5 Ways To Set Clear Ground Rules When Separating From Your Spouse

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How To Set Appropriate Boundaries For Legal Separation

Are you considering taking the first step to ending your marriage and wondering how to set boundaries for marriage separation that will make the process go a bit more smoothly? Good for you for planning ahead!

When you decide to end your marriage and get separated, the best way to start the painful process of splitting up is by setting boundaries— healthy boundaries — that will help you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse transition to a life without one another in the quickest, easiest way possible.

You might wonder how to set boundaries or even feel overwhelmed by the concept at first, but that's OK. Planning a separation is a big step — and a very challenging one — so making a proactive effort to set boundaries in advance of your separation is an excellent plan.

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Appropriate personal boundaries are different for everyone, but there are some specific areas that most former couples consider when creating their own.

Here are 5 healthy boundaries you should consider that will make your marriage separation go more smoothly.

1. Maintain physical space.

For as long as you have been in this relationship, and especially once you got married, you and your partner have shared space. You have had both shared and separate schedules and you come as go as you please. Not anymore.

Now that you are separating, ground rules will have to be set as to who is where and when.

If you are living in the house, when can your partner come over? Does he call ahead? Do you always want to be there or never want to be there when he comes? What about the possessions in the house? Will they stay with you, or will your partner remove his half to furnish his new place?

How about the kids’ school events? Will you both attend or do you need to make a schedule to define who goes where when?

Physical space is a very tricky area to maneuver during a marriage separation. Emotions are usually so high that maintaining some kind of space for setting emotional boundaries is important but to what extent it’s up to each couple.

2. Decide how money will be spent.

Do you and your partner have a shared bank account where both of your money is deposited when received? Or do you have separate accounts and one joint one to manage household finances? Perhaps, he gets paid in cash and it gets kept in a safety deposit box while your funds go into the house account?

Whatever your bank situation, once you are separated, the bills are still going to need to be paid. It is important that you and your partner decide who is going to pay what and when.

Here is a partial list of things to consider when dividing things up:

  • Household management expenses: Mortgage, utilities, water, cable, trash, taxes, home maintenance costs
  • Household occupant expenses: Groceries, clothing, pet care, car costs
  • Kids’ expenses: School, activities, daycare
  • Medical Insurance: Doctors and therapist expenses

Again, this is a partial list and you can add more to it, if you need to.

3. Decide when to spend time with the kids.

This is a big one. Who gets to spend time with the kids is one of the most emotionally charged pieces of separating. Often, couples don’t get separated so that they don’t have to deal with it.

As soon as possible, after the decision to separate occurs, it is important to decide who is going to see the kids and when.

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This will be a scary time for them and having a schedule in place, ASAP, will help them a lot in the transition. Helping them get through this, intact, must be a high priority.

So, work together, be as reasonable as you can, and make sure that the kids have time with each parent. You might not like your partner right now but they are still your kids’ parent and time with them is important.

4. Decide if you should introduce new partners.

When my ex-husband left me for someone else, he tried to bring her into his life right away. He introduced her to his family within months and insisted that our kids meet her soon after.

Meanwhile, our kids were devastated. Their daddy wanted them to meet his new love, someone who wasn’t their mommy. This person meant nothing to them — she was just their dad’s girlfriend, but he thought it was imperative that she become a part of their life.

Before you make the decision to bring the kids into your grown-up romantic relationship, carefully consider your motivations. Are you doing it for them or for you? Do you feel like you need to be validated by your kids or is your new partner pressuring you into making the introduction?

Remember, for most kids, all they really want is their parents back together. So, bringing someone new into the equation too soon will not be a good thing for them. Perhaps not for anybody.

5. Consider your own personal needs.

The list above is of areas that most couples look at when setting appropriate boundaries for marriage separation but it isn't an exhaustive one. It is also important that you consider what is important to you when setting up boundaries.

For me, it was essential that I had my things around me when I moved out of the house. I knew that to survive the emotional turmoil that was ahead I would need the comfort of things that I feathered my nest with. So, I asked for my things and I took them.

What might be important for you to have to get you through this tough period? Perhaps you want to go to marriage counseling and want that to be part of the established boundaries. Or perhaps it’s important to you that you continue to spend one weekend a month as a family, visiting your aging parents.

Carefully consider what you need to stay strong and healthy during what might be the most difficult time in your life.

Breaking up a relationship sucks — it’s just that simple.

And setting appropriate relationship boundaries for marriage separation is a key part of managing just how sucky it will be.

Work closely with your partner during this tumultuous time and try to keep your family business running on an even keel, even if emotions are running high.

Many couples don’t set boundaries and all hell breaks loose around the family and the finances, to the point that relationships fail and finances are ruined.

Don’t do that. Set some boundaries now; you will be glad you did.

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Mitzi Bockmann is a NYC-based certified life coach and mental health advocate whose writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN, and The Good Man Project, among others. She works exclusively with women to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live and encourages you to email her to get started.

This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.