4 Types of Boundaries in Relationships After Separation

It can be tough to know what types of boundaries to set after relationships end. This guide will help you honor yourself post-divorce.
By:
Diana Spasic
September 20, 2021
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ife after divorce is often characterized by uncertainty. Ending a marriage can bring about an emotional haze that’s challenging to navigate. With your ex gone and your life redefined, your former daily routines may feel uncomfortable. Or you may find that they simply don’t apply to your post-marriage life.

Daily life can present struggles. During your married life you grew accustomed to approaching life as part of a couple. Being divorced requires a new approach. But your old married life will still pull at you, especially if you share children with your ex. While you need to move on with your life overall, the need to communicate with your co-parent remains. And this is where the lines usually start to blur.

It’s normal for boundaries to be shaky after divorce or separation. It’s also normal for you to be uncertain about drawing up new boundaries. It’s natural to feel lost, especially if you share custody over your kids.

However, setting boundaries is necessary if you want to move on with your life and be content about your choices.

But what types of boundaries in relationships between exes should you consider? How do you do it without conflict, and why do you need them in the first place?

Let’s dive in.

Why You Need Boundaries

Don’t think you need to set boundaries with your ex? Well, you’re not alone. I used to lean on my ex for all kinds of things. As a writer, I have to work on computers. Still, I’m not what you’d call tech-savvy. When something went wrong, my first move used to be alerting my ex-partner about it and my second would be watching him fix it.

Since we hadn’t established clear boundaries after the separation, I thought his I.T. services would carry on. I expected him to keep fixing my tech issues when they arose and gave him a hard time when he failed to show up the moment I needed him. It didn’t work. We eventually agreed that since my computer issues had nothing to do with kids, they were outside of our new relational boundaries.

One of the most important things to process after separation is the new roles you and your ex-partner take on. You won’t see them as your husband or wife any longer. And their new role generally means you can’t lean on each other for everyday issues.

But how do you define your new roles? Experts suggest you should start small. Changing too much at once may get overwhelming. Start with one behavior and allow yourself time to adapt to the new perspective. For example, your ex may have relied on you to handle household finances. They may still expect your help tracking bills and expenses. But it’s no longer your role, and you are in the right to say no.

As much as you can, try to view your former spouse as nothing more than a partner in raising your children. You will still be on the same team as co-parents, but your roles in other areas of life will change, and so will your relationship and expectations for one another.

The Types of Boundaries in Post-Divorce Relationships

Types of boundaries in relationships: woman in deep thought while working

After a few weeks or months, when you feel the time is right, you could try having a face-to-face conversation with your ex about your boundaries. Your ideas and opinions may differ, but that’s normal. Try to focus on finding ideal solutions and compromising in a way that’s beneficial to both of you. An honest and open conversation can take you a long way, no matter how awkward it may feel to initiate.

In addition to being open about your own needs and personal boundaries, try to be open to hearing about theirs.. They may need things from you. And those needs could be things you never anticipated.

Every marriage is unique, and every separation is a story on its own. However, there are four types of boundaries in relationships after divorce to focus on.

Note: If you’re separating due to abuse, your boundaries will look a lot stricter than what we list here. If that’s the case, do what you need to do to cut your ex out of your life permanently to protect yourself and your kids.

1. Physical Boundaries

Creating physical space between you and your ex is crucial for your well-being. While some couples may continue to live together temporarily after the divorce, you’ll thank yourself if you find separate homes as soon as possible. Separation is emotionally confusing enough without having to share a bathroom or kitchen. Seeing your ex after you step out of the shower makes setting strict and appropriate boundaries pretty challenging.

By putting physical distance between you and your former spouse, you will also get the mental space you need to process the separation and figure out how you want your new life without them to feel. Being single again can be a harsh truth to face before the positive effects of divorce sink in. Setting a physical boundary won’t make the adjustment a breeze, but it will help you adjust to your new reality a bit quicker.

Here are some examples of physical boundaries:

  • Getting your own space by a certain deadline, or holding to the timeline you set for your partner to move out.
  • Removing all of your ex-partner’s items from your home so they don’t need to regularly drop by to pick something up.
  • Avoiding seeing them or spending time with them after the separation, unless necessary.

