Golden Corral was where I received one of the biggest shocks of my life, but it had nothing to do with the food. Here I was, as usual, finishing off too much of a meal at the delicious dessert buffet when I was approached by an acquaintance in the community. I knew little of this 16 year old girl and her values when she approached me with a smile on her face. My greeting to her was the same as I would offer any other teen that I met through church student ministry events. After exchanging pleasantries, she made the bold proclamation, “My aunt sitting over there thinks you’re hot and wants to go out with you.” A quick glance in the direction pointed confirmed this wasn’t a joke and I quickly replied by holding up my left hand, pointing to my wedding band, and saying, “Thank you for the kind words, but I’m very happily married.” Yet it wasn’t the solicitation that shocked me; it was her next words that opened my eyes when the teenager quickly countered with, “Your wedding ring doesn’t matter; my aunt wants you.” Dessert forgotten, I made it clear that I was not interested and high-tailed it out of there!
While some of you fellas might smile at the thought, I was shocked as I came to the startling realization that not everyone shares my boundaries. Recently, another teenage girl shared with my wife and I the struggles of high school dating, saying that other girls believe no guy is “off-the-market” regardless of how serious of a relationship they are in.
In a world in which boundaries, borders, and limitations are increasingly viewed as hindrances to be grayed, blurred, or removed, I believe our families are suffering.
Appropriate boundary setting is a good thing. Consider what happened at the Grand Canyon on Tuesday of this week. An elderly woman plummeted to herdeath, marking her the third fall victim in the area this year alone. In each case, it appears those involved ignored obvious warnings and boundary signs. Can you imagine the grief of the families affected by the tragic losses? Those of us living near Fall Creek Falls understand the need for boundaries and limits. If you’ve ever stood at the top, you’re grateful for the rock pillars with timber fencing that keeps most of us from straying too close to the edge of the falls overlook. Just think back to the sad news story in 2017 of the 10 year old girl who fell over an edge, and you’ll realize the need to observe appropriate boundaries. Boundaries keep us safe from potentially harmful situations, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
|Photo Cred: BusinessInsider.com
Our changing culture tends to scoff at boundaries. Remember March of 2017 when Mike and Karen Pence were ridiculed by our culture for theirrelationship boundaries? Twitter users brewed a storm at Mike’s personal rule to never eat a meal alone with a member of the opposite sex, but rather invite a third person. Culture commentators were outraged that our VP wouldn’t allow a female aide to work late hours alone with him. Sarcastic jabs at Karen were levied as Mike described the measures he would take to avoid even a rumor of marital infidelity.
Of course, I agree with those boundaries as I have kept similar rules through my 15 years of marriage. My beautiful wife and I agree that I won’t counsel a female behind a closed door, but rather in a public place, even often preferring to find another female to aid in her counsel. I won’t ride alone in a car with another woman unless she is old enough to be my mother. My wife and my elders at church each receive a message if I’m called to work in a close situation with a female (again, never behind a closed door). I agree never to share my personal marriage struggles secretly with a female friend, but approach my male mentors for advice. I let females know that Ashley is usually involved in the message responses I give to women who text me for counsel. My wonderful wife has all my passwords to all my media accounts, open access to my cell phone, and the ability to GPS track my cell phone.
All these guidelines sound extreme to many people, but for us, they’re essential. Boundaries not only keep me from metaphorically “falling over the edge” but keep my reputation intact and above reproach. We haven’t set these rules because we’ve ever had a question of cheating in our relationship; rather, older and wiser couples we respect have shared with us what has given them the most peaceful and joyful relationships at home, at work, and with friends. Some of our friends now have shared the temptations that led them into infidelity. We've tried to learn from others' triumphs and mistakes. Our marriage keeps getting better through the years and these boundaries are a big part of improving our relationship and avoiding trust issues. Our boundaries aren’t limitations, but they are the fences set inside the danger zone that let us enjoy the overlooks of life without the fear of falling over the edge.
Our Family Forte advice to you teenagers is to seek out the wisdom of respectable, joyful people as you learn to set boundaries in relationships, time management, and money. For you parents, please be vigilant using positive communication as a tool to help your children establish life-giving boundaries at young ages. We encourage you, the gray-haired generations, to stay positive and engaged in the lives of youth in our community as you help them navigate and set appropriate boundaries so they can enjoy the best views of life. Set and maintain appropriate boundaries; you’ll be glad you did.
“…I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10a
For more reading, stats, and surveys on relationship boundaries, click the recent New York Times article HERE.
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength. Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself. If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, email@example.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.