In this day and age, dating and relationships have become quite complicated because many people have difficult exes to deal with. Sometimes when children are involved in the mix, things become harder. Now I’d like to talk about boundaries in dating when complexity arises in your relationship with your boyfriend.
Boundary No. 1: How to deal with his former lovers
A former lover who sends emails, calls, hangs around, shows up and makes a pest of herself is still obsessed with your boyfriend. She is not done yet and she hangs on to the idea that she can get him back. Now you must figure out whether he is enjoying this game or not, even though he complains about this woman. If she is just a pest and he doesn’t want to see her again, he won’t answer the phone or respond to her emails. If he is tricked into taking the phone call from her, he will tell her not to call him again. If she comes around, he will find a reason for not seeing her. If she is vengeful, and if he really wants to be rid of her, you will know it because he will change his phone number and change his address as well. But if he enjoys this game with her, he will take phone calls, respond to her emails, and so forth, even though he says he wants to be rid of her. In that case, you must set boundaries clearly, so you can say this to him, “If you consent to her game, this is a depraved courtship, and I must move on because my standards won’t allow me to stay in something like this.”
Boundary No. 2: How to deal with his ex-wife (or ex-wives)
If his ex-wife has remarried or has her life together and doesn’t call except to say when she will be by to pick up the children, you are lucky! This is a very pleasant ex-wife. Although you can like her, she can’t become your friend. Your relationship with your boyfriend has to be your No. 1 priority and can’t be watered down by being his ex-wife’s friend. Her views of him can affect your view of him. You might end up having the same relationship with him simply because you anticipate the same problems, according to what she has told you. Worse still, what she says could be out of her own secret agenda of not wanting to see him happier with another woman. It is a very rare ex-wife who isn’t slightly curious and perhaps slightly jealous of you as her replacement. Her ego will cause her to compare you with herself. This ex-wife may not be as nice about you behind your back as she appears to be to your face. She may truly like you or she may only seem truly to like you. It doesn’t matter. Your behavior should stay the same: If she isn’t a worry, be friendly and civil, but also be smart enough to protect your relationship from his ex-wife’s influence. This boundary in dating must be set very clearly. A problematic ex-wife knows all his hot buttons to pull out all the stops, i.e. blame, guilt and shame. Never put up with problematic ex-wives. Any ex-wife who still comes over or calls for advice is infringing and has no right to fairness or to anything else. That’s exactly why she is an ex-wife. If your boyfriend still spends Christmas together with his children and his ex-wife or has lengthy talks on the phone a few times a week with his ex-wife, they are only technically divorced because they are still psychologically married. Another sign is they meet for dinner or coffee when he brings kids back from visitation. That is a red flag. Furthermore, when their conversations are peppered with “my ex”, you know they haven’t consummated their divorce psychologically. The word “my” is a personal pronoun which shows possession. This pronoun denotes a lingering connection. It’s okay to use this pronoun occasionally, but if it’s used too often, it indicates a continuing status of possessive connection. So, here is how to set boundaries in dating when this situation arises: In order to be emotionally free, individuals must divorce not only on paper, but also divorce each other’s possessions, divorce each other in their behavior toward each other and divorce each other in their speech references to each other. Therefore, you need to tell your boyfriend to use his ex-wife’s name whenever he refers to her, e.g. “Jennifer did this…” or “John’s mother did this…” Pro tip from Shay Levister (Certified Love Transformer™): When you are talking to your boyfriend, you should try your best not to mention his ex-wife, because each time you mention his ex-wife, you are reminding him of her once! Get rid of this woman in your conversations with your boyfriend, please.
Boundary No. 3: his children & your children
If a man tells you that he can’t marry you because his kids need him to do this or that right now, here is the reality that I have to tell you – A guy can use his children as an excuse to vacillate or hedge. This is another way to avoid commitment. Though he can make himself sound idyllic, noble, angelic and honorable that he is thinking about his children’s needs and being such a great father, the truth is he is hiding behind his kids and using them as an excuse not to commit to you – you are not his No. 1. He is not ready for a real relationship with you and you are letting yourself in for meddling by kids and for second-place status with him. If this happens, it is certainly a no-win situation. How to set boundaries in dating when his children are involved:
Don’t try to be a second mom.
Don’t be a baby-sitter for his kids.
Don’t let him use his kids as an excuse.
Don’t ingratiate yourself to his family.
Don’t get involved in issues with his kids.
If you are a single mother, you might tend to make peers of your kids. Your talk to them as if they are your friends and you may even confide your problems to them. If this is true, you may unconsciously move your child from friend into spouse position psychologically. I really don’t want to say the words, yet you have to know that this term used for giving a child spouse-position priority is called “emotional incest”. I understand that you would never intend this, and that’s why I have to be honest with you. The problem caused by emotional incest from spouse-position priority treatment is if you find a new guy and get married one day, your child will feel betrayed as a wife does when she finds her husband has left her for another woman. Your child will feel emotionally lied to, cheated on and filled with anger and depression. Don’t let this happen without your realizing it. Ms. Shay Levister is a Certified Love Transformer™ & her new book is The Science of Attracting Love.