Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

In my post last week on boundaries, I said I would post about creating healthy boundaries with your ex-spouse. So I’m re-posting from a previous blog post that gives some examples of what healthy boundaries look like. These boundaries may not be applicable for you if the relationship with your ex is amicable. But for those dealing with a difficult ex-spouse, I hope these are helpful. Many of them apply to my own personal situation. (I’m using “he” for simplicity in each example).

1. Discuss only issues relating to the children with your ex-spouse. If he diverts the conversation to past events or other personal matters, steer it back toward matters of the children.

2. Use e-mail and texting if face to face discussions or personal phone calls are confrontational. Do not argue in front of the children.

3. Keep your meeting places public when possible. If you’re swapping children from your home and expect conflict, don’t allow your ex-spouse to come into your home.

4. Make sure your ex-spouse is clear on your expectations. Put it in writing and provide support for what you’re asking, if needed. For example, when my stepson was younger, he suffered terribly with allergies. I took him for allergy testing and it was determined he was allergic to cigarette smoke but we knew my husband’s ex-wife and her husband smoked around him constantly. We provided a prescription note from the doctor that requested there be no smoking around my stepson.

5. Don’t allow verbal abuse of any kind – toward you or the children. If the conversation gets emotionally charged, tell your ex-spouse you will hang up unless the matter can be discussed calmly.

6. Separate issues of child support and visitation. If your ex-spouse is late or delinquent on child support, don’t deny visitation. However, follow through with the court process regarding current payments.

7. Learn to recognize manipulative behavior and don’t allow it to influence your relationship with your ex.

Boundaries can be set and then adjusted, as necessary, in your relationship  They give you the freedom to allow healthy interaction without fear of being taken advantange of or manipulated. But it is our responsibility to set boundaries that work for us without alienating our ex spouse in the process.

What boundaries do you set with your ex-spouse? Leave a comment if you’re willing to share your success with others.

Related posts:

Setting Boundaries with an Ex-Spouse

Your Ex Spouse and Boundaries: Part Two

How to Co-Parent Successfully with your Ex 

Recognizing the Need for Boundaries with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

When I married my husband, Randy, I told him my ex-husband would not be a problem because he would eventually drop out of our lives. He had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for years and although he was a medical doctor, he was a most unstable person.

However, I was wrong.

Sixteen years later, Randy and I converse regularly about how to cope with the tension my ex-husband creates. His interaction with my daughters frequently results in confusion and anger for the girls. 
 I have spent hours on the phone with my ex-husband, trying to explain how his behavior alienates his children from him, creating a wall of divide that will probably never come down. 
Despite every effort to have a healthy relationship with him, I have concluded that we simply cannot maintain a mature, thriving relationship. And in order to protect myself from an emotional entanglement, it’s necessary to  set appropriate boundaries regularly. 
Now I’m not suggesting this is the case with every ex-spouse. I know many divorced parents who maintain an amicable relationship and successfully co-parent their children together. I strongly encourage healthy interaction with your ex-spouse. But I know from experience, that isn’t always possible.
So, how do you create healthy boundaries with a difficult ex-spouse? I’ll tackle that in my next post but first, I want to explain what boundaries look like.
In their book, Boundaries (which I highly recommend), Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, define a boundary as, “a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsbile. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are  not.” 
Here are some examples from the book:
“Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.
Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions.
Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.”
Boundaries give us the freedom to create and maintain healthy relationships with others without losing ourselves in the process.
Christians are especially vulnerable to living without appropriate boundaries as we seek to demonstrate unselfish, unconditional love toward others. But Christ doesn’t ask us to become doormats or spineless creatures in the process.
We are created to be in constant fellowship with Him, and that cannot occur if we’re wallowing in self-pity or exploding in anger because of our lack of boundaries with those around us.
Does that make sense? Can you recognize the need for boundaries if you’re dealing with a difficult ex-spouse?
Related Posts:

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

Tears began falling down my cheeks the moment the realtor left our house. I wasn’t prepared for her insensitive comments about the home our family had enjoyed for eleven years. “It won’t sell with wallpaper on the walls. I prefer only neutral colors in all rooms. Your family pictures must come down. The price will be discounted since the master bedroom is upstairs. The light fixtures are dated and must be changed out. You should consider moving your furniture around in some of these rooms.”

