Recently I have had the opportunity to hear about the ending of ‘love’ relationships and the ability to set boundaries. Sometimes people want to put up a good front for their children by trying to create a friendship with the soon to be ex-spouse or partner. I believe that a maintaining a certain amount of distance is important for several reasons. When a relationship ends, not only do both parties go through an emotional adjustment period, including anger and sadness, but they also have to learn how to function without the other and establish separate lives. Often, there is the assumption that the former partner will have the other partner’s best interests in mind. There are different circumstances that lead to divorce, but if there was a breakdown in communication or trust, your partner isn’t the best one to make your current and future decisions. Advice should be sought out by professionals or friends that can offer some objectivity. Why are you and your partner splitting up to begin with?
A man I was seeing was exchanging information about dating with his soon to be ex. Every time he spent any length of time with her, he’d end our relationship with ‘We aren’t going anywhere’ only to change his mind a few days later. Knowing a little of their dynamic and his desire to prove to her he is honest, compassionate, and trustworthy, he listens to information he probably shouldn’t. Discussing the dating stage or replacement of a lover/companion is something that should not be shared with your former partner. What purpose do those discussions serve? It is painful to the person receiving the information whether they show it or not and doesn’t allow that person to move forward with their life. They wonder what the new mate has that they didn’t and it brings up feelings of inadequacy and financial and emotional insecurity. This is a big issue if one mate doesn’t work and is dependant on the other for financial support. My female clients express concern that the new ‘woman’ will take their ex-husband away from the children and balk about the amount of spousal support being paid out.
Once one of the mates does get emotionally involved, it is appropriate to say I am very interested in someone and wanted you to find out through me first. Don’t share details. If the partner really has your best interests in mind they will congratulate you and wish you the best or tell you that they feel angry or threatened if they are honest communicators. Your partner does not have your best interest in mind if they say something like, “That’s great but don’t you think you haven’t dated enough? Isn’t it too soon to be involved? Shouldn’t you really see what’s out there?” Most women are more comfortable knowing their ex partner is dating rather than involved with some one. If your former partner feels threatened, he/she will try to plant seeds of doubt but act as if they are coming from their love of you. This is death to any new relationship.
The way to set boundaries is to act cordial to your ex-mate when calling to pick up and drop off a child, call regarding mutual business, but stay away from your personal life—if you want one. There are reasons you are getting divorced. Some partners will manipulate and act sweet to get information in order to monitor a situation in order to know what going on so they can stay ahead of you and feel safe. If they were secure with you and themselves, they wouldn’t want to know your personal life, only that they can count on you to keep your financial and custody obligations. Reassure them that no matter who comes into the picture, you will always meet your financial and parental agreements.