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Boundaries in Marriage Paperback – August 12, 2002
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'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
From the Back Cover
Learn when to say yes and when to say no--to your spouse and to others--to make the most of your marriage
Only when a husband and wife know and respect each other's needs, choices, and freedom can they give themselves freely and lovingly to one another. Boundaries are the property lines that define and protect husbands and wives as individuals. Once they are in place, a good marriage can become better, and a less-than-satisfying one can even be saved.
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, counselors and authors of the award-winning best-seller Boundaries, show couples how to apply the 10 laws of boundaries that can make a real difference in relationships. They help husbands and wives understand the friction points or serious hurts and betrayals in their marriage--and move beyond them to the mutual care, respect, affirmation, and intimacy they both long for.
Boundaries in Marriage helps couples:
â¢ Set and maintain personal boundaries and respect those of their spouse
â¢ Establish values that form a godly structure and architecture for their marriage
â¢ Protect their marriage from different kinds of intruders
â¢ Work with a spouse who understands and values boundaries--or work with one who doesn't
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I won't get too specific, but to give you an idea of how irrational he gets when angry, he has threatened to leave our 3 year-old son at home while we go out because he didn't finish his dinner (don't worry, I was sane enough not to allow that!). He makes up the strangest punishments for our kids that just sound vengeful to me, childish, even, like something you would do to your kid-brother when you're 10, not something you would dish out to your child as their father. He yells at me when the house isn't perfectly clean, so I clean till it's shining, and he still yells! It makes no difference. He just overreacts when he's stressed out, regardless of how perfect I am or how hard I try to please him.
My husband is also very tender and sensitive to others' feelings. He has so many good qualities, I have never felt like I could give up on him in good conscience. Especially knowing that his problems were mostly learned from a difficult childhood and watching his father react to his trials incorrectly. We have young children, and I have a strong desire to be a good mother, so I'm always reading parenting books. I found myself wanting to parent my husband because of his immaturity! It works pretty good, actually, until you come to the really tough things that require more than just "positive reinforcement" when he's "behaving". Like what did I do when he finally threatened to physically hurt me (I knew that day would come eventually, and it did after 7 years of marriage)? I walked away, calmly. When he was calmed down (a few days later), I sat him down and rubbed his feet so I could look into his eyes. I told him that his anger didn't make him happy. That I couldn't be intimate with him, physically or emotionally, when he was angry and mean. I told him I loved him and was concerned about how much he was hurting himself by acting this way. After I made sure he felt loved and that I was on his side, I gently told him the "but": "...but I can't allow myself or the kids to be hurt by it anymore. I don't HAVE to stand there listening to you while you yell and scream at me. The kids don't have to either, and I won't make them or allow them to be subjected to it. I don't think you will stop yourself or leave when you're that angry because you do get irrational, so we will leave when I think it's escalating too much. It's not fair that we should have to leave when it's you that is out of control, so I will do what I need to do to make myself and the kids comfortable until you've had time to cool off. If that means spending money on a movie or the zoo or dinner, etc. (he is very tight-fisted with money, but I did not say this to be vengeful!), we will do that."
I realized through reading this book that I was allowing him to be immature, and I was contributing to him not taking responsibility for his emotional outbursts! It is never the vistim's fault, don't get me wrong, but if I am enabling my spouse to strengthen a flaw, I want to know so I can fix whatever character flaw of mine that is contributing to it! And my flaw is my passivity. I always just wanted the yelling to be over, so I would be as gentle and soft as I could and give him whatever he wanted (like a 2 yr old) so he would stop his adult temper tantrums. Right before I read this book, I had started really caving to him. After EVERY fight, I was the one who initiated the problem-solving (even though he was the initiator when we first got married!). Each time I sat him down to talk about the problem, he would only talk about what I did wrong. Eventually I got tired of trying to get him top see my way, so I just said sorry for every little thing I could think of, not matter how miniscule, just to have peace in our home again! I hated doing it, and I knew it was wrong for me to give in when I knew I was in the right, but I didn't know how to place consequences on him for his immaturity, and didn't know if it was Christian for me to do it.
