There are many hurdles to cross in the aftermath of a divorce or separation. You are likely to think of the most common obstacles to overcome on your way to a happy and healthy post-divorce life: separating and maintaining two households; maintaining security and consistency for the children; managing emotions and filtering “helpful advice”. However, there is another complication that should be proactively addressed when you find yourself in the midst of or on the other side of a divorce. Boundaries. The need to set boundaries with an ex may not be obvious at first, especially with all the pressing matters to address (like those mentioned above), but there will very likely come a time when one or both parties will push the line of what the other deems to be acceptable behavior post-divorce. Boundary crossing may become a particularly important issue for those who find themselves divorced or separated after a very long relationship. It can be quite hard to change habits and behaviors that have been in place for decades.
While in an ideal world divorced parties can comfortably and respectfully co-parent and co-exist, this is not always the case. Even so, the most easygoing and companionable of post-divorce relationships can suffer from a misunderstanding of each parties boundaries. It is important to keep in mind that not every person will have the same boundary lines, and if you want to peacefully interact, that has to be ok. Failing to communicate or failing to accept and respect someones boundaries will cause anger and resentment that could have been avoided and may lead to negative exchanges that had not previously existed.
Below are some common examples of boundary crossing that post-divorce parties may experience:
– “borrowing” items: one party thinks it is ok to “borrow” something from the other without permission, for example yard tools.
– volunteering at school: this covers a number of different issues from signing a child up or volunteering for an activity that does not occur on your parenting time day to singing both parties up for one parent teacher conference session.
– escorting kids into the house: sometimes changing the locks on your house is not enough when the other party does not recognize what was once the marital residence as now being your residence. An ex who continuously enters your home when dropping the kids off can interfere with new relationships and can place undue burden on the children that have just become accustomed to their parents no longer being together. Not to mention the potential invasion of privacy that can be caused by a “curious” ex that likes to snoop.
– entering the house without knocking/ arriving unannounced: Nothing like getting out of the shower to find your ex settling the kids in. (You don’t get to see me naked anymore!!) Think of the trouble this could cause when your new significant other is in the shower with you! Boundaries are a must to avoid embarrassing or unacceptable situations, especially in front of the kids. Again, this raises privacy issues that need to be taken seriously.
– communicating with ex-family: For many people this is not an issue but in certain circumstances you may be offended if your ex is trying to maintain a relationship with your parents or siblings. While it may seem natural to hold on to relationships you have had with your ex’s family, if your ex objects then perhaps it is time to limit your contact until such time as your ex is comfortable with re-establishing these relationships. However, it is important to keep in mind that for some people this time may never come, as it is, after all, “their family”.
– sitting together at events: While a time may come when ex’s are comfortable not only attending events together but sitting together at such events, most often one or both party’s will find this to be unachievable, particularly immediately following the dissolution of the relationship. Be mindful of your ex’s comfort level, as allowing them the space they need in the beginning will go far to preserve peace in the long-run.
These examples are just those, examples. They neither cover the full range of potential boundary issues nor do they address any individuals specific boundary needs. It is for you to do some soul searching and determine what boundaries you need to have in place to live a happy, healthy and drama-free life.