2. Communication Boundaries

Man texting while on the train

If possible, give yourself some time without your ex. It can’t be forever, especially if you have kids. But giving yourself a couple of months without seeing or talking to them may help you draw that clear line between how things once were and what they are now. These types of boundaries in relationships after divorce are crucial for personal growth.

When you’re ready to talk, set communication boundaries. One extreme example is limiting your conversations to children-related issues only. Since face-to-face exchanges can be stressful, you may prefer written communication like emails and text. Co-parenting apps like Onward will help you communicate less while still maintaining a healthy relationship with your ex.

Communicating through text, apps, and emails allows you to write a message and hold it for a couple of hours before sending it to check it a few times and make sure you didn’t say something you may regret. Plus, you’ll have a written record of everything that’s been said, and you won’t have those “I never agreed to that!” moments.

These communication boundary examples might work for you:

  • Ignore a phone call from your co-parent and send a follow-up text reminding them to stick to written communication.
  • Unfollow them on social media so you don’t feel like you’re still connected.
  • Request that your co-parent joins you on a co-parenting app to keep communication levels to a minimum.

3. Financial Boundaries

Setting money boundaries with your ex may be one of the most challenging parts of your separation. Money talk can introduce tension in happy romantic relationships. And those tensions often intensify after going your separate ways. Talking about expenses is inevitable with shared custody, but it doesn’t mean you have to pick up the phone and talk all the time.

In fact, you actually don’t need to talk at all. Modern technology allows you to develop healthy relationships with your ex and avoid boundary violations. Onward helps you sort shared expenses and limit your communication about money to issues revolving around your children.

If a payment comes late, you can have the app send a reminder to your co-parent. Similarly, if a new expense pops up, you can send a proposal that your ex can accept or reject. You will have fewer reasons to talk to them and, more importantly, you’ll have everything in writing to go back and check whenever you need. This is especially helpful for court and child support decisions, should you need it.

Maybe you’ll try one of these financial boundaries:

  • Request that you and your co-parent only discuss finances as it relates to co-parenting shared expenses.
  • Inform your co-parent that you won’t be helping them financially outside of court orders and you don’t expect them to help you either.
  • Share that you won’t ask the kids to relay money information or questions to them, and ask that they do the same.

4. Emotional Boundaries

Protecting your privacy and setting healthy emotional boundaries is an essential practice after a divorce. Try to separate your personal life from your ex-partner’s, no matter how challenging it may seem. Keeping up with each other’s new homes, life events, and romantic partners tends to tax mental health. Continued interest in their lives may seem natural at first, but it will only complicate your path to healing from the separation.

Disentangling yourself from your ex-partner’s personal affairs, especially if you are close with some of their family members, often isn’t easy. But out of all relationship boundaries after a divorce or separation, emotionally distancing from your ex may be the most important one for your well-being.

Here are some examples of emotional boundaries that work for many co-parents:

  • Respectfully share that you are no longer their source of emotional support when they call to talk about their day.
  • Ask for your ex-partner to refrain from sharing details about their dating life with you.
  • Ask the grandparents of your children (on both sides) to speak positively about both parents to the kids rather than take a side.

Time and Consistency Are Your Friends

You may already have a healthy relationship with your ex-partner, or you may have ended things on bad terms. No matter how amicable your divorce was, setting boundaries will make everything easier for both of you.

It’s OK to stop communicating for a certain amount of time if you need to, but keep in mind that you will still need to talk about boundaries at some point.

After living with a person for a long time, it’s challenging to establish healthy boundaries. And being consistent about those boundaries is equally difficult. It may feel strange, and you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all the types of boundaries in relationships you need to practice. It may require some work on both sides. But remember, you’re doing this to improve your chances for growth, wellness, and happiness after the separation. Setting boundaries helps you focus on things that matter. So start drawing those lines as soon as you are ready.

Diana Spasic

Diana is a writer who specializes in blogging. She's on a mission to inform and uplift people in complex and confusing life situations she's been through herself. When not working, you'll find her at the seaside or in the mountains.