Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. – Genesis 2:24, KJV
In my fear of being labelled “controlling,” I had a difficult time while my marriage was imploding recognizing healthy jealousy and boundaries. And I suspect I am not alone in experiencing such difficulty.
Today, I am writing about “commonsense” boundaries that wasn’t so common to me while I was in the thick of my first marriage mess.
WARNING: Setting healthy boundaries may make your spouse/ex angry!
That is why it is important to know the truth. It helps you fight the lie that having a healthy boundary is “controlling.”
In many traditional wedding ceremonies, the couple is asked individually whether they will “forsake all others” in a statement of intent. This statement is a call to leave all other mates. It is also reminiscent of the Biblical mandate to leave father and mother as well.
Leaving all others–family included–outside the marital relationship is very important for the marriage union.
This is a healthy boundary.
This means no “work husbands” or “work wives.” This means no “dates” with the opposite sex in the romantic or sometimes even social sense. This means no cultivating “Plan B,” “Plan C,” “Plan D,” etc. as far as potential relationship alternatives to one’s spouse.
“Forsaking all others” also means you are committed to listening to spouse’s feelings regarding your “friendships” with the opposite sex.
If a spouse has voilated the “forsaking all others” with a particular relationship–whether emotionally or physically–it is a healthy boundary for the marriage to end that relationship completely. That is not controlling. It is a matter of valuing and protecting the marriage relationship over a relationship that already went inappropriate.
If a cheating spouse demands to stay friends afterwards with the OM/OW, such a demand says the cheater has contempt for the faithful spouse and values this other relationship over the marriage. In other words, I would consider it a matter of unrepentance on the cheater’s part to make such an insistence. This is certainly not an act towards rebuilding trust in the violated marriage.
If your spouse does not feel right about your relationship with another man/woman, it is wise to listen to your spouse. This one is tricky. For me, I did not want to be viewed as controlling, and this one can become controlling if abused–i.e. “You are not allowed to have any friends.” The point is not to eliminate all friendships–of course–that is controlling. The idea is to express awareness of potential marriage threats. It is possible your spouse is unaware of the danger. That said, if a spouse shares their honest misgivings about an opposite sex relationship, the appropriate response is to listen empathetically. By sharing those misgivings, a spouse is saying they really value the marriage and feel like it is threatened.
If a spouse responds to your misgivings regarding a relationship with “You’re not the boss of me!”, then your intuition probably struck too close for their comfort–i.e. cheating is likely happening either full-blown or in their heart. I had one of these moments following a marriage counseling session with my now, ex-wife. She likely was not cheating with the individual about whom I expressed my misgivings–namely, I felt uncomfortable with her replacing me with this other man as her date at a social event. That said, she was already involved to some extent with her later admitted, adultery partner. It was a healthy boundary for me to share my misgivings. That was not controlling but a valuing of the marriage bond. Her response ought to have clued me into realizing the ship named “Infidelity” had long sailed.
In conclusion, much of what I have written may come across as commonsense. But it is hard to hold onto this “commonsense” in the midst of infidelity discovery and accusations being hurled to keep the faithful spouse off the cheating scent. A reasonable spouse does not accept a third-party in the marriage relationship–either sexually or emotionally. Such relationships need to be excluded permanently for the health and safety of the marriage. If a cheating spouse views that as “controlling,” then they clearly did not understand what “forsaking all others” really meant when they promised it.