What Is a Hedge?

What's a hedge? And why would you want one in your marriage?

Merriam-Webster provides numerous definitions for “hedge.” About half do a perfect job of defining a hedge’s role in marriage. The other half make great antonyms. Let’s take a look at them.


any barrier or boundary
Here we learn that the word “hedge” can really be used to define an ugly, green yard trimming; Fido’s invisible electric fence; or a marriage-protecting set of boundaries agreed upon by a husband or wife.

to … restrict; to prevent or hinder free movement; to obstruct
Not the most fun or pleasant of definitions, is it? You might think, If building marital hedges gives my wife ammo to whine about me shooting pool with the boys on Friday night, I want nothing to do with it. Though banishing pool night is not a definition, limiting yourself out of love, or compromising, can actually be extremely freeing and mutually satisfying. More on this later.

a row of bushes or small trees planted close together, esp. when forming a fence or boundary
So evidently ugly, evergreen-like bushes aren’t the only options for forming a physical hedge! Of actual importance: Constructing a hedge entails planting multiple, protective shrubs of choice close together. If each action taken by you, your spouse or the two of you represents a shrub, planting a few scattered ones once in a blue moon don’t form much of a protective barrier. You’ll keep legally blind squirrels out, but not much else.

to protect with qualifications that allow for unstated contingencies or for withdrawal from commitment
This definition reminds me of a recent commercial: A husband answers the door and is greeted by a host of new appliances and a delivery man asking for his John Hancock. Bewildered, he looks back at his wife, eyes beseeching her for an answer. She smugly produces a small tape recorder and presses play. The man hears his own voice saying, “Honey, you can do anything you want if I get new golf clubs.”

This definition is actually used in the financial and corporate worlds. But a marital hedge isn’t meant for selfish manipulation. Though defined by mutually agreed upon, steadfast boundaries, it flourishes in mercy and wilts in legalism. Building a hedge around your marriage will help protect you from the painful attacks Satan throws your way, but you’ll still be subject to the loving tests and disciplines of a caring God. It’s not a cure-all, and in no way gives you permission to back out of your “I Dos.”

the act or means of preventing complete loss of a bet, an argument, an investment, or the like
This may be the most telling of all definitions. Boundaries in marriage, tempered with grace and forgiveness, prevent the loss of the second greatest investment you’ll ever make: marriage. The first? Surrendering your life to Christ.

To make hedge-building worth your work, you must first view your marriage as a precious, valuable investment. Does your marriage seem like a bet, tentative at best? Or does it seem like an argument, a constant, perpetual argument? Pray for eyes to see your marriage for what it really is: a sacred promise, a safe hiding place, a vehicle for personal and mutual growth and a gorgeous allegory for Christ and His bride.

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