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10 types of unhealthy boundaries with ex-wife

Learn when setting boundaries becomes unhealthy and what you can do about it during the divorce process.

Dating Expert James Mendoza October 6, 2022 • 8 minutes read
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Going through a divorce is tough, and it can be even tougher when you have kids or other shared interests. You have to juggle your own emotions while trying to parent at the same time. It’s a lot of work, and it can be easy to let your boundaries slip.

Creating healthy relationship parameters with an ex-wife can be difficult, but it’s necessary for the well-being of everyone involved. Here are 10 types of unhealthy boundaries you might have with your ex-wife that can plague your life after divorce.

By understanding these types of unhealthy boundaries, you may be better able to identify them in your own life and work towards changing them. With time and effort, you can create healthy boundaries with your ex-wife and improve your relationship dramatically. Let’s get started!

1. Using children as bargaining chips or leverage

One of the most common unhealthy boundaries that can crop up in post-divorce life is to use children as pawns. This means using them to get what you want or control the situation. You might threaten to take away visitation time if she doesn’t do what you want. Or, you might try to get her to agree to something by offering more time with the kids.

This is an unhealthy way to operate and sets a bad example for your children. It also creates a lot of stress and anxiety for them. They shouldn’t have to be in the middle of their parents’ conflict.

This behavior isn’t only emotionally damaging to the children, but it can also create animosity between the parents that will be difficult to overcome.

2. Holding on to the past

It’s normal to have some residual anger after a divorce; after all, you’re probably feeling betrayed, hurt, and abandoned. However, it’s important to try to resolve these feelings and learn to embrace acceptance.

Holding onto anger and resentment towards your ex-wife can be difficult if you want to create a healthy relationship with her. Wounds from the past can be reopened easily, and it can be hard to resist taking digs at each other during arguments.

Dwelling on the negative aspects of your relationship won’t only make it harder to move forward, but it can also make it difficult to form new relationships. You might constantly compare potential partners to your ex-wife and find them lacking. Or, you might have difficulty trusting anyone new because you’re still holding onto the hurt from your divorce.

3. Trying to control everything

After a divorce, it can be tempting to try to control everything in your life as a way to deal with the uncertainty. Unfortunately, this can often lead to unhealthy behaviors like micromanaging, demanding constant updates or being overly possessive.

This need for control can be damaging to both you and your children, and it can prevent you from moving on and enjoying your life after divorce. Additionally, it can strain your relationship with your ex-wife and make it difficult to co-parent effectively.

If you find yourself needing to control everything, try to take a step back and relax. Take some time for yourself and focus on your happiness. This will help you be a better parent and have a healthier relationship with your ex-wife.

4. Badmouthing your ex-wife

Another unhealthy boundary that can crop up after the divorce is badmouthing your ex-wife to your peers or, worse, to your children. This can be tempting, especially if you’re feeling angry or hurt. Teaming up with mutual friends to gossip about your ex-wife can make you feel better in the moment, but it’s not healthy in the long run.

This type of behavior can damage your relationship with your ex-wife and make it difficult to resolve conflict constructively. Badmouthing your ex-wife to your children can also be harmful. They might start to see her in a negative light and feel caught in the middle of your conflict.

It’s important to try to avoid speaking badly about your ex-wife, even if you’re feeling angry or hurt. Seeing a therapist or a counselor can help you deal with these negative feelings healthily.

5. Remaining to be physically intimate with each other

It’s not uncommon for couples to remain physically intimate with each other even after they’ve divorced. This can be a healthy way to deal with the residual feelings of love and attraction. On the other hand, it can also be an unhealthy way to cope with the pain of divorce.

As soon as you find yourself in this situation, it’s imperative that you be honest with yourself about your motivations. Are you physically intimate with your ex-wife because you still have feelings for her? Or, are you using this as a way to avoid dealing with the emotional pain of divorce?

Trying to run away from your emotions will only make them worse in the long run, so it’s vital to set clear boundaries and ensure that both of you are on the same page with your level of intimacy.

6. Relying on each other for professional or financial support

Another unhealthy boundary that can develop after divorce is relying on your ex-wife for professional or financial support. What used to be a cooperative partnership can quickly turn into an unhealthy dependence. This can further lead to financial stress, a major conflict source for divorced couples.

This type of boundary can be damaging to both you and your ex-wife. It can prevent you from moving on and being independent. It can also put a strain on your relationship and make it more challenging to resolve conflict.

Being able to live independently and support yourself is crucial for your happiness after divorce. Set professional and financial boundaries with your ex-wife and ensure you’re not relying on her for everything.

7. Calling each other unannounced

Another unhealthy boundary that can develop after divorce is calling each other at random times or texting excessively. Remember, just because you’re not married anymore doesn’t mean that you don’t have to respect each other’s time and space.

You have a life after divorce, and so does your ex-wife. Unannounced calls and texts can be disruptive and intrusive. They can also be a source of conflict. When you find you or your ex-wife doing this, take some time to sit each other down and establish some healthy communication boundaries.

8. Emotional manipulation

While it’s important to be honest with your ex-wife, it’s also vital to make sure that you’re not manipulating her emotions. Emotional blackmail is another unhealthy boundary you need to watch out for, and this type of boundary violation can take many forms, such as guilt-tripping, playing the victim, or excessive flattering.

Emotional manipulation is a toxic way to try to get what you want from your former spouse. It can also be a major source of conflict. Whether you’re on the receiving or the giving end of emotional manipulation, being aware of this unhealthy boundary is important if you want to avoid it.

9. Not making space for new relationships

Finding love after divorce can be challenging, but it’s certainly possible. When you constantly think about your ex-wife or compare every potential partner to her, it’s a sign that you haven’t moved on from the marriage. This can be a major obstacle to finding happiness after divorce.

In order to grow, it’s important that you make space in your life for new relationships. This doesn’t mean you have to forget about your ex-wife or the marriage. But, it does mean that you need to let go of the past and open yourself up to a different type of love.

10. Treating each other harshly or disrespectfully

Just because your marriage is over doesn’t mean that you and your ex-wife can’t still treat each other with kindness and respect. Both of you now have a different role in each other’s lives, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still be friends or co-parent effectively.

Of course, there will be times when you disagree or have conflict. But, it’s important to try to solve these issues in a manner that is respectful and considerate of both of your circumstances. Being cordial with your ex-wife won’t only make your life easier, but it will also set a good example for your children.

Unhealthy boundaries can be damaging to both you and your ex-wife’s relationship after divorce. It can prevent you from moving on and finding happiness in your new life. If you find yourself having any of these boundaries, take some time to have a discussion with your ex-wife to try and draw up some healthier boundaries. Doing so will be beneficial for both of you in the long run.


Must-read books about exes

Exes can be a touchy subject. Whether you’re still hung up on them, or you’ve moved on, they’re often a topic that’s hard to avoid. If you’re in the former or latter camp, these books about exes might be for you. These titles explore everything from what it’s like to be dumped to how to deal with an ex who won’t go away.

  1. Flirting: How to Flirt for Women Wanting to Date a High-Value Man, Including Seductive Body Language Techniques and a Guide to Get Your Ex Back
  2. Relationship Goals: How to Win at Dating, Marriage, and Sex
  3. Don't Text Your Ex Happy Birthday: And Other Advice on Love, Sex, and Dating
  4. The Friends With Benefits Rulebook: How to Get in, Get Laid, and Get Out With Dignity (and Even a Relationship)
  5. She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman
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Dating Expert

James Mendoza

James Mendoza is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about relationships, marriage, and living happily as a single. After getting through two divorces and being cheated …

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