One of the key relationship principles I shared in my book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages is the importance of not holding anything back emotionally. Since the book came out, we’ve heard from a number of people who expressed uncertainty about the balance between being “all in” and having boundaries with our spouse as described in the book Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud.
Do you wonder if boundaries can (or should) be a healthy part of a happy marriage? Maybe you fear that you could become a doormat if you refrain from setting boundaries with your spouse. Is it even possible to be “all in” and still have boundaries?
Please keep in mind: I’m not a counselor! But here’s what I’ve seen in the research.
When I talk about the danger of holding back emotionally and not being “all in,” I’m specifically talking about situations where a spouse is doing things like holding back their heart, keeping secrets, sharing things with a friend that they don’t share with their spouse, or having a secret bank account in order to not fully commit, simply because they don’t want to, or because they have a hard time giving their full trust. (“What happens if he flakes out on me? I’ve got to have a stash on the side just in case.”) I’m not talking about someone who is fully committed to the relationship but must set up guardrails around a difficult situation—like, for example, someone who has a separate bank account because her husband has gambled away the family savings.
Big picture: there’s a huge difference between “drawing a boundary” and “holding back.”
Let’s take a look at that difference: