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Stonewalling and Boundaries in the Marriage and Beyond

On the surface, stonewalling and boundaries can appear similar when it comes to personal relationships. But at the heart, stonewalling is about hurting another person or self-preservation in the face of wrong doing, while boundaries are about creating a safe place and living righteously.


I am currently reading a true murder mystery story that took place in the 1960’s. A husband and father has been shot dead in his home. The wife was out of town with friends at the time. However, now she is leading detectives down obscure paths. She has offered misinformation, wrong names, and failed to mention other people altogether. She is stonewalling.

Stonewalling in the Marriage

In the marriage, stonewalling looks more like the cold shoulder. For example, it is like a spouse who simply refuses to communicate with his or her mate. The spouse is so upset, that in an act of anger or revenge he or she simply disengages from the marriage, though living in the same house. The person has built an invisible stone wall. Or like a spouse who makes a large purchase and hides it from his or her mate. Then, when the subject of finances come up, he or she creates a diversion with misinformation or accusations toward the innocent person. This is stonewalling.

The Bible says ““Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”[1] With regards to the marriage relationship, My wife and I have counseled people who were not able to settle an issue in one day. However, what is important is that all the cards are on the table by the end of the day. In other words, both husband and wife should offer full disclosure on the topic at hand. When one withholds information, it allows the other person’s mind to fabricate stories. The mind often creates stories that are far beyond reality. For example, a husband may be clearly upset and not talking. The wife sees her husband is upset. She wonders what she did to upset him. She fabricates a story in her mind, but when the truth comes out, the husband just had a terrible day at work and was not up to talking about it yet.

Stonewalling is wrong and unnecessary when a person is living righteously. Stonewalling is often about self-preservation or it can come from a vengeful heart.

[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Eph 4:26–27.

Boundaries are God’s Idea

Tangibly speaking, God clearly established land boundaries for the people of Israel and He expected them to secure their land. In addition, it was God who encouraged Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. Walls were and are intended to secure a perimeter. Today, we build fences around our property. We lock our doors and install security systems all in an effort to remain safe. As the head of my home, it would be wrong for me to remove the doors and fences allowing anyone and everyone to come onto our property and into our home. It would be wrong to simply allow thieves to come steal from us, destroy property and mistreat my family. Conversely, we invite people we know into our home regularly. What is true for my home is also true for the nation. One of the primary roles of government is to defend its people. One way the government is to do this is by securing its borders. In similar manner, the Shepherd of the church and the Shepherd of the home is to feed, lead, nurture, and defend his flock or family on a foundation of love. In order to defend, one must establish both tangible and intangible boundaries.

What the Bible Says About Boundaries

Keep your heart with all diligence,

For out of it spring the issues of life.[1]

The word “keep” here means to guard. One cannot guard their heart without establishing boundaries.

"Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits." [2]

Christians are commanded to take great care in establishing boundaries with regard to friendships.

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?"[3]

Christians are called to adhere to God’s boundaries in marriage. This means Christians should not make a habit of dating non-Christians.

"A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger."[4]

We are called to place boundaries on our speech and approach when facing crucial conversations.

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."[5]

God wants His people to set boundaries with regard to what they allow into their minds.

Based on these passages, it is clear that God wants His followers to establish boundaries with regard to the company they keep, their life, mind, heart and even their words.

[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Pr 4:23. [2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Co 15:33. [3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 2 Co 6:14. [4] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Pr 15:1. [5] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Php 4:8.

We All Set Boundaries

The closer we get to another person, the more we allow them into our lives and the more they know about us. The peak of this experience is the Christian’s life with God and with their spouse. In both cases, they are to be one. In order to be one, there has to be what we call A.T.V. or Authenticity, Transparency and Vulnerability; all boundaries are removed. For anything outside of these two relationships, we place boundaries to keep ourselves safe.

Our relationship with Jesus works the same way.

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."[1]

The closer we draw to God, the more He reveals Himself to us. In addition, Jesus called Himself the door.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep."[2]

Clearly, Jesus established boundaries even when it comes to heaven.

It is ok to establish boundaries.

[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jas 4:8. [2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Jn 10:7.

Do Boundaries Move?

When a marriage relationship becomes abusive or toxic, trust levels diminish as the violator removes him or herself from that intimate place of oneness. Looking at the above graph, you will see that in relationships, the more trust you place in a person, the more information is shared with them. In a marriage, the couple should ideally be at the top of the triangle experiencing the joy of authenticity, transparency and vulnerability. However, when trust is violated, the violator moves down the triangle and is no longer trusted with as much information. It is in this situation that the offended spouse withholds information from the offender and gives them the same boundaries as other people less trustworthy. The boundaries are already in place. It is the violator who moved, not the boundary. Based on this idea, many marriages exist well below their true potential.

Conversely, when a person is consistently trustworthy, but their mate suddenly moves the boundary, this causes confusion and mistrust. Boundaries are meant to be clear and stable. The goal in marriage relationships, is for the couple to experience the joy of living a life of A.T.V.

God's Boundaries

The Bible says, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”[1]

Did God change His boundaries, or did the person move outside the predetermined boundaries of God? I suggest the latter.

Boundaries are God’s idea. They operate on a sliding scale based on trust levels.

[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 7:22–23.


Stonewalling is often about self-preservation in the light of wrong doing or intentionally hurting another person. Boundaries are God’s plan for safety and righteousness. Create clear boundaries in the marriage that are stable and guard against stonewalling. Make A.T.V. your marriage goal--the path of peace.

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