Jennifer and Dan, a couple in their mid-30s with two kids, had a fairly amicable divorce. But Jen still has a reservoir of residual hurt because the end of their marriage was directly caused by Dan's affair.
Dan, however, is eager to move on in a friendly manner.
Scene: It is Sunday morning and Dan is scheduled to take the kids. He drives up to the family house, opens the garage door and comes into the kitchen. Jennifer is cleaning up after breakfast and the children are nearby.
Dan: Hi guys.
Jennifer (icily): Hi.
Dan: What's the problem? I'm here to pick up the kids. You don't have to be so cold.
Jennifer: Did I invite you in?!
A Lesson about Boundaries:
Do not make your home available to your ex-husband, as if he still lived there.
He can knock on the door and you can deliver the kids to him at the door.
Particularly at the beginning of the divorce process, your house must become your sacred — and safe — territory.
Your home needs to be a place of refuge and should not turn into a boundary-less arena. Letting your ex-husband come and go as he pleases can make you feel uncomfortable and anxious.
From his point of view, nothing is wrong. This was his home. He may even own half of it.
Just remember that you need your space, and that boundaries need to be set.
In years of practice I have come to discover that when boundaries are set properly - and early - it is better for all involved, including the wife, the ex-husband and the kids.
Couples do better when they have set strong limits, given how powerful the pull of emotions can be during a divorce.
"It is easier to liberalize from a conservative position than to become more conservative from a liberal position."
This maxim applies to divorce. Try being conservative initially. Both in setting boundaries with your husband and, indeed, with your kids.
Once trust is reestablished and you know that you can count on your ex-husband, that he is reasonable and that he is not going to be intrusive, then you may want to liberalize and have him come into the house, have meals and the like.
But only do it once you feel safe and secure.
The irony, of course, is that if you come from position of strength, if you feel solid and not bullied by your ex-husband's behavior, you are in a better position to actually collaborate with him for the sake of the children.
That puts you in a better position to keep your temper in front of your kids, not say dumb things that can hurt their feelings, or say things to your ex-husband that you would later regret.
Dr. Banschick's Maxim: Set the boundaries early on. It is good policy for everyone involved.