doing this exercise on your own. Take 5 minutes to answer the questions below and reflect on your own marriage.
1. What, if anything, did you see of yourself and your marriage in Stephanie's situation?
2. If you were Stephanie, what could you do to improve your marriage?
3. If you were Steve, what would you want Stephanie to do to let you know that she is drifting away from you?
4. Why are you taking this Boundaries in Marriage course? What do you hope to learn?
Love, Freedom, and Responsibility
• Marriage is about love. But while love is indeed at the heart of marriage, it is not enough.
• The marriage relationship needs freedom and responsibility to grow and thrive.
• When two people are free to disagree, they are free to love. When they are not free, they live in fear, and love dies.
• 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.
• This course is about promoting love, growing it, developing it, and repairing it. We want to help you develop love through providing a better environment for it: one of freedom and responsibility. This is where boundaries, or personal property lines, come in. They promote love by protecting individuals.
Time to Talk
Love, Freedom, and Responsibility
With your spouse, turn to another couple near you and take 10 minutes to share your answers to the three questions listed below.
1. Marriage is about being 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). When have you seen or perhaps even experienced the partnership of marriage being "something better than what each person alone can produce"? Give a specific example.
2. When two people are free to disagree, they are free to love. When they are not free, they live in fear, and love dies.
• Why does genuine love allow the freedom to disagree?
• What fears come into play when people are not free to
disagree-and why do those fears cause love to die?
3. When two people together take responsibility to do what is best for their 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. What, if anything, do you see about yourself, your marriage, and/or marriage in general when you look through the lens this statement offers?
Boundaries in Marriage
• For intimacy in marriage to develop and grow, there must be boundaries. A boundary is a property line. It denotes the beginning and the end of something.
• If I know where the boundaries are in our relationship, I know who "owns" things such as feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. I know to whom they "belong." And if there is a problem with one of those, I know to whom the problem belongs as well.
• A relationship like marriage requires each partner to have a sense of ownership of himself or herself. The first way in which clarifying boundaries helps us is to define where one person ends and the other begins. What is the problem, and where is it? Is it in you, or is it in me? If we can see that the problem is our problem and that we are responsible for it, then we are in the driver's seat of change.
• Three realities have existed since the beginning of time: freedom, responsibility, and love. God created us free. He gave us responsibility for our freedom. As responsible free agents, we are told to love him and each other.
• When spouses are free to not react to each other, each takes responsibility for his or her own issues and loves the other person even when he or she does not deserve it. Free from each other's control, each gives love to the other freely, and that love transforms the individuals and produces growth in their marriage.
• As Stephanie and Steve became more defined, they became two people who could love and be loved. They began to know and enjoy one another.
Time to Act
Identifying My Property Lines
Take 15 minutes to start reading through the questions below. They are designed to help you consider different types of boundaries, to see where your boundaries are, and to decide where you could shore them up. You won't have time to finish this exercise right now, but you'll be encouraged to do so in the Boundary Building section at the end of this session.
1. The most basic boundary is language. Your words help define you. They tell the other person who you are, what you believe, what you want, and what you don't.
• Give an example of boundary-setting words that you and
your mate use occasionally, if not regularly.
• How do you respond when your spouse uses boundary-setting
• How does your spouse respond to your boundary-setting
• When have you chosen silence rather than boundary-setting
words-and why? Be specific.
2. God's truth and principles provide the boundaries of our existence, and as we live within this truth, we are safe. In addition, being honest and truthful about ourselves and what is going on in a relationship provides boundaries.
• Which of God's principles are functioning well in your
marriage? ("Do not lie," "Do not commit adultery," "Do
not covet," "Give to others," "Love one another," "Be
compassionate," and "Forgive" are some.) Which, if any,
have been violated? What have been the consequences
of that violation-and what might be done to get those
boundaries back in place?
• When, if ever, have you been aware of giving your mate a
false impression of your feelings or your perspective on
the relationship? Why did you choose to do so? What have
been the consequences of your choice?
