Have you had difficulties with someone before whether it be the ex-wife, ex-husband, friend or a family member that you don’t get along with, where you need to establish boundaries? To maintain your emotion well-being and to protect your privacy and personal space, there need to be boundaries. For example, maybe your husband has an ex-wife who calls multiple times of the day to talk to either the husband or the stepchildren. Or maybe the ex-wife just walks right into the house while your home and you’re not comfortable with it; boundaries need to be set up. Maybe the ex-wife has yelled at your husband and you stood up to her and defended him, it’s okay to be your husband’s protector against the ex-wife, but you just have to mindful around the children. A husband should stand up for his wife and protect her against the ex-wife.
There are some Stepmoms that don’t even know how to define what their personal space is because either they are afraid to speak up or they just don’t know how to go about it. Boundaries are important in all areas of life, whether it is through friendships, family or even on the job, but they are especially important in a blended family. It’s very important to develop and maintain these boundaries in a respectful way that makes everyone comfortable and happy. In order to establish these boundaries there needs to be communication between you and your husband about it, then once in agreement, you need to come up with how you want to handle everything that sounds fair to you and your husband. Then your husband needs to talk to the ex-wife and explain to her what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Rachelle Katz has said to ensure that we are not overpowered or overburdened by demands or interference from others, we construct boundaries that are composed of rules and behaviors that are expected of others to:
- Protect our privacy, possessions and sense of autonomy
- Help us to recognize our uniqueness, value our own opinions and trust our own judgment.
- Make it possible for us to ask for help when we need it and to handle rejection when others deny our wishes.
- Show us when to say yes or no to requests from others.
- Allow us to find personal happiness and fulfillment and give us the wisdom to let others live their lives without our interference.
- Regulate the pace at which we get to know others, allowing us to share personal information gradually as trust develops.
- Most important, they protect us from physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
Everyone needs to develop their own unique set of boundaries that are created by both spouses. An example of a good boundary that we used in our home is when a door is closed, you can’t just walk right in, you need to knock first and ask if it’s okay to go in the room. Another one would be that ex-spouses are only allowed in the foyer and not allowed beyond that or you might have it to where they are not allowed in your house ever. Either way it’s good to establish boundaries. Your boundaries should be flexible to accommodate different circumstances that may come up where you might have to bend the rules a little bit. Another example of a boundary in our house is for our kids, my son was not allowed to have girls in his room at any time. Another boundary is how many times can the ex-wife call your husband or contact the stepchildren on your scheduled weekends? One that was very hard in our house was letting the ex-wife interfere with our discipline, you should definitely put a stop to that, and it’s your house, your rules, and your punishment. If your ex-wife or ex-husband doesn’t like them, oh well, it’s not their right to establish what rules are in your household, that’s for you and your husband to establish together. Just like it’s not your right to disagree with the ex-wife’s rules or lack of. We might disagree with it, but don’t say anything to the children about it. Another example of a boundary between husband and wife is that the opposite sex is never allowed to kiss either of you on the lips.
A stepmom needs to be able to have a voice to stand up when the boundaries are being violated or taken advantage of. Often we stepmoms have weak boundaries where we often think of our own needs as secondary compared to the needs of our children or stepchildren. We often think it’s our responsibility to keep everyone happy, so we often forget about our own boundaries, thinking they are not as important as everyone else’s. Your boundaries are important and they should not be secondary, they should be first. I understand that you want your stepchildren to like you, but you also want them to respect you too. They won’t respect you if you keep weak boundaries. While it’s great to help out our stepchildren, friends or other family members but however, it’s just as important to be able to say No when the request interferes with your job or something else that you have already scheduled in advanced to do.
When setting boundaries and limits it’s important that we learn to choose our battles wisely and learn to distinguish between a fair and reasonable rule and a power struggle. Because limits and boundaries are to make sure everyone is safe and for the sanity of all who are concerned, whereas a power struggle is feeling the need to control and do just the opposite. When setting boundaries or rules of the house, try to think is this rule a reasonable one and will it benefit everyone in the long run or is it a power struggle? For example setting up curfews, it might be different for teenagers versus young children. But in my house for my son, when he was 16 years old to 18 years old, bedtime was 10:00 pm on the weekdays and 12:00 am on the weekends; however I might be flexible depending on the circumstance. Of course, my son didn’t like the rule and often said his friends didn’t have curfew times. I have heard it all, but I stayed to the times. After he graduated High School I became more relaxed, however, no friends were allowed to stay past 11:00 pm and he still needed to be home by midnight. My girls’ ages 10 & 11, go to bed on weekdays at 9:00 pm, on the weekends their bed time is 11:00 pm. As far as the rules of our household, here are the rules we made up together for all of our children to follow:
- No Name calling of any kind
- No Hitting/Kicking! That includes No hitting/kicking back
- No Closing the rooms unless changing clothes or doing homework or told to do so
- If a door is closed, knock first, wait until you are told to come in. If no one answers, DO NOT go in
- No locking anyone in rooms or out of the house
- Share ALL Toys, but it if it’s not a family toy, ask that person who owns it to use it first before using the toy
- Play Fair – no gaining up against each other
- Don’t exclude one another from playing while in a group.
- What happens in this house… STAYS IN THIS HOUSE!
- Clean up after yourselves – means anything: toys, snacks, garbage, dinner and cups are put in the sink after empty.
- After a Shower – hang up towels and put clothes in your hamper
- What we say goes and that’s it!
- If one parent says No, don’t go and ask the same question to the other parent.
- All Homework must be done before any type of playing
- No Swear Words of any kind!
I know these might not be the ones you may use, but these are our “House Rules” or boundaries/rules that my husband and I established early on in our marriage for all of the children and stepchildren to follow. Children need structure to grow up with; else they just run the whole household. We had them laminated and hung up on the fridge for them to see every day. We also have restrictions of their screen times meaning tablets which are two hours during the week and three hours on the weekends. We also have it to where it goes off an hour before bedtime, so even if they have time left; it locks an hour before bedtime. There is a great program that I use to help do that, which is called “Screen Time” it’s an app that you download, it works great. It also monitors and gives us reports of what apps they are using and browsing history. My girls do not have phones and won’t be getting their own phone until their 13th birthday. Once they get their first job, they will be required to pay for their own cell phone along with car insurance once they get their driver’s license. This teaches them responsibility, after all when they get in the real world; they will have to pay for this on their own anyways.
You need to establish a happy middle of boundaries and always review them for changes as the children and stepchildren get older and circumstances change over time. Don’t let people walk all over your boundaries, they are there for a reason stand up and fight for them to be observed and protected.
Do you have boundaries established in your family? Have you ever had someone overstep your boundaries before?
Rachelle Katz. (2010). The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family. Harlequin.