We have made it half way through our Top 10. Hopefully you are being challenged and the chaos is calming as you have been able to take control of some very important areas. As we look at #6, please keep in mind that you are the only one in control of your own boundaries. You may not be able to change the circumstances around you, but you are able to control whether or not you are going to allow those circumstances affect your life. Here are some things to consider.
6. MAKE PERSONAL BOUNDARIES
This is a very vulnerable time for you. If left unchecked you could easily end up in more heartache than you already are. It is important to keep in mind that you are going through a huge adjustment period. For some, you may have been married for more than half your life. For others, more, and for others less. Any way you look at it, you once got married “for better, for worse” and now you are single. How does a person process that? And what things can you do to make this adjustment period easier? Below are a few suggestions –
- Have limited expectations on yourself. This is not the time to play super hero. Start small, give yourself a break and take one thing at a time. If that means you only do a couple of things a day and limit your friends, then do that. Do whatever you need to do to simplify your life and the expectations it has for you.
- Do not overcommit and say “yes” to everyone and everything. There will be days when you think you can handle it but there will be more days when you just simply cannot. Making sure you and your kids are getting adequate rest and nutrition should be your priority right now. People will understand if you tell them that you have to see how the week goes before you commit. Remember, no one will make those boundaries for you or your kids except you. So don’t let yourself or you children down. Take one day at a time and allow yourself to say “NO”.
- If there is a lot of conflict between you and your former spouse then you need to set a boundary to eliminate as much conflict as possible. If discussing certain issues become heated, come up with a specific day and time to discuss these things when your children do not need to be present. If you feel unsafe, arrange to bring a friend with you. This is a time when you have all the permission in the world to do what is best for you. There are no rules. Consider your options and pick the one that makes you feel the most secure. If handling issues in person is just too difficult, make a boundary that you will only discuss issues over the phone.
Be very careful of two things in this circumstance:
- Make sure that your children are not around while you are having these discussions over the phone and
- Be sure you do not fall into the trap of name calling and passing blame because you are not eye to eye.
If you need to create an outline to help you stick to the topics, then do so to keep the conversation focused and moving forward. If a subject comes up where you cannot agree, you have to be prepared and willing to move on and agree to disagree until you can get a 3rd person involved who can help mediate that discussion. And if communicating in person or over the phone is not working, then I suggest doing it in writing. (This way of handing difficult issues is often times helpful because you can always reread what you are communicating and make changes as needed before sending the letter. Keep in mind, with the other 2 forms of communication, what comes out of your mouth usually can’t be taken back later.) The key here is to find a safe way to communicate with your former spouse that is safe and does not involve the kids.
- It is very important to keep in mind the boundaries you may have had to make for you and your former spouse do not apply to your children and their contact with their other parent. As long as the relationship between their mom or their dad is safe, there is nothing more beneficial for them than to continue to communicate with both as much as possible, including seeing and spending time with them. I know this can be one of the hardest things to let go of, but it is probably one of the most crucial decisions you will need to make. A child will adjust better, which means they will have a more healthy view on life and relationships, if you do all you can to keep the very important relationships with both parents as intact and unharmed as possible.
- One key issue is to never lose sight that you are the parent and they are the child. Making this very important boundary and distinction is vital to the outcome of your situation. DO NOT use your children as your sounding board. DO NOT use your teen as your best friend to share adult conversation with about adult issues. It is crucial you find adult people in your life to share feelings and frustrations with. This is NOT a role your children should take on. Do all you can in your power to never cross that boundary! I promise they will love you for it later.
- Lastly, be very careful when another person of the opposite sex comes into your life. Do not bring them around your children before you know they are someone that you intend to be in your life for awhile. Protecting yourself and them from additional heartache is very important. Keep that boundary clear. It is very easy to fall into a comfort zone. But remind yourself, the more roller coaster rides you put yourself on the more dangerous it becomes. Be wise. Be slow. Be safe.
I hope you have been able toset healthy boundaries for yourself. If not, take a little time to consider these then join me for #7 when we touch on groups.