What to do When You Have a Boundary-Resistant Spouse

May 06, 2021

A boundary-resistant person refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing and will not accept correction or feedback. The basic attitude of someone who resists boundaries is this: "I should be able to do whatever I want to do in life." Ultimate freedom is the highest value for such a person. But boundaries dictate that you cannot do what you want all of the time.

When confronting someone who violates boundaries, remember that sometimes ignorance is the cause. Your spouse may be crossing your boundaries without knowing it. Always approach the issue from this perspective first. If your spouse accepts the feedback and repents, the conflict will already be on the road toward resolution. But if your spouse resists, consider these steps:

1. Gather around you a circle of friends from whom you can draw emotional support during the time of conflict with your spouse.

2. Make sure you are right with God and growing closer to Him.

3. Identify the specific issue that is the source of conflict. What boundary is being violated? How does this violation affect you and your love for your spouse? Is this a pattern or a rare occurrence?

4. Demonstrate to your spouse that his or her feelings are important to you, that you want to understand his or her point of view, and that you want to accept the truth in his or her viewpoint.

5. Love your spouse. Communicate that your goal is the restoration of a loving relationship that is being hindered by the crossing of boundaries.

6. Earn the right to ask your spouse to change by admitting how you are contributing to the problem and deliberately making changes in yourself, even if your spouse does not change.

7. Make clear and specific requests for change.

8. Be patient with your spouse and give him or her time to change.

9. If your spouse persists in violating boundaries, establish deliberate, reality-based, enforceable consequences which will eliminate any benefit your spouse receives from crossing boundaries. These consequences should be designed to protect you and preserve your spouse's freedom, while encouraging him or her to change. Consequences should be immediate, appropriately-severe; they should not be humiliating. Design them to be modified as your spouse grows and changes.

10. Warn your spouse before implementing limits and consequences.

11. Follow through. If you don't, you are just nagging, an ineffective substitute for real boundaries.

12. Observe and evaluate over time, making changes in boundaries or consequences as necessary

When people grow in character, they grow in the ability to set and receive boundaries in their marriages, and they mature. When they resist hearing the word no, they remain immature. Many people believe that as we humans grow up physically, we automatically grow up emotionally as well, but that’s simply not true. Age is a necessary but insufficient requirement for growing up. There are immature old people, and there are appropriately mature young people.