Proper Boundaries

by Erin Kassebaum,

It’s important to maintain proper boundaries during and after divorce. Boundaries help handle the common feelings of helplessness, confusion and guilt. Boundaries also help maintain ownership of our lives and find balance. As a result we are able to take care of ourselves, which frees us to love and care for others.

I recently read a book called Boundaries: When to Say Yes and When to Say No and Take Control of your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In this article I’m highlighting a few of the ten “Laws of Boundaries” outlined in the book.

The Law of Power. The basic premise of this law is knowing what we control and what we don’t control. It is common to want an apology from our (soon-to-be) ex; it’s not common to actually receive one. We CAN’T control our ex’s behavior toward us, but we CAN control our reaction to it. The sooner we are able to let go of what we can’t control and only concern ourselves with what we can control, the sooner we will get through the healing process and find peace.

The Law of Evaluation. This boundary pertains to setting and conveying our own boundaries to our exes. One example is expecting our exes to knock on the door of what was once our jointly owned home. Another is not tolerating continued abuse by explicitly stating we won’t respond to it or by simply ignoring it. Setting and communicating our boundaries to our exes, even if it makes them angry, is necessary to so they know what to expect from us.

The Law of Natural Consequences. It is only natural to want to help others, even if we are in the midst of a painful divorce ourselves. However, it is important to ensure we are helping and not rescuing. Helping is good; rescuing is harmful or ourselves and to those we are seeking to help. This boundary clarifies the line between helping and rescuing.

Here’s a summary:

 Helpers Rescuers
  •  Encourage independence
  • Create dependency
  •  Responsible only for yourself
  • Feel responsible for other people
  •  Don’t take things personally
  • Feel badly when efforts not well received
  •  Only help when asked
  • Assume what other people need
  •  Help without expectation
  • Require appreciation and gratitude
  •  Allow those who “commit the crime” to “do the time”
  • Intervene and absorb the consequences for others’ behavior

I serve as a Guardian ad litem for Hennepin County and I have found these boundaries absolutely crucial in helping me do this important work. They also help in my work with clients in conflict during and after divorce. I hope you find them helpful during your own journey through divorce.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366 or

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Our Community Speaks