Nobody said divorce would be easy. Sure, you knew what you were getting yourself into and were prepared to experience a couple of bumps on the road. But you had no idea how difficult it would be to avoid unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife.
After all, you’ve spent some of the most amazing years of your life with this person. You’ve shared both good and bad memories, stood by each other through thick and thin, and made the ultimate decision of parting ways when the relationship became irredeemable.
How can you go from seeing someone every day to barely saying hello to her on the street? Your ex-wife still holds a special place in your heart. She’s the mother of your children and you want them to see you still have a good relationship with her.
Be careful, though! It’s so easy to fall into the same old patterns. You might call in the middle of the night because you miss her, initiate romantic encounters, and use your children as an excuse to see her. Your feelings are completely valid but they might not be appropriate in the given situation.
Unless you want to get back together with her, you need to come to terms with the divorce and establish some ground rules. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize you’ve had unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife this entire time.
Let’s be honest. It’s perfectly acceptable to stay in contact for the sake of co-parenting. But, there’s no need to spend hours on the phone with her or flipping through your wedding photos together.
And you shouldn’t continue seeing her every day or keep tabs on her new relationship. Otherwise, you’ll never get over her!
10 unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife
If you’re still having trouble figuring out whether you have an unhealthy relationship with your ex-wife, keep on reading. You’re not the only one who’s ever been in this situation which means there are certain patterns of behavior that can offer you some clarification.
Think about it. Have you given each other enough time after the divorce to process your emotions? Have you given her enough space to grieve the loss of your marriage? Has she given you the opportunity to reflect on everything that went wrong?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, the two of you are in quite a predicament. It seems as if you’ve avoided dealing with the emotions without realizing you’ve made the situation worse. It’s no wonder you had no idea your behavior isn’t healthy.
Setting boundaries with your ex-wife after your divorce is crucial for your mental health. If you’re not planning on getting back together, you have to establish some ground rules and stick to them. Here’s a list of unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife you can use as a guide for what not to do after a divorce.
1. Engaging in romantic encounters
Let me be clear: It’s completely normal to be attracted to your ex-wife. I’m not here to judge you, but I will try to offer you some valuable insight as to why this situation might have negative consequences on your happiness. This is a clear example of an unhealthy boundary with your ex-wife!
You might be spending a lot of time with your ex-wife because of your children. Shared custody usually involves frequent conversations, running into each other at school, and dropping by announced because one of the kids forgot their toy.
You could either deal with this situation in a mature and responsible way, or you could let your emotions get the most of you. There’s no need to feel ashamed if you happen to fall under the second category. Your ex-wife is a beautiful woman and any man would be lucky to have her.
Unfortunately, the two of you are no longer together. So, avoid situations where you might be tempted to go down memory lane, drink too many glasses of wine, and end up in each other’s arms. There’s no harm in being on friendly terms with your ex-wife, but you should never cross that line!
If your ex-wife is the one initiating these encounters, it’s time to have a serious conversation with her. Be empathetic and understanding because she’s probably still hurt by the divorce. But, make sure to establish clear boundaries that will help both of you move on with your lives.
2. Contacting each other every day
Being friends with your ex-wife is an amazing opportunity to show your children a great example of dealing with an unfortunate situation in a mature way. After all, the two of you have been best friends and lovers for years. You can’t just erase the respect you have for each other.
However, there’s a thin line between being friends and being obsessed with each other. Be honest with yourselves and stop using your children as an excuse to call each other every single day. Most parenting concerns can be solved with a quick phone call!
If you’re calling her multiple times a day just to see how she’s doing or to make sure she’s not seeing anyone new, you have a problem. Unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife alert! There’s a reason the two of you couldn’t work through your problems and decided to get a divorce.
You might think you still have feelings for your ex-wife because you’re having difficulty moving forward with your life. You’re stuck in the past when you were still happily married and everything seemed so simple. But out of sight, out of mind – stop calling her and you’ll see how quickly you move on!
If your wife is the one calling you all the time, talk with her about it. Tell her how you feel and try establishing some ground rules. You can be friends for the sake of co-parenting, but you should only call each other when it’s necessary.
