Paint My Love (Like a Fence… pilit ba?)

This is something that is connected to a message Carla and I did last Friday, and another one that I preached yesterday. But it’s hardly original to us and you’ll see in this blog that we just learned it from others. I’m grateful for the men and women like my parents, Pastor Steve and Deborah Murrell, and Pastor Paolo and Jenn Punzalan who not only preach this but live it.

Of the many things we’ve learned, one of the things I’m glad we agreed on right away is the idea of boundaries in marriage. Carla and I have very frank and open conversations with one another about what I’ll allow myself to do and her as well.

Here are some examples: Note, these are not biblically-based or universal. But they’re our application of biblical truths.

  • No women friends of my own. Pastor Steve once said, “I don’t have any women friends who aren’t Deborah’s friends.” That statement stuck with me ever since. I have no business keeping female contacts who don’t have anything to do with my wife. We’re one now. There is no Joseph without Carla.
  • No entertaining long Facebook, Twitter, email, or text conversations with women. I will contact someone for work, but it won’t become a conversation that goes beyond more than a couple replies.
  • Avoid giving car rides to just one woman. This is something that changed a lot from when I was single. I used to give people rides home all the time, especially in my Tamaraw FX. But now, not anymore. Occasionally multiple officemates may ride and I don’t mind that. In those rare occasions that one woman is left in the car with me, I appreciate her sensitivity to stay in the back seat. Looking like a driver isn’t that big a deal.
  • No one on one counseling with a woman. Sometimes I’ll have to talk to someone, I always make sure it’s in a public and open place. I appreciate that most of our rooms in the church are open and see through. This also has a practical purpose: I’m not gonna fool myself into thinking I can help better than another woman can.
  • Don’t travel alone. It’s more expensive to travel with others, but it’s worth it. Carla is obviously the best companion. When I bring her with me, we have to pay for her side of the expenses, but that’s worth every peso.
  • She gets veto power. I don’t know how else to term this. I’m not married to a jealous or exacting woman, but if she ever takes an issue with anything I’m doing or anyone I’m meeting, she gets veto power. I don’t need “my own space.” I’m not “still trying to grow as an individual.” I didn’t get married in order to “find myself.” I’m growing old with her and that’s it.
Ring Vows: “As I place this on your finger and you receive it, you acknowledge that you are no longer your own but mine.” Light moment with serious consequences.

To a few people who hear about this it seems like too much. And there are some questions that are the usual responses:

Don’t you trust each other? – We do. Carla trusts me but I don’t know if I trust myself in every situation. I know my own limits and since I don’t EVER want to gamble on our marriage, we stay far away from them.

Isn’t that restrictive? – And this seems to be the main issue people have with boundaries. They’re restrictive and stifling. They keep us from enjoying ourselves. But that shows we fail to understand the very nature of boundaries.

Boundaries are put in place not to restrict, but to preserve and protect. When a person buys a patch of undeveloped land, one of the first things they do is put up fences and boundaries. It’s not to imprison the land (as if the land cares), but to protect it. If not it might be used as a garbage dump or toilet by people walking past.

Putting boundaries on something shows how much we value it. The more we value something, the more the boundaries we put on it. When I was single and living with my parents, there were some nights that I’d leave the front door unlocked when I got in. But now that I’m married living in our own house, I miraculously learned to lock up every night. My values adjusted. This is my home we’re talking about and I needed to guard it.

Boundaries allow you to develop, improve, and build on something. Our church is going through a building project right now. And one thing that all construction sites have are boundaries. Because clearly defined boundaries will get the right people in to build it up and the wrong people out. There’s a very definite goal in a building project and not everyone is necessary.

BOUNDARIES: Someone valued the property on top. No one cares about the one on the bottom.

So it really isn’t a question of restrictions but of how much we value something. If we aren’t willing to give up something that poses a threat to our relationship to our spouse, then we’re really saying, “This is more valuable to me than you are.”

Maybe that seems like an exaggeration. It’s not like every husband who offers a woman a ride home is cheating. Or not every wife who confides in a male officemate isn’t trying to have an affair. And if you’re ready to take that risk, then that’s your call to make.

