Here's the thing about marriage: Although it's a partnership between two people, you're inviting a lot more people into your relationship when you get married. For instance, your partner's family and friends because your family and friends, and vice-versa. While an expanded support system is always a good thing, it can get a little tricky at times because these new additions may forget that your marriage is between you and your partner. For instance, your in-laws may try to convince you how much religion should play a role in your child's upbringing, and your friends might expect you two to celebrate the holidays at their house because that was your pre-wedding tradition. Although all of their opinions and thoughts are coming from places of love, it's important to set some boundaries to avoid any hurt feelings or arguments in the future.
If you're a little nervous about having a potentially uncomfortable conversation, consider this your cheat sheet. Setting healthy boundaries is necessary for you and your spouse to develop your identity and establish your groove as a married couple. Here are a few things to consider that will help you navigate this tricky terrain with your friends and family.
Examine How You Developed Boundaries in the Past
The family unit you grew up in was the "training ground" for how you thought about boundaries. If your parents or other adults had a good understanding of what healthy boundaries looked like, and modeled them for you and your siblings, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what's appropriate. If you're not quite sure, think back to whether or not your parents argued in front of you, if they shared intimate details of their marriage with friends, or if they complained to their parents about each other. If they did, they weren't setting amazing boundaries.
Understand the Benefits of Boundaries
Some family members or friends may try to pry in your personal life because you've never really told them not to. If you're feeling uneasy about asking people you love to mind their own business, which makes sense, remind yourself why you feel the need to ask them to take a step back. Everyone has their own reasons, but one big one to keep in mind is that you can't grow as a couple and maybe a family one day if other people are constantly offering their two cents.
From now on, think of your marriage as a castle with a moat around it (your boundary) and a drawbridge. You get to decide whom you lower that bridge for, when, and why.
Try to be assertive with those who may unintentionally be invading your marriage. Though they may be upset or offended at first, they'll eventually understand that what you're asking for is very reasonable.
Keep Your Secrets Safe
One of the biggest mistakes couples can make is sharing their marital problems with their families and friends. Of course, it doesn't seem like a bad idea because they love you and want to help, but try to limit the people you let that far into your relationship. Perhaps the only people you should be sharing issues with is a marriage counselor. That doesn't mean you have to keep secrets from your loved ones or pretend everything is fine if it isn't; it just means that sharing such sensitive information with people may backfire one day.
For example, if your spouse cheats on you and, in a moment of desperation and sadness, you share all of the dirty details with your friends but eventually forgive your spouse, your friends may judge you for staying with them. That can hinder your friendship in the long-run.
Say Something Before It Gets Worse
The prospect of upsetting someone you love, like your mother-in-law or best friend, may make you want to reconsider setting some boundaries. However, try to remember that the only reason you're even thinking about boundaries is that you feel as though they've crossed a line. Don't wait until it feels like you're at a point of no return before saying something.
Do What's Best For Your Kids
The people with whom you should set boundaries are your children. If, for no other reason than because they shouldn't be manipulated or dragged into you and your spouse's arguments. Being stuck between their parents as children will definitely affect them as adults.
Start the process by openly communicating with your spouse about how you'd like boundaries in your family to change. Putting these principles into practice can help you build a much healthier relationship with your spouse, one that is respectful, safe, and meaningful.