Setting Boundaries With a Boyfriend Going Through a Divorce

by Christie Hartman

    Because mental health professionals consider divorce one of life's most stressful events, dating a man who’s in the midst of divorcing can be extremely challenging. During a divorce, a man must face a host of issues: dealing with his ex, taking care of any children, court appearances, the costs of divorce, not to mention his own grieving process. To keep the relationship -- and yourself -- healthy, it’s important to set boundaries when dating a man going through divorce.

    Just because a man has separated from his wife doesn’t mean he’s getting divorced. For your relationship to work, he must demonstrate that he’s serious about the divorce by filing the necessary papers, separating finances and property, and moving forward with the divorce process. If he hasn’t, he probably isn’t ready to divorce, which means he isn’t ready for a new relationship. Set a boundary that you need him to proceed with his divorce in order to be involved with him. If he stalls or makes excuses, step back from dating him until he takes the necessary steps.

    If he has children, it is likely best to put off meeting them. If you meet them too soon, it can upset the ex, confuse the children during a difficult time in their lives, and can even disrupt any custody evaluations. Tell him you want to meet his children, but that you’d prefer to wait until the dust settles.

    Another important boundary to maintain is to keep your home life separate from his. Because he’s getting divorced, he’s still legally, financially and emotionally completing his relationship with his ex. Moving in with him over-involves you in his life and makes it impossible to set healthy boundaries.

    When it comes to your boyfriend’s divorce, he may be tempted to talk about it and you may be tempted to ask questions or even offer advice. But doing so can turn his worries into your worries and may create conflict between you. Instead, maintain the boundary that you will only talk about the basic progress of the divorce when necessary, rather than the details. Encourage him to vent with his friends or family about what he’s going through. Focus on more positive topics and enjoy your time together.

    About the Author

    Christie Hartman is a psychologist and author of five dating and relationship books. She has written for several online publications and has been published in numerous scientific journals in the areas of mental health and addiction. Christie earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Colorado.

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