Everyone wants their marriage and family to thrive. The question is, what does it take? In my own marriage and family, there are countless distractions and challenges to really staying connected with the people I consider my highest priority. Based on the families I work with and even from my own life, I have come up with 4 boundary discussions every family needs to have.
You know the situation all too well. You and your spouse on the couch, kids in bed, TV on and your faces glued to your phones or tablets. This is the world we live in. We sit 18 inches apart but are in two different worlds. This is more than just trying to reclaim time together. The state of being perpetually connected online opens the door to the serious risk of discovering and engaging in negative and damaging content. We need boundaries around the time we spend and the content we engage. This issue is not going away so in our marriages and families we must be intentional to build some firm boundaries around the social media and technologies we all love so much. This extends to your kids as well. Most of our kids are more tech-savvy than we are and if given the option, would live online, in their gaming worlds or texting with friends. In your family, it is vital that you protect the relationships that are priority. Here are some ideas…
- Social media/technology curfew each night
- Scheduled evenings each week for married couples to talk face to face.
- Blackout hours for “screens”
- Alternative activities that encourage interaction - board games, taking a walk or cooking together.
- Periodic “technology fasting” - carve out a weekend or two or while on vacation to completely disconnect and focus on marriage/family.
- Keeping a “no secrets” openness policy with your devices to encourage healthy accountability regarding content and online behaviors both in marriage and with your kids.
I believe everyone needs a life-giving hobby. My hobby is CrossFit
. If your hobby happens to be social media/gaming, see #1! Hobbies can be incredibly fulfilling and help you grow and develop, resulting in a greater investment in your marriage and family. However, even the good things in life need boundaries. In life, relationships are the most important things. Among all the relationships you have under God, your marriage and children are at the top. It is vital that husbands and wives agree on the place hobbies have in their lives together. If you don’t share a common hobby with your spouse, you must be intentional not to allow there to be a distance or resentment created between you. This is especially true if your hobby involves others who love what you love and “understand” you. Hobbies can often be the fertile ground for compromising your marriage vows.
My wife is great about listening to lots of CrossFit talk, I know it probably gets old, but her willingness to listen and take interest allows my hobby to be a way we stay connected. This applies to your kids as well. Extra curricular activities may sound good, but too many extra curricular activities or those with higher demands can be bad for children and bad for families. Extra curricular activities must be kept in the right place. Often these extra curricular activities keep families so busy the more important aspects of relationship are neglected and bad habits of “missing each other” develop. I see couples and families all the time that have learned to cope with the busyness only to discover that dysfunction has grown in their marriage or family. Few people know this, but I actually play guitar. However, with the demands of family life and work, I had to choose one hobby and admit I just can’t do it all. One of these days, life may slow down and then I’ll dust off the guitars and resume a hobby I love. Hobbies should always be second to marriage and family.
In marriage and family life, we must install appropriate boundaries around in-laws, work relationships and those opposite sex friendships that can easily become a danger zone for so many. Couples who stay faithful don’t ask, “How close to trouble can I get without causing a problem?” They ask, “How far from trouble can I get for the good of my marriage/family?” A great principle to apply to marriage is, “Don’t play with fire and put out old flames." I’ve been accused that my perspective on opposite sex friendship creates “unnecessary suspicion” among couples. I disagree and would say, that any relationship that is healthy welcomes periodic evaluation and adjustments as needed. We must admit that no matter how noble our intent, how “Christian” our thinking, or how self-controlled with think we are, we are all sinners who have the potential to compromise what is important for what is convenient, available and wrong.
Likewise with work relationships or in-laws all outside relationships need to be in their place. These boundaries should be reviewed from time to time and adjusted as needed. Creating and reinforcing boundaries is what exclusive relationships are all about. It’s not easy but it is important.
Your lifestyle poses one of the greatest threats to marriage and family life. Everybody has desires for things they don’t have. We can even talk ourselves into “needing” something we really don’t need. Our ability to rationalize a purchase is amazing! Money has a way of stirring up our selfishness and especially in marriage if we see our spouse get something they want we naturally think we deserve the same treatment. This is a wicked cycle that can cause major financial strain. Because we don’t have boundaries on our spending, we unintentionally put our family at risk as we pursue a better lifestyle. This is a great temptation once you have children. Who wants to tell that sweet, little face “NO?” So, little Jane and Johnny get everything they want for Christmas, birthdays and anything we think will make them think we are great parents. I urge couples to have a boundary discussion around spending ASAP and operate according to a budget so your spending is in the know and clear so there are no surprises. This means husbands and wives must have the difficult discussions regarding what is really needed and what is simply a want. Self-imposed financial stress from foolish, unaccountable spending is far worse than financial stress due to market conditions or other uncontrollable factors. The family that controls spending and manages money well thrive at a different level.
Here’s my closing suggestion…DON'T BOIL THE OCEAN. Don’t try to have all these discussions at once. Choose one to start with and begin taking positive steps toward thriving in your marriage and family.
If you want to hear more on this topic, I spoke about these things on an episode of the Andy Savage Show
for that episode. Another excellent resource for you to consider is the "Boundaries" series by Henry Cloud
. He has written a number of "Boundaries" books, one being Boundaries in Marriage.