But that’s the whole point of boundaries. We’re not willing to risk it. I’ve got something really great, really special with my wife. This is what we want to preserve and protect. This is what we want to build for. This is what we value. And I’m happy with this choice.

Join the discussion

  • Great blog; very practical and very true. We really need to outsmart the enemy who’ll do everything and anything to destroy marriages. That’s where boundaries come in. Roland and I talked about this as well lengthily when we heard it the first time in one of the couple’s retreats we attended many, many years before.

    • Wow! Thanks for the encouragement, Tita Becc! I’m so thankful for couples like you and Tito Roland who set great examples for us growing up in church.

  • paint my love topic is a big help to me knowing and understanding some of the questions in my mind about this and that matters i usually asked with my husband who’s always far from me being a seafarer,although i believe he’s not one of those who have numerous women in life,just like how other seafarers where known for still there are some questions that involves trust and the word i really appreciated with this one,the word boundary.we should really know what we should stand for and set such boundaries for much more valuable and life spending people.God bless!

  • Great insights! Many couples will learn from the practical tips you just shared, especially that “boundaries” is one of the many issues married people encounter. I will definitely share this with my husband. It’s a great topic for our date night this week. Thanks Pastor Joseph! 🙂

  • Do you have the same rules before your marriage?

    Also, the problem with your rules is that it does not fit for everyone. The result is if someone read it, they will think it should be the situation and force it on their partner. That will possibly destroy relationships. In a shade of strict to over-trusting, this lie on the radically strict.

    Yes boundaries are natural and should be kept. Though your rules are not for all, they are not generic. Well I would just like to give a reminder of the first assumption. Partners should agree on the boundaries and they should be clear and common.

    (PS. You make other men look lowly with your high standards. Also, maybe not all couple can and should live like this. lighter shade will probably best.)

    • Thanks for the question! I did have similar standards before marriage, yes. I might blog about that on Friday.

      And I never said these standards should be applied to everyone else. I don’t think everyone needs to live like this. That’s obviously their decision. In fact, the exact words I used were, “these are not biblically-based or universal. But they’re our application of biblical truths.”

      And I am totally for the agreement in these boundaries too. In fact, I said that in the blog as well, “Carla and I have very frank and open conversations with one another about what I’ll allow myself to do and her as well.”

      I’m including a link to my blog in case you want to read it again.

      P.S. I don’t know what “lighter shade will probably best” means.

  • Hi Joseph! I’m really inspired by you and Rica, the relationship that you have, and the relationship you have with our Father. Everytime I read your entries here, and Rica’s as well, I can’t help but smile and reflect on what I have just read and just share it with my BF. Now, I will not just share your posts with him, but I’ll recommend your blog to him! 🙂 Keep on inspiring other people! God bless!

  • Everytime you talk something about marriage, I feel like I’m already a married person. I don’t know but I can easily relate. Thanks.

  • This is amazingly insightful. Shared this to my hubby and we are in complete agreement. I love how boundaries are perceived as protecting something of value. If we are so keen on keeping our iPhones’ guarded so as it won’t be stolen I think we should have stricter boundaries when it comes to our marriage. Thank you for this #blessed

  • This is very insightful and very inspiring.
    I am very much single at 26 and never been in a relationship but I always pray for this kind of relationship. My friends never believe that this is possible and would always consider the need for personal spaces even if they’re already married. Whenever we discuss about each other’s lovelife (mine being nonexistent) we would always get to argue if it’s okay for the wife/girlfriend to read your partner’s text messages with other people. It has always been a dead-end to us. Baka lang po next time you can have a blog about this.

    God bless you and your wife!

  • Thanks Pastor Joseph for referring me to this blog. I’ve been labeled possessive, extreme and insecure for having the exact standards that you and Carla have. And I’ve been told many times that what I expect from a man is near impossible to meet. But thanks to your and Carla’s example and the examples set by our other pastors and their wives,I’m encouraged and remain firm in my convictions. God bless you more!

  • Thanks for the practical suggestions and for the wonderful site. I remember the book, something like, “Loving my Marriage, Enough to Protect it” by Jerry Jenkins. He talked about building hedges. God bless you and your wife.

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