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What are "Boundaries" and How Should you Set Them With your Ex

August 24, 20232 min read

What are "Boundaries" and How Should you Set Them With Your Ex

If you follow pop culture news, you’ve probably heard the word “boundaries” come up a lot lately in stories about actor Jonah Hill's alleged text messages to his ex-girlfriend Sarah Brady. In the texts, Jonah allegedly outlines his parameters for a romantic partner, listing things such as “surfing with men” and “posting pictures of yourself in a bathing suit” as off-limits activities that would break his “boundaries for romantic partnership”. Setting boundaries with your former partner is an essential step in protecting yourself through your divorce and beyond, but the Jonah Hill story has made it abundantly clear that not everyone understands what the word “boundaries” actually means.

So, what even are boundaries? Boundaries are something you establish solely for yourself. You are the only person who can set them, enforce them, and protect them — and as a result, boundaries can only be about things that are within your own control. Boundaries can’t be based around another person because you can’t control their perceptions, actions, or behaviours — you can only control your own. To set a boundary is to clearly state a need of yours, in a way that emphasizes clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

If your former partner isn’t respecting your boundaries, you have to build in consequences that you can enforce. For example, if you’re requesting something from your former partner, send them an email that says, “based on our conversation, this is the plan I’ve put together. I’d appreciate any feedback by tomorrow at 5pm, and if I don’t hear back from you, I’ll move ahead as laid out above.” (Remember: Always formally document requests so you have something in writing to refer back to if needed!) Maintain your power and your control by using this boundary. This lets you continue to move through life independently without someone holding you back.

Remember: You only need to state a boundary once! You don’t need to get on the defensive or justify yourself. Boundaries are about personal accountability, not to project your issues on other people.

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Alicia Robertson

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