How to Set Boundaries as Newlyweds With Family and Friends

A bride sitting between her parents.

When I got married, I remember telling my husband, “I’m excited, but I don’t know why…nothing’s really going to change.” In many ways, that was true; we had been living together for four years, we already had a joint bank account, and we were working toward the same career goals we always had been. The marriage license didn’t change anything about our day-to-day routine—but in one way, things were very different.

After our wedding, my husband and I were officially our own little family. While before we’d been two people who loved each other and lived together, now we were a family unit—and that came with its own set of rules.

Marriage changes every relationship in your life, from your family to your friends, and that means there are new boundaries that need adjusting. You might be experiencing that right now (or maybe you’re long overdue for the adjustment). Here are a few tips for setting boundaries with your loved ones.

Setting Boundaries with Your Own Parents

Your parents have likely been a source of wisdom your entire life. As a result, they’ve been your confidantes—and they probably know a lot about your relationship with your spouse. It may seem natural to continue mining them for wisdom after the wedding, but this can actually put a strain on the marriage if you aren’t careful.

Set boundaries with your parents when it comes to the physical, emotional, and financial aspects of your marriage. These are some of the most sensitive parts of a new marriage and talking about them with others can really hurt your husband or wife (or weird out your parents—they don’t need to know what’s happening in your bedroom).

There are some exceptions to this rule. If you’re in an abusive situation, obviously it’s OK to tell someone out of your marriage and get help. But if everything is going fine, it’s best not to run to mom and dad over every little spat with your spouse. This will put undue stress on your marriage and could possibly sour your spouse’s relationship with their in-laws. Just keep those topics off the table.

Setting Boundaries with Your In-Laws

Setting boundaries with your in-laws is a tricky business. You know your own parents well enough to just ask them to respect your privacy, but what about these new adults you don’t really know as well? How are you supposed to tell them to butt out of your business?

In a perfect world, you won’t have to worry about that. Your partner should be responsible for setting boundaries with their parents, just like you did with yours. But if you do run into a situation where your in-laws don’t get the message, you’ll have to use a firmer hand. The key here is to present a united front. You and your partner should have a conversation with your in-laws together. Tell them that while you do love them and appreciate their interest in your marriage, there are some topics where you simply don’t want their input. You may have to have this conversation many times over the years, but if you are kind (yet firm) each time, they’ll get the message—for a little while, anyway.

Setting Boundaries with Your Friends

A young man and woman holding a bottle of wine and walking up to the door of a newlywed couple.

Your friends are the people who know you best—the family you choose, as they say. These folks probably know everything about your relationship, from the first time you kissed to what your spouse whispered as you approached the altar at the wedding. But now that you’re married, you might need to be a little more tight-lipped when you go out for girls’ night.

The parental boundaries are usually a non-issue with your peers (they already know not to ask about money), but what can you talk about? Where can you seek your friends’ advice? What should you avoid? The answer depends entirely on you and your spouse. The two of you should sit down and decide what boundaries you’d like to set with your friends. After all, we all have different insecurities, and it’s important that you know before you start talking what topics will bruise your husband or wife’s ego.

Setting boundaries will inevitably take some trial and error. You may forget that a topic is off-limits, or someone in your life might be pushier than you’d expected. But if you and your partner stand firm and stick to the boundaries you’ve set, eventually everyone will get on board. The result: your marriage will be stronger, and your friendships will take on a new shape.

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