Well, one answer is: it depends on what your boundaries are.
One of the best things you can do after break-up, is to establish clear boundaries between you and your ex. These include how, how often, and when you communicate.
Rather than simply let things evolve ‘naturally’, it’s always better to be clear right from the start what your needs are. The way you communicated with each other when you were together cannot be the way you communicate now. For example, if your ex has moved out, then the way s/he accesses the previously-shared home must also change. It’s unlikely to be comfortable if your ex wanders in unannounced a few days after you’ve separated.
For both of you, there need to be clear ways and times of communication with each other that you both understand and, preferably, that are agreed between you.
Boundaries are hugely empowering, so try to make sure you make them work for you.
To help you do this, here are three key actions that are pretty much essential if you want clear, effective boundaries around your life. A mediator or coach will normally help you go through these three actions so you don’t miss anything important:
- Be detailed. Think through the various scenarios that are likely to apply to you and your ex, and in your mind try to cover all options. For example, what are the circumstances when you will want to communicate with your ex, or want your ex to communicate with you? How do you want that communication to happen (text, email, message, via a mutual friend)? When should it happen? Consider what’s best for you (and for your children). Consider also: do you want your ex to enter your home? If so, when? In what circumstances? What happens at social events you both might want to attend? etc., etc. Imagine it, reflect on it, choose what you need to happen.
- Be clear. Once you’re clear in your own mind, then you can be clear about them with your ex. In fact you’ll do well to be very, very clear with your ex what it is you expect; make no assumptions! I recommend you put it in writing – even a text message will do. State your view clearly, simply and without anger or negative emotion. Emotions are like fire: one will ignite another. And this is a message you want your ex to hear.
- Be reasonable. Don’t use boundaries as a way of getting back at your ex, or expressing how you feel. It will just make things worse. Choose what you (and your children) need in order to feel safe, comfortable and independent. Choose what you know you can deliver, but be willing to be flexible and to compromise on some issues. Be true to your best self, stand on higher ground, and be calm not overly stubborn. Show the respect that you wish to receive.
If you carry out these three actions then at the very least your ex will know what your expectations are. And you will have a starting point for dealing with issues such as poor communication - and turning up unannounced - should it happen further down the line.
Next time, I’ll be exploring the question: how do you deal with an ex who shows little or no respect for your boundaries, agreed or otherwise?