Setting Healthy Boundaries
Breaking Unhealthy Patterns from the Past
Let me interject something here.... If you have moved on to a new relationship or a new marriage, and are now a non-custodial family dealing with a former spouse, you have hopefully come to the realization that you no longer ‘love’ your former spouse. You are, after all, divorced. Keep these simple things in mind: The opposite of love is not hate, or even friendship. The opposite of love is indifference. Friendships can waiver from day to day, hour to hour, and even minute to minute, based on the emotional state of those involved. This is far too unstable a situation in which to dictate the future and current fulfillment of a child’s needs - especially when the parents are no longer under the same roof.
The goal here is for both parents to be in a healthy, businesslike relationship, making their business that of bringing up happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids who have the opportunity to fully know and love each parent individually. It is not to harbor resentment, to foster defensive behavior or to intentionally, as my husband puts it, "make waves." However, make no mistake, as you go through the process of emotional divorce with your former spouse, which some of the tools in my book Striving for Peace: Managing Conflict in Non-Custodial Homes will help you accomplish, there will be "waves."
Breaking old patterns of behavior is never easy, especially if you are the one clinging to the old behavior, and it wasn’t your idea to change! I liken this to quitting smoking. It isn’t easy, it takes a lot of willpower and it makes you cranky for a relatively short period of time. However, it is unquestionably better for everyone involved in the long run.
So HOW do we break those old patterns of behavior? By setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Yes - you have to set up personal boundaries for yourself and your new marriage to avoid confrontation and to complete the emotional divorce. Basically - you and your partner sit down with a notepad and paper and just start making a list of things you can and cannot accept in relation to dealings w/ the former spouse. Examples would be:
- Phone calls/e-mails/contact is to be strictly limited to issues regarding the children. No chit-chat - stick to the issues.
- Your private life is not to be discussed with the former spouse. It is, after all, private.
- Create a "Communication Book" - a plain ol' notebook that stays in the child's overnight bag for parents to exchange information. Avoids verbal confrontation at drop-offs/pick-ups altogether.
When considering which boundaries you and your spouse should adopt to find peace in your home and life, consider these, my Ten Laws of Non-Custodial Boundaries....home
Reproduced with permission by Nicole Weyant, copyright ©2001 Weyant Press