Setting Boundaries for A Better Divorce

Jan 21, 2022

When two people decide to leave a marriage behind, a healthy transition includes a conversation about setting appropriate boundaries. Each relationship is different, so it’s really up to you to determine the boundaries that will work best for the future.

When there are no children of a marriage, there is an underlying question about what, if any, relationship you will have with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. In some marriages, a friendship will endure even though the marriage didn’t work. The future boundaries of these relationships can often mirror those that you would have with a close friend. On the other hand, some childless spouses decide that the pain experienced during the relationship requires a firewall that will result in little or no future contact.

When there are children of a marriage, whether younger children or adults, future interactions will most likely be the rule and not the exception. Not only will you experience the intertwining of your futures, but your children will also observe how you each navigate with the other.

As you keep your children in the center of your lives after divorce, the way in which you communicate with your ex has as great an impact on your children’s adjustment as it does on yours.

As you are thinking about what boundaries to set in your future relationship as ex-spouses, I offer the following for your consideration:

1. A divorce is a conscious act to lead separate lives. As much as you may think your ex is making a poor choice in her/his personal life, it is now that one’s choice to make, just as you get to make your own choices in your personal life.
2. On a related note, as you decide to go your separate ways, remember that your ex needs to be able to speak for her- or himself, just as you most likely want to have this same freedom, so you can both speak and own your own truth. Telling the other person what they are supposedly thinking is a trigger for conflict.
3. The timing of a physical separation (living in separate residences) will vary. If you are planning to live under the same roof as your divorce process unfolds, planning for personal space for each of you is important.
4. As you keep your children in the center of your lives after divorce, the way in which you communicate with your ex has as great an impact on your children’s adjustment as it does on yours. What form of communication is best (text, email, phone)? When is the best time to communicate with each other about your children? When should you NOT discuss parenting matters? (Hint: talking about parenting in front of your children is usually a bad idea.)
5. If you are both attending events involving your children, are there any ground rules that are needed so you can both feel comfortable and be able to enjoy the experience of seeing your children perform, participate in sports, etc.? This is especially relevant when you or your ex has a significant other who may also be present.
6. Divorce is difficult. What other boundaries do you need and what boundaries does your ex need from you, so you can both heal and grow into your next chapter?

By establishing boundaries that you both honor and respect, you are taking steps toward a healthier and happier future.