Creating Boundaries in your Divorce


date published

26th June 2016

written by

Emma Heptonstall Image

date published

26th June 2016

Creating Boundaries in your Divorce

Creating boundaries in your divorce, might seem like an obvious step. But let me ask you this, have you taken it yet? In reality, creating boundaries in your divorce can actually be quite tricky, and its probably why you haven’t quite managed to do it yet. You see creating boundaries in your divorce means doing things differently. It means taking a stand. It means you’re ‘putting out there’ a new way of being. This can be a struggle at first because you have to re-wire your brain so that you can create a pattern of consistent new behaviour. You also have to deal with the fall out of the confusion of others around this, particularly your husband. It may also include his family and your friends too. 

So what kind of boundaries do you need to put in place? Well, there’s no hard and fast rules on this, and much will depend on your individual circumstances, how your relationship was prior to separation, and where you’re living will also be factors. Here are a few to consider, there will be plenty more. Feel free to share them with me, and let’s support other ladies just like you in creating some healthy boundaries.

On deciding to separate

On deciding to separate, it’s important that you consider some immediate boundaries. The benefits of boundaries are:

  • They keep you safe emotionally (and possibly physically too).
  • They give you clarity.
  • They give other people clarity about what’s acceptable or not.
  • They support your children to understand that even though you both love them, things are different between you and their father.
  • They keep you focused.
  • They allow the healing process to take place.
  • They will save you time and money.

The sooner you put boundaries in place, the sooner you will be able to begin to move forward, doing the practical steps you need to do to end the marriage and also to move forward emotionally.

Moving out of the marital bed

Have you moved out of his bed yet? I’m not being nosy,it’s just that this is a big one that often gets overlooked. If you are still in your husband’s bed, you’re not the only lady in this situation, believe me. Most of my clients, when they start working with me, tell me they are leaving, that their husband knows they are having these thoughts and yet, they still get into bed with him each night. Here’s why this isn’t creating the boundaries that you need:

Firstly, the marital bed holds so many memories. Some won’t be happy memories. You may have laid there next to your husband feeling totally isolated and alone. It’s actually more difficult to be with someone who you’re not connected to than to be alone isn’t it? If you haven’t experienced that, you may. Other memories will be of happier times. Of closeness, intimacy and love making. Your children may have been conceived and even born in that bed. By staying in there, you are giving yourself and your husband mixed messages. Even if ultimately, you envisage staying in the house on your divorce, moving out of the bedroom is within your control at this time. If your husband is struggling to come to terms with the end of your relationship, allow him that space to grieve. It may well be where he feels safest. If you choose to use that room as yours once you no longer live together, redecorate it, get new bedding. If you can, move the furniture round so that it becomes ‘mine’ rather than ‘ours’.

Moving out of the marital bed is vital once you’ve told your children. They need to be able to see the beginning of physical separation, even though you and your husband may continue to share the house for some time. Allowing the children to see this, supports them in the transition you are all going through.

Keys to the family home

If there’s one issue that pushes buttons when I’m coaching ladies who leave, it’s the issue of keys to the family home, and keys to your new home. Ladies will often remark that they ‘don’t want him coming round whenever he feels like it’. My response is always this “so you accept that you can’t just turn up at his house when you feel like it?’ This is often met with silence. Hmm. You see psychologically, that ‘house’ is still theirs. They may currently be the legal joint owner of that place, but it’s more about the feelings that that house is still their ‘home’. It’s painful recognising that it is not. The thought of this is often something that gets overlooked, so I invite you to consider that as soon as you are certain that you will leave. Doing this helps you to begin to detach from that space emotionally. It’s often more difficult than you might imagine. 

Freedom to do what you want

Is freedom to do what you want a boundary issue? In my opinion yes it is. When you’ve been in a long term relationship, you’ve probably got used to running past ideas with your husband. You might have even got to the place where you stopped doing things because you got feedback from him that it wasn’t ok, or he wasn’t around to look after the children. You just stopped doing the stuff you loved. Now you don’t have to ask his opinion. His opinion is irrelevant., unless it has a direct impact on the health and well-being of the children. It can take time to get used to that and it may feel really weird. The boundary is that you don’t have to share that information unless you want to. If he asks you, remember whether you share the information is your choice. 

Asking for support without justification

Another area that it’s useful to create boundaries around is asking for support without justification. A particular case in point is around child care. I often work with couples in family mediation who discuss child care arrangements. Parents discuss and make plans for the children on a weekly or monthly basis. When a parent comes and asks the other parent to ‘swap’ a night or weekend because of plans they have, often a parent will want to know what the event is, and will only agree to the swap if they agree with the event. For example, a parent may want a weekend to go and visit a sick parent and the other parent may agree to the ‘swap’ on that basis. However, if the parent wanted the ‘swap’ because they have been invited to a friend’s hen or stag weekend, the other parent disapproves and refuses.This is a form of control.

As difficult as it is, once you are separated, you don’t get to judge what the other parent does unless it is damaging to your children. If a swap is asked for, you are either willing and available that weekend or you’re not. The boundary issue here is important. Neither of you will move on if you attempt to exert control upon the other. This of course cuts both ways. Is it easy? No. its not always easy. It can take practice, a lot of practice. However, by creating the boundary that you don’t need to justify what you do, both of you will move forward in trusting each other. It’s likely your communication will improve and both you and your children will be happier.

The opinions of others

As well as the opinion of your husband, there are are also the opinions of others to consider. When friends and family wanted to add their thoughts into the mix whether you asked for it or not! Mostly, you will find these comments well meaning, but not always helpful. What if you have a friend or family member who disapproves of your decision? It happens. Well, when this happens, thank the person for their concern and politely ask them not to comment further. You do not have to accept their views even when it’s a parent. Consider asking that person whether, notwithstanding that they disagree with you, are they willing and able to support your decision. (It’s possible to support a decision you disagree with). It they don’t feel able to support that decision, you get to decide how much time you want to spend around them at this time. Be mindful of who you share with and who you don’t. You don’t have to tell everyone. Share with those who will support you, those who will listen and be there for you. This is your divorce, you and your husband get to do it your way. 

I’m Emma The Divorce Alchemist. I support Ladies who Leave to make smart emotional and financial decisions on divorce. If you don’t have your copy yet, you can download The Smart Woman’s Divorce Guide by completing the box below. Please note, by signing up, you will receive a series of 7 emails over 28 days to accompany the Guide. You will also receive an email from me each Wednesday morning UK time with hints, tips and advice. I sometimes promote my coaching packages too – I’m sure you understand that this is my business :). You may unsubscribe at anytime.

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