Problems from Blurred Boundaries
One reason couples have such a hard time establishing and observing boundaries in marriage is because of the broader culture of blame and victimization they live in that shapes their attitudes and expectations for marriage. The American legal system is set up around this premise. If someone is wronged, he hires a lawyer who will fight for his rights in court to prove one right and the other wrong. Or, at least to show one more right, and the other more wrong.
Once you accept this premise, it is easy to understand how, inside marriage, whenever one party feels unhappy, she might assume that her partner is in some way responsible. Then, believing that all the negative feelings she experiences are her partner's fault, the fighting begins. Eventually that fighting takes on a life of its own.
Fueled by a cultural belief that one is right and the other is wrong, obviously, it is you who are right, and your partner who must be wrong. If you believe your feelings are your partner's responsibility, the marriage can never improve until your partner changes. At this point, the marriage goes down the slippery slope into despair.
Don't Be a Victim
Is there an alternative to this system? Of course there is. The solution is for each of you to take full responsibility for your own feelings, and not project your unhappiness upon a partner. Once you become aware that you are internally dissatisfied, it becomes your responsibility to make a change in order to fix that unhappiness.
If you see yourself as a victim of your partner's behavior, this establishes a classic power struggle that eats away at the good inside your marriage and dooms the relationship — unless your partner passively accepts all the blame for all your problems. Once this occurs, however, you risk losing all respect for your partner and becoming bored and disinterested in the relationship. You will inevitably label your partner emotionally weak or passive-aggressive.
The victim-perpetrator model for human relationships guarantees the relationship will fail. This is not to say that you should keep silent about where you feel wronged or that you cannot request your partner consider a change if it is realistic. That is perfectly acceptable communication, as long as it is delivered responsibly and in an adult fashion. Many couples lash out at each other when angry, just like a child might throw objects at another child when he feels overwhelmed. The good news is that these skills can be learned. Once learned, the skills become “love acquired by habit,” meaning practice.