Stepparenting issues can be overwhelming and unbearable. Then, you throw in problems with an ex-spouse, and the situation becomes toxic.
So, how do you maintain sanity when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse? The best way is to learn how to set appropriate boundaries and stick with them.
I will be discussing boundaries and ex-spouses in the next few posts. But, the most important point I want to make today is to establish whose responsibility it is to set boundaries. That position lies with the person who was married to the difficult ex-spouse in the first place.
In their book, Boundaries, When to Say Yes, When to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend describe boundaries: “They define what is me and what is not me. … Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside.”
If an ex-spouse is being difficult, we need to learn how to keep him/her out of our property line. That doesn’t mean we exclude him/her completely, but we learn to set limits on how often and to what degree he/she is allowed to interfere in our lives.
For instance, if an ex-spouse is repeatedly late when picking up the children for visitation, we establish a boundary and put a consequence on the behavior. We might say to our ex-spouse, “If you are more than 15 minutes late in picking up the children, you’ll need to make different arrangements regarding visitation that day.” Always have another plan to fall back on so you can follow through with your consequences.
It’s not easy to set boundaries in the beginning and your ex-spouse won’t like it, but it’s necessary for the wellness of your current spouse and your stepfamily.
More on boundaries and ex-spouses next time.
How do you manage boundaries with your ex?
How to Co-Parent Successfully with your Ex