Freedom. Independence. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s July, and with our Independence Day celebrations just behind us, we can’t help but take a look at and reflect on our own independence.

Where have you given yourself freedom in the past?

How does your independence look today in your everyday life?

Where are you wishing you had more freedom and independence?

For couples going through separation or divorce, this can be a tricky subject to navigate as the relationship shifts.

I see this in my office a lot as couples look to separate from one another and create new lives that are independent from each other. In mediation, I suggest the couple work together as much as possible to prevent unnecessary heated arguments and to find mutually beneficial solutions.

But when people are fighting to break free from the marriage, tensions can run high. The couple has been operating as one unit for a particular period of time and creating independent lives takes a certain willingness to navigate into new territory. 

Couples who have been married often lose sense of boundaries within the relationship. And independence is all about boundaries – setting them, negotiating them, and adjusting them.

 

Set & Communicate

For the newly separated, boundaries with your ex must be established and communicated early on.

Perhaps you’re accustomed to certain roles and habits that will no longer work in your new relationship status. Being clear on your expectations of what the relationship will now look like helps avoid issues down the road.

For instance, will your ex be allowed in your house when picking up the kids? Will you discuss your dating life with your ex if dates will be around your children? At what point will you each share details of your life that could affect your children?

Imagine your life apart from your ex and make a list of what your boundaries and expectations would be. Encourage your ex to do the same and have a discussion so you each have the opportunity to share your wants and concerns. Being upfront can save a lot of fights and headaches down the road.

 

Negotiate

Keep in mind that boundaries are not an excuse to draw a line in the sand or build a brick wall. This is about setting expectations and being clear on what you need to live an independent life. It’s not about creating more ways to fight with your ex. Approach this process with an open mind to reap the full benefits.

Most likely, there will be some negotiating to reach the best solutions that work for you both. If certain boundaries make you uncomfortable, share your concerns and work openly to find a solution. If your ex questions your desires, be open to negotiating. There is a time to be firm and there’s a time to be flexible.

 

Adjust

Life is constantly changing. The boundaries you imagined and put in place might not end up serving you the best down the road.

Certain expectations may be in place while your children are in school, while summer creates reason for new adjustments. Maybe you or your ex is getting married and expectations need to be discussed to make room for a new parental figure. Once your children turn 18, there could be new issues that arise and need to be addressed.

Again, open communication and willingness is the best course of action. 

 

Your independence is worth fighting for, but it doesn’t have to be a nasty fight. Understanding boundaries and expectations ensures you’re on the same page and you can maintain your newfound freedom, even while co-parenting. Look for ways to enjoy your freedom and independence as you move through the divorce process.