It is unlikely that you will ever forget the moment when you knew that your marriage was over. Nothing prepares you for the pain that follows this realization. Of course, you want to stay friends whenever possible. Nevertheless, you don’t want unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife.
Learn about different types of unhealthy boundaries that you might have with your ex-wife and how you can fix these.
What are some unhealthy boundaries after divorce?
You generally know by instinct what unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife feel like because you’ll get frustrated or overwhelmed. Nevertheless, it’s easier to deal with boundaries once you know what they are and how to describe them.
That’s why it’s important to know what healthy boundaries with your ex-spouse and stepfamilies look like. You do this by first setting goals for yourself. For example, when and how much time do you want to allocate to your ex?
Other ways to think of it include considering what would feel uncomfortable for you about sharing material possessions or even money? You’ll also want to think about what personal information you want to share with your ex. Remember that your new life isn’t any of their business anymore.
Although, everyone is different and every family has different needs. It seems that boundaries have changed over the last roughly 20 years. This paper on changes in stepfamily boundaries shows that stepparents are far more likely to include stepchildren more openly in their lives today.
You must be assertive when setting boundaries with an ex-spouse. Even if you know your goals, you’ll miss a trick if you can’t communicate them properly. Sometimes this takes practice with a friend or even a therapist to avoid falling into unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife.
If you feel your skin crawl or your insides turn over when talking to your ex, you’ll instinctively know that you have unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife. Even if our logical minds can’t put words to experiences, our gut knows something’s wrong.
That’s a big reason for having emotions. Essentially, they’re messengers telling us to change something, whether ourselves or our situation. So, setting boundaries with your ex-wife means sitting with your emotions and tapping into what makes you feel comfortable.
Lack of boundaries with your ex-wife means ignoring your needs and wants. We all have needs and if we don’t honor them, we get tense, anxious and depressed. Ignoring or meeting our basic psychological needs impacts our behavior and experience.
3 ways your ex-wife is overstepping boundaries
As we’ve seen, there are various types of boundaries, but the following three listed below are the most common ones when it comes to relationships. Even overstepping one could lead to a deluge of unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife.
Don’t forget that your new wife and ex-wife boundaries are also important. If your ex-wife is violating your boundaries, there’s a chance that your new partner is starting to get sucked in. This will strain any relationship.
Reflect on these and consider what you might want to change.
1. Emotional confidences
If your ex is constantly contacting you to criticize you about how you’re taking care of the children, you’re experiencing unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife. It’s that simple.
Emotional boundaries are all about your feelings and how much personal information you want to share. That includes your views on life and parenting.
Then again, if your boyfriend has no boundaries with his ex-wife, you might also notice that she either invalidates his feelings or continuously talks at him down the phone.
The most apparent and confusing unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife are when she’s too flirtatious. People sometimes regret the breakup and they’ll do anything to destroy your new relationship. In those cases, it’s perfectly normal if your new wife is insecure about your ex-wife.
Although, remember that it isn’t your job to fix your ex. It is your job to create an honest and fulfilling relationship with your new partner. So, you’ll have to prioritize and clarify the sexual innuendos and lines.
3. Physical invasion
Another typical example of possible unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife is when your personal space is violated. So, she could be turning up at your house unannounced or, even worse, letting herself in with the keys.
Ex-wife boundaries have to be clearly defined and all keys taken back. Moreover, it’s completely ok to tell someone to give you space and not stand or sit too closely. After all, the sexual boundary quickly overlaps with the physical one.
15 harmful habits with your ex-wife
Tragically, if your husband has no boundaries with his ex-wife, he probably learned his unhealthy habits from childhood. They’re also usually linked to low self-esteem that a narcissist or codependent parent could have exacerbated.
This doesn’t excuse poor boundaries, but it does mean that it’s possible to feel some empathy when people portray examples of overstepping boundaries. Nevertheless, experiencing unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife will leave you feeling drained, confused and frustrated.
Instead, look out for these habits so that you can work to re-establish them or walk away:
1. Manipulation through children
You have to stop and think when your current partner turns around and says to you, “your ex-wife is ruining our relationship.” As you’ll see from this list, there are many possible reasons for this statement.
Although, one of the worst things is when your ex-wife tries to manipulate you through the children. Even if your current partner has accepted that you have children and taken them under her wing, so to speak, there’s nothing worse than feeling ostracized by the “other woman” in the relationship.
Healthy boundaries with your ex-spouse and stepfamilies mean that everyone respects each other’s time. We all have busy lives and last-minute changes are usually difficult to handle. So, they’re kept in the ’emergency only’ bucket.
On the flip side, if you’re seeing unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife, you might be getting last-minute calls to pick up the kids, for example, suddenly. You might also still be in your divorce proceedings and your ex blind-sides you with a new request for the severance package.
3. Judging your new partner
You might have happily moved onto your new life with your new partner while still being friends with your ex. Don’t underestimate that if you’re still friends, you’ll have years of history and closeness that no one can quite match.
In such cases, you might be surprised if your new wife is insecure about your ex-wife. Is your ex judging your new wife? And have you explained to her why you broke up? It’s so easy to plant the seeds of doubt.
4. Inappropriate calling times
Other examples of overstepping boundaries include when your ex constantly calls you, especially in the middle of the night. Of course, you could sympathize with them if the roof starts leaking at 3 am. Regardless, it isn’t your job to fix their issues anymore.
