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“Sail forth into the sea of life, O gentle, loving, trusting wife.
And safe from all adversity upon the bosom of that sea
Thy coming and thy goings be!h
For gentleness and love and trust
Prevail o’er angry wave and gust.
Someone aptly said that marriage is referred to as the sea of matrimony because spouses have such a hard job keeping their heads above water. Can you identify? Are the winds and waves buffeting your marriage? At times do you feel you are drowning? Does everything but your marriage demand your time and attention? Does your work follow you home each evening? Are your children so demanding you have little time left over for you—much less your marriage?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to remember how Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm. The disciples then asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Matthew 8: 26-27). To have help from above is invaluable. Our faith has gotten us through some huge storms in our lives. We have also found that we can calm the waves in the sea of matrimony by setting marriage boundaries. They can be real marriage preservers!
A marriage boundary is a defining line that says, “Stop! This time belongs to us!” We readily set boundaries to protect our productive time in our jobs, and even to protect our family times, but seldom think about setting boundaries for our marriage? Isn’t it time to make some changes? We suggest the following steps:
1. Identify present storms. Are you too busy with your work or is your social calendar out of control? Are you struggling with your financial situation or you just can’t seem to get along with your in-laws? Are friends demanding most of your free time? Do you need to establish some new boundaries? For us, working in marriage education is good and bad. Good because it keeps the topic of marriage front and center. Bad because sometimes we tend to get so busy helping other couples, we neglect our own relationship which brings us to the second step.
2. Evaluate your marriage. Talk about what’s right about your marriage at present and areas where growth is needed. For us, this means setting more time away just for us--to designate times we will not talk about our work, even though it deals with marriage!
3. Set marriage goals. Write down both long and short-term goals. Maybe you want to work on your communication skills or learn more appropriate ways of handling anger and resolving conflict, or maybe you want to start the habit of dating. Besides working on boundary lines between our work in marriage education and our own marriage, presently we’re working on setting some goals to prepare for retirement. After all, no one can work forever!
4. Learn new skills. What skills do you need to learn that will help you make needed changes? Maybe you want to read a book on how to process anger and resolve conflict or learn new skills that will enhance your love life.
5. Decide what you are not going to do! Just as important as goal setting, is deciding what you are going to say “No” to. This is the bottom line of “boundary setting.” No one is bionic. We or you aren’t angels. You, like us, need to eat, sleep, and rest. So be brutal and say “No” to good things that aren’t the best for you or for your marriage.
6. Take some action! With boundaries now in place, take some action on what is best for your marriage. Perhaps you’d like to start a dating club with other married couples so you will have positive peer pressure to keep working on your marriage and supportive couples to encourage you along the way.
We hope our suggestions will help you set some boundaries for your marriage. They can help preserve your marriage and you may even find the wind and waves of life will calm down!