Boundaries effect every area of our lives and determine how others treat us. Below is a brief discussion of the laws of boundaries as discussed in Dr Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book: Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No, and Take Control of Your Life.
Law #1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping. Our actions have consequences, and consequences force people to grow up. This is the law of cause and effect. It is an act of love to allow others to reap the effects of their selfishness or irresponsibility. Refusing to rescue other people, so long as not motivated by revenge or desire to see another suffer, helps keep the problem with the person and doesn’t allow them to hide from it.
Law #2: The Law of Responsibility. Be responsible to others, not for others. People react in different ways when talking about boundaries and facing the idea of taking responsibility for their own lives. We must refuse to rescue or enable the sinful or immoral or immature behaviors of others. Within a relationship, couples have a duty to set limits on each spouse’s destructive acts or attitudes.
Law #3: The Law of Power. We have no power over the attitudes and actions of other people. We can’t make other people grow up. We can’t stop a spouse from exhibiting a troublesome habit or character flaw. We can’t force someone to come home on time for dinner, to refrain from yelling at us, or to initiate conversation. We don’t have the power to make someone the person we’d like them to be. The only thing you have power over is yourself. Your boundaries are for YOU, not for others in your life. First and foremost, you have the power to identify ways you are contributing to the problem, and you have the power to change over time.
Law #4: The Law of Respect. If we wish for others to respect our boundaries, we need to respect theirs. If we ridicule others boundaries, we can expect they will ridicule ours. Mature adults desire the freedom of others as much as their own. Loving your mate means desiring and protecting their freedom of choice. It means dying to your wish for her to see things your way and appreciating that she has her own mind, values, and feelings. And that they may not be the same as yours. It is, therefore, your choice, whether you wish to accept that or not. And that’s where your boundaries come in.
Law #5: The Law of Motivation. The intention and motivation behind your boundaries is extremely important (see post on Boundaries: Not Ultimatums HERE) You must be free to say no before you can wholeheartedly say yes. No one can actually love another if he feels he doesn’t have a choice not to. Fear always works against law. The ‘have to” destroys the “choose to,” and the act of choosing is the most powerful motivation in a relationship.
Law #6: The Law of Evaluation. Just because someone is in pain doesn’t mean something bad is happening. Something good may be happening, such as one person learning to grow up. Evaluate the pain your boundaries cause others- does it lead to injury or growth? Do not neglect setting limits in your relationships because of the fear of causing pain. Pain can be the best friend your relationship has ever had.
Law #7: The Law of Proactivity. Take action to solve problems based on your values, wants, and needs. Proactive boundaries maintain love, freedom, and reality. Proactive people keep their freedom, and they disagree and confront issues all the time. But they are able to hold on to love and not get caught up in the emotional storm because it is not reactive.
Law #8: The Law of Envy. We will never get what we want if we focus outside of our boundaries on what others have. Envy devalues what we have. The envious person doesn’t set limits because it doesn’t look inward long enough to figure out what choices are available. You can’t set limits in a relationship until you are looking at yourself as part of the problem and a great deal of the solution.
Law #9: The Law of Activity. We need to take the initiative to solve our problems rather than being passive. Taking initiative increases one’s chances to learn from mistakes. Active people make lots of mistakes, and wise ones grow from them. Passive people have trouble learning because they are afraid to take risks. Evil thrives when no one sets limits on it. When both spouses are active in boundary setting, when they both speak the truth, solve problems, and set goals, they will both grow.
Law #10: The Law of Exposure. A boundary that is not communicated is a boundary that is not working. Don’t wait for your partner to take the first step. Assume the first move is always yours. When we expose our boundaries to the light, we can be fully connected with others. You can actively love your spouse by risking conflict for the sake of the relationship. Exposure is the only way for healing and growth to take place.