Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships

Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships

by Henry Cloud, John Townsend


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Learn when to say yes and when to say no to your spouse to make the most of your marriage.

Only when you and your mate know and respect each other's needs, choices, and freedom can you give yourselves 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 bestseller 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 will help you:

  • Set and maintain personal boundaries and respect those of their spouse
  • Establish values that form a godly structure and architecture for their marriage
  • Protect their marriage from different kinds of "intruders"
  • Work with a spouse who understands and values boundaries - or work with one who doesn't

You don't have to let your marriage head toward separation or divorce. Discover how boundaries make life better today!

Plus, check out Boundaries family collection of books dedicated to key areas of life - dating, raising kids, parenting teens, and leadership. Workbooks and Spanish editions are also available.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310243144
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/12/2002
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 32,463
Product dimensions: 5.48(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist, pastor to pastors, and New York Times bestselling author. His 45 books, including the iconic Boundaries, have sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Throughout his storied career as a clinician, he started treatment centers, created breakthrough new models rooted in research, and has been a leading voice on issues of mental health and leadership on a global scale. Dr. Cloud lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Tori, and their two daughters, Olivia and Lucy.

Dr. John Townsend is a nationally known leadership consultant, psychologist, and author, selling over 10 million books, including the New York Times bestselling Boundaries series. John founded the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling and the Townsend Leadership Program. Dr. Townsend travels extensively for corporate consulting, speaking events, and to help develop leaders, their teams, and their families. John and his family live in Southern California and Texas. Visit Dr

Read an Excerpt

A Tale of Two Couples
Recently, I (Dr. Townsend) had two separate dinners with two married couples who are friends of mine. These two couples are in their later years, and each of the couples has been married for more than four decades. They are in what we call the 'Golden Years,' the period of marriage in which all the love and work over the years culminate, we hope, in a deep and satisfying connection. However, I was struck by the huge difference between the two couples.
With Harold and Sarah, I enjoyed a buffet dinner where you get a ticket for various parts of the meal and you have to leave the table with your ticket and go get your item. The dinner was winding down; we were ready for dessert. Harold reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his dessert ticket. Tossing it in front of Sarah, he said casually, 'Sarah. Dessert.' Not 'Please, Sarah, will you get my dessert for me?' And certainly not 'Can I get your dessert, honey?' Harold was assuming Sarah would obediently comply with his two-word command.
I didn't know what to say, so I sat there and watched. Sarah was clearly embarrassed by Harold's public display of control. She sat there for a couple of seconds, apparently deciding what to do. Then she seemed to gather up her courage and quietly but forcefully said, 'Why don't you get your own dessert?'
Harold looked surprised. Evidently he wasn't used to her refusing to obey his commands. However, he recovered, made a weak joke about uppity women, and left the table to redeem his ticket. While he was gone, Sarah said to me, 'Sorry, I just couldn't let it go this time, with my friends here.' I felt so sad for Sarah, realizing that her reaction to her husband tonight was the exception rather than the rule. I also realized that, on a deeper level, while Harold and Sarah were legally connected, they were emotionally disconnected. Their hearts were not knit together.
Frank and Julia were different. I was traveling, and they were hosting me. We went to their home after dinner. After a while, it was time for me to return to my hotel, and I needed a ride. Julia, a counselor like me, was primarily responsible for my trip and had been chauffeuring me to various speaking engagements and meetings. So clearly she was the person to take me back.
However, Frank looked at his wife and said, 'You look tired, honey. I'll take John back to his hotel.' I could see the conflict in Julia's face between her duty to me and her need for rest. Finally, she said, 'Okay, thanks.' And Frank drove me to the hotel.
The next day, at the conference, I talked to Julia. I remarked on Frank's kindness in offering the ride and on her struggle with taking the offer. She said, 'It wasn't always that way. In our twenties, he wouldn't have offered, and I wouldn't have taken the offer. But we worked on this issue a lot during those days. I had to put my foot down on some issues, and we almost divorced. It was a difficult period, but it has paid off. We can't imagine not being each other's soul mates.' During my time with them, I had observed that Frank's and Julia's hearts were knit together, that they were emotionally connected.
Though both couples had many years of marriage experience, each couple's love and relationship had taken very different turns. Harold and Sarah were unable to love deeply and relate to each other, because Harold controlled Sarah and Sarah allowed him to control her. They had what are called major boundary conflicts, in which one person crosses the lines of responsibility and respect with another. When one person is in control of another, love cannot grow deeply and fully, as there is no freedom.
Frank and Julia could have very likely ended up the same way. From what I could tell, they started off similarly in their early married years. Frank dominated, and Julia complied. However, she confronted the problem, she set limits and established consequences, and their marriage grew. Clearly, both couples were reaping the results of how they had conducted themselves in the earlier seasons of marriage. The first couple harvested a sad result; the other, a joyous one.
Your Life Begins Today
If you are reading this book, most likely marriage is important to you. You may be happy in your marriage and want it to keep growing. You may be struggling and dealing with major or minor problems. You may be single and want to prepare for marriage. You may be divorced and want to prevent the pain you went through if you remarry.
Most of us have no greater desire and prayer than a lifetime of love and commitment to one person with whom we can share life. Marriage is one of God's greatest gifts to humanity. It is the mystery of living as one flesh with another human being (Ephesians 5:31 -- 32).
Marriage is first and foremost about love. It is bound together by the care, need, companionship, and values of two people, which can overcome hurt, immaturity, and selfishness to form something better than what each person alone can produce. Love is at the heart of marriage, as it is at the heart of God himself (1 John 4:16).
Yet, love is not enough. The marriage relationship needs other ingredients to grow and thrive. Those ingredients are freedom and responsibility. When two people are free to disagree, they are free to love. When they are not free, they live in fear, and love dies: 'Perfect love drives out fear' (1 John 4:18). And when two people together take responsibility to do what is best for the marriage, love can grow. When they do not, one takes on too much responsibility and resents it; the other does not take on enough and becomes self-centered or controlling. Freedom and responsibility problems in a marriage will cause love to struggle. Like a plant without good soil, the marriage relationship will struggle in an unfriendly environment.

Table of Contents

A Tale of Two Couples
Part 1: Understanding Boundaries
1. What’s a Boundary, Anyway?
2. Applying the Ten Laws of Boundaries to Marriage
3. Setting Boundaries with Yourself
Becoming More Lovable
Part 2: Building Boundaries in Marriage
4. It Takes Two to Make One
5. What You Value Is What You’ll Have
6. Value One
Love of God
7. Value Two
Love of Your Spouse
8. Value Three
9. Value Four
10. Value Five
Compassion and Forgiveness
11. Value Six
Part 3: Resolving Conflict in Marriage
12. Three’s a Crowd
Protecting Your Marriage from Intruders
13. Six Kinds of Conflict
14. Resolving Conflict with a Boundary-Loving Spouse
15. Resolving Conflict with a Boundary-Resistant Spouse
Part 4: Misunderstanding Boundaries in Marriage
16. Avoiding the Misuse of Boundaries in Marriage

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

'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

Customer Reviews