How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Marriage

Are boundaries in a marriage healthy?
on December 06, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Setting healthy boundaries in marriage can help couples sustain a fulfilling relationship, where both partners can retain their individuality and autonomy — while still being deeply in love with each other. 

It may seem odd to instigate conversations about boundaries when you’re about to walk down the aisle, but if you choose to avoid these difficult conversations, it doesn’t bode well for your future together. 

“Healthy boundaries help you maintain a sense of self as you continuously deepen the trust in your relationship,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“You're saying to your person, you can count on me to respond in this way to these events.” 

Learning how to set healthy and appropriate boundaries in your marriage can help couples maintain healthy habits, preventing a descent into any toxic behaviors. To learn more about setting boundaries in a marriage, read on. 

What are boundaries in a marriage?

Boundaries are a marker of any healthy relationship and are a key part of any successful marriage. Setting boundaries clearly defines what you are and are not comfortable with within the relationship. 

By putting down these markers, your partner can respect your decisions on important topics such as personal space, finances, emotional matters, or even material possessions. According to Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, setting healthy boundaries helps both partners “learn when to say yes and how to say no in the context of your marriage relationship.” 

These boundaries are therefore essential to making a marriage work, preventing any unhealthy codependent dynamics, and laying the foundations for a good marriage. 

Why do boundaries in marriage need to be established?

To foster a healthy marriage, boundaries should be established from the outset to preserve both the individual's personal autonomy and mental health as well as their self-control. While the concept of marriage invites two individuals to unite, it shouldn’t mean the loss of their individuality or independence. 

Establishing good boundaries doesn’t put a lease on the unconditional love that you share, but helps you to safeguard a healthy future. After all, every human being is entitled to boundaries in their lives and married couples should never feel they have to give up aspects of themselves to preserve their relationship. 

It may seem odd to lay out a long list of boundaries with your husband or wife, but clear communication allows these boundaries to become a point of relational growth — not something to get stressed over!

What are important boundaries in marriage?

There are several important boundaries to be set in any relationship, especially if you’re making a long-term commitment to each other. 

Rather than making a wish list of what you want from your partner, and keeping it to yourself, these boundaries should be openly communicated in your relationship. After all, if you feel like your partner is crossing your boundaries, but you never let them know in the first place — then it’s not fair on either partner!

For example, if you want to set boundaries with your in-laws, then you have to voice these concerns maturely. In these circumstances, you might reach a natural compromise where your boundaries can still be adhered to. 

It’s essential to set these personal boundaries and respect those of your spouse to preserve a healthy relationship. These boundaries are an entirely personal experience, differing from couple to couple. 

Couples may set boundaries on the following matters:

Physical boundaries: This involves setting boundaries on your own space and allowing yourself time for personal growth and self-care.
Emotional boundaries: These boundaries help you to prioritize your own needs, rather than solely focusing on your relationship needs.
Intellectual boundaries: This kind of boundary can work on many different levels, intended to preserve your sense of self and individuality within your marriage.
Sexual boundaries: Sexual intimacy is an important aspect of any romantic relationship, but marriage doesn’t forfeit your right to say no.
Financial boundaries: To avoid any financial infidelity, it’s practical to set boundaries around your finances. For example, you may want to retain an individual account rather than just a shared savings account.

If you’re unsure of how to set appropriate boundaries in your relationship, it could be helpful to consult a marriage counselor to seek further advice. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries in marriage?

    Healthy boundaries in a relationship help married couples to preserve their sense of self, autonomy, and independence. They are discussed and agreed upon by both partners and help the couple feel safe, secure, and supported in their relationship. Unhealthy boundaries usually arise if they are set in place by one individual, making the other person feel uncomfortable, controlled, or stuck. These kinds of boundaries are restrictive rather than collaborative, making them unsustainable.
  • What is lack of boundaries in marriage?

    Lack of boundaries in a relationship makes it difficult for either partner to sustain their own individuality, melding into one another in an often codependent and unhealthy dynamic. This lack of boundaries around personal space, or on an emotional level, may seem like an open and loving dynamic but can lead to toxic tendencies over time.
  • What are good books to read on the boundaries of marriage?

    If you’re seeking advice on boundaries in marriage, there are many good sources to turn to for relationship advice. The most popular book on the subject is likely ‘Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships’ by Drs. Cloud and Townsend — who are at the forefront of the Christian counseling movement. Another wonderful book on boundaries is “Set Boundaries, Find Peace”, by therapist and boundaries expert Nedra Glover Tawwab. This book guides the reader in understanding when boundaries might be lacking and when they can help support you in relating to others in healthier ways. She shares many relationship examples in her book for the reader to utilize in a marriage.
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