When I divorced my ex over eight years ago I knew I wanted to remarry. I desired companionship and closeness with another individual. But, I had certain “qualifications” that I was looking for in a new partner. One “qualification” was that he would have children. A man with children of his own would understand the love I had for my two boys. But, what I didn’t consider was that my boys were almost grown and out of the house. Should I look for a man in a similar circumstance? Obviously, that flew right past me and I fell in love with a man that had two children that were eight and ten at the time we married.
If you’ve read any of my other articles you will know that my ex passed away a week prior to my marriage, so my new husband and I didn’t have an ex to deal with on my side plus my kids had one foot out the door. However, my new husband had young kids and his situation was an entirely different story.
When I first met my husband we started as just friends. About a year after we met, we decided to enter into a romantic relationship when we realized we were in love with one another. Although I knew my husband loved me when we married, I also suspected he still had a lingering devotion towards his ex. I say this because when I first went inside my future husband’s house (when we were just friends) I noticed he still had family pictures that included his ex displayed on the walls.
Occasionally, they would meet for dinners or celebrate holidays or birthdays together. She would call him if she needed anything. For a short time, they even contemplated getting back together when we were just friends. Did she still care for him? I think he was convenient for her and a welcome distraction between new boyfriends. He was her comfort zone in the dysfunctional world she had created. Regardless, she certainly didn’t want a new wife entering the picture that worked hard at changing the boundaries.
We married two and a half years after meeting, almost four years after his divorce. But, my husband and his ex had weak boundaries and remnants of those weaknesses continued in their communications and meetings after we married. When two people divorce/break up and they establish poor boundaries thereafter, it’s very hard to firm up those boundaries when needed. Did they really want each other back? This was my struggle and a fear I had to get over to move on with my marriage. But, I couldn’t accept running a marriage boundaryless without direction. My husband didn’t want his ex back but had a very hard time transitioning over to a new wife. His ex didn’t want him back but she also didn’t want another person (me) interfering with her established broken family.
My husband was the one man that ever provided her with consistency and comfort. So, this had to be an adjustment for her as well, keeping in mind all the boundaries we imposed were not wanted by her and caused her to go through a continual process of change. No one likes change and often people fight a structured change when they are used to living life according to their terms. She lost the one thing in her life that was good – my husband and she knew he wasn’t coming back.
His personal transition to a new wife was my inner struggle. What I learned was, when a man’s loyalty runs this deep for another it takes a long time to alter that devotion and earn what another once had, even when that other person did horrible things to the one you love. Is this a good or bad thing? My husband would tell me strong loyalty is a good trait to have combined with feelings that run deep. He compared his deep feelings to a well that you drill deeper and deeper each year of marriage. My sacrifice for these qualities in my husband was losing the “honeymoon” stage of our marriage and running without direction (boundaryless) for years until we both decided to find our routine and set firm boundaries. For me today, they are excellent qualities for my husband as these deep feelings of loyalty and love have transferred over to me. But, nevertheless, it’s been a huge struggle and you either are in the game to win or you’re going to lose. I decided to stick it out for better or worse and came out the winner.
So, how do you transition from a boundaryless marriage to a marriage rich in love, loyalty and trust? Both of you have to focus on the positive, pure and good qualities of your relationship. This takes sacrifice on both sides. For me, it was taking all the walls down, letting fear go and offering complete trust to my husband. For him, it was establishing firm boundaries with his ex and completely putting me first in our relationship. We decided to work as a team instead of cyclical fighting without resolutions.
Love is the most powerful of all the qualities of transition and the instigating reason we are all dealing with boundary issues in the first place. The Bible tells us love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts always hopes and always perseveres.
I didn’t follow this definition of love very well during our first three years of marriage. I kept every record of each wrongdoing and mistakes my husband made in my “steel trap” of a mind. I was running out of patience each time another “ex-wife drama encounter” would happen, and I would blame my husband more and more for our cyclical disagreements.
My husband, on the other hand, followed this definition of love much better than me. He was patient with my frustrations and threats, didn’t keep a checklist of my errors and most always kept his cool. He represented the love we needed to get through this storm. Let me also say, my husband is one of the most humble men I have ever met which is one reason boundaries were hard for him.
Patience is rewarding when the prize is worth waiting for. The definition of patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. In fact, almost all definitions of patience state you have the ability to endure under difficult circumstances. Nowhere can I find a definition that tells me I am enjoying the wait. So, you are enduring pain while waiting for something good.
Many times I wanted to run away from my present situation. I would get literally sick when I would see his ex, lose sleep for nights on end due to one text or email and took much of this frustration out on my husband. We were in a cycle of constant disputes over his ex, her accusations, his responses, my overthinking his and her responses/actions, etc. It was such a slow process of trial and error to set boundaries and keep them. I desired to leave the suffering and boundary experimentation behind and enjoy the calmness of living single without the baggage of a husband with an ex. My husband would tell me time would heal our wounds and always compare where our marriage was a year ago compared to where we are today. He would ask me, “Have we made progress?” “Is our marriage better today than it was six months ago?” At all times, I would have to respond with a “Yes, things are getting better.”
So, look back. Are things getting better or worse overall? If they are getting better, hold on and be patient for your reward. It’s coming!
Faith isn’t tangible; it’s abstract. You can’t touch or see it. I believe faith is something you keep, and the more you keep the faith, the stronger you become with your convictions. Faith is offering complete trust or confidence in someone or something. With love, you can see the adoration in the eyes of your partner and feel the kindness in their touch. But with faith, you hope the other individual will do things that respect you and honor their promises to you.