Geeeez. I knew our home wasn’t perfect but we shared a lot of love and laughter there, making it a special place for our family. Life with a bunch of kids didn’t allow for the time, energy, and money necessary to keep a home perfectly updated. But we were happy in our family-oriented, slightly-dated home.

So why was my spirit deflated? Rejection. The feeling was all too familiar. I had felt it many times as a stepparent. And now I was feeling it from a realtor. All she could see were the negative aspects that would keep our home from selling. She didn’t consider the sprawling front porch, the well-established neigborhood with beautiful trees, or the central location to anywhere in town. She rejected any notion of positive features of our home.

Have you felt that before as a stepparent? Your stepchildren don’t recognize the meals you cook for them every night, the laundry that gets washed every week, or the endless carpool trips to school, ballgames, and friend’s houses.

Instead they focus on the evening you lost your temper after a long day at work, the extra kids that came when you married their dad, or the uncomforable feeling that’s created when they begin to care about you like they do their biological parent. It’s easier to reject you than deal with the inner turmoil of accepting you into their life.

So, how do we deal with rejection as a stepparent? How do I come to terms with the rejection I felt from the realtor? Here are a few things I’ve done to help me cope:

1. Focus on what I can change, and let go of everything else. I can’t change the fact that our master bedroom is upstairs, but I can hire someone to strip the wallpaper and put on a fresh coat of paint. As a stepparent, you can’t change the circumstances if you brought children of your own into your marriage. But you can work hard to love your stepchildren with Christ’s love and accept them for who they are.

2. Realize that Christ loves me every day, regardless of whether my stepchildren accept me or whether the realtor approves of my house. Affirm my positive qualities in the midst of criticism. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph 3:18).

3. Unite with my spouse to overcome feelings of rejection from my stepchildren or hurtful comments sent my way. Find solace in a loving, comforting relationship that can only be shared with a mate.

Other ideas? How do you cope with rejection?

Can you look past the pain of rejection and see the beautiful person God created in you?

Related Posts:

Learning to Cope with Rejection

The Sting of Angry Words

When Do You Seek Custody of a Stepchild?

clker.com

I have a dear friend who had a gut feeling that her stepchild was being mistreated by his mother’s boyfriend. Her stepson had made several comments about happenings at his mom’s house that were concerning. So, she and her husband hired a private investigator to find out about the mom’s boyfriend.

The results were alarming. The PI uncovered several assault charges, a DUI charge, and other charges that had been filed within the previous six-month period on the boyfriend. It was enough evidence that my friend and her husband chose to seek custody of the 10-year-old boy. I think it was a wise choice.

The court hearing resulted in temporary custody for the dad and stepmom for four months while all parties participate in counseling and after that point, it will be determined where they boy should reside long-term. Although my friend has a new baby and custody of her stepson will disrupt her entire household, she has chosen the high road of doing what’s right for her stepson.

I applaud stepparents who selflessly choose to care for their stepchildren, even when it inconveniences their lives. As a stepparent, we might enter marriage with part-time custody of our stepchildren and prefer the arrangement remain that way. But stepfamily life tends to take twisted turns when we least expect them. 

Stepmothers, in particular, have a natural bent toward nurturing that allows us to recognize when things aren’t quite right with our stepchildren. I believe it’s our responsibility to act on those gut feelings and get to the bottom of what we’re concerned about. Our stepchildren deserve to be raised in a stable, healthy home and if they are being mistreated or neglected in their custodial home, we must take action to change their environment.

