Healthy Boundaries and Expectations for a Heart-to-Heart And Linkup!

Draw Feelings Out

Today I’m continuing in the series that was born out of the results from my Men and Openness survey by unpacking a bit more what a wife (or any spouse for that matter) needs to keep in mind in a heart-to-heart.

[Tweet “If you want to encourage openness, establish healthy boundaries and realistic expectations.”]

Since healthy expectations are what precede healthy boundaries, I’ll start there.

Healthy Expectations

1. Expect him to be uncomfortable and guarded.
Generally speaking, any time men and women sit down to talk about feelings, men will probably feel greater anxiety and apprehension than women. I think that’s because women tend to be more emotionally-attuned and verbally-adept than men for various reasons. This isn’t always the case, but even when it’s not, I think there’s a perception among most men that they are at a disadvantage and this is uncomfortable for them.

2. Expect it to be a work-in-progress.
Each time you sit to talk about vulnerable matters in marriage, you are laying a brick down in the foundation of your intimacy. It takes many conversations (bricks) to build a foundation that you can stand on. FYI – I’m talking years of talks. Don’t get discouraged by the amount of work ahead of you, be motivated by the investment you are making all along the way. 😉

3. Expect it to feel awkward for you as well—especially if you use “reflective listening” as a tool.
I highly encourage reflective listening in any difficult conversation, because it helps to keep the conversation going in the right direction and deescalates anger and misunderstandings. But it will feel like walking around in a newly formed cast on a broken leg. It will take lots of repetition before the benefits of this begin to add enough ease to this style of conversing. But it is so worth it! (Snag a Reflective Listening Guide) 🙂

Healthy Boundaries

1. Deal with one topic/emotion at a time.
This goes back to #2 above. If you try to address or absorb too much in one sitting, you will overwhelm each other. You’ll want to avoid future conversations if you bite off more than you two can chew at one time.

2. Listen and absorb more than you talk and express.
This is especially true if you are the designated “listener.” This is a much bigger job than many realize. You are receiving very vulnerable emotions from your mate. Which means …

[Tweet “You cannot absorb your mate’s emotions at the same time you are focused on your own!”]

3. Don’t pressure your mate for more than they offer.
Asking for clarification is one thing, but pushing your husband for more than he offers is stepping over a line and a boundary violation.

4. Ask open-ended questions.
That simply means asking a question that has more than a “yes” or “no” to it. Invite your husband to share more with these kinds of questions, but never pressure for more. It’s a fine line, but if your spouse reacts with irritation or withdrawal, you know you’ve probably gone too far. So back off!

5. Play by the same rules.
When it is your turn to listen, be sure to follow the reflective listening protocol. When it’s your turn to disclose, then model vulnerability and openness—both during the conversation and between times. Be the model for openness and active listening that you want your mate to be. And …

[Tweet “If your mate doesn’t follow your example, then let it go! #changeishischoice.”]

Your job is to be the best communicator you can be! Never let what you want grow into what your spouse must do! Given time, I think making this your approach will coax a hesitant hubby out of his shell. If not, consider seeking the help of a good counselor or life-coach.


What realistic expectations would you add to my list?


What healthy boundaries would you add and/or have been especially helpful for you?

If you’d like to read any of the posts in this series on Men and Openness, click here.

Btw, I will be taking a two week blogging break for the Christmas holidays so next Wednesday I will not have the Wedded Wednesday linkup. I hope you all have a very Blessed Christmas!

Joining with my friends at Giving Up on Perfect, Wifey Wednesday, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday.

Join our Wedded Wednesday Linkup!
Add any links that are uplifting, helpful and encouraging to our spiritual lives, marriages and families! Be sure to add a link on your blog back to Wedded Wednesday or Messy Marriage as well. For Wedded Wednesday guidelines and buttons, click here.

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20 responses to “Healthy Boundaries and Expectations for a Heart-to-Heart And Linkup!”

  1. Beth, your list underscores the importance of patience and timing. I’m a night person and my husband is a morning person. The time of day has a definite affect our how we perceive a situation and respond to each other. I’d say know yourself and your spouse’s best time of day. I try not to jump into an important conversation when either of us is too tired to patiently engage. When I’m impatient and overlook this, it usually doesn’t work well. Larry now tells me, if I can wait he’ll better engage in the morning.


    1. Yes, timing is so important. I didn’t mention that as a boundary, but have often said that my hubby and I “create space” when we are not ready for a talk. Then we can come back to it at a better time. So yes, determining what time of day is best for the talk is also part of being proactive and wise. I know that the Bible talks about not letting the sun go down on our anger, but we can decide not to stew on our anger and yet wait until the morning (after a good night’s sleep) to talk about the issue when both of us are rested and refreshed. Great thoughts to add to the discussion, Debbie. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation and Merry Christmas!


  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth.

    Dealing with a head injury from a fall. So may not be too coherent, but I would suggest this as a boundary – don’t ‘chase’ an opening. If something your husband (or wife) says looks ‘promising’, save it for another session, lest it become something like an interrogation.


