Divorce is a difficult process to undergo and is often chaotic and hostile. There is a lot of emotional and financial baggage placed not only on the couple who are separating but also on their children who are stuck in the middle.
A divorce ultimately marks the end of a marriage and the couple’s roles to each other. Your ex-wife might try to blur the lines of this separation by persistently contacting you, checking on you, manipulating you, and mistreating you. She might also use your children as pawns. These are unhealthy and toxic boundaries.
To prevent them, you must first and foremost give each other space to reflect and process things individually. This allows you to grieve your lost relationship, strengthen your support network, and make new connections. Likewise, you can join support groups or seek therapy to further help you navigate your emotions. If all else fails, you can either treat co-parenting as a business endeavor or cut each other out of your lives completely.
Below is a list of nine unhealthy boundaries you may have with your ex-wife. Additionally, several ways to mitigate and prevent them from happening are also given.
9 Unhealthy Boundaries with Ex-Wife
1. Trying to Engage in Romantic or Sexual Acts with You
When your ex-wife tries to recall past dates, romantic endeavors, and sexual activities, that is a red flag. Whether she realizes it or not, she is trying to prevent you from moving on in your life. This is especially problematic if you’re already seeing someone else. There is no harm in being friends with your ex-wife; however, when you start sensing ulterior motives, it is best to step back and set boundaries.
2.Contacting You Even if You Are Already Seeing Someone New
To reiterate, there is nothing wrong with being on friendly terms with your ex-wife. However, there must come a point where both parties should learn to let go and move on. This would not be possible if your ex-wife keeps coming to you to hang out, ask for your advice, and insert herself into your life.
3. Maintaining Business Ties with You
For couples who had been working in the same workplace or collaborating on a project before the divorce, trying to revert to a strictly professional disposition will be challenging. Particularly with messy and acrimonious separations, there may be too many emotions and tensions to be productive and healthy.
4. Keeping Tabs on You
Your ex-wife asking your mutual friends for information about you and your personal matters is an unhealthy boundary. Besides the complete disrespect for your privacy, they may use the information they glean from mutual friends for their benefit.
Constant visits to your residence and your social media platforms are also manifestations of an unhealthy boundary. They may try to message you, comment on your posts, and instigate interactions that you might be uncomfortable with. In extreme cases, ex-wives resort to stalking their ex-partner.
5. Using Children as Pawns and Manipulating Them
After a divorce, parents arrange a co-parenting system and schedule to ensure that their children can still grow up with two parents. However, your ex-wife may dishonor this arrangement because of resentment.
Your ex-wife may choose not to respect visitation rights and prohibit you from seeing your kids. Furthermore, she may even forbid you from interacting with them through calls, messages, and social media.
In some cases, your ex-wife may even insult you or speak harshly about you with your kids. The purpose of this action is to make your kids resent you and prefer her over you. However, this often induces stress and other negative emotions within the children.
6. Receiving Taunting Updates About Child Support and Alimony
Alimony, or a court-ordered sum of money given to a spouse, and child support, are some of the financial obligations after a divorce. Ultimately, the recipients of these provisions are free to spend them however they like.
There have been many cases wherein the recipient sent mocking updates about how they chose to spend the support money. An example would be, “My new partner wanted to say thank you for the down payment of his new car that you paid for!” This is a display of childish behavior that is a manifestation of insecurities, unchecked anger, and other internal issues.
7. Refusing to be Flexible
For co-parenting to be effective, rules and schedules are established. However, there is usually an implicit understanding that these rules and schedules cannot be followed all the time due to unexpected circumstances and contingencies. Thus, adjusting schedules, switching roles, and changing plans, may sometimes be necessary.
You and your ex-wife must be willing to compromise. When your ex-wife lacks the willingness to adapt to unanticipated situations and be flexible, you will be put in a tight spot. However, your children will be the ones most affected by her stubbornness.
8. Behaving Badly Towards You
Whether in public or in private, you and your ex-wife must be polite and civil to each other. This is not only to show respect for one another but also to set a good example for your impressionable children. This also lets your children know that despite being separated, their parents will always be there for each other.
If your ex-wife decides to behave badly towards you, efficiently co-parenting will be a difficult task. Your children may be forced to take sides and develop resentment. In worst-case scenarios, your children may end up being traumatized because of your ex-wife’s actions.
9. Gaslighting You
Gaslighting is a subtle form of emotional abuse and manipulation that makes a person question the validity of their feelings, thoughts, and memories. The goal of someone who gaslights is to change the narrative to put the blame and responsibility solely on the person being gaslighted.
To recognize if you are being gaslighted by your ex-wife, here are some common phrases and tactics she can use to invalidate you:
- “You’re so sensitive.”
- “You take things too personally.”
- “I’m not the one who’s upset, it’s you.”
- “You’re overreacting.”
- “You’re so dramatic.”
- “I don’t even know what I did wrong.”
- “Why can’t you take a joke?”
- “You need to calm down.”
- “You’re lucky I still put up with you.”
This is often accompanied by a refusal to apologize or even so much as acknowledge their mistake. On these occasions, her gaslighting you is a way to relieve herself of accountability for her actions by making you think that you are the one at fault.
Ways to Prevent Unhealthy Boundaries
Accept the Changes Brought About by the Divorce
A divorce is the end of a marriage; you are no longer husband and wife. The change of your marital status brings about a lot of other changes. For instance, your roles and dynamic shift: you cannot rely on them anymore for advice, company, intimacy, and other personal needs.