When we marry our spouse and choose to take on the responsibilites of a stepparent, we say, “I do — for better or for worse.” There are many times on the stepparenting journey that the circumstances get worse before they get better.

Assuming custody of stepchildren who have previously lived in another home is never easy. But it’s not right to allow our stepchildren to remain in a home that we know is not best for them. It may be that temporary custody is all that’s needed to change the other home, but it won’t happen until we step out with faith and courage.   

Are your stepchildren at risk in their custodial home? Is it time to do something different about custody arrangements?

Related Posts:

When a Stepchild Changes Residence

Coping with Change

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

Coping with Difficult People

Angry. Humiliated. Disgruntled. I left our church choir rehearsal with a flood of emotions circulating through my mind. As a piano accompanist, I had been belittled in front of the choir. It wasn’t the first time it had happened but I vowed it would be the last.

I knew it was time to confront the person in charge who touted his musical knowledge in a fashion that humiliated those who worked for him. A peacemaker by nature, I don’t like conflict. But I’ve learned there are times we must confront those in our path who are mistreating us.

That doesn’t mean we recreate the conflict or nitpick issues that should be overlooked. As a stepparent, we can recognize the losses our stepchildren carry, and allow grace for their troubled emotions. As my post, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff talks about, we want to pick our battles. But it’s important to realize that even as Christians, we do not have to allow others to mistreat or take advantage of  us.

In their book, Peacemaking Women, Tara Barthel and Judy Dabler talk about the need to confront. “As difficult as it is, sometimes we are called to go humbly to the people who have wronged us in order to help them to understand better how they have contributed to our conflicts. Of course, when appropriate, we should be quick to overlook (Prov 19:11), and we must always first confess our own sins (Matt 7:5). But if after we have confessed our own sins we cannot overlook the offense, we are called to help the person who has offended us by gently restoring her (Gal 6:1) and helping her remove the speck from her eye (Matt 7:5).

I like the way these ladies describe our responsbility in the conflict – try to overlook and confess our own sin first if that’s part of the conflict. Then, if we cannot overlook the offense, humbly confront. The Scripture they give offers additional understanding of the Biblical view on conflict.

In my conflict mentioned above, the choir director and I reached an amicable agreement in how he would treat me at rehearsal. It took courage on my part to confront his actions, but the result was worth the effort.

I pray you’re not dealing with difficult people today. But if you are, I encourage you to seek a Biblical solution to the conflict by overlooking the offense when you can, and confronting in love when you can’t.

Are you allowing a difficult person to badger or bully you? 

Making Time for What Matters

Making Time for What Matters in Your Stepfamily

Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Francis Chan

I’ve always admired Tony Dungy. As head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he was the first African American coach to achieve a Super Bowl victory. The 2007 win put him in an elite echelon of only three individuals who have won the Super Bowl as a player and head coach.

But those accomplishments aren’t what make Coach Dungy stand out from his peers. It’s his passionate desire to walk a path of significance characterized by uncommon attitudes, ambitions, and allegiances. He knows how to distinguish the important from the unimportant and fashion his time after what matters.

In his book, Uncommon, Finding Your Path to Significance, Coach Dungy says, “We have all missed too many memories and moments in our lives because of poorly ordered priorities. But even so, it’s never too late to set things straight … Start here: ‘Seek first his kingdom.’ (Matthew 6:33). Take a few moments to be quiet and spend time with God. He will lessen your worries about tomorrow and release you from the breathless pace of the world’s urgent priorities.”

Time spent on what matters most will look different to each of us. But if we aren’t intentional with our time, we find ourselves on the treadmill of busyness, focused on the urgency of the present, instead of the lasting permanence of significant moments.

Stepparenting is a time-consuming endeavor if we take it seriously. But, I believe it’s an important role and one worth making time for. Do you agree?

How do you spend your time? Are you making time for what matters?

Related Posts:

Making Your Re-Marriage Work: Embrace Flexibility

Setting Boundaries as a Stepparent