3. Sharing secrets and confiding in each other
If you don’t want to establish unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife, you’ll want to stop telling her everything about your life. I know it’s difficult to stop yourself from oversharing, but you have to keep in mind she’s your ex. She no longer holds the responsibility of being your shoulder to cry on.
This is especially important if you have someone new in your life. Instead of calling your ex-wife every day and talking to her about your problems, make an effort to achieve a similar connection with your new love.
Your ex-wife has been your rock for so many years. After all, she knows everything about you – she understands your problems, she’s familiar with your darkest secrets, and she gives the best advice. But, she’s had years of practice! Give your girlfriend a chance to do the same.
On the other hand, if your ex-wife keeps telling you all her secrets and expecting you to be there for her, you have a decision to make. You can continue blurring the lines of your relationship, or you can set some healthy boundaries.
4. Dropping by unannounced
Imagine your ex-wife showing up at your place unannounced only to find you lying in your underwear, watching a football game, finishing your fifth beer – that sounds horrifying. You don’t want her to see you like that!
Switch the roles and the same rule applies to you. You shouldn’t drop by your ex-wife’s new apartment without permission. She might be having a well-deserved pampering session, hanging out with friends, or cleaning up. Regardless, you should respect her enough to call beforehand!
Never use your children as an excuse. Even if you’re co-parenting, you can always make arrangements over the phone. You should have an easy-to-follow schedule so as to not make a mistake and show up at her doorstep at an inappropriate moment.
Communication is key if you’re looking to change some of those unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife. Talk to each other, make sure you’re on the same page, and stick to the plan once you have everything figured out.
5. Keeping tabs on each other
If you still have feelings for your ex-wife, seeing her move on with someone else might break your heart. But, you still go out of your way to keep tabs on her. You ask your mutual friends what she’s been up to and stalk her on Instagram waiting for a new post.
There’s a reason things didn’t work out between the two of you. Don’t get stuck in the past, dreading the moment she meets someone new and moves on with her life. Try keeping yourself busy. Join a gym, get a new dog, or go on a date with someone who isn’t your ex-wife.
Or perhaps she might be the one keeping tabs on you. If you’re bothered by her behavior, don’t bottle it up. Both of you need to give each other enough space and privacy to deal with divorce in your own way.
Letting unhealthy boundaries develop with your ex-wife will only make things worse. If you communicate your concerns and work hard on understanding each other’s needs, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get over your divorce without any resentment.
6. Being jealous
This one’s pretty complicated. It’s understandable to feel a little sick to your stomach when you find out your ex-wife moved on with her life. It’s never easy seeing the woman you once loved building a better life with someone who isn’t you.
You can’t stop yourself from feeling a certain way. You don’t want to be jealous, you just don’t know how to process all these emotions. The problem arises when you decide to act on that jealousy, or when you decide to call your ex-wife and cause a scene.
Don’t be that guy. Your ex-wife is allowed to find her happiness with someone else. You signed those papers and you made the decision to let her go. Put on your big boy pants and deal with the consequences of your decision.
We have to look at the other side of the coin, too. If your ex-wife is the jealous one, it might be time to change some of those unhealthy boundaries. There’s no easy way out of this situation, especially if it’s affecting your new relationship negatively.
Confront your ex-wife and see what happens. There’s a possibility her emotions got the better of her, and she might agree to work through her issues. If that doesn’t happen, it may be best to treat your co-parenting situation as a business relationship and cut all friendly ties with your ex-wife.
7. Working on projects and going on business trips together
Avoiding your ex-wife might become a real task if the two of you share the same workspace. You don’t want to make things weird for your colleagues, so you try your best to stay friends after the divorce. Be careful, this situation is bound to backfire!
Spending too much time together, working on new projects, and going on business trips might be detrimental to your mental health. Getting over your ex-wife is never easy, but it’s certainly much more difficult if you’re face-to-face with her every single day.
First things first, don’t quit your job! You can try asking your boss for a transfer to a different position or department, or talk to him about working on your future projects with someone else.
Also, avoid taking business trips with your ex-wife, or at least require a separate room in the hotel. If you’ve been a part of your company for a long time, chances are your co-workers are aware of the situation and won’t mind lending you a helping hand.
8. Using children as pawns
Is there a worse example of unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife than using your children to get back at each other? No matter how much anger and resentment you harbor toward each other, your children should never be caught in the middle of your petty war.
