This is something that is connected to a message Carla and I did last Friday, and another one that I preached yesterday. But it’s hardly original to us and you’ll see in this blog that we just learned it from others. I’m grateful for the men and women like my parents, Pastor Steve and Deborah Murrell, and Pastor Paolo and Jenn Punzalan who not only preach this but live it.
Of the many things we’ve learned, one of the things I’m glad we agreed on right away is the idea of boundaries in marriage. Carla and I have very frank and open conversations with one another about what I’ll allow myself to do and her as well.
Here are some examples: Note, these are not biblically-based or universal. But they’re our application of biblical truths.
- No women friends of my own. Pastor Steve once said, “I don’t have any women friends who aren’t Deborah’s friends.” That statement stuck with me ever since. I have no business keeping female contacts who don’t have anything to do with my wife. We’re one now. There is no Joseph without Carla.
- No entertaining long Facebook, Twitter, email, or text conversations with women. I will contact someone for work, but it won’t become a conversation that goes beyond more than a couple replies.
- Avoid giving car rides to just one woman. This is something that changed a lot from when I was single. I used to give people rides home all the time, especially in my Tamaraw FX. But now, not anymore. Occasionally multiple officemates may ride and I don’t mind that. In those rare occasions that one woman is left in the car with me, I appreciate her sensitivity to stay in the back seat. Looking like a driver isn’t that big a deal.
- No one on one counseling with a woman. Sometimes I’ll have to talk to someone, I always make sure it’s in a public and open place. I appreciate that most of our rooms in the church are open and see through. This also has a practical purpose: I’m not gonna fool myself into thinking I can help better than another woman can.
- Don’t travel alone. It’s more expensive to travel with others, but it’s worth it. Carla is obviously the best companion. When I bring her with me, we have to pay for her side of the expenses, but that’s worth every peso.
- She gets veto power. I don’t know how else to term this. I’m not married to a jealous or exacting woman, but if she ever takes an issue with anything I’m doing or anyone I’m meeting, she gets veto power. I don’t need “my own space.” I’m not “still trying to grow as an individual.” I didn’t get married in order to “find myself.” I’m growing old with her and that’s it.
To a few people who hear about this it seems like too much. And there are some questions that are the usual responses:
Don’t you trust each other? – We do. Carla trusts me but I don’t know if I trust myself in every situation. I know my own limits and since I don’t EVER want to gamble on our marriage, we stay far away from them.
Isn’t that restrictive? – And this seems to be the main issue people have with boundaries. They’re restrictive and stifling. They keep us from enjoying ourselves. But that shows we fail to understand the very nature of boundaries.
Boundaries are put in place not to restrict, but to preserve and protect. When a person buys a patch of undeveloped land, one of the first things they do is put up fences and boundaries. It’s not to imprison the land (as if the land cares), but to protect it. If not it might be used as a garbage dump or toilet by people walking past.
Putting boundaries on something shows how much we value it. The more we value something, the more the boundaries we put on it. When I was single and living with my parents, there were some nights that I’d leave the front door unlocked when I got in. But now that I’m married living in our own house, I miraculously learned to lock up every night. My values adjusted. This is my home we’re talking about and I needed to guard it.
Boundaries allow you to develop, improve, and build on something. Our church is going through a building project right now. And one thing that all construction sites have are boundaries. Because clearly defined boundaries will get the right people in to build it up and the wrong people out. There’s a very definite goal in a building project and not everyone is necessary.
So it really isn’t a question of restrictions but of how much we value something. If we aren’t willing to give up something that poses a threat to our relationship to our spouse, then we’re really saying, “This is more valuable to me than you are.”
Maybe that seems like an exaggeration. It’s not like every husband who offers a woman a ride home is cheating. Or not every wife who confides in a male officemate isn’t trying to have an affair. And if you’re ready to take that risk, then that’s your call to make.
But that’s the whole point of boundaries. We’re not willing to risk it. I’ve got something really great, really special with my wife. This is what we want to preserve and protect. This is what we want to build for. This is what we value. And I’m happy with this choice.