Firm Boundaries Can Help Divorced Families

Becoming a part of a divorced family is always difficult. You not only have to deal with the usual dynamics between you and your partner but you also have to negotiate the relationship with the child(ren) and with the ex-spouse (if we’re counting, that’s at least two extra relationships on top of the romantic one!). Such an undertaking is very tricky, especially if the former partners have not figured out what the divorced family should look like. When that happens, they either sabotage new relationships or fight constantly.

There should be boundaries in divorced families but these vary according to what the former partners arrange. However, certain thingsTourniquet like communication solely about the child, a schedule which is maintained consistently, and information about what occurs between the former partners are reasonable for a new partner to request. Problems can arise though when your partner either doesn’t agree that these boundaries are reasonable or doesn’t know how to implement them. Consequently, the first thing I recommend in these type of situations is a straight-forward and calm discussion with your partner about boundaries. If you are told that your partner has no intention of changing, it is time for you to go. If however your partner agrees that your requests are reasonable, then you can start figuring out how to implement the boundaries.

Most healthy divorced families have firm but flexible schedules that they maintain. The time the child spends with each parent is set so that everyone knows when it will be. These times change only something unforeseen occurs or with prior permission. In this way, everyone knows what to expect. This expectation is especially important for children as they thrive on structure and routine. If one parent does not stick to the agreed upon schedule, then the other parent sets a boundary.

For example, if the former partner does not pick up the child within 15 minutes of the agreed upon time, then you all go ahead with your schedule and the other parent has lost that time. This will not be a popular strategy but the alternative is to be subject to the former partner’s whims and/or lack of time management. Other boundaries include talking briefly by phone or email once per day when necessary and making certain that you (as the new partner) have priority over the former partner’s needs.

If your partner agrees to setting boundaries and doing things differently, I encourage you to give your partner time to show you that s/he can and is willing to make adjustments. If six months to a year goes by and nothing significant has changed though, I suggest finding a new partner who has firmer boundaries.

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