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Relationships

Setting Boundaries with an Ex- Is it Still Possible?

Setting Boundaries with an ex. 

Breakups are the worst! We know!

Sometimes breakups are absolute— they end up with one or both of you understanding that the relationship is just not something you both can do anymore. So you break up, return each other’s things, and never look back. 

Many breakups may not look like that for multiple reasons possible; 

Often, it gets tough to understand where to draw the line in this breakup, especially if you’re just freshly out of the relationship. How do you set boundaries with an ex? Who sets them? You or them? When are boundaries a necessity? 

Don’t worry, we’ll answer all of these questions in this article, but before that, let’s look at something familiar that need to be addressed:

What are boundaries, and why do you need them?

In simple words, boundaries are what separates you from a person, in this case, your ex. Boundaries are imaginary lines that separate your physical and emotional space from them (your ex). 

  • Boundaries tell others (your ex, family members, colleagues, or anyone) about how you wish to be treated. 
  • What kind of behavior is acceptable or unacceptable for you?

Setting boundaries enhances the essence of any relationship, romantic or otherwise. 

  • Establishing healthy boundaries with your ex will give you and your ex-partner the space and time needed to grieve your relationship’s end. 
  • It will also help both of you learn from the relationship, move on and make healthier choices in the future.

Boundaries can help you understand why the relationship had to end and navigate the path between whatever is left and whatever is to come.

You might want to ask yourself questions such as: 

  • How often will you both be hanging out? 
  • Are you going to still be on each other’s social media pages? 
  • Will you be texting or calling each other often? 
  • How will you stay in touch with mutual friends? And so on. 

A lot seems to change after a breakup, and while it may seem painful right now, it will only be beneficial to both you and the others involved in the long run. 

It is important to maintain boundaries due to the following reasons:

1. Boundaries allow you to be true to yourself

Boundaries are a way of being who you truly are— You separate yourself from others completely. Setting boundaries define your choices and why they are different from your ex. 

We often choose whatever our partner chooses in a relationship— we make decisions, choices, and expectations together. However, after a breakup— you are free to have your personal opinion on matters. Boundaries finally detach you from the other person. 

These boundaries remind you that you are allowed to have your own thoughts and feelings and that you’re a whole person on your own. You don’t need a partner to be happy or content.

2. A form of self-care 

Boundaries can be viewed as a form of self-care. When you tell your ex what is acceptable and unacceptable for you, you’re essentially telling them how you wish to be treated. 

Boundaries also help you not push yourself to do something for your ex-partner that you might not necessarily want to do. 

For instance, you might not want to see them often, so you can set a boundary as to how many times they can come to visit your child in a week/month.

Self-love and self-care help us move on faster and for good!

3. Boundaries help create and set realistic expectations.

Boundaries will help you and your ex determine the past from the present. With a fresh breakup, you and your ex-partner may try to get back together or do things (kiss, hug, cuddle, etc.) that you both would regret later. 

In a way, boundaries will introduce you and your ex-partner to the reality— that you cannot cuddle or kiss anymore because you ended the relationship for valid reasons. 

With decided rules and boundaries, we can behave better around our ex. When you communicate your limits, your ex-partner will learn about your expectations from them. On the other hand, when you don’t share your opinion, they might cross lines you don’t wish them to approach. 

4. Boundaries provide safety

Maintaining some distance emotionally from your ex will prevent emotional/mental damage. Breakups are mentally disturbing, and still being in touch with your ex can further enhance that emotion. 

Boundaries will put a stop to your imagination of getting back together for a little fake mental peace. Boundaries are strict, but they will help you stand when you would want to dive into the same stories of lies. 

Setting Boundaries with an Ex

Setting boundaries with an ex may not be the easiest thing to do, especially if you still have feelings for them. Here are a few tips that will help make the process a little easy. I must warn you, it won’t necessarily be a walk in the park for you:

1. Give yourself space and time away from your ex: 

After a recent breakup, leaving your ex may be the toughest thing you have to do. But if you think it’s possible, give yourself time to heal. 

You don’t have to stop talking to your ex forever, but when you go for a month or two without seeing them or talking to them, it will help make things clear in your head. 

It will help you differentiate clearly between what you once had and what you’re trying to build without them. 

It’s easier to separate ways when you are never going to see them again. However, if you are willing to transform that relationship into friendship— setting boundaries is of utmost necