Setting Boundaries with Your Ex
During divorce, you will make numerous decisions that will impact your life in the future. This process can be emotional and, at times, even chaotic. Completing essential tasks during the case can help create a sense of finality and order. Making all of the necessary choices to legally end your marriage is one aspect of divorce. Another is deciding how your relationship with your ex will look after everything is said and done. Signing divorce papers doesn’t always mean your ex will automatically be out of your life. If you share custody of minor children, contact is inevitable. Likewise, having mutual friends and loved ones may mean seeing or at least hearing about your ex after the case is over. Therefore, depending on your circumstances, you may not be able to completely cut ties with your ex post-divorce. However, you do have some control over how much involvement your former spouse will have with your life going forward. The first step to creating a functional dynamic may require setting boundaries with your ex.
Going from Being Married to Ex-Spouses
Divorce can be a hectic time when most of your attention and energy is spent completing legal tasks and negotiating terms with your ex. This unfamiliar process can be consuming. Sometimes, those involved may be so caught up in getting through the case that they can’t fully process the idea of becoming ex-spouses.
Your identity as someone’s spouse can permeate almost every aspect of your life. After your divorce, everything from the way you complete medical forms to how your holiday greeting cards look will be different. Even with these ongoing reminders, mentally adjusting from being married to being an ex-spouse may not happen right away. Be patient with yourself as you adapt to the recent changes in your life and seek support from loved ones as needed. You may also benefit from talking with a therapist or meeting with a support group during this transition. Getting used to being on your own can take time. Having a clear sense of your new identity and circumstances can help you determine the boundaries you need to have in place regarding your ex.
Setting Boundaries for Yourself
Establishing your own boundaries is an integral part of moving on after divorce. At one time, you were building a life with your ex. However, now you are creating an existence that is separate and distinct from the one you once shared with your former spouse. Although you may need to interact with your ex sometimes regarding your children or for other limited purposes, your connection with them is no longer a primary focus. The relationship you are putting your energy into now is with yourself. Your new reality needs to be about you and how you are going to move into the future. By setting limits with your ex, you are creating a space that can allow for your own growth. The good news is that you have control over deciding the boundaries you will have in place concerning your ex.
For some, the transition to living independently after divorce can be difficult. However, part of setting boundaries may mean having to release old concepts and expectations regarding your ex. For instance, if you and your ex are on good terms, and they used to handle household repairs and vehicle maintenance, it may seem natural to contact them for assistance with these types of issues. Likewise, you may see your relationship as amicable and want to call just to talk with your ex. Every situation is unique, and it may be that your ex is okay completing the occasional task or having a social call. However, doing things like asking them to assist with a repair or to socialize can send a message that you are unable or unwilling to move on. These actions may also ensure that your ex has an ongoing presence in your life.
Part of moving on may need to involve taking definitive steps to live your life independently and have less contact with your ex. Although it may seem strange at first, finding maintenance and repair alternatives and socializing with friends and loved ones instead of your former spouse may help you create the necessary distance you need to heal and transition into this new phase of your life.
Setting Boundaries with Your Ex
If your ex is not maintaining boundaries, you may have to be the one to set limits. Reinforcing how you want your ex to interact with you can set the tone for the future. Doing things like telling them not to drop by unannounced or not to call you unnecessarily may be a good start. If they continue these or other invasive behaviors, be consistent and maintain your boundaries. Having boundaries with your ex can also be helpful if you decide to pursue a new romantic relationship. A new relationship has a better chance of success when it is evident that an ex is no longer occupying space that should be devoted to your romantic partner.
Some boundary violations may be such that they are contrary to your divorce terms. For instance, your ex may be failing to abide by custodial or placement conditions or comply with a property division issue. If your ex’s actions are so extreme as to interfere with your parenting plan or property division, you should contact a Wisconsin family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Communicating When Possible
Depending on your situation, it may be that establishing boundaries with your ex is a matter of communicating your expectations with one another up front. If you are on good terms and can agree upon how you will interact post-divorce, it can be beneficial for both parties. However, if this kind of conversation is unrealistic or untenable, it may be up to you to set the ground rules. You may want to work with a family or individual therapist to assist you in creating a functional and healthy dynamic going forward.
Consult with an Experienced Wisconsin Family Law Attorney
Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping clients assess their situations and consider their options during and after divorce. She understands the complexities of post-divorce dynamics and can help you identify the best solutions for your circumstances. Come in, and let us take a “first look” at your situation so you can figure out your next steps. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.