Setting boundaries with your ex leads to clearer expectations of how you can move forward at the end of a relationship.
Setting boundaries may be a good place to start if you want to improve your relationships. Limits allow space for your relationships to thrive and survive.
There are some relationships you may encounter where boundaries feel difficult and tricky. You may feel overwhelmed trying to start.
If you have been through a breakup, this is one of those essential times for setting boundaries. If you can learn how to set limits that feel good for you with your ex, it can make moving on with your life easier.
Importance of setting boundaries with an ex
People choose to end relationships for a variety of reasons. Having boundaries at the end of a relationship is essential.
Boundaries can help with the following:
- healing from the relationship
- your mental health
- protecting you from dangerous situations
- healthy co-parenting for your children
Boundaries aren’t always easy to set and maintain, especially if you have unresolved feelings for your ex. But you can learn ways to protect yourself from continued anguish and heartbreak.
Boundaries vs. no boundaries with an ex
Establishing healthy boundaries can help you improve your self-confidence and independence regardless of who decided to call it quits. It can be empowering when you set healthy limits.
When you don’t set boundaries, the expectations become unclear, and you may find yourself doing things detrimental to your well-being.
Boundaries regarding contact
When a relationship ends, it may be hard to adjust to your life without that person. No matter what feelings are coming up, you most likely will have to set some limits regarding contact.
- No boundaries: “If you need anything, you can always reach out to me anytime; I would still do anything for you.”
- Healthy boundaries: “Right now, I feel hurt over this relationship ending; I would appreciate it if, for the next two months, you only contacted me regarding situations concerning the kids.”
People with no boundaries are making themselves overly available and not allowing themselves space to heal.
In the healthy boundaries example, the person clearly states what they need and how long, leaving little room for misinterpretation.
If you’re getting out of domestic violence or an abusive situation, it may be best not to make contact with your ex. You may also choose to go with no contact for numerous other reasons; whatever you decide is OK.
Blocking your ex’s number or filing a restraining order may also be necessary for moving forward.
If you have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, help is available to you 24/7
- Consider reaching out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE
- Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.4673
- Talk with a trusted loved one
Boundaries regarding friendship
Many people choose to be friends with their ex. If you believe this is possible for you and your ex, it may be wise to take some space away from each other first.
It’s hard to get to a healthy place where friendship is possible if you feel hurt or have unresolved feelings about your relationship. Taking space to pursue your interests and hobbies helps form independence.
- No boundaries: “I still want to be friends. Can we go to dinner next week?”
- Healthy boundaries: “I would eventually like it if we could be friends, but I need time to heal right now. Maybe we can see where we are both at in a couple of months.”
In this situation, boundaries are present to allow time for both parties to cope with the loss of the relationship and allow space to potentially explore friendship in the future.
Boundaries regarding parenting
Breakups with children involved can be added challenge. If you recently went through a breakup that involved children, you may want to keep some limits in mind, such as:
- don’t use the children as weapons
- avoid passive aggressiveness
- keep communication clear and concise
- follow a parenting plan
Having clear limits with your ex when parenting can help you, your ex, and your children have appropriate expectations of what will happen.
- No boundaries: “I told our son to tell you that I wouldn’t be able to meet you at our agreed-upon time today; he didn’t tell you?”
- Healthy boundaries: “I know we agreed to meet at 5 p.m. today; however, our son has a dentist appointment right after school. Is it OK to meet you at 6 p.m., after his appointment?”
Research from 2021 indicates that methods of co-parenting before and after separation and divorce can impact a child’s overall mental health and well-being.
Other boundary areas to explore
There may be other boundary types worth exploring with your ex, such as:
- dealing with mutual friends
- flirting/sexual behaviors
- personal property limits
- information sharing
It may be helpful to assess your needs and desires for how you want to approach these situations.
You may be codependent if you’ve consistently sacrificed your needs for the needs of others. In romantic relationships, losing your identity in someone else can be easy.
If you have codependent tendencies, the end of a romantic relationship may leave you wondering who you are.
If you have characteristics of codependency, boundaries were likely nonexistent in your relationship. Without limits, you can feel overwhelmed and resentful.
A 2020 study of eight individuals that looked at the experiences of individuals with codependency found some common shared experiences.
Codependent characteristics may look like:
- difficulty with a sense of self
- blending in with others
- loss of individuality
- ups and downs in emotions
- sacrificing what you want for others
- low self-esteem
- high need for validation from others
There are ways to heal from codependency, and setting boundaries allows you to stand up for yourself.
Going through a breakup can be difficult, but setting and maintaining boundaries can:
- help you heal from the relationship
- improve your mental health and overall well-being
- protect you from dangerous situations
- encourage healthy co-parenting
Setting boundaries with your ex shows that you can make good decisions for yourself and the other person.
Without limits, situations can feel confusing and lead to negative emotions. Healthy boundaries get easier with practice.