    1. I’m so sorry that you’ve fallen, Andrew. That’s the last thing you need to add to your painful plate. Yes, that’s sort of along the line of not trying to deal with too many topics at one time. We can rabbit chase all night long and never really get anywhere. Often less is more. Thanks for coming by and joining the conversation when I know you’re not feeling up to it! Merry Christmas to you and Barbara, my friend!


  3. These are so good, Beth! I see our 15+ years of marriage in each of those tips! It took patience, allowing God to work on my husband as He saw fit whereas focusing on my own communication instead. Setting the boundaries is difficult and so easy to back down when you notice ruffled feathers. However, holding on and waiting for the other to adjust results in such a healthier relationship! Thank you as always!
    I am having a fun giveaway on my blog just because … I hope it is okay to link here. I also hope you will stop by and enter cuz you are one of my extra special friends who have blessed me enormously this year!


    1. Yes, the boundaries provide for that patience to grow and bring greater healing to a relationship than plowing through with our agenda, Lori. Thanks for letting me know about your giveaway and yes, it’s always great to have your links in the linkup. Anything that is helpful to our lives and marriages is worth adding here! Merry Christmas to you and yours, my friend!


  4. Beth, thanks so much for hosting each week. Hope your December is going smoothly!


    1. You’re welcome, Donna! My December is going about as smoothly as any December goes! 😉 I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!


  5. […] #TellHisStory, UNITE, #rara linkup, Tell me a true story, Testimony Tuesday, A little R & R, Wedded Wednesday, Wake Up […]


  6. Great points, Beth!

    Referring to #1–I think that sometimes men are guarded because we, as women/wives tend to project blame, even if we don’t speak it. The way we do that is by declaring and demonstrating our independent nature (spoken or unspoken). We are the ones who hold the house together, and we have our way of running the house, so perhaps our man might feel that he just can’t do anything right, since we (I) have all the answers. I’ve learned that even if I don’t like the way my man does something, I have to shut my mouth because at least it gets done. VERY VERY DIFFICULT—I have to carry duct tape with me.

    One thing I would add to any conversation (and to avoid that blame–which causes the other person to become defensive)–something I learned years ago in counseling and in small group work, using “I” words instead of “you” words. “You made me feel” is a sure way of putting someone on the defensive. Rather, “When you _______, I feel_________,” works better and puts the pressure back on us.

    Working with 18 men and no women, I see this all the time. When one of our guys gets called out on something, they are all quick to react and respond in the defensive. It is a way of not taking responsibility. Okay, well, my 1/2 hour is up—I’ll bill you. :-))

    Love these Wedded Wednesdays!


    1. You are probably right about women projecting blame and trying to be too independent of our hubbies. Yes, it’s easy to think that we have all the answers regarding our marriage when we run so many functions in our homes. But if we come to any conversation with our mates with arrogance or a know-it-all attitude, then we are destined to have a conversation fail!

      I didn’t mention the wording of how to share your feelings because much of the way to communicate during the heart-to-heart is in the Reflective Listening Guide that I provided. I hope you snag that, Mary!

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation and encouraging me, my friend! You and your family have a very blessed Christmas!


  7. Great ideas as always! The patience piece and not pushing the other into more than they are ready for in the conversation is so important.

    Hope you are having a good week!


    1. Yes, pushing might be the biggest red flag that I saw in the Men and Openness survey results. It seems to be a common thread that most men feel in their conversations with women. Thanks for pointing out that important aspect, Mary! And Merry Christmas to you and your family!


  8. These expectations make sense because they’re realistic! Too often, ours are not, and everyone comes / goes to /from the table frustrated. And nothing of value is accomplished. This ain’t no Hollywood production! Let’s get real!


    1. Yes, even though I stated these expectations and boundaries here, I need to be reminded to do them as well, Linda. It’s easy to get my “dander up” and want to air my feelings when what I really need is to adjust how I think of my hubby before we ever sit down to talk with each other. Thanks for encouraging me, my friend! You are the best!


  9. […] I am linking up with Messy Marriage, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and To Travel and Beyond to talk about my awesome bachelorette […]


  10. I love what you wrote about taking it one topic at a time. That’s so helpful to remember not to overwhelm each other. Thank you for sharing the results!


    1. Yes, that’s a common mistake that I see and have done myself, Mary. It’s overwhelming enough to talk about hurt emotions then to add in every emotion related to that first emotion. We cover our mates in an avalanche of anger when we do that! Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend! And Merry Christmas!


  11. Susan Burfoot Mead Avatar
    Susan Burfoot Mead

    Thank you Beth. Step #1 for any great relationship is healthy communication. Love how you are guiding us. Hugs. Susan


  12. Beth, this hits//rebukes/challenges me on so many levels! It’s great to see the complete picture, how one thing ties to the other and look at how I apply it in my marriage. it’s also a huge reminder on some of the things I need to improve on and what i need to start! Thank you for the thoughts, I need them! 🙂


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