When a conversation turns to the subject of 'favorites', I get a pit in my stomach, a sense of dread equal only to that which I experience when asked to pray. out. loud. (a phobia which I am well aware makes me very un-pastor's wife-like) When a conversation turns to 'favorites' I over-think myself to exhaustion until the inevitable question is posed: "What's your favorite song?"
I start to twitch and short circuit, because it's just too much for my brain to process. Favorite song?!? Like, all time favorite? Or favorite love song? Or dance song? By a group or a solo artist? Malfunction. Malfunction. System Overload. [said in my best nerdy robot voice]
You see, I'm a music person thru and thru. While I may not love all kinds of music, I do appreciate all kinds of music and can listen to anything. Asking me to pick my favorite song is like asking Kim Kardashian to pick her favorite picture of herself. Darn near impossible.
Before The Fishbowl Effect was conceived, I knew boundaries in marriage was something I wanted to address, but like someone asking me to pick my favorite song, it's a daunting task, and it's something I've been putting off for several months due to the enormity of the topic. I think, for now, the best way to broach the subject of boundaries in marriage is to share with you some of ours.
Let me preface these by saying, we didn't start our marriage 13 & 1/2 years ago with these boundaries in place. Some of them were, because Allen already had them as personal boundaries, and some of them came as a result of a conversation that started with something along the lines of, "I felt really uncomfortable when...."
In no particular order, here are 3 of our biggies.
1) No one-on-one with the opposite sex.
This can be tricky as a pastor (youth or otherwise), because there are counseling situations when he has a young lady that wants to meet with him. He meets with her at church and leaves his office door open. Or he'll invite her over to our home and let her know that I will also be at the meeting. He doesn't have lunch with other women one on one. We even have a youth worker that is a dear friend of ours and occasionally there's need for she and Allen to go to Sam's to get ridiculous amounts of food for an event (she's the unofficial youth event caterer). They will not ride together; they take their own cars and meet at Sam's. This isn't about me not trusting Allen. It's about living above reproach; not giving anyone a reason to ever call into question what he's doing or who with. All it takes is one accusation.
2) Share passwords.
We have each others passwords. All of them. To everything. We can log into each others email, Facebook, twitter, etc at any time. There's a security in knowing that Allen has nothing to hide from me, and I have nothing to hide from him. Occasionally I'll tell him, "Hey, I'm working on something to don't look too closely at my email." For example, the church just celebrated Allen's 20th anniversary, and there were a few surprises I was privy to and had emails about that he of course didn't need to see. Or at Christmas if there's a shipment confirmation for a gift or something, I'll just give him a heads up not to poke around too much unless he wants to single-handedly destroy the magic of Christmas.
3) Protect family time.
This looks a little different for everyone, but good grief please be honest about it and about how you're feeling. I can't give you a formula for how you spend yours. Heck, I can't even give a formula for how we spend ours. It changes on a regular basis. The important thing is to communicate about where you're at. We are fortunate to be part of a church where our pastor is huge on family and making it a priority over the job. I understand though that when the job involves ministry, there's a fine line to walk. You don't want to neglect someone in need, but when someone in need has had my husband for 3 nights in a row, it's our turn dadgummit. When we were newlyweds, I would stuff this feeling. I thought I was being selfish by wanting him to stay home, or asking him to tell someone no to something they wanted him to do/come to/be a part of. I've learned the hard way that if I don't speak up about how I feel in those situations it will turn into resentment towards either Allen or the church. Or both. We are constantly checking our calendars and schedules and making sure we're not overdoing it. And to be quite honest a lot of times we are. We aren't great at this, but we're working on it.
On a side note, if your husband is a pastor, ministry is his job. So while yes family time is important, there are times when you sacrifice family time so he can, well, be a pastor (I believe this is especially true if he's a youth pastor). There's give and take. The bottom line is communication. If you want more 'insight' I can tell you some specific things we do that work for us in this area. Just ask. :-)
These are a few that help us feel secure with each other and with our marriage. I'd love to hear what some of your boundaries are, or how you navigate the ups and downs in these areas.
Allen will be sharing his thoughts on boundaries in an upcoming (give us a week or two), highly anticipated (at least by me!) guest post (does it count as a guest post if we're married?).
Stay tuned for Boundaries: Part 2.