3. Consequences define what you will and will not allow yourself to be exposed to. When words fail to communicate, actions can.
• When have the consequences of pain or loss helped you or
your spouse better understand the other's boundaries?
• In what current situation, if any, might the use of consequences
be an effective communicator of your boundaries?
What would those consequences be?
4. A pure heart and the commitment to work on things are necessary as one follows the advice of Proverbs to "guard your heart" (4:23) with some emotional distance.
• What risks come with a couple's establishment of emotional
distance? And what possible benefits?
• When, if ever, has emotional distance been a conscious
and talked-about choice in your marriage? In what ways
was your relationship stronger afterwards?
5. Sometimes, when all else fails, people must get away from each other until the hurt can stop. Distance can provide time to protect, time to think, time to heal, and time to learn new things.
• When have you or someone you know needed to resort to
physical distance to provide space for healing and/or safety
to preserve partners and the marriage itself? Remember
that physical distance can range from simply removing
oneself from an argument to moving into a shelter with
• What risks come with a couple's establishment of physical
distance? What possible benefits?
6. God has always provided help from his family to those who need it.
• Identify both some risks and some benefits of turning to
• Who, if anyone, has helped you strengthen your boundaries?
Whose care, support, teaching, and modeling might
help you set and maintain healthy boundaries in your marriage?
Where could you go to find such people?
7. Time to work out a conflict or to limit the conflict is another boundary that structures difficulties in relationships.
• When, if ever, have you used time as a boundary in your
• What current issue in your marriage could benefit from
one of the following arrangements: giving yourself an
allotted time to talk about certain things; setting a specific
time to work on a particular issue instead of discussing it
in the heat of the moment; establishing seasons for certain
goals? Be specific about the issue and about the timing
that might help you and your spouse deal with it.
Lord God, after just one session, I'm seeing more clearly what a high calling marriage is. In order for me to respond to that calling, please help me learn to take ownership of my feelings, attitudes, and behaviors; to take responsibility for my choices, desires, thoughts, values, talents, and love; and both to grant my spouse freedom and responsibly act on the freedom my spouse grants me. Please give me wisdom as I use words, truth, consequences, emotional distance, physical distance, other people, and time to build or strengthen boundaries.
I'm a bit nervous as I set out on this journey toward a healthier marriage, and I'm feeling more than a little vulnerable. I know that you'll be with me each step of the way, and may your presence give me hope and the willingness to proceed. As I submit myself to your transforming touch, I ask you to be at work in my mate even as you work to make me more like Christ-in whose name I pray. Amen.
1. Boundaries in marriage is not about fixing, changing, or punishing your mate. If you aren't in control of yourself, the solution is not learning to control someone else; the solution is learning self-control.
• What would you like to fix or change in your spouse or
punish him/her for? Let go of those unhealthy and
unhelpful goals by making them a topic of prayer.
Confess these desires and ask God to be at work in
your mate even as he works to transform you.
• What aspects of your role as husband or wife currently
call for you to exercise greater self-control? Submit
those to the Lord and his sanctifying, transforming
2. Each spouse must take responsibility for the following things:
• Look closely at the above list. In what areas are you not
taking responsibility? (Could a close friend help you
answer this question? Would your spouse be able to
answer it if you risked asking an opinion?)
• What would responsibility in those areas look like?
Excerpted from Boundaries in Marriage Participant's Guide by Henry Cloud John Townse Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Love Is Not Enough . . .7
What’s a Boundary, Anyway? . . . .9
Applying the Ten Laws of Boundaries to Marriage . .23
Setting Boundaries with Yourself .37
Values One and Two: Love of God and Love of Spouse . . . .57
Values Three and Four: Honesty and Faithfulness . . .71
Values Five and Six:
Compassion and Forgiveness, and Holiness . . .85
Resolving Conflict in Marriage . .99
Some Warning Signs to Help Your Marriage .123
Posted May 21, 2012
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