This book was the answer!!! It helped me to have the guts to place my boundaries. No one should be treated the way I was, or the way my kids were. I have the power to stand up for myself and my standards, even if it means against my dear husband.
You may think that my husband has bucked against this "new me", but he hasn't. Of course, at first it was a shock to him and I decided I needed to go slow and not stand up for myself too strongly to begin, but as time has gone on, he is realizing that there will be consequences for him mistreating us. My husband respects me more now than ever. I see where my passivity and shyness has made me shrug some of my own responsibilities that make things more stressful for him, too. For example, I put off important phone calls (dentist, bills, etc.) because I am shy on the phone and haven't learned to assert myself. It will be a long road for me to change that about myself, but I see now that it is necessary. My husband has respected me more as I change because I too am becoming more responsible and not impinging on someone else's boundaries.
I'm just SO grateful for this book. It could have gotten so much worse. If my husband had started abusing us physically, I would have HAD to leave with the kids to keep us all safe, and that is such a heavy, sorrowful step for anyone to have to take when there really is love in a marriage. We have worked hard in our marriage and created a bond that was compromised with every tantrum. Now that he knows there are consequences, he tries harder! No amount of nagging, begging, pleading, criticizing would change him, but consequences are.
A word about consequences for this type of situation: I try to make them as natural as possible, just as you should with children. I can't force my husband to go into time-out or give him extra chores each time he screams at us, and it wouldn't make sense anyway. If a stranger on the street started yelling at you, you wuoldn't just stand there and listen, right? There is no law that keeps you rooted to your spot so you have to listen to someone yelling, screaming, insulting you. So I don't either. And when he was angry with us before a family trip, I told him I would not go with him if he was angry and be subjected to his stressful grouchiness the whole time. When he didn't shape up, I called our friends that we were planning on visiting and told them I wouldn't be there with the kids and that I wasn't sure if hy husband would be, but he would contact them. I was still respectful to my husband's ego and just made an excuse that the kids were sick (one actually did have the beginnings of a cold). He soon apologized and was visibly disappointed in himself, not me. He knew the consequence I gave was right, so he took it more gracefully than he would have if it was arbitrary or vindictive or not done out of 100% love for him and the kids. I am one determined woman, and my marriage WILL NOT fail if I can help it! I am also determined to do it the Christlike way, the only way that will truly work. I truly believe marriage is a divine institution, and that the Lord will give us every aid we need to succeed in it if we are willing to work hard and place our trust and faith in Him.
These authors will never know the full impact of their work. I am a daily scripture reader, and I was still having a hard time gleaning what I needed to know, maybe because I was starting to get so stressed out with the situation that I couldn't think clearly to gain the needed revelation. I couldn't even get anything out of Boundaries because I was so distraught, so I had to go straight to Boundaries in Marriage. I finally prayed one more time for help. I have never felt so humble in my life. I told the Lord I had done everything I could and that I knew the only thing that could save me and our marriage was His grace. That's when this book found its way into my heart. Thank you SO much!
As the mother of eight, I believe I have the right to speak out about this false teaching, promoted by this book, of "boundaries". I have heard some extremely selfish counsel, comments, and rough situations coming out of its principles, applied.
We are to be Warriors for Christ, turn the other cheek, overlook a transgression, forgive one another, and lay down our lives for each other. We are taught to die to self, and put other's needs before our own.
Please do not think that the continued quoting of Scripture in a book makes its message correct. Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus, remember? Jesus answered with - "It is written..." I say - "It is written...Greater love hath no man, than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" and we are told that if we are compelled to go a mile, go two. Definitely not taught to set up boundaries, but that the 2 become 1, and I believe the authors are to be held accountable, for putting asunder many marriages. - E. K. S., Florida
That said, it's a very very good book. This is very worthwhile reading for anyone. I have included some of my notes from this book so that you might get a feel for it, I highly recommend it (the only reason I gave it 4 stars was the fact that you have to look past so much religious dogma and rhetoric on almost every page, but it has a beautiful underlying message). Here are my notes from this book:
When two people are free to disagree, they are free to love. When they are not free to disagree, they live in fear and their love dies.
