Whenever we write or talk about boundaries that keep your marriage healthy, we hear a little bit of backlash. The overall sentiment is something like, “Why should I have to change? Why should I have to do things differently than I did when I wasn’t married? Shouldn’t my spouse accept me, flaws and all? Shouldn’t they trust me?”
If you’ve ever wondered, “Why boundaries?”, I want to make something clear to you. If you want to have a great marriage, you should really do whatever you want.
Now, I realize this sounds like it’s the opposite of what we’ve told you in the past, but it’s not. How you read that statement depends entirely on what you really want. You see, marriage isn’t meant to hold you hostage or prevent you from being yourself or pursuing what you want out of life. A great marriage has many benefits, but nobody reaps the benefits without putting in the work.
Do the Work
It’s like having a job. I know statistically there are a large percentage of you who are not happy at your job, but let’s talk for a moment as if you are in a job you love. Even if you are totally thrilled with your job, you still have to work to keep it. You can’t just show up late, be rude to your co-workers, or miss deadlines and keep your job. You don’t expect your boss to simply accept you the way you are, hot temper and all. If there are improvements you need to make, you either make them or you lose your job. You do have the ability to make changes when you need to, especially if your livelihood is at stake. If you don’t adjust, you can’t expect to keep your job.
But, if you love your job, you WILL do what it takes to keep it. You realize that it’s a great company to work for, or that you’ve built yourself a great company, and the minor sacrifices and adjustments you need to make are worth it. So it is with marriage. If we want to build a great marriage, we realize that the sacrifices we make to get there are minor compared to the great relationship we get to enjoy by putting in the effort. Great marriages may appear effortless on the outside, but each couple knows the work that goes into the wonderful relationship they have.
We talk about boundaries, we share communication tips and how to fight fair, we encourage you to learn each other’s love language and to practice pursuing each other because we want you to give and get the very most out of this great relationship. We believe marriage is beautiful and daunting work, and we want to support you in any way we can. The last thing we want to do is to make you feel shackled to your spouse.
Still, we hear you wondering… Shouldn’t it be easier than this? Why all the books on communication? What’s with all the philosophies on finding intimacy? Shouldn’t it be more natural? And why should I have to change my behavior to make my marriage work?
All good questions, my friend. Many of us imagine that marriage should come naturally… if we’re with the right person. So, if it’s difficult, we figure it might be because we are with the wrong person. The problem with this thinking is that none of us really are the right person. We each come into our marriages with our own set of weird habits, temper triggers, and childhood traumas. Marriage becomes a journey, not only to discover more about the person we’ve committed our lives to, but also to discover ourselves.
I didn’t know as much about what I loved or what I would get annoyed by until I was already married, so how could I possibly have been up front with my future husband about these things? We couldn’t know what we would be like as parents, or partners in work or at home. It’s not that we meant to deceive each other by not fully disclosing who we were before we got married. It’s just that we only knew so much.
Reap the Rewards
So, back to why marriage doesn’t come quite as naturally as we all imagine it should… It’s because none of us are married to robots who will simply do whatever we want or mind readers who understand us better than we understand ourselves. You and I are married to PEOPLE and those people have their own desires and dreams and frustrations and hurts, and they aren’t exactly the same as ours. It’s because of these PEOPLE that marriage is so much work.
If you’ve never worked hard for something, I can see how this won’t make much sense. But those of you that have know exactly what I’m talking about. The strawberries you grow in your own garden taste sweeter than the ones you buy in the produce department. The scarf you knit is softer and warmer than the one you pick up at the store. The view at the top of the mountain is more majestic than any photo you’ve seen before because you hiked the miles using your own sweat and strength to see it for yourself.
It’s a wonderful cycle: We appreciate the things we work hard for, and then we are more willing to continue the work once we’ve seen the beautiful results of our efforts. The work always comes first.
If what you want is a marriage that is mediocre, or worse– one that you dread, don’t change a thing. Do what you want, indulge your natural selfishness. Lean into behaviors like blaming, avoiding, and defensiveness. If, however, you want a great marriage, do whatever it takes to get what you want. Do the work to study your spouse. Learn new and better ways of communicating. Create and maintain healthy boundaries. If this all sounds like more work than you are willing to do, then, like allowing weeds to grow over your garden, you may never enjoy the beauty waiting for you in your own marriage. Work hard, reap the fruit of your labor, and #staymarried.
The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.
Special thanks to Amy Walton Photography for providing the beautiful photograph for this post. Image copyright belongs to her. Her Instagram Feed is one of my favorites, especially for her Tuesday nights with the Union Gospel Mission. Such encouraging work she is a part of! You should definitely follow this talented bright light in my life.
If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!
Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
♥ Don’t You Trust Me? – The 5 Characteristics of Trust
♥ 5 Trust-Building Boundaries
♥ How Being Defensive Is Hurting Your Marriage
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