In therapy there is often talk about boundaries. Have you ever wondered what does that mean exactly? It is difficult to understand at times especially when it comes to divorce and children. Often times the parents of the children have to co-parent while living apart, having different values, lifestyles, and relationships. Many divorced parents are confused about where the boundary is when it comes to the relationship they have with the ex-partner.
The boundary is not always clear, and sometimes it needs to be created. Understanding what a boundary is comes first. A boundary is when a person sets a limit on someone else’s behavior. These limits teach others what behaviors are acceptable to you and which are not. www.guidetopsychology.com/boundaries.htm In many cases the boundary during a marriage changes when the couple becomes divorced. The relationship has now changed and so must the boundary. If the boundary is not clarified after the divorce crossing boundaries happens often. An example of crossing a boundary between divorced co-parents is discussing romantic relationships with other people. This happens so often because many times one half of the couple did not want the divorce. This person wants to know when the other parent goes on dates, who spends the night, and who is babysitting the children. They often use the phrase “I need to know it is my child too.” This is an unacceptable boundary crossing. Even as ½ of a co-parent situation this information is unnecessary. Co-parents means exactly that while the child is in the other parent’s home it is none of the other parents business.
Another troublesome boundary crossing is when the co-parents had a friendship before the marriage. This friendship continues after the marriage into the divorce. This makes the boundary setting even more confusing. The same concept applies as above. The friendship boundary changed when the couple became married. Their bond would have deepened through intimacy. The boundary became a marriage boundary. It did not stay a friendship boundary. Once it became a marriage there is no going back to the friendship boundary. Once the marriage is over the couple have to develop a new boundary with each other. This means developing intimacy in other relationships. It might be easier to think of intimacy as an investment. When you are in an intimate relationship, you are invested in the relationship. Once the divorce happens it is time to invest in other relationships. Many couples struggle with the idea of severing the friendship with the co-parent for various reasons. The reality is that investing in something in the past does not improve the future. This investment can take away from the current relationships. It takes attention, time, and intimacy from the current relationship.
The clearest way to create a boundary in a co-parenting relationship is keeping the focus on the children. If during the day the co-parents sends texts, or calls to see how you day is that is crossing a boundary. It is not about the children. When the co-parent receives random pictures of the sky, animals, trees it is boundary crossing. Yes, the picture is beautiful. Yes, the kids might like it. However, the kids can see it when they come back to the other parents. Keeping in mind when interacting with the co-parent how does this apply to my children? This can keep the boundary crossing to a minimum.
Creating boundaries can be difficult, but consider your energy as money. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201304/if-you-set-boundary-expect-deal-anger
Where would you make your investment? Would you spend your money on a project that does not meet your expectations or would you spend your money on a new project with potential?