How to set boundaries with an ex

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) – Setting boundaries is one of the most important things that you can do during and after a divorce.  It sends the message that you will no longer be disrespected and that you no longer answer to your spouse.  If you have married someone with narcissistic tendencies or narcissistic personality disorder it is the only way you will stay sane and survive the ordeal of divorce because these people simply cannot lose.

Narcissists have no empathy for others and have no ability to tune in to their spouse or children emotionally.  At first they are extremely charming and are often very successful in their field, but they set their world to revolve around themselves and exploit others for their own purposes.  You are there to help and serve them so the idea of divorce often sends them into full blown attack mode. They cannot lose and will continue the battle endlessly.

Even if your spouse isn’t a narcissist, setting boundaries as you traverse the divorce process will serve you well because you are clearly setting the guideline for your relationship after the divorce.  Having your spouse show up unannounced, showing up early or late for visitation, entering your home to “get a few things” without prior permission are all problems that can be avoided by setting clear boundaries.  Here are a list of tips to help you set your boundaries:

  1. Get organized.  Gather all the financial documents so that you do not have to ask your spouse to give them to you.  Go through the paperwork for any property and accounts, loan, retirement or pension accounts, mortgages, etc. and make copies.
  2. Put everything in writing.  Do not come to verbal agreements on issues relating to your divorce.  If you can agree on visitation or property division, fantastic, but write it out and both of you should sign it as soon as you agree to it.  This applies to any agreements you make prior to hiring your attorneys.  If you can amicably talk about issues and work some things out during the divorce the above applies.  If your divorce is at all contentious, don’t talk to him except through your attorney. (See the tip on communicating below.)
  3. Document everything.  If he shows up late for visitation, write it down.  Keep a calendar and note every event that you may need to address his crossing your boundaries.  If he texts you 20 times in a day, write it down.  If his support payment is late, write it down.  This information will be valuable to your attorney if the need arises.
  4. Communicate in writing only once the divorce is filed.  Keep your email’s or texts short, concise and use neutral language, for example, “I will meet you at the coffee shop to hand off the kids for your visitation at 5 p.m. on Friday.”  If he responds with a barb to engage you in an argument ignore it and do not respond if possible.  If he texts, “Of course you chose the coffee shop.  You always wasted money on fancy lattes.  I cannot be there until 5:30.” Your response should address the time change only, not the barb.
  5. If you have to communicate verbally do not accept verbal or emotional abuse.  If the conversation gets nasty, simply state you will not tolerate anyone speaking to you in that way and when he is ready to speak civilly you would be happy to talk then and walk away or hang up the phone.
  6. Change your locks if the court has given you use of the house.  Do it immediately and let him know the locks have changed and he is not welcome without prior notice and an okay from you.  If he continually violates your physical boundaries and shows up at your home unannounced get a restraining order.
  7. Get your own bank accounts in your name only.  Do it now.  It will help establish credit in your name if you need it and keep him from controlling your financial life.  While you are at it do the same with a credit card.

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