Boundaries are dividing lines that create limits and awareness. In marriage, boundaries may appear restrictive, but they actually promote protection, security and clarity. One of the best ways to show your partner you love and avoid painful consequences is to respect and honor the boundaries set in the marriage.
One area where this can be a challenge is in engaging with the opposite sex. There can be a lot of “gray” when it comes to this, as we are often in environments with inevitable interactions between the genders. Creating boundaries for engaging with others should be a collaborative activity that leaves no questions as to what is “appropriate” versus “inappropriate.” Couples are a team, and a team functions well when each player/partner understands and agrees with the rules.
What Are Healthy Boundaries in a Marriage?
There are many misconceptions of boundaries — especially within the marriage relationship. It is possible to be too consumed with one another’s lives, not respecting the other’s individuality. It is also possible to be too distant, no longer connecting or operating as a team. Healthy relationship boundaries allow you to remain an independent person with your own ideas and autonomy while staying connected in intimacy with your spouse.
When healthy boundaries are working, they feel natural and effortless. The more you communicate with your spouse about your needs, the more these healthy boundaries will emerge. Examples of healthy boundaries within a marriage include:
- Focusing on the things you like to do together.
- Maximizing your strengths as a couple.
- Recognizing that you won’t agree on everything.
- Seeking to understand your differences.
- Encouraging your spouse to pursue their goals and passions.
- Supporting your spouse emotionally, especially in times of need.
Talking to Your Spouse About Opposite Sex Friends
It can be challenging to balance the intimacy of your marriage with the other important relationships in your life — especially if you have close friends of the opposite gender. Same-gender friendships tend to be easy to nurture after you’re married. Yet, whether it’s a co-worker or a childhood friend, there’s an entirely different set of considerations when it comes to having opposite-sex friends.
Your marriage is your most precious relationship. To protect healthy marital boundaries, you need to decide how to approach these friendships.
If your spouse feels uncomfortable about your opposite-sex friendships, don’t push them away or blame them for feeling insecure. Healthy boundaries are built on understanding and respect for their feelings. Talk to your spouse about the situation without hostility or irritation. Let your spouse know that you notice their unease. Give them a chance to tell you why. Then, offer your spouse reassurance that you’re committed to your marriage.
How to Engage With the Opposite Sex When You’re Married
As you navigate your relationships, you should always protect your marriage first. Does that mean you can’t have opposite-sex friends once you’re married? Not at all. However, you may have to reprioritize these relationships. You may also need to make some changes so that your spouse knows that your marriage is your first priority. Boundaries mean asking yourself about the state of these opposite-gender relationships and how they may impact your marriage.
Here are a few helpful things to think about when deciding on boundaries with friends of the opposite gender:
- If you wouldn’t say or do it in front of your spouse, then it probably shouldn’t be said or done at all.
- Do not discuss marital issues or your spouse’s flaws with others.
- Incorporate device transparency including passwords and any communication with others.
- Identify what is appropriate to watch and where is appropriate to go both alone and together.
- Avoid as much one-on-one time as possible with the opposite sex.
- Steer clear of substance use around mixed gendered groups.
- Creating space with your spouse for open and honest communication regarding struggles, needs and wants in the relationship.
- Be intentional and thoughtful in this process. Do not be afraid of creating black and white limits, as they will protect your relationship in the long run.
These guidelines may not be right for everyone, but they might work as a starting point for you and your spouse.
Learn More About Healthy Relationship Boundaries at Taylor Counseling Group
If you and your partner are struggling with the concept of marriage boundaries, our compassionate couples counselors at Taylor Counseling Group can help. Couples counseling is not just for those coping with marital difficulties. It’s a collaborative environment where you and your spouse can learn about and establish healthy boundaries. As you engage in a respectful dialogue, our professional counselors can help you discover the beauty inherent in your relationship to create an even stronger bond.
If you’re ready to begin this journey of discovery, schedule your appointment with one of our highly trained couples counselors.