I was raised in a conservative Christian home. I’m thankful for parents who taught me strong Biblical principles on how to live. I stand by those beliefs and raise my children on Biblical standards. However, we must consider whether “turning the other cheek” is the best action when we’re confronted with dysfunctional situations, particularly if young children are at stake. Determining how to set and maintain healthy boundaries for me and my children has been an ongoing process.
During the separation period with my husband and shortly following my divorce, I attended Al-Anon meetings (support for families of alcoholics) regularly. I learned how to take care of myself and my two girls without sacrificing their relationship with their father. I set guidelines that I shared with my ex regarding my expectations when the girls were with him and consequences if his irresponsible behavior (drinking, unhealthy choices, etc.) showed up during visitation periods. I had no guarantee that he would follow my requests, but since they were in writing, I knew I could use them in a court of law if I needed to.
When my oldest daughter reported instances of her and her sister being left alone while in his care (at 3 and 5 years old), or told to walk to the store without him, I knew I couldn’t trust his parental judgment. I pursued supervised visitation with him to protect my girls until they got older. Boundary setting with my ex-husband became a way of life for me.
When we learn to set healthy boundaries with our ex-spouse, we are less likely to have ongoing anger issues with him/her. If we don’t allow him/her to violate our “property lines” (see earlier post on boundaries), we have the freedom to develop an amicable relationship with him/her.
Boundary setting should not be malicious or revengeful. It’s not meant to alienate our ex-spouse, but rather co-parent with him/her in a way that provides respect and stability for each party involved.
Every situation is different. If your ex-spouse is mentally and emotionally healthy, there may be little need for boundary setting. But if you’re dealing with a dysfunctional relationship, learning how to set healthy boundaries and stick to them becomes mandatory.
“Today I have the courage and faith to be true to myself, whether or not others like or agree with me. Knowing my boundaries does not mean forcing others to change; it means that I know my own limits and take care of myself by respecting them.” Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon
Do you need to consider healthy boundary-setting with your ex-spouse?
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