Remember, there was a time when you were a family. The whole reason you set up a co-parenting arrangement was that you wanted your children to grow up with both parents. You didn’t want them to feel like they were missing out on anything.
If your ex-wife is not letting you see your children, preventing you from calling or texting them, or even talking badly about you, she needs a wake-up call. There are certain legal options you can consider, or you can choose to have a serious conversation with her in the hopes she’ll do better in the future.
9. Refusing to be flexible with co-parenting
The entire point of agreeing to co-parent is to make things easier for your children. Rules and schedules might not sound fun, but they are an effective way of ensuring both parents are equally present in their children’s lives after the divorce.
However, there should be a mutual understanding that these rules and schedules can’t be followed ALL THE TIME. There will be certain situations where you won’t be able to pick your children up from practice or chaperone them at a school dance because something else came up.
This is why you have to be flexible and ready to jump in when your ex-wife asks for your help. It’s expected to have some arrangements change and to switch roles from time to time. If you refuse to do that, those most affected by your stubbornness will be your kids.
There are times when you won’t be able to jump in, and that’s understandable. As long as you work hand in hand with your ex-wife trying to figure out the best solution, you have nothing to worry about. You’re showing your family that they can count on you.
10. Gaslighting each other
The cherry on top of every divorce – pinning the blame on each other. Gaslighting is one of those subtle ways of manipulation and emotional abuse that make you question everything that ever happened between you.
How can you be sure that you’re gaslighting each other? If you find yourself saying things like “You’re overreacting” or “It’s not my fault you feel that way,” chances are you’re manipulating your ex-wife into thinking her emotions and feelings aren’t valid.
It’s possible to gaslight someone without the intention of doing so. However, it’s much more common to use these phrases to intentionally shift the blame to the other person. If you refuse to apologize or acknowledge your share of the blame while using these phrases, you’ve got a bigger problem at hand.
Or your ex-wife might say something along the lines of “You’re so sensitive, I’ll never make another joke” to make you feel bad because you got offended over something she said. You might not think this is manipulative behavior, but it makes you feel like you’re wrong for standing up for yourself.
If you want to avoid gaslighting each other, pause for a second and think about your words. How will they affect the other person? How will they help solve the issue? You deserve to be treated with respect and to have your feelings and concerns taken seriously.
How to avoid unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife
So many things could go wrong after divorce. It’s no surprise you’re wondering whether you fell into the trap of a toxic relationship with your ex-wife.
If you recognized yourself in any of these examples of unhealthy boundaries, it’s best to have a serious conversation with your ex-wife and try working through your issues. On the other hand, you might want to prevent setting unhealthy boundaries in the first place!
There are a couple of things you can do to ensure you have a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex-wife. Firstly, establish some ground rules. It can be anything from avoiding dropping by unannounced to not calling each other every single day. Both of you should make sure to respect these rules.
Secondly, recognize and stop any problematic behavior. If your ex-wife is doing anything you consider inappropriate, try having a conversation with her. She might not even be aware that you’re bothered by her actions. You should always be on the same page about what’s allowed and what’s not!
Lastly, if you can’t have a friendly relationship with your ex-wife, put all your focus on co-parenting. Your children should never suffer because of your action. You should put all your problems aside and make sure you stick to your rules and schedules as much as you can.
Be each other’s support system – at least when it comes to keeping your family happy and healthy. There’s nothing wrong with getting a divorce, but you should make sure you put your children’s needs first. Co-parenting can be a wonderful experience for everyone if done correctly!
The best thing you can do for the both of you is to accept the situation and move on. Give yourself enough time and space to process, heal, and reflect on your failed marriage. Don’t go around blaming your ex-wife for everything that’s happened between you!
Setting healthy boundaries with your ex-wife will give you the closure you need. It should go without saying, but contacting each other every day and arranging romantic encounters can only lead to disappointment.
You have to remember that there’s a reason you decided to sign those divorce papers and go your separate ways. You might think you still have feelings for your ex-wife, but chances are you miss the person you were with while you were happily married.
Instead of holding on to the past, make sure you’re ready for the incredible future that lies ahead of you. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself – join a gym, start going to therapy, and say yes next time a beautiful woman asks you out on a date!