Learning to be truthful and learning to receive the truth is part of the maturing process as an adult. It is the essence of intimacy in a relationship. Lacking this, we become slaves to one another's coercion and withholding of approval. Where there is no freedom to say no, there is slavery.
A relationship must create freedom in order to survive- to the degree it creates freedom for both parties- to that degree it will continue to grow and thrive. Vice versa, to the degree a relationship enslaves and imposes, to that degree it is doomed as tool of destruction as opposing the joy and happiness of the partners in the relationship.
Boundaries setting as a means of protecting each partner's freedom is a formula for success. Boundary setting as a means of restricting and censorship is a formula for slavery and dominance. Therefore, the key in learning proper boundaries lies in this: Boundaries can properly be defended, but they can never be asserted.
Boundaries aren't about controlling the other person, censorship of the other person, control, or imposition but merely a means for communicating the truth...and the freedom to communicate the truth.
The essence of boundaries is truthfulness. If we are not being truthful with each other, then our real relationship goes into hiding. Then, instead of one real relationship, we live a double life from within and without. In this, intimacy is lost. Truth and the freedom to speak it are the premise for a deeper intimacy.
When we give the other party permission to be free and to speak the truth and when we are free ourselves to speak the truth, people draw closer to us. When we are controlling or live double lives in terms of what we think and say, people withdraw from us.
But people are often deaf to words of truth. Most people only respond to pain and loss. In which case, withdrawal from the relationship becomes the only possible alternative in resolving and asserting the boundary to speak without restriction.
There is a huge difference between causing someone pain and causing someone harm. Refusing to rescue someone may be painful for them, but it does not do them any harm. In fact, when we rescue them or appease them, we allow them to continue harming us or harm themselves, merely to get them temporarily out of pain. In reality, rescuing a person often results in enabling them and a continued perpetuation of the problem as the result.
Boundaries is the recognition that we are responsible to each other, but NOT for each other.
Your task is to keep from harming the other person. But proper boundary recognition means that their pain is their own. Just because someone is in pain doesn't mean you have harmed them or have an obligation to get them out of their pain. In fact, something good might be happening. Such is the process of growing up.
You cannot make the other person grow up, but you can make it easier for him to experience the limits he needs by meeting and fully absorbing the consequences of his own thoughts and actions. All you have to do is to become truthful, not harmful or controlling.
Setting boundaries is merely the process of speaking the truth and thus a very important distinction needs to be made here: boundaries is NOT about impeding on the freedom of the other person to be who he or she wants, to focus on what he or she wants, to live as he or she wants, to believe in what he or she wants, or even to act in any way as he or she wants but rather merely that the other person take ownership for all such effects on their own life rather than redirect them at us. The boundary maintains the consequences with the actor so that they are not allowed to shift the burdens of their life onto ours with the expectation that we shall suffer for their actions or lack thereof. The person who has the problem is the one that needs to face the effects of their problem.
Boundaries is not a means for controlling behavior, or restricting behavior, or controlling choices, or controlling what the other person thinks or says or does. Boundaries merely maintains the consequences of behavior with the person who owns them.
This is a very critical concept and may seem at first like we are splitting hairs but the essence of the distinction is this: we do not assert boundaries on behavior, we assert them on the shifting of the consequences of that behavior. Boundary setting is a defensive maneuver only.
Hence, a boundary can only be set on the consequences of behavior, not on the behavior itself. So where you spouse may have a gambling problem, the natural consequence maybe that he or she won't have enough money to buy food to eat. Instead of rescuing them by buying food, try getting separate credit cards, and allowing him or her to manage their own money and assume their own expenses. Don't assert a boundary on the behavior- that is an attempt at control and an infringement on the other person's freedom. Assert instead a boundary on the assumption of the burdens associated with such behavior.
The limits of our boundaries are the freedom of the other person. The limits of their boundaries likewise are the freedoms of our person.
Loving your mate often means desiring and protecting his or her freedom of choice. Boundaries are not a matter of effectuating behavior control or removing choices from the other person's life. Imposition of prison always works against love. Any imposition destroys the authenticity of a relationship and any tolerance with imposed control is appeasement which is only a sign that someone is afraid. No one can authentically love another where he feels afraid or if he doesn't feel he has a choice in loving that person.
Boundary setting is limiting the assumption of the consequences to the person causing them.
Irresponsible people desire either to have someone else take responsibility for them or to avoid the consequences of their actions and situations which they find themselves in. They often attempt to emotionally blackmail us by describing their problems and their hardships, and then leave a silent space for us to fill, so that we might volunteer to assume their risks and consequences in being compelled by our own conscience.
The inability to recognize another's boundary indicates a difficulty in taking ownership of one's own struggle, one's own problems, one's own behaviors, and conversely a willingness to shift those burdens to someone else. This disregard goes beyond the realm of inconsideration and reflects an inherent inequity and a lack of character in the person acting as such.
Freedom is a prerequisite of love. If someone enslaves us or controls us, love is not possible. Control results in slavery and no love is not possible within that state. The ability for each partner to allow the other to be a free and separate person is the hallmarks of a solid relationship- one in which neither party infringes on the boundaries of the other nor attempts to shift their burdens onto the other person.
Conversely, if we attempt to control the other person's behavior, we are in essence controlling them by telling them what they can and can not do, think, say, or take part in. Boundaries is not a method for behavior control but rather boundaries is only appropriately used to shift the burdens of the consequences of behavior to its rightful owner.
Boundaries means we stop rescuing the person and allow them to assume both the benefits and the burdens of their behavior. We always have the choice to disassociate but we do not have the choice of control. We have no right to assert "boundaries" where in fact we are asserting control. We can stop assuming their difficulties for them, we can be truthful in speaking about the situation, at the extreme we may even cut off their access to us by disassociating with them, but you can't tell them what to do, what to think, how to behave, what not to do, etc.
The human way is often to harden our hearts when we are hurt or offended. Hardness of heart is a true relationship killer. Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Identify with failure and make space for it and allow forgiveness for a certain amount of it. A relationship is after all only as good as the investment people make in it. The connection either deepens or it begins to deteriorate for failures. The only way to deepen it is to allow the harvest of corrections to fruition into a sense of tolerance, understanding, and trust. This harvest, like any other harvest, will not come into being on its own. The only way to reap such harvest is with compassion, kindness, humility, and forgiveness.
The essence of compassion and forgiveness is to live in the healing mode.
However, silent suffering is not patience. Such suffering is often driven by fear or avoidance of conflict. Patience is different. Patience allows the process to happen while you are also providing the ingredients for growth. A boundary that is not communicated is a boundary that is not yet in effect. It has the same net effect in the relationship, as if there were no boundary.
In any situation requiring change, two major issues immediately appear:
1. The issue to be dealt with
2. The ability of the person to deal with the issue
If number two is good, then in almost all cases, number one will take care of itself.
There are two approaches people take to the world: there are those who focus on what they want, always desiring it and never attaining it, and those who focus on what it takes to obtain what they want. The latter do the work, delay gratification, make sacrifices, and ultimately get the rewards of their work. Deeper intimacy means moving past niceness into openness. Rather than focusing on the desire for an intimate relationship, you should be focused on the hard work of understanding the other person at a deeper level and telling the truth in allowing them to get to know you. Whatever the truth, and whether or not even that truth is compatible with the other person, it must be revealed and the failure to reveal is a failure to find intimacy.