When I separated from my ex-husband, I had no clear boundaries around communicating with him. I would answer every text and email he sent in an attempt to co-parent and be harmonious. As his communication became more vicious, I realized that I needed to establish boundaries or rules of communication to keep my son and I emotionally safe.
A boundary has 2 parts:
- A request that you make of someone (usually to change a certain behaviour).
- The action that you will take if they do not comply with your request.
It is a simple sentence that goes like this: “If you continue to _____________, then I am going to ____________.”
Notice you are not asking them to change. They can continue to do whatever they were doing, even if it violates your personal space, but by doing so, you will take action.
A boundary is not an ultimatum. It is not a method of controlling another person. We really can’t control other people, only ourselves.
Before setting up a boundary, it is worthwhile to consider what your personal emotional boundaries are. Is it ok for your ex to yell at you on the phone? Is it ok for your mom to come over to visit without prior arrangements? Is it okay for you to be around drug use at a party? These are the choices that only you can make.
“If you continue to berate me, I am going to block your emails.”
“If you come over to my house every day uninvited, I will not be answering the door.”
“If you smoke weed in my presence, I will leave.”
Implementing and following through on boundaries sets a really strong example for your children. Even when they are young, they can establish what behaviours make them feel uncomfortable, and decide ahead of time what they will do if they experience that behaviour. My son became a boundary boss during my divorce and really learned to reject unwanted behaviour simply by deciding to leave a location if that behaviour was occurring.
A boundary is knowing how you will act in certain situations. It is about self care, not about other people’s behaviour. You get to choose your own boundaries that will serve you at the highest level, and following through on your boundaries will maintain your integrity.