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My Husband Won’t Set Boundaries With His Family – What Can I Do?

Boundaries are something that is learned in the family. But these are not school lessons. It is something we adopt from the way people around us treat us. 

If your husband won’t set boundaries with his family, it means that he probably has no idea what personal boundaries are. Also, his family is certainly not the only one he can’t set boundaries for.

Offended man and his wife sitting at table at home, his mother-in-law standing behind

No matter how irritating it is that your husband does not know how or does not want to set boundaries in the relationship with his family, it is essential that you understand that such behavior is never the result of good experiences. 

The absence of personal boundaries often indicates some form of developmental trauma. But that doesn’t mean you should tolerate such behavior. 

Besides being irritating, the lack of adequate boundaries in relationships can seriously threaten your marriage.

In this text, we will share with you some explanations why your husband does not want to set boundaries in his relations with his family. 

Then we will offer you optimal solutions – how to position yourself in the whole situation to protect yourself and get the most out of it.

Why My Husband Won’t Set Boundaries With His Family?

People who do not know how to set personal boundaries or whose personal boundaries are too flexible are children who grew up in an environment that did not respect their authentic needs. 

These are children who are too controlled, too conditioned, and often too disciplined. These are often old children who are forced to behave maturely too early because the adults around them do not have time to deal with their feelings and needs. 

Their sense of identity often revolves around the false belief that only by pleasing others do they deserve love and respect.

For a person to have personal boundaries, they must have a clear sense of personal identity. 

A lack of personal boundaries in all relationships indicates that someone in your husband’s environment violated his personal boundaries persistently. 

He was too vulnerable at the time and too young to understand, so he got used to putting himself in second place.

You may be surprised that your husband, for example, is great at setting boundaries in business relationships or with others in your environment. 

Suppose his inability to set boundaries is localized only to his family. In that case, it means that in his relations with them, he still does not have enough strength to get out of the role of a child. 

However, this means that he had the capacity to set some boundaries in other relationships, which also means that there are some things he needs to understand concerning his family.

You’re probably wondering now what you can even do about it, whether you understand it or not. 

Here are some constructive suggestions that will help you raise your relationship to a higher level and bring additional quality to your marriage.

What About Different Family Backgrounds 

You should remember that sometimes it’s a matter of coming from completely different families. In some families, overemphasized closeness is an entirely normal phenomenon. 

Family members invade each other’s intimacy, parents treat their children like friends, and the whole family is like a tribe that does everything together. 

In such cases, people often have no idea that it is possible to live differently, and if you enter their family, they think that it is not only normal but also rude to treat you differently from others.

Exhausted male listening wife and mother-in-law arguing at home

They tend to overshare, but the good thing is that they will often selflessly support every family member. Your husband may insist on going on every vacation with his family and letting them invade every aspect of your marriage. 

The other extreme is cold, distant families where the boundaries are too rigid, and there is almost no real closeness. In such families, the role of each member is precisely defined. 

The physical expression of feelings is not often, and family members feel and behave as if everyone is for themselves.

The largest number of families is somewhere in between. 

But, if your husband comes from the family from the first example, it should be clear to you that you cannot make big changes in his relationship with the family. 

But you can control that this relationship does not harm your marriage with him.

Take Care of Your Own Boundaries 

To successfully deal with any problems in your marriage, it is imperative that your personal boundaries are strong and clear and that you can assertively defend them. 

This is especially important in this case because your husband may unconsciously also expect you to be just as helpful to his family as he is. His family can also often act as if they expect you to obey in some way, to be compliant. 

Such requirements are so implicit and subtle that, very often, everything can seem completely perfect from the outside. 

However, over time you feel more and more pressure from him to accept how he treats his family as normal. 

If your boundaries are not strong enough, this kind of situation can eventually exhaust you so much that it shakes you to the core. 

Guilt is a typical weapon of people who do not respect other people’s boundaries, and you should be ready for it. In short, here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Focus on yourself; what are your needs?
  • Learn to say no without feeling bad
  • Resist the urge to intervene between your husband and his family
  • Resist the urge to save your husband 
  • Resist the urge to badmouth and criticize your family 
  • Don’t criticize your husband
  • Don’t agree to do anything just to please your husband or his family

His family may expect you to cater to their needs just like your husband does. You will often feel like blaming your husband but remember that his behavior is just the consequence of his upbringing. 

By focusing on yourself and assertively communicating your boundaries, needs, and feelings, you will improve your relationship with him. 

Moreover, you will be a model for how he could communicate his needs and set boundaries for his family. 

You may as well be the first person in his life who will let him have his boundaries. 

Does His Family Regularly Breaches Boundaries or Only When It Comes to You

Man trying to calm wife and mother arguing, in-law conflict, troubled marriage

It is very important that you specify exactly in which situations your husband does not want to set boundaries with his family. 

Is it possible that he is telling you that he doesn’t approve of something about you, that something in your relationship bothers him? 

Is his family perhaps too protective, so they especially meddle in your relationship, and he uses that to avoid a direct conflict with you? Does he put you second to his family?

These are all questions for you to think about. Whatever the answer is, if you have healthy boundaries, you will be able to adequately protect yourself and stand up for yourself. 

But if the situation is too complicated, do not hesitate to seek the help of an expert, marriage counselor, or psychotherapist. 

Such problems will not disappear by themselves. You have to deal with them one way or another.

Communicate Your Needs Assertively 

couple talking about problems

Like anything else that bothers you, you have to bring this problem up with your husband. 

It is very important that you do it so you don’t become another person who oversteps his personal boundaries. 

Avoid condemning his family, opening his eyes, and explaining that something is wrong with him or his family. 

Define specifically what bothers you and how what he does or the way he behaves affects you. 

Explain to him how you feel when he puts family first instead of you.

When you define the problem through situations that bother you, give him a concrete reason why they bother you, and ask him to protect you from such situations, you indirectly enable your husband to see what is actually problematic. 

After such a conversation, he may spontaneously think, “my family does not have a good influence on my marriage”, or something similar. 

In this way, you indirectly motivate him to better stand up for himself in relation to his family.

Final Thoughts 

Setting boundaries in personal relationships can be difficult for many adults, but it can be particularly difficult when you need to do so with elderly parents or other family members. 

Concerns about upsetting your parents or falling short of their expectations can get in the way when you’re caring for an aging loved one, supporting the extended family during difficult times, or simply trying to navigate changing relationship dynamics as you get married, have children, and live your adult lives.  

The more you understand the concept of personal boundaries, the easier it will be for you to set them.