We live in Southern California.
Our yards aren’t the wide green pastures that grace the backs of houses across the midwestern and eastern states. Most of ours are painfully small.
But within the tiny yard behind our house are worlds to be created by my two girls. They slam open the screen door and escape to mini-universes of fairies and horses, unicorns and winged things. They are cocooned there.
If you can forgive the once-in-awhile bee that buzzes too closely, they are relatively safe. If they obey my rules, stay inside the yard and get along with each other, they will avoid any dangers that might befall them in the front yard.
And there are fences.
We moved into this house 6 years ago and when we did, the fences were already here. The community planners had decided that this particular lot deserved this much space and so that is what we paid for. They erected redwood fences in the back of our (tiny) property separating us from our neighbors. To the west, there is a specifically enthusiastic dog who barks all day long and is never walked. We think he is unemployed and looking for something to do: bark viciously at my girls. To the south is a steep hill leading down to the home behind us. If it weren’t for the fence, one or more of my toddlers would have taken a tumble years ago. To the east, our neighbor’s yard is so pristine and perfect that I would be a neglectful parent and homeowner if I ever let my daughters loose on his yard. I would worry what havoc they’d create inside rose gardens and babbling brooks.
There are “dangers” on all sides. Which is why we love fences and boundaries. It keeps us safe.
And boundaries in marriage are so important.
Last week I mentioned our new boundaries in marriage. (and if you haven’t read my story from last week yet, please do). Some of you asked what those boundaries are and to be honest, I don’t think our new fences are any different than many solidly married couples. With the help of our pastoral counselors and our marital therapist (and just plain what-works thinking) we came up with the following boundaries.
1. I am never alone with men. Ever. This is both for trust issues (I want to always be above reproach) and for practical reasons as well. Although I am convinced I will never cheat again (ever) I am also aware that I must begin by never placing myself in a situation where it would be an option. And he is never alone with women. Because of his job, he occasionally has to meet or talk with women at his client sites, but he doesn’t go out to lunch or coffee with them. He is as careful as I am. And this also includes email, twitter DMs and Facebook conversations.
2. We do not have emotional attachments/relationships with members of the opposite gender. This includes even working closely with someone of the opposite gender. We do not make it a habit of spending one-on-one time in conversation either on the phone or at church or work beyond what is necessary. We do not have “friends” with members of the opposite sex. We have a lot of couple friends, but it is always to a degree that is healthy for all people concerned. Chad usually chats with the husband and I talk with the wife. Or the four of us talk together. And in a ministry capacity as well, we do not think it’s healthy for us to work closely connected with someone of the opposite gender. It just breeds closeness that should be reserved for spouses.
3. We are mindful of what we watch. This is simple. We used to watch junk on TV and in film. Now we are very careful of what we bring into our home and what we put into our minds.
4 We tell each other everything. I tell it all. If I’m feeling like I know I’m heading for depression or that I don’t feel quite right about someone he’s met, I tell him. He tells me exactly what he thinks, because there’s just nothing to keep secret anymore.
5. We know each other’s passwords to everything. He can check my email account or my facebook page any time he wants. I have nothing to hide from him, and it feels amazing.
6. We have the power of veto. When all is said and done, we don’t need a valid “reason” to veto a relationship or an activity in the other’s life. If there’s something that just doesn’t feel right, we say so and the other submits to that. We use it sparingly because of the trust we have in each other.
And remember, these all are layered on top of a loving marriage relationship in which we both are following Christ and listening to the Holy Spirit in our lives. The trust we have in each other is NOT in the person but in Jesus in them. I trust Jesus in Chad that he will never commit adultery and he trusts Jesus in me that I will remain faithful to him.
It’s so much safer inside the fenced yard than outside it. But even inside the boundaries, I am watchful all the time.
What do you think? Are your boundaries any different?