Some people talk about how they really struggle to set boundaries with their time, commitments and relationships. Due to the nature of my job as a nurse, often my easiest “boundary” was “no, I can’t because I have to work that night or that weekend”. So, I have never been one of those women who felt they could “do it all”. Yes, I have volunteered for various things for my sons’ schools and brought treats for soccer games, but I have rarely been in the type of job where I can regularly commit to anything. So, having never really needing to frequently set boundaries, the past few months I have been doing just that.
The hardest boundary I have had to set, is cutting my ex-husband out of my life, other than contact regarding the boys. Initially, we had agreed to remain Facebook “friends” so that he could see pictures of the boys and keep up with their lives. For the first few weeks, it went okay. We even had a few nice talks about the boys. That all changed shortly after he left when, without going into the dirty details, there were some things I discovered after he moved out that disgusted and disturbed me and where he lost any right to even that level of contact. I sent him a message and explained that we were done and “unfriended” and “blocked” him. People assumed I would have done that sooner, but we were trying to remain amicable and this was one way we were going to try doing so. Then, a few weeks ago, I sent him an email with the dates of the boys’ Christmas break, so he could start thinking about airplane flights to visit him. A few minutes after I sent the email, he texted me, asking if we could talk for a few minutes. I foolishly assumed that he wanted to talk about the dates I gave him, so I called him back. He then started talking, not asking one word about our sons, and said “well, I just wanted to call and let you know my wedding date before you heard it from someone else”. This conversation took place weeks before our divorce was even finalized. Admittedly, I lost it. I yelled at him and cried and told him how dare he call and talk about his wedding to another woman when he was still married to me. Shortly after that conversation, I sent him a text telling him not to contact me at all unless it involved the boys. After I told him that, not only did he not contact me, but he also refused to have any conversations about some health issues the boys were facing. I resorted to emailing him and leaving it there. On Friday, July 7th, the paperwork finalizing our divorce, was submitted to the judge. Monday morning, he emailed, called, and texted, at first asking, then demanding that I make him copies of 6 years’ worth of financial records so that he could get a loan for the house he was buying for his new family. Initially, I started to help him, then it hit me that I had told him to take care of all of this before he left, but no, he had spent two to three hours a day on the phone with her and had gone shopping for stuff for his new home rather than make copies of our joint financial records. So, after stewing on it for a few hours, I emailed him and told him “no” and that I wasn’t his wife anymore and under no obligation to help him, so he needed to figure it out himself and reminded him to leave me alone. There is part of me that wanted to help, but I really had to think about my own motivation for helping (like him thinking of me kindly). It would have been one thing to help with something for the boys, but why on earth should I be expected to assist him in buying a home for the woman he left me for? No, no, and no. I also realized that by dialoging with him regarding these records, I was allowing him to violate a previously established boundary.
Interestingly, I have also started to set some firm boundaries with the boys on certain issues. Messi has started to push hard on attending church and every Sunday morning is a battle. I have remained firm that we will be attending church as a family and every week he seems determined to make me regret that decision. This past week was the worst and he threw a teenage temper tantrum (eye rolling, ear plugging, dramatic sighs) in the middle of the service, so I pulled him out to talk to him. As I tried to talk, he pulled out a full repertoire of words meant to hurt me. I know a lot of this was lashing out in anger over everything going on in our life, but there is a fine line between giving him grace for his grief and setting boundaries for our family interactions. Later that afternoon, when we had both cooled off, I talked to him. I told him that I understood he didn’t want to go to church and that he was angry at his dad and angry at me, but that in our family, we do not use our words as weapons to intentionally hurt one another. He listened and apologized. I know we will all weaponize our words again, but I am trying to establish that it isn’t who we are as a family.
In the 6 weeks that my ex-husband remained in my home, I really struggled to distance myself emotionally from him. Yes, he had hurt me, but you can’t just flip a switch on 14 years of marriage. Often at night, after work, when I was tired and vulnerable, I would go up to let him know something about the kids and found myself just crying to him. One night he just sat there rolling his eyes and said, “I am not your therapist, please get out”. It was harsh and cruel, but true. I hadn’t been able to build that boundary around my heart yet, and I was being vulnerable to someone that did not deserve that level of intimacy. I am also having to work on the role he continues to take in my mind and heart. Part of the way I chose to build a boundary around my mind is by removing things that triggered me to think on him and us – whether through blocking him on social media or removing photos of him from my home. I recognize that the pain and anger will lessen with time, but I also know that sometimes I need to choose not to engage with those emotions. There is a time and place for that grieving and anger to be released, but I don’t always have to be at the mercy of my emotions. This is a hard season and God is showing me how to create boundaries which will allow for my healing.