Boundaries and Outcomes

Boundaries and Outcomes

When I talk with other moms, I commonly hear questions about how to change their partner’s behavior. This is where boundaries come in. Setting boundaries will not control behavior, and it will not determine a particular desired outcome. However, setting boundaries will influence others to make different decisions.

Here’s an example. When I first got married, I was surprised to discover that my normally tidy husband kept a huge pile of dirty clothes by his side of the bed. I did not like this behavior, and I really didn’t like picking up his clothes and putting them in his hamper. My desired outcome was for him to put his dirty clothes in the hamper daily. But instead of nagging him to do that, or picking up his clothes and seething in resentment, I set a boundary. I told him that I would only wash clothes in his hamper. And then I ignored his behavior. On laundry day, I would sort and wash all the clothes in the hampers, without comment or nagging. When my husband wanted to wear a t-shirt and found it dirty on the floor, he only had himself to blame. The result was that once or twice a week, he would gather up his clothes and put them in the hamper for me to wash. I didn’t get exactly the outcome I desired, but I did influence his behavior.


It’s important to remember that no matter what you do (nag, threaten, punish, reward, set boundaries) you cannot control the behavior of others. All you can do is influence their behavior. Setting boundaries is a healthy way to influence by allowing consequences to happen naturally. It is also a great way to have meaningful conversations instead of arguments. By setting that boundary verbally, I indicated to my husband several facts:

  • That I respected him as an adult capable of cleaning up after himself
  • That I cared about him enough to do his laundry
  • That I disliked the dirty clothes on the floor

It was much more productive than either nagging him constantly about the clothes or angrily picking up after him.

For more specific information about setting boundaries in your marriage, schedule a free 60 minute phone call today!

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