Is it Okay to Have Rules in Marriage?

In Your Marriage, You Would Never...

Ah, marriage. I love it. I love everything about it. I love the companionship, the company, the camaraderie. I even love the fact that I end up spending so much time with someone, which for an introvert like me can be difficult.

God knew what He was doing when He created marriage. He knew the needs we hold and the desires we keep. He designed men and women to be in partnership.

I realized quickly within marriage, though, that it was necessary to have guidelines and boundaries in place, both for the unspoken and the obvious. Jonathan and I talk often about our expectations for marriage and we check in with one another to see how we are doing as spouses. There are certain things we have agreed upon through our conversations that we will never do nor allow to happen within our marriage. Do you have guidelines like that, whether you are married or not? Things you and your spouse have committed to keeping in or keeping out of your marriage?

Need some inspiration? Well here are some of the things that Jonathan and I have sworn that we will never do or always do within marriage….We do not have friendships with people of the opposite sex unless it is with other couples. I wrote a post about this topic, asking: Can Men and Women Can Really Be Friends? The comments from you all were so varied and yet so enlightening. As for us, we have committed to never hanging out with the opposite sex alone.

We would never let more than two weeks go by without seeing one another. If, for instance, one of us, most likely Jonathan, were offered a job in another state, we would just move to that state. There would be no traveling back and forth or spending months apart. We agree that temptation, especially for men, is just too great and the enemy just too influential for us to ever spend more than 14 days apart.

We do not go to bed angry. Yes, this one is in the Bible and has become a bit cliche. However, I think it is a great rule within marriage. By following this, we have never woken up in the morning, and had to continue being upset with each other.

We are not allowed to leave in the middle of a discussion or argument. This rule applies primarily to me. When I was growing up, it was common to see my parents fight and then watch one of them walk out the front door, get in a car, and drive away. I learned this behavior and attempted to copy it in my marriage. Jonathan said, “Absolutely not! You cannot behave this way.” I was convicted and have never done it since.

We don’t buy anything over $100 without speaking to each other first. This is a simple rule, but can save a lot of frustration in the end.

We try not to let too much time go by without having sex. Sometimes we have extra busy weeks or one of us is traveling. Or maybe one of us is sick or our kids are sick. Either way, days can go by without any hanky panky taking place. We don’t have a set number of days but we try and shoot for an average number of “romantic encounters” (that could be a reality show title) each week.

We prioritize our marriage as our first ministry. This means that we place our marriage above our children. To some people, especially moms, this is an outrageous idea. The truth is, though, a healthy marriage is the foundation for healthy kids. We prioritize by having regular date nights, mini-vacations and vacations, and time throughout the week to connect. We also let our kids know that, while we love them so very much, mommy and daddy’s relationship comes first.

So what rules, boundaries, or guidelines do you have within marriage? If you are not yet married, do you have any in mind that you would like to apply to your future marriage? Ever see any rules that had a negative effect on a marriage?

15 thoughts on “Is it Okay to Have Rules in Marriage?”

  1. I like your list. We also don’t have friends of the opposite sex unless they are couples. So many in marriage think this is a dumb rule, but I think it’s a must.

    Also, hanky-panky…you shouldn’t go too long without it. Good call on that one.

    Another thing we always do is make sure to say “Goodnight” and “I love you” to each other before we go to bed. It is hard to say those things in the quiet intimacy of night time if there are any issues still on the table. If the other can’t say it, or says it weirdly, you know something is up and then you can discuss it before “the sun goes down”.

    1. We do the same Ben, as far as saying “I love you” and “Goodnight”. I know we do it every night before bed and if we don’t, like you said, something feels off.

      We also make a real effort to stop what we are doing when one of us walks in the house and greet each other with a kiss. They both seem silly or trivial but so much of marriage is the little things, done again and again, day after day.

  2. Good list! One of ours is: Don’t keep score. That is, don’t mentally tally up how many times the other person has done (or neglected to do) something that bugs you. Or how many times you have nobly done x thing while the other person hasn’t.

    1. I’m nodding my head in agreement, as I read your comment. So important and so true. Just as 1Corinthians says “love…keeps no record of wrongs.”

      I think many couples find this difficult to do but man, does it make a difference. Great addition to the list Erin! Thanks.

  3. Great list! We have the same one! ;)

    I would also add that we usually try and do things together. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we both enjoy going out with the girls, or him with his guys, but we try and not separate if we can.

    Like this past weekend we were with his family out of town, and his Mom always loves to separate us and let the “girls” go do this and the “boys” go do that. We had to kindly ask that we NOT separate because I kinda like my BOY and he kinda likes me too. ;)

    1. So sweet. Jon and I are the same. Maybe it’s because we have only been married five years or maybe it’s because we just really love hanging out together (I’m going with the latter) but we hate being separated too.