Understandably, some people find it difficult to accept the aforementioned changes, especially if the divorce was sudden or not the most amicable. Some may suffer from a withdrawal. However, you must work towards welcoming these changes and moving on to your new life in general. Failure or refusing to do so will only end in more pain on both sides.
Avoid Contacting Each Other
The first step is to break off all points of contact with your ex-wife, including social media, phone calls, messages, and, if possible, your mutual friends and your ex-wife’s family.
Having no contact with each other does not have to last an indefinite amount of time. There is no standard or one-size-fits-all timeline; ultimately, it is up to you and your ex-wife to decide when you are finally emotionally prepared for contact.
This will allow you to reflect on your past relationship and the space to process your emotions. At this point, you should be focused on healing. Grieving the relationship and what it used to be is normal as this can help you reorient yourself.
Especially if the marriage lasted for a considerable time, this time alone is significant so you can prioritize yourself. You have the freedom to pursue other passions and activities. You have the power to determine your future, realize your worth, and regain your sense of self and identity.
Once contact with your ex-wife is once again established, you must engage in an honest and open discussion regarding boundaries. Talk about what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with. This may include when and where you can reach them, frequency of contact, and so forth.
This kind of communication must be consistent. In time, you may discover that you need to establish new boundaries, negotiate rules, or remove some altogether. In the instance of a boundary being overstepped, you must call it out and talk about it immediately, to prevent any grudges or a repeat of the incident.
If children are involved, involving them in this communication is a good idea. Let them set their boundaries regarding co-parenting. Encourage them to be honest about their feelings, opinions, and experiences.
Reconnect with Old Friends and Make New Connections
Marriage, especially with children, is an all-consuming affair. It takes up the majority of your day and your mind is constantly preoccupied with your kids. This understandably gives you less time for other people and other pursuits.
Meeting up with old friends and reconnecting with them can immensely help in the prevention of unhealthy boundaries. For one, they can help you take your mind off of the divorce and the emotions attached to it. Accept more invites to parties, throw your own gatherings with the people you love; the positive energy that will surround you in those events will rub off on you.
Moreover, making new connections can also be beneficial. Divorce support groups, which are designed to help people heal from a divorce, are available nationwide. Being in the presence of people with similar experiences can make you feel less alone.
With the presence of old and new friends, you have a wider and better support network. They can help you navigate your life post-divorce. Likewise, you can seek their company and advice instead of feeling lost.
Do Not Rush into a New Relationship
Although it may seem tempting to find someone new immediately after a divorce, you must first allow yourself to reflect if you are ready for another relationship. It would be unfair for your future partner if you still have lingering issues to work through.
You may also be subconsciously seeking a rebound to not feel lonely or to get back at your ex-wife.
With all things considered, you may want to finish dealing with the legal and financial aspects of a divorce first before entering a new relationship. This will prevent conflict and tension with your new partner. Additionally, if you still think and talk a lot about your ex-wife, maybe a new relationship would not be the best idea at that given time.
Respect Each Other’s New Relationships
Eventually, you will find that you are once again ready to enter a commitment. The same goes for your wife. The least you could both do is to respect the new people in your lives for your sake and theirs.
This can be a little trickier when children are involved. They may take a little more time adjusting and warming up to a stepparent. With that said, it is all the more essential for you and your ex-wife to respect each other’s new relationships so that your children will also respect them.
Consider Going to Therapy
As stated above, some people find it challenging to accept the major changes that divorce brings into their lives. This difficulty may be a result of a lack of proper coping techniques and mechanisms, which then manifests into toxic attitudes and behavior.
A therapist will help you go through your thoughts and sort through your emotions. They are licensed to give you advice and guide you as you navigate your mind. It is their duty to equip you with coping strategies and to empower you as you heal.
Therapy itself is a highly stigmatized process, and not to mention sometimes expensive and inaccessible to many, explaining why many opt not to attend sessions. However, for you and your ex-wife’s emotional well-being, therapy is an excellent option.
Treat Co-Parenting as a Business Engagement
If you and/or your ex-wife cannot be on friendly terms with each other, simply think of co-parenting as a business endeavor whose mission and vision revolve solely around your children. Simply put, you and your ex-wife are business partners with the common objective of raising your children in the best way possible.
Think about how you would treat a business partner or anyone in a professional environment. You will be cordial and polite with each other. Perhaps you will invite them to a party or a gathering, but that invite will not extend hours into the night. You will collaborate and be as efficient as possible in resolving issues concerning your children.
Completely Cut Each Other Out of Your Life
This option may only be feasible for childless marriages. If things are not simply working out and looking up for both of you, then it might be best to cut ties with each other. This prevents any further conflict and pain on both sides.
Boundaries between separated couples are important to have, especially if they have children. These boundaries may be unclear or get overstepped if you or your ex-wife still keep tabs on each other, interact in a romantic or sexual way, or manipulate one another. Your children might also get involved in a tug-of-war between you and your ex-wife.
To prevent these unhealthy boundaries, you and your ex-wife must allow yourself some time and space apart to reflect and heal individually. Only after such time has passed can you openly and honestly communicate to establish healthy boundaries and ground rules. Support groups and therapy are extremely helpful resources as well.