Setting Healthy Co-Parenting Boundaries

Navigating the ins and outs of setting up boundaries with your ex can feel exhausting. In your life after divorce, setting healthy co-parenting boundaries is a hugely important step toward self-healing and growth. That’s why today I want to dive into the root cause of any friction with boundaries, why you need to grieve, and how to understand what is driving your relationship with your ex.

First, let’s talk about if you are aware of the difference between a functional boundary and a relational boundary.

What are Relational Boundaries?

A relational boundary is a limit or guideline set by people to define acceptable behavior, interactions, and expectations within a relationship.

This type of boundary occurs when you’re actively in a relationship with someone, like your best friend, your mom, your kid, your boyfriend, or your therapist.

What are Functional Boundaries?

A functional boundary is a type of boundary that defines the roles, responsibilities, and tasks within a relationship.

Inside an existing relationship, functional boundaries are around meeting deadlines, completing projects, and the logistics of life.

More times than not, women are trying to set relational boundaries with their ex-husbands when what’s called for is a functional boundary. Too often we act as if we still have a functioning relationship with our ex and that we still get to call the shots, either with the ex or with the kids.

Unfortunately, as divorced parents, you have to be good at accepting things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

Very often, you want to set relational boundaries with your ex that have to do with parenting your child. Still, you don’t get to set unilateral relationship boundaries to do with your kids anymore because you only get half a say. After all, they’re only half yours.

This is a really difficult transition. I want you to think about the places where you’ve been longing to set healthy co-parenting boundaries, or you’re avoiding setting boundaries. Do you have this clear awareness?

cut out paper family, wooden gavel hanging over them, healthy Co-Parenting Boundaries

Changing Negative Beliefs into Healthy Co-Parenting Boundaries

While navigating co-parenting and boundaries, divorced women struggle to try and control the situation. This is driven by negative beliefs. I am all about doing the subconscious work of shifting negative beliefs into positive beliefs because many of our relationship patterns and behaviors come from internalized negative beliefs. And there are a handful of negative beliefs that are specifically driving you to want to control and stay in a power struggle with your ex.

Let’s go through a few of these now, and I want you to notice which ones you react to. This means you need to take a look at rewiring those in your subconscious mind, as well as take a look at where they might be driving you to want to over-control or set inappropriate co-parenting boundaries with your ex.

I Should Have Known Better & I Should Have Done Something Different

“I should have known better, and I should have done something different.” Those are two common ones that we women struggle with in a divorce context. In this case, we have not fully processed that we’re holding ourselves to an unreasonable standard or expectation, we haven’t forgiven ourselves, and we haven’t reprocessed that negative belief. Right now, we want to control the fallout of this divorce, especially with the kids.

For instance, maybe your ex doesn’t have ideal parenting behaviors, and they’re not being attentive with healthy food choices or proper medication, administration, clothing, bedtimes, or maybe even substance use.

There is a strong tendency that if you are beating yourself up and feeling like you should have known better and you should have done something, you will try and control those situations in your post-divorce life that you do not have control over, and you will try to set co-parenting boundaries that aren’t actually boundaries. They’re either requests or none of your business, which sounds terrible because this is your kid. What wouldn’t you do for your kid?

But the reality of divorce and co-parenting is that we have to accept the limits of our influence when the kiddos are not with us. And that means letting go and practicing that new skill set.

group of wish stones

I Can’t Trust Anyone

I can’t trust anyone.” This one is so common after divorce, especially because of things like infidelity, dishonesty, and substance use. Of course, it feels like you can’t trust anyone.

Quite frankly, the reason you picked a partner who you can’t trust in the first place probably came from childhood experiences where you felt like you couldn’t trust your caregivers or yourself.

Also, if you experienced a lot of gaslighting, either in your childhood or in your marriage, it will be difficult trusting yourself or trusting other people.

When you believe that you can’t trust anyone in your post-divorce life, you will fixate on a lot of things and want to set inappropriate boundaries, rather than having a positive belief that you would want to work towards, which would be, “I can learn how to trust” or with time and effort, “I can trust other people.”

I Am Helpless

“I am helpless.” This one feels so large and all-consuming with co-parenting.

It’s not true, because so many of the things that we women feel helpless around, we need to find acceptance and peace and we need to let go of a lot of things.

We need to grieve.

We women need to understand the idea of

“I can only control what’s inside of my hula hoop and not what’s outside of my hula hoop.”

But helplessness is never real. There is always something we can do to improve a situation. So often, yes, you are helpless to control somebody else’s behavior, but that does not mean that you are helpless to positively influence the situation.

We women often misconstrue how we can positively influence the situation.

We don’t understand that we are vibrational, frequency-driven beings. And the higher vibe we have, the more positive we are, the more we can deal with our negative beliefs and our negative emotions.