      Sure, we can do it here and there. I love time with just my girlfriends (wink wink) but I am always happy to see my hubster. So ditto to you and your boy. Glad you are so in love!

  4. Good list, Nicole! I agree with them all… but we have found that the first two don’t work for us because of the rest of our ministry lives.

    #1: Kathy has spent time in ministry with other men and I have spent time in ministry with other women. We have had scores of single women live with us, many times alone in the house while I work here, but never a problem for either of us. I still want to reinforce the wisdom of your including this rule on your list, because this has been the source of many marital stumbles and failures.

    #2: We sure hate to be apart for any length of time, but some of my mission trips have lasted many weeks. It’s tough! This is genuine “suffering for Jesus.” These trips also make me think about the sacrifices made by our military families, spouses and children left behind for months at a time. I don’t know how they do it. Thank you, all of you who serve our country so well!

    Kathy would add one more rule: no tickling.

    1. Thanks for affirming my list. I agree that relationships and especially other people living with you can be a great source of marital failure. I don’t think we could do what you and Kathy have done. I find it to be too tempting of a situation but I still acknowledge and appreciate your ministry to so many young women.

      Ditto on the no tickling rule!! I think every wife in America might agree with that one.

  5. Hey Nicole,

    As a newlywed, I really like the idea of having a list like this. My husband and I have some things started, but have never sat down to fully write it out- we might just have to do that.

    About #1- is that really true? Neither of you has a friend of the opposite sex who’s not part of a couple? This seems a bit extreme though, especially for ministry work. Maybe I’m totally taking this in the wrong way?

    I’m familiar with the not spending 1 on 1 time with someone of the opposite sex and we’ve started to do that. I think that makes a lot of sense. I just can’t imagine either of us not having friendships with people we know who are single…

    I’m just curious if I assumed the wrong thing.

    1. Hi Heather,

      Great question. Well, I’ll start by saying, i didn’t really have any single guy friendships upon entering marriage. I hung out in my church college group. I was casual friends with single guys but not close friends. By the time I was engaged any peripheral male friendships sort of just dissipated on their own.

      I have no desire or craving to have single male friendships. I have guys I would certainly call friends but they are married men who I only hang out with as couples. My husband has single guy friends. I consider those men to be my husband’s friends, not mine.

      It may sound a little extreme, sure. Of course hanging out one-on-one is off limits. But my husband and I just think it is better and wiser to remain above reproach in this area. We are called to full-time ministry and we know that the enemy will use our marriage (and subsequently any “single person friendship”) to bring us down. We have just chosen to make no room for that kind of incident. We think of it as safe-guarding.

      Here’s the other thing. Men are much more tempted by sexual sin, in general. I will never allow my husband to place a potential stumbling block in his path. No one goes out to commit adultery but circumstances align themselves, and it can happen to any Godly person. We will do whatever is necessary to prevent that from happening.

      Sorry my answer is so long. I got a little carried away. Hope that helps explain from our side. Thanks for asking and reading!

      1. Hey Nicole,

        Thanks for the reply! I totally agree with a lot of what you said. I once read a blog article where the author (christian female) wrote the line ‘I could cheat on my husband’. So interesting and I wish I would have bookmarked it. The way she clarified the difference in the words ‘could’ and ‘would’ made so much sense. After growing up in the church I have seen marriages end because of this and I’m acutely aware of ways to prevent it.

        For me and my husband though, we both have single friends of the opposite sex but we hang out with them together. So far I’ve seen no reason to stop this. I was single until I was 26 with only one small relationship before my man and he was 29 when we started dating. We’ve both formed a lot of different friendships before we even met. At this point it would be an outright ending of friendships and I couldn’t do that. Nor do I feel that God’s calling either of us to do that.

        I really like hearing your different perspective. Thank you for writing your blog! It keeps me thinking… and I like that.

  6. The male/female friendship thing seems to be a big deal. Our boundary is, if I have e-mail communication with a male that goes back-and-forth more than three times, then my husband is copied on it. I don’t know why he wants that, but it’s what makes him comfortable so I do it. Since it’s “no big deal” anyway, what do I care if he’s copied? Because he cares, I let him know when I’ve spoken to someone on the phone or met up or whatever. No, I don’t think I’ve ever given him *reason* to need this, but he does so I do. No big deal. I think it’s when we *make* a big deal out of these requests that Satan gets a foothold. Just my two cents :)

    1. Oooh, I like that email rule Jenni! What a good one! And I agree, our rules in marriage should just be natural and easy for us to follow, otherwise Satan does sneak in and make us question our actions! Great comment, thanks!

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