The hardest part of dealing with someone who has porous boundaries is noticing how lost they are on their own. Perhaps they’ve never had to look after themselves before and yes, the adjustment will be hard but you can’t fix everyone. So, avoid unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife.
Sometimes when we break up, we forget that the other person is no longer there to support us. That can be a trigger for unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife. Essentially, they’re so used to coming to you for help that asking for excessive favors seems normal.
Nevertheless, developing such an unhealthy relationship with your ex-wife will put you under a lot of pressure. You’ll be controlled with none of the benefits of a partnership.
Some of the most extreme examples are when exes seem invariably to turn up where you are, supposedly by mistake. They could be doing this by stalking you on social media or stalking you. That’s why setting boundaries with an ex-spouse is so critical.
7. Emotional outbursts
People with porous boundaries need external validation for various reasons. They could be people-pleasers, codependents or even narcissists. These people are prone to outbursts because they don’t tend to learn emotional management.
Dealing with examples of unhealthy boundaries coming from toxic people is much harder. Often, they don’t or can’t listen to the structure you’re trying to lay down. In those cases, it’s best to limit contact to a minimum to protect your mental health.
Habits are hard to change because they become wired in the motor part of our brains that works without us thinking about it. You might still go around to your ex’s house to fix a tap or bring them a home-cooked meal because they’re an ER doctor.
The tell-tale sign something is wrong usually comes when your current partner says to you, “your ex-wife is ruining our relationship.” When you pause and reflect on those habits that seem normal to you but not to anyone else. Exes have to learn to live on their own.
Watch this video if you want to know more about the science of habits:
9. So-called crisis support
Another typical sign of someone with poor boundaries is when everything is an emergency. They call you and the world is collapsing around them yet again. Instead, a grounded person knows how to assess a situation with perspective.
On the flip side, examples of boundaries with your ex could be that you only talk to each other at the appointed times. You only meet at necessary events for the kids or large friends’ gatherings if you still have the same friends. Everyone is cordial and keeps the appropriate space.
An unhealthy relationship with your ex-wife often involves some form of manipulation. Either your boundaries are too porous and she’s trying to control or you’re controlling her.
Whatever the balance, examples include flattery, lying, and generally using the other person’s insecurities against them. Either way, you’ll feel empty and full of anger and sadness.
11. Dismissing parenting style
Setting boundaries with your ex-wife is particularly critical if you have children. Not only can they end up in the middle but they don’t want to hear you yelling at each other about your different approaches.
This is potentially an example of an intellectual boundary being violated. In this case, your ex dismisses your thoughts and opinions on parenting. Again, this can lead to other unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife.
Having a lack of boundaries with your ex-wife is tough to handle, especially when they hit the extreme end of the scale. No one wants to hear that they’ll never see their children again if you don’t meet their demands.
As we all know, ultimatums destroy something within you. You lose trust and respect for each other that goes far beyond any unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife. Communication breaks down before you’ve had a chance to set boundaries.
13. Financial demands
Other examples of unhealthy boundaries are when you’re still covering your ex’s finances. Part of you might feel guilty if you’re breaking up with a wife who didn’t work to support your career.
Nevertheless, that was their choice and at some point, you have to break the ties. It’s perfectly ok to support them for a while, perhaps through evening classes and clearly if you have children. Part of setting boundaries though is to define the endpoint.
Setting boundaries with an ex-spouse takes a certain amount of self-awareness. You have to know your limits, your emotions and how to manage them. Without this, things can get confusing when confronted with a seductive ex.
15. Imbalanced roles
Examples of boundaries with your ex revolve around respect. So, for instance, have you both taken on an equal share of responsibility for the relationship? This could be for the children and the divorce you’re currently filing. That means respecting each other’s wishes and final decisions.
Setting beneficial boundaries with former partners
All new wife and ex-wife boundaries are critical, and we know you need to be assertive, but what else do you need for setting boundaries after divorce? Listening to your emotions won’t come easily at first if you’ve never done this before.
Techniques such as mindfulness and journaling are great ways to connect to your emotions. If you’re feeling stuck, though, you should find a therapist. They’ll also help you discover what you value in life and where you want to prioritize your life to avoid unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife.
If your husband has no boundaries with his ex-wife, you’ll have to find a way to communicate with him why this is impacting your needs. Again, it comes back down to values and emotions.
No one can tell you what boundaries with an ex-spouse should look like. You have to work this out for yourself because everyone is different. What works for one person might not work for another. It also involves understanding what your current partner needs.
Nevertheless, unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife can feel frustrating, overwhelming and depressing or all of the above. You’ll instinctively know if you listen to your emotions. Of course, it takes some time and practice to develop the skill to connect deeply with emotions.
It can be hugely beneficial to work through these issues with a therapist. This is especially true if you’ve noticed several signs of unhealthy boundaries with your ex-wife. Moreover, if your boyfriend has no boundaries with his ex-wife, you might be lost on how to approach him.
Whatever the situation, a therapist will guide you to build your inner self-esteem, understand your needs and connect with your emotions. From this place of understanding, you’ll be in a stronger position to be assertive about your boundaries. You’ll open the door to your freedom and deeper relationships.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.