If there is a sudden decrease in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will deploy. Put the mask on you first, and then place the mask on your child sitting next to you. In order to save our child, we must save ourselves first.
Likewise, boundaries are about having compassion upon ourselves first so that we have the energy and love to give compassion to our spouses and those around us as well. We have to put on the oxygen mask so that we can put the mask on our spouses as well.
Of course, life is much messier than that, and there isn't a formula. Sometimes, we give up our needs for the sake of our spouse or children or even others, but this is a general norm here. In order to have energy to give to others, we have to set boundaries.
Second, boundaries are not just about self-care. There are boundaries that we can set as couples that are "couple-care" as opposed to "self-care". I remember listening to a married couple speak one time about how they decided to spend 15 hours a week together outside their time with children. Wow! How in the world do you do that? Basically, they decided to arrange their schedule so it would work, and they accomplished it somehow, even without severely limiting their time with their children. It was more about organizing and setting boundaries than about taking time away from children significantly. They had to give up a number of things in order to accomplish this. Interestingly enough, they shared how their children seemed to be more content, and more at peace around the house once they made this 15 hour plan work. Now, I'm not saying that you need to figure out how to do 15 hours a week with your spouse, but what we are really talking about here is setting boundaries intentionally so that couples can connect with each other as allies.
Another example, you'll see below in the Brene Brown video, where she explains that she and her husband discovered that their goals and their desires weren't adding up. When they listed their goals, it required more work, more accomplishments, and so forth. When they listed their desires of what they loved to do in life, it meant decreasing goals, making less money, and having more time. Over time, they decided to set boundaries to make sure that they were doing the things they loved, not doing the things that helped them achieve their occupational goals so much. In the end, they began spending more time with each other and more time with children. The result was more play, more fun, and in the end, they didn't suffer occupationally that much anyway.
Don't forget - boundaries aren't just about self-care. Our self-care, and our couple-care, is always about using our compassion within us to move outwardly in compassion to others around us.
(photo at top taken from flickr creative commons by Jon Gos)