A Tale of Two Couples
If you are reading this book, most likely marriage is important to you. You may be happy in your marriage and want to keep it 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.
¿ Why are you reading this book? What do you hope to learn?
¿ How did you react when you read about the interaction between Harold and Sarah? What were your thoughts and feelings?
¿ How did you react to the picture of Frank and Julia¿s marriage? Again, what were your thoughts and feelings?
¿ If you are currently married, are you and your spouse building a marriage like Harold and Sarah¿s or like Frank and Julia¿s? Offer evidence to support your answer.
Both couples you met in the introduction 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. It¿s our hope that this book will help you improve your harvest.
Your Life Begins Today (page 9)
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).
¿ When, in your own marriage or in a marriage you respect and admire, have you seen love overcome hurt, immaturity, or selfishness? Give a specific example.
¿ When have you seen or perhaps even experienced the partnership of marriage being ¿something better than what each person alone can produce¿? Again, give a specific example.
Although love is at the heart of marriage, it is not enough. The marriage relationship needs other ingredients to grow and thrive. These 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 is damaged.
¿ Why does genuine love allow the freedom to disagree?
¿ What fears come into play when people are not free to disagree ¿ and why do those fears cause love to die?
¿ 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.
¿ What, if anything, do you see about yourself and/or your marriage when you look through the lens of the preceding statement?
Boundaries in Marriage is fundamentally about love. It is about promoting it, growing it, developing it, and repairing it. We want to help you develop love through providing a better environment for it: one of freedom and responsibility. This is where boundaries, or personal property lines, come in. They promote love by protecting individuals.
¿ Character is key. 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.
¿ How do you define character?
¿ At this point of your study, do your best to explain the connection between character and boundaries.
¿ Think of toddlers you know. Why does resistance to the word ¿no¿ keep a person from maturing?
¿ Today is the day to work on your own boundaries in marriage. The issues you take initiative to deal with today will affect the rest of your married life. And the issues you ignore or are afraid to address will do the same.
¿ Why do people choose to ignore issues in their marriage?
¿ What fears keep people from addressing issues in their marriage?
¿ What issues in your marriage do you need to be dealing with? Put differently, what issues are you choosing to ignore or what are you afraid to address?
You¿re headed toward either a Harold and Sarah marriage (they¿re still dealing immaturely with old, old boundary issues) or a Frank and Julia one (they¿ve resolved boundary issues and have gone to much deeper stages of love and maturity), and you¿re doing that right now.
An Overview (page 11)
¿ Review the outline of Boundaries in Marriage.
¿ What section do you most look forward to reading? Why?
¿ What hope or excitement does this overview kindle?
Clarifying a Misconception (page 11)
¿ We need to make clear that Boundaries in Marriage is not about fixing, changing, or punishing your mate. If you aren¿t in control of yourself, the solution is not learning to control someone else. The solution is learning self-control.
¿ Be honest with yourself. What would you like to fix or change in your spouse or punish him/her for? Let go of those unhealthy and unhelpful goals by making them a topic of prayer; confess these desires and ask God to be at work in your mate even as he works to transform you.
¿ What aspects of your role as husband or wife currently call for you to exercise greater self-control? Again, submit those to the Lord and his sanctifying, transforming touch.
Boundaries in Marriage is about taking ownership of your own life so that you are protected and you can love and protect your spouse without enabling or rescuing him or her.
So, again, welcome to Boundaries in Marriage! We hope this is a helpful resource for you, whatever condition your marriage is in. We pray that as you learn to make the word no a good word in your marriage, responsibility and freedom will then help love take deep roots in both of your hearts. God bless you.
Henry Cloud, Ph.D.
John Townsend, Ph.D.