Without my husband putting me first in our marriage by setting firm boundaries with his ex, it was hard to offer him complete faith in our relationship and to honor him as my husband. I had to put faith in him as my husband and partner. He, in turn, had to bend and adhere to firm boundaries to keep toxins out of our marriage. I needed to feel protected and safe to offer him my faith.
Today, I find it much easier to have faith in my husband and look at him as the leader in our family. When he starting putting me first and treating me better than himself this became an easy task. We both share a collaborative faith in God and try our best to run our marriage in a way He would approve.
Forgiveness is a voluntary process to let go of negative feelings or bitterness. The key here is the word VOLUNTARY. It’s your choice to let go of offences against you and move on. This constitutes a change for you personally and change is something most people avoid as it makes them uncomfortable. But, to keep the bitterness and bad feelings bottled up can cause illness, a negative outlook on life and cause a relationship to go downhill quickly.
Many people use the phrase to “Forgive and Forget”. For me, forgiveness takes time to do, but I don’t usually forget the wrongs against me. I guess it depends on the extent of the wrong, but I try to figure out what I was supposed to learn about this trial and not let the circumstance happen to me again. Obviously, time is the best ally for forgiveness and allowing the situation to de-escalate in nature.
Forgiveness has been the hardest characteristic for me over the last several years. I struggle with forgiveness and not highlighting bad situations. What I wanted was a marriage that was perfect, as my previous marriage was a disaster. What I found, was there isn’t a perfect marriage and I am the only person that can control my feelings and reactions. Although I work daily on forgiveness, I have found when I do offer sincere forgiveness; it makes me a stronger person.
My husband has been a good example to me of a person that offers forgiveness. We have learned together to forgive his ex for many of her wrongdoings while still not forgetting her bad behaviors and maintaining firm boundaries. This would be an example of a lesson about forgiveness and knowing how to protect yourself against further bad encounters by not forgetting what you’ve learned.
One of the definitions of humor is the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny. Things will happen every day that are aggravating and confusing. Humor can be an important factor in determining if your relationship has lasting power.
Trust me, as the drama was happening I didn’t find it very funny. Even weeks later, I still didn’t find it funny. But, today, as my husband and I look back, we can laugh at many of the circumstances we have encountered with his ex over the years.
Think back to situations that have bothered you. Can you find the humor? Can you share this humor with your partner?
Friendship is a strong personal bond between two or more people. Marriage without friendship cannot work. Many people speak about marrying their best friend. This is true and right; marriage without friendship will make the hard times even harder.
This I believe, is the best quality my husband and I have in our relationship. We started our journey together as friends and took time to really bond before we became romantically involved. Even in our darkest times, when we are angry at each other, we still have our friendship to lead us and communicate our feelings. Being best friends keeps us together.
I didn’t have a friendship with my ex; we had a partnership. In fact, we had a great partnership when it came to work and financial issues. But, I didn’t like him and I’m almost positive he didn’t like me. We didn’t share the commonalities friends share and our communication was horrible. When things got tough in our marriage it was easy to turn the other way.
My husband had a great friendship with his ex and I think this made the boundary process even harder for him. Although they weren’t the best of friends after the divorce, he didn’t allow himself to forget the friendship they had as a married couple. Part of his transition to our new marriage was realizing the friendship he shared with his ex was based on some lies, was meant only for a season and acknowledging she abandoned that friendship when divorce papers were signed.
Willpower is strong determination to control your actions and feelings. It requires a strength of character and tenacity, the will to succeed. Every relationship needs willpower whether it’s dealing with finances, kids or the ex. Willpower leads to uniformity, which leads to structure, which leads to peace of mind. Willpower helps in setting firm boundaries and keeping them, willpower defeats being boundaryless.
Often, you will find only one person in the relationship has willpower at certain times. This was hard for our relationship. My husband and I would set a boundary and then loosen up on the rules we set after a period of time. Once that would happen, the ex would resort back to dysfunctional behavior and our problems would start all over again. Often, behaviors exhibited by the ex would escalate as we experimented with setting boundaries.
The key here is to work together and keep each other on the same united track. When one person becomes weak and loosens the boundaries, remind them of the need to keep the rules. Setting and keeping firm boundaries on a continual basis keeps everyone clear of the rules and expectations. It keeps unwanted surprises at a minimum.
Please remember, the transition of loyalty and deep feelings comes slowly in a second marriage. It could be because we’ve been burned already and we are a bit more cautious the second time around. In my case, it was a bit of that, but also my husband loves deeply and gives loyalty without fault. It was hard for him, even after a brutal divorce, to see the dysfunction in their relationship and the need for firm rules.
On the cusp of our marriage ending, we both decided we needed to be firm (not mean) and TOGETHER set and held tight to firm boundaries when it came to the toxin in our marriage. We decided we wanted our marriage and loyalties to lie with each other. We didn’t want to go backwards or allow the past to rule our present and future. What’s hard for people to understand is you don’t have to be mean to set boundaries; you just have to be consistent. Many parents fear the loss of their children or retaliation and this might happen at first but will diminish, as structured change becomes the new norm.
Setting boundaries isn’t an easy task. But, running a new marriage boundaryless is an even harder task. Will you feel guilty about strict boundaries when you start to see normal behavior from the ex? Definitely, YES! Remember to keep the love, stay patient, have faith, truly forgive wrongdoings, see the humor in bad situations, nurture your friendship and encourage willpower. Don’t look back and head towards peace and a great marriage.