Have you ever exited the freeway onto a wide-open city street and had a hard time getting down to the speed limit? That strange feeling of deceleration just doesn’t feel right after cruising along at a nice clip. But once you exit the highway, the rules change.
After divorce, there’s often a similar sensation. You go from a relationship that didn’t have many boundaries—for good and for bad—to, suddenly, a relationship of polite distance. Well, hopefully polite distance.
As human beings we can often be very aware of others infringing on our space and happily oblivious of when we do it to others. But in a divorce with children, it’s imperative that you not just recognize the other parent’s boundaries, but that you respect them without complaint (at least in front of the children). That’s because your child is always watching for cues from you. And if you don’t respect your ex’s boundaries, that lesson is being heard loud and clear by your child.
I recently sat down with Dr. Jeremy Gaies to discuss collaborative divorce and its effects on children. Dr. Gaies is a clinical psychologist, family mediator, and author of two books, A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce and the co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce. He describes the six steps to mindful co-parenting. This month we’ve been examining mindful co-parenting. Part of that is maintaining boundaries with your ex.
Setting Your Own Boundaries After Divorce
Setting boundaries is critical to a successful post-divorce relationship. This is important in big, emotional and financial issues (like intimacy, investments and personal space) but also in day-to-day transactions, such as text messages, phone calls or unannounced visits. You have every right to know who will be showing up to an afterschool soccer game or school play.
Setting boundaries also communicates a message to your ex: “negotiations are over.” This is key to being able to turn the page and start a new life.
Respecting Others’ Boundaries After Divorce
Drawing boundaries and limits around your own interests can be easy. It’s important to remember that you have to respect your ex’s boundaries, too. Yes, it’s a two-way street. Certain day-to-day activities are simply going to be left to the parent who is there. That means that what stands in your house may not stand in the other parent’s. They may have different ideas about dinnertime, words that are acceptable in the house, screen time or even curfew. Now that you’re no longer married, you are not expected to be in lock step with your ex. And the same goes for your ex. They no longer get to comment on the minutia of your parenting.
They say fences make great neighbors. Let’s add “boundaries make great exes.”
Read the whole series about Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce:
- Mindful Co-Parenting: An Introduction
- Key One of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Putting the Children First
- Key Two of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Focusing Forward
- Key Three of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Communicating Effectively
- Key Four of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Honoring Agreements
- Key Six of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Managing Emotions
- Mindful Co-Parenting with Dr. Gaies: A Recap