I am a big proponent of trying to keep friends out of divorce court. I am a believer in staying married, especially if you still have kids at home. One of my friends is struggling in his marriage. In our sessions, we are reading together, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s book, “Boundaries in Marriage.” In addition to being a great marriage book, I also think it applies appropriately to setting boundaries in dealing with your Ex. Not to mention a great pre-read if you are considering remarriage. I have listed the “The Ten Laws of Boundaries” below with my co-parenting slant added in italics.
1. The Law of Sowing and Reaping: Our actions have consequences. You, in addition to your Ex, are responsible for where you are now. Consider sowing grace in trying to improve your co-parenting relationship. What you sow is what you reap.
2. The Law of Responsibility: We are responsible to each other, but not for each other. Now that you are divorced or separated, you are no longer responsible for your Ex. You cannot parent to the other side. You are not responsible for your Ex’s actions anymore. You are your own person.
3. The Law of Power: We have power over some things; we don’t have power over others (including changing people). People don’t tend to change. One of the reasons you got a divorce is you realized this statement. Don’t expect your Ex’s actions or attitudes to change as you move forward. To do so is insanity. That said you are empowered to change your life. Now is the time to do so.
4. The Law of Respect: If we wish for others to respect our boundaries, we need to respect theirs. I don’t agree with most of what my Ex does, especially when it comes to parenting. However I choose to respect her role as my daughter’s mother, regardless of her conduct.
5. The Law of Motivation: We must be free to say no before we can wholeheartedly say yes. You are no longer married therefore you now have the freedom to say “Yes” sometimes and to say “No” sometimes to your Ex. Don’t get caught in always saying one or the other because this leads to feeling entrapped.
6. The Law of Evaluation: We need to evaluate the pain our boundaries cause others. Communication is an area that causes pain in our co-parenting. I have drawn a necessary boundary with my Ex that we can no longer communicate in person or on the telephone. Instead we do so through letters, emails and even urgent texts. Evaluate the pain factor in your relationship and see what boundaries need to be set.
7. The law of Proactivity: We take action to solve problems based on our values, wants, and needs. As you and your Ex grow in different directions realize that her actions are based on different values, wants and needs from yours. Take a moment to view their actions with this in mind and it may give you a different perspective.
8. The Law of Envy: We will never get what we want if we focus outside our boundaries onto what others have. Envy is ugly, so is jealousy. You need to move on with your life, focusing on the future not the past.
9. The Law of Activity: We need to take the initiative in setting limits rather than be passive. As with kids, unspoken boundaries are not really boundaries at all. Take some time out and write out for yourself the boundaries you need to establish with your Ex.
10. The Law of Exposure: We need to communicate our boundaries to each other. Start with a simple and polite boundary. The focus needs to be on the thing you can control… YOU. For example: “I notice that when we talk face to face we tend to fight. Therefore going forward I am not going to speak with you directly at exchanges. Any urgent matters you can text me, otherwise send me an email.” Notice the boundary is your change, not hers. For more examples read my post on Five Communication Mistakes Made with the Ex.
It’s a great book, whether you are considering re-marriage, currently married, or dealing with your Ex. I highly recommended it, click here to order from Amazon.com
What boundaries do you put in place with your spouse or Ex? What boundaries have really helped your relationship?
Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship.
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