Personal space and respect are to the smoothness of a relationship. All personal relationships require boundaries. Boundaries are the limits you place on how much others can ask of you, verbally or otherwise. If a friendship or relationship is between two people who both have solid boundaries, the subject may never come up, because neither person will encroach without permission -- but, the boundaries are there.
When you move from being married to being divorced, new boundaries must be set. Setting boundaries creates mutual respect and consideration. These qualities allow people to be close without emotional harm. Boundaries are breached by such actions as:
- Reading personal mail or rummaging in personal space or demanding time, affection or consideration without considering the other person's wishes or feelings.
- Showing up unannounced is another classic breach of boundaries, as is gossiping, or changing appointments without advance notice.
Anyone can be subjected to rudeness and inconsideration. How you handle it determines whether you are setting boundaries or not. Most situations can be handled with polite firmness. People pleasers usually just don't know how to say "No, thank you" and make it stick. Boundaries can be set with grace and gentility. Be polite, and say "Please and thank you."
You probably will lose friends if you go around making big, obnoxious announcements about how you want to be treated. Instead, set an example by how you treat your friends, and by speaking up at the moment -- saying "No, thank you" or "I'm sorry, I don't really like that" when you need to. If you say "No, thank you" several times, then, gently tell the person you don't like what they're doing, that it makes you uncomfortable, and they still don't get it, then you need to sit them down and tell them you will not allow them to do that to you.
For example, if your ex, shows up unannounced, or changes schedules a lot, you can say, gently, "It's important to me that we stick to the schedule," or "Please don't show up when you're not invited." If that doesn't work, then have a talk -- say, "I think you're taking advantage of my time, and I can't be your friend if the situation doesn't improve. So, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to let you in if you just show up without calling first, and I'm not going to let you change my schedule without a good reason."
If that doesn't improve matters, then you'll need to give that person a "time out" -- withdraw from personal contact, and just be very polite when you do happen to see him or her. He or she will get the message loud and clear. Perhaps your ex will ask "Are you mad at me?" and then you can describe what the problem is.
If you feel "used" or taken advantage of -- you haven't set boundaries. If you just decided you had enough and started setting boundaries, it's not necessary to tell your ex about your boundaries in most cases. Just learning to say "No, thank you" or "Please don't do that" is enough. Tina Tessina, Ph.D., has been a licensed California psychotherapist for more than 30 years. She has authored more than 11 books, including "Money, Sex and Kids"; “The Commuter Marriage: Keeping your Relationship Close While you’re Far Apart”; "How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free"; "The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again"; and, “It Ends with You: Grow Up and Grow Out of Dysfunction.” Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.