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Monday, January 11, 2016

A Bill of Rights for the Divorced


Boundaries and borders are much in the news these days.  Some countries are considering closing their borders, others, such as the United States wrestle with how to secure the borders and what that security should be like.  Across the Middle East, boundaries are being defied while invaders seek to claim new territories through warfare.  But the concern for boundaries applies also to homes established after a divorce, but just like international boundaries, they can be very tricky to define and enforce.

One of the tough areas in the early days of divorce is learning how to set and hold appropriate boundaries, and then determining which boundaries might need to be more open to negotiation.  Does your ex enter your home?  Is it okay for him or her to call you every day?  What about ignoring the assigned times for picking up children?  Sometimes an ex thinks it is their place to inform the former spouse of all the parenting mistakes their ex is making.  Other times, an ex will make plans for a child on a day that the child will be at the other parent’s home, and then set up the child to come bounding in and say, “That’s okay, isn’t it?”  

The hard part is that there are no clear rules that are hard and fast, in that the relationship between one set of divorced parents might work well enough that the doors to the home can be open and welcoming.  On the other hand, another divorcee may not be able to trust the behavior of their ex in the home, finding things missing afterwards, or inappropriate suggestions.  Some individuals, especially in the early days of divorce, somehow get it in their heads that they can be divorced but go on living as if nothing has changed.  In truth, everything has changed, from the very fundamentals.

Here are a few suggestions that might provide helpful guides---

  1. You have the right to create whatever boundary is necessary for you and your children to feel safe in the walls.
  2.  You have the right to not have to endure harassment from an individual who no longer wants to be your spouse.
  3. You have the right to expect to be treated with appropriate respect, even if the relationship cannot be cordial.
  4. You have the right to say, “no,” when doing otherwise would infringe on your time or emotional health.
  5. You have the right to have private space.
  6. You have the right to give yourself time and opportunity to heal emotionally.
  7. You have the right to arrange the next chapter in your life in whatever ways you and God find acceptable, whether your ex does or not.
  8. You have the right to explore a future for yourself, to step forward and try new things in your life.
  9. You have the right to change your mind, and reconcile with your spouse if that opportunity arises, whether others approve or not.
  10. You have the right to do only the best you can, making mistakes along the way…because, after all, you are only human and are charting a new and unexplored land of life on your own again.

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