Did you say boundaries? Boundaries with my EX?
Chances are you struggled to set boundaries during the relationship as well. Whether you just separated or have been divorced for years, setting clear boundaries will improve your mental health, decrease anxiety and bring clarity to past and future relationships.
Boundaries provide a physical or emotional space. This space allows for self-expression, self-care, and mutual respect. If boundaries are weak, we risk being taken advantage of, abused, and disrespected. This space is also important so that you can have healthy intimate relationship with a new partner. You must disengage from your ex to free yourself up mentally, emotionally and physically for a new partner.
If you have children with your ex, you will continue to be in a relationship for many years as co-parents. This means you probably can’t just cut all ties and never talk again. Boundaries allow for the right amount of sharing and connectedness.You are divorced because you didn’t want to be in the relationship with the EX- not to continue it alongside your new life. PERIOD. Finito!
On the other hand, when children are involved, if boundaries are too rigid you are closed off and disconnected. In this way, setting healthy boundaries allows you to protect yourself from harm and allows you to connect and form respectful satisfying relationships.
Boundaries with your ex need to be different than boundaries when you were in an intimate relationship with this person. Generally, you need to put more space between yourself and your ex. Your ex no longer needs to know about most aspects of your life. Those who claim to continue to be good friends are kidding themselves. If you couldn’t get along in a marriage - what makes you think geography will correct your issues?
Poor boundaries with an ex might look like:
Allowing your ex to go through your mail, email, or phone. Change the password to everything. You are divorced. Fixing the leaky faucet, mowing the lawn, etc. Angie’s List. You are divorced. Having sex with your ex. Inappropriate, low self esteem. You are divorced.
Lending money when you’re struggling to pay your own bills. You are not a bank. You are divorced.
Looking at your ex’s social media posts and photos. Bad habit, break it now. You are divorced.
Allowing your ex to use a key and enter into your home. YIKES!!! You are divorced. Find a friend to hold a key.
Expecting your ex to cheer you up when you have a bad day Grow up. You are divorced.
Trying to get EX to go to counseling or rehab. You are no longer in charge of any portion of your Ex’s life. You are divorced. The past cannot be corrected.
Often feeling upset after contact. You are being manipulated. You are divorced.
You might be thinking this seems really harsh. I still care about my ex. You can absolutely continue to care about an EX without taking on the responsibility for solving problems, expecting emotional support, or feeling of invading your personal space.
Boundaries give you choices. I had a client who was divorced but still allowing the EX to show up unannounced, look through the refrigerator and comment on what their children were being fed. Talk about anger, manipulation and abuse of boundaries.
If you are a “nice guy or gal” you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. You are sensitive and empathetic, which is awesome. But nice guys and gals tend to be people pleasers and sacrifice their own happiness or well being for others. STOP. Remember DIVORCE indicates - you didn’t like or grow in the relationship when you were in it. You are DIVORCED.
If you find yourself doing the following, STOP:
Allow others to take advantage of a kindness
Feel guilty when your EX takes care of themselves
Find it hard to say no
Do things out of obligation
Stay in unsatisfying relationships or situations
As you begin making changes, your stress and anxiety level will increase. This is normal, but it will not last. As you get used to behaving differently, your anxiety will decrease.
Make a list of the reasons you need to tighten up your boundaries.
Politely and calmly state your position. This is simply being assertive.
Detach yourself from your ex’s response. It is OK if they are angry, sad, or resistant. You aren’t responsible for their feelings.
Be firm. Restate your position if needed.
If you are feeling badly about yourself, challenge your negative thoughts.
Seek support from a Coach or therapist.
Reward yourself for working toward positive change.
Setting boundaries with your EX is an important piece of forming a new relationship. It may be challenging, and you will be teaching your children and the new person in your life how to behave in a healthy relationship, instead of the one you left.