When looking to set appropriate boundaries after divorce here are some things to keep in mind. Healthy boundaries can be hard to establish and to keep in place, but they will make a world of difference to you, your ex and your children. Ever changing boundaries are confusing to everyone involved.
Too much information. Neither you nor your ex is entitled to delve into each other’s personal lives. You have separate lives now and the less either of you gets involved in each other’s personal issues the less conflict you will have. It is not your business who your ex is dating, or what he/she is doing; and vice versa.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You cannot get respect if you do not give it. Communicate in an efficient and respectful way with each other. Do not blame or accuse, but inquire. Keep all communication brief to the matter at hand. Do not ask personal questions or give personal advice or criticisms. Respecting boundaries, whether the other person has established them or not, helps you keep your own boundaries and show self-respect.
Be the bigger person. This is always hard. The saying is that it takes two to tango. You do not pick the fight, and you do not engage in the fight. If the conflict escalates, you walk away until things cool down. Disengaging is always better than saying things you cannot take back later or may be sorry for if brought up in court. You are no longer married and you can always walk away from the conversation. Avoiding a conversation, however, does not make it go away. Some conversation is necessary when children are involved.
Bashing not allowed. Do not bash your ex where your children can hear it or let other people do so. The same goes for friends and family. Even if you think they cannot hear you, they probably can. It creates conflict and confusion for children to hear negative things about either parent. They want their parents to love them and keep them safe. Tearing down the other parent leaves children groping for a life boat. Children feel they have to take sides and make each parent happy. It is unfair to put any child in that position. Children do not need the stress of dealing with adult issues. Protecting your children is more than just getting a divorced. It is about making sure they do not get dragged into anyone’s baggage.
Keep the children out of the middle. The children should not be the intermediaries and carry messages or schedules between parents. It is not the children’s responsibility to do these things and places an unfair and sometimes overwhelming burden on them. If the other parent is doing this, stay firm and communicate with them about the message/schedule, and add politely not to send such messages with the children. Sometimes communicating by email or through a message board like http://www.talkingparents.com can be helpful in establishing these boundaries. If the behavior continues you may want to consult your attorney.
Your ex’s happiness is not your responsibility. You are divorced. It is not your job or duty to make sure your ex is happy or content. This goes with #1. If your ex is having problems with anything other than the children you do not have to fix it, give advice, or take on their problem for them. Also your ex is no longer your support. Establish a group of friends, relatives and professionals to give you needed support and advice.
Blood is thicker than water. Keeping a good working relationship with the ex in-laws is always nice. However, make sure your friendship with them is actually a friendship and not just because you were part of the family. Do not expect them to pick your side of a conflict. Your ex should not be a subject of conversation at all and they should not be contacting you to complain about either you or your ex.
Establish your own routines and home. Your home is your home. When your ex is in your home or you in his/hers, that person is a house guest. House guests should be treated as such and you need to make sure he/she understands it is not their home and they are a guest. It is not an opportunity to criticize or invade the other person’s privacy. Your ex should not expect to come into your home and “hang out” with the kids and vice versa.Zero tolerance for abuse. This boundary goes hand-in-hand with #2. You cannot continue to try to communicate or reason with a person who is yelling, demeaning, or belligerent to you. Feel free to say the conversation is not productive and you are going to hang up. Then hang up. Zero tolerance is exactly that – zero. After hanging up do not answer repeated calls or text messages or emails about the communication until you and your ex have had a chance to calm down. You may want to say you need an hour or a day and will get back to them about the issue. Engaging in conflict is not healthy and you need to sever that emotional tie to your ex. Keep your dignity and voice your fears and frustration to friends and not your ex. By doing this you maintain control of your emotions and yourself.
Child support/spousal maintenance. These are not gifts from your ex to you. These are ordered support payments and do not give your ex the right to criticize, comment on, or belittle you regarding your job, finances, etc. Keep your financial circumstances to yourself for your own protection. Do not beg, plead or compromise yourself where it puts you in an inferior position from your ex. If you are having trouble getting your payments, contact a lawyer or your county Child Support Enforcement Unit.
Different parenting styles. Every parent has a different style of parenting. You need to accept that your ex will not do things exactly as you do and move on. As long as the children are not in imminent danger, parents are allowed to parent their children in their individual way. Setting these boundaries with the children is also important. They should know what to expect from you for rules, discipline, etc. Just because something does not apply in your ex’s home does not mean they are not held to that standard in your home. When possible, do your best to coordinate disciplinary issues so the children do not receive conflicting messages.
Establishing healthy and consistent boundaries is difficult and takes many tries. Do not be discouraged if it does not work immediately. Setting boundaries takes time and reminding. Stay firm and know that eventually these boundaries will help you establish your own peace and new life.
Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for http://www.rkymtnlaw.com