The more we have processed those things in our life after divorce, the more we have integrated them, the more we have healed, the more we will always automatically, positively influence a situation, the more we are going to make wise choices about when to act and when to wait.

You are never helpless, but you are always helpless to control somebody else.

glass bottles with fluid in them, plate and glass jar with homeopathy balls.

I Can’t Get My Needs Met

“I can’t get my needs met.” You can always get your needs met. If you have a pattern of going to the hardware store to buy a gallon of milk, you will reinforce the negative belief that you can’t get your needs met. But that’s because you’ve been shopping at the wrong store for the right item.

When we women start to reprocess all the events that led to this internalized negative belief, we automatically start going to the proper places to get our needs met (such as a higher power, a support system, or a reliable friend), which then reinforces, “I can get my needs met.”

I Am Not Good Enough

“I am not good enough.” The way I see this showing up a lot in boundaries with co-parenting is when your ex gets the new girlfriend. It kicks up all those feelings that you’re not good enough as a romantic partner or as a parent, and then you feel all this guilt and shame to do with your kids. It can be many things:

If they prefer it over there at his house with the new girlfriend, you start comparing yourself to her, or it’s a financial comparison about what you can provide your children versus what he can provide.

So all that “not good enough stuff” keeps you wound up about wanting to set superficial co-parenting boundaries with your ex around who he can see when he introduces the new girlfriend to the kids and all that stuff around vacations and holidays. It just gets very messy.

Your Divorce Trauma Healing Journey Starts Here

When you start to address your internalized negative beliefs using tools like EFT tapping, EMDR therapy, homeopathy, or guided journaling, it will be a game changer for you in your life after divorce. You’ll no longer be chasing these inappropriate boundaries with your ex.

woman with long dark blonde hair, face held in her hands, in gray t-shirt and jeans, sitting down. How to Deal with Grief In Your Divorce Recovery

How to Deal with Grief In Your Divorce Recovery

You may not realize that you are staying in a power struggle with your ex because you are avoiding grieving.

You’re grieving that you only have your kids a certain amount of the time, you don’t have control over what happens when you’re not around and you have time alone.

You’re grieving your loss of self, your shift of identity from wife to a single woman. The loss of the family structure as it was, the loss of your partner as you envisioned him. The loss of the dream of how you thought it was all going to go.

So when you stay in a power struggle, attempting to set healthy co-parenting boundaries and then being mad at him for violating them, you are avoiding sitting with these heavier feelings that need to be processed and feeling them, forgiving yourself, forgiving him, finding acceptance, and releasing them.

The power struggle that you’re having with your ex is a lot of, “I don’t want to feel, and I don’t want to face it, and I don’t want to sit with the reality of the current situation.”

Now, I don’t want you to stay stuck in the reality of the current situation because I have plans for you. You have plans for you. So I want you to be aspirational. I want you to be looking forward to it all. I want you to be making plans for your future self.

But I don’t want you to completely bypass the emotions that need to be processed.

Until you process those, you will not find peace, and you will not attract the man of your dreams, the job of your dreams, the home of your dreams.

Those things that you want to manifest require you to process your grief.

How much are you leaning into anger, resentment, and power struggle instead of grieving and getting in touch with the truth of who you are? Getting to the truth of where you want to go? And what do you need to forgive yourself for?

wood cubes with letters on each, spelling 'boundary', healthy Co-Parenting Boundaries

Checklist of Co-Parenting Boundaries

There is a lot of information out there about healthy boundaries in co-parenting. And I think that the truth of boundaries is often, especially when it comes to co-parenting, a lot of your work is more internal than external.

If you are setting a healthy boundary with your ex with co-parenting, I have created a checklist of co-parenting boundaries for you; it can be found in this blog. Before that, I want you to ask yourself: Is this a relational boundary or a structural boundary? And am I using the wrong context? Is there a negative belief that I have about myself that’s driving this boundary? And am I avoiding grief?

We women have to be honest with ourselves about our motives and our methods of enforcement in these contexts.

Sometimes, complex scenarios require more complex boundary setting, which needs more specialized support and guidance.

We women need to take a close look at those things before just kind of perpetuating a power struggle and rushing in to set a boundary that we’re not prepared to execute or enforce.

Taking action to reprocess negative beliefs and cultivate positive ones to create healthy co-parenting boundaries will absolutely change the nature of your relationship with your ex.

More to come on this topic. You’ve got this. I believe in you.

Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins

...helps people crack open. Challenging the status quo, she integrates multiple modalities from EMDR to EFT tapping, journaling, homeopathy, and movement, embracing remedies that heal both the mind and body. Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins is on a mission to deliver life-changing therapy in an accessible, scalable, affordable way and make waves in the world of mental health with the same enlightenment that happens in her office. Part science, part essential oils, pure magic.

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