Divorce brings many changes and one of them is a set of new boundaries. What was once okay may seem intrusive after a couple has separated.
The key is to determine what feels right and what is uncomfortable.
The Importance of Setting Boundaries During Divorce:
When married, a man and woman may have called each other during the day. This can be too much contact, so texting on a need-to-know basis is an appropriate boundary during divorce. In an acrimonious divorce, direct contact may be intimidating for either spouse. A way to protect boundaries in this situation is to have all communication go to a neutral third party.
This way, spouses feel safe from being the target of vindictiveness. Our two collaborative lawyers assigned a mediator right at the beginning to do this service for us during my divorce. If you feel boundaries are being trampled upon during the proceedings, speak to your attorney about how changes can be made.
Setting Boundaries With Personal Obligations:
The divorce process itself is stressful even when it is amicable. One feels stretched in many directions. This is the time to start saying “No” to taking on new things. Look at current obligations and decide which ones could be dropped. Although clubs, committees, and volunteer work are rewarding, they can eat up precious time and drain energy.
Focus on what you really enjoy doing and let the others go. Be firm with boundaries when others try to stop you from resigning or demand that you sign up for new projects. Draw up a plan for what you have time for and which ones do not make the cut. This can be temporary and once the divorce is over, some of these activities can be added back into your agenda.
On a personal level, you have the right to start declining requests to help out neighbors, family, and friends. If you give a co-worker rides, babysit for a pal or do other kind acts, this is the time to pull back. Your first responsibility is to yourself and your children. Being frazzled helps no one.
When people do not support your new boundaries, stay firm. For example, during a divorce, if it is no longer feasible to take Grandma out every week, do not let family members guilt trip you about it. Stand your ground when being unable to continue routines.
Setting Boundaries With Access to the Marital Home:
A sticky issue with boundaries comes up during proceedings regarding the marital home. Technically both spouses are co-owners. Establish guidelines regarding how the spouse that moved out has access, especially when their possessions are still inside. In the midst of a divorce, one woman’s husband kept popping up in the kitchen getting cereal for their daughters.
He meant well, however it startled her. She felt this violated her privacy. Arrangements were made that he would take the girls to school several mornings a week, meeting them outside on the driveway.
Setting Boundaries With Friends and Family:
One can get bombarded with advice from friends regarding divorce, so feel free to set limits. Explain that you are enjoying yourself and do not want to ruin it by having to think about proceedings. A way to enforce your boundaries is by saying “I appreciate your concern, but I am in good hands with my attorney” and then change the subject.
One of my friends did not get my too subtle attempts to divert the conversation away from my divorce. My young son went with us for pizza a few times and said “Pat, knock it off about divorce. We don’t want to talk about it.” One may have to be very direct.
Do not be afraid of hurting people’s feelings when they are nosy about what is happening in your divorce. It is your business not theirs. Set your privacy boundaries about how much you are willing to share, just as you do for your social media accounts. When my boundaries were not respected, divorce helped me to realize who were the really important people in my life.