The Importance of Setting Boundaries in and Around Your Committed Relationship

50% of monogamous relationships will deal with emotional and/or sexual infidelity. Learn how to protect yourself and your marriage from it.


In my first marriage, I dumped myself into my ex-husband like he was a half-empty glass I had to fill and wondered why I did not feel complete.

A marriage is a relationship. One plus one does not equal one. You each must be complete with clear boundaries to have a “complete” relationship, and you as a couple must also have clear boundaries to sustain your relationship.

Boundaries are freeing because we know exactly where we begin and end. I like to think of boundaries as property lines. This is my plot of land. I can see your plot of land, but what you do with your plot of land is none of my business unless you come over and start messing with mine or your tree falls onto my yard. If you do not mow your lawn, it is not my job to go mow it for you, especially if that means I neglect my own in the process.

Therein lies the work: in minding my own business and tending to my own flower beds and yard and detaching while you do or do not take care of your own and letting you know if you are coming onto mine.

Researcher Dr. Shirley P. Glass, a psychologist, author, and one of the world’s leading experts on infidelity, calls her theory of why infidelity happens “walls and windows.”

A healthy marriage is composed of windows and walls.

The windows, which must stay open, are between you and your spouse. This is how you communicate and pass intimacy, trust, secrets, and love. The couple may also have close meaningful relationships outside of their connection. However, the windows between partners and their other relationships should remain much smaller and not as transparent.

The walls are between the two of you (together) and the outside world. The wall gives your marriage privacy. No one should know more about your relationship than your partner, and any private information shared inside the marriage should not be shared with anyone outside it.

“Marriages start to crumble when you reverse that architecture. If you put up a wall between you and your spouse (blocking the natural flow of love and honesty communication) while at the same time opening up a window between you and a new person (sharing confidences, intimacy and secrets with that third person, which should belong only in your marriage) you are setting up a blueprint for disaster. Infidelity often follows.” — Elizabeth Gilbert from Committed

There is nothing wrong with a person in a committed, monogamous relationship having friends as long as the walls and windows remain in place. The issue becomes when you start sharing intimacies with that third person. Maybe it is frustrations you are having with your partner or hopes and dreams you have for yourself.

Most of us have experienced this at least once, whether we were the one to do it or the one it was done to. 50% of monogamous relationships will deal with emotional and/or sexual infidelity.

Dr. Glass suggests the following things to help prevent infidelity:

Maintain appropriate walls and windows.


Keep the windows opened at home. Put up privacy walls with those who could threaten your marriage.

Recognize that work can be a danger zone.


Do not lunch or take private coffee breaks with someone who could be a romantic partner all the time. When you travel with a co-worker, meet in public rooms, not a room with a bed.


Avoid emotional intimacy with attractive alternatives to your committed relationship.


Resist the desire to rescue an unhappy soul who pours his or her heart out to you.


Protect your marriage by discussing relationship issues at home.


If you do need to talk to someone else about your marriage, bring that information back to your marriage. “I have been feeling frustrated about ______. I talked to ______ about it, and s/he suggested ______. What do you think about that?”


Keep old flames from reigniting.


If a former lover is coming to a class reunion, invite your partner to come along. If you value your marriage, think twice about having lunch alone with an old flame.


Don’t go over the line when online with internet friends.


Discuss your online friendships with your partner and show him or her your e-mail if he or she is interested. Invite your partner to join in correspondence so your internet friends will not get any wrong ideas.


Make sure your social network is supportive of your marriage.


Surround yourself with friends who are happily married and who do not believe in fooling around.


After going through one failed marriage, I do not want a second one, so maintaining appropriate windows and walls is important.


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