Boundaries: Not Intended as a Way to Say No

Last week I suggested Boundaries in Marriage on facebook and Twitter. I said about the book, “Good boundaries actually make marriage better. Learn about good and bad limits.” Someone replied to this, saying, “the problem is this book gives permission to set bad boundaries.”

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I am aware of those who have used the book that way, but they are not doing what the book advocates. They are like those who use the Bible to “teach” things the Bible does not say.

The Amazon description of the book in question starts with the following:

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.”

In the book, the authors give the “10 Laws of Boundaries”. The first of these laws is “The Law of Sowing and Reaping: Our actions have consequences.” This is true of everything, including setting boundaries. The boundaries you or your wife set have consequences. If the boundaries are good and healthy, the consequences will be good. If the boundaries are wrong, the consequences will be bad.

Yes, your wife has the “right” to say no. Law five, The Law of Motivation, says “We must be free to say no before we can wholeheartedly say yes.” I fully agree with that, but it doesn’t mean saying no is without consequences. In my mind, setting healthy boundaries is not just about saying no – it’s also about saying yes. In fact, some of the boundaries in a marriage should be about places where we do not say no, or at least some significant limits on saying no. Our spouse should meet certain needs and saying no just because they don’t feel like it is wrong and destructive.

By the way: If your wife is misusing the boundaries book to set unhealthy or wrong boundaries, I would suggest the best way to deal with it is to read the book yourself. Then when she says, “Cloud and Townsend say …” you can gently correct her; or talk about consequences, citing the first Laws of Boundaries. It may not cause her to get rid of wrong boundaries, but it will take away her justification for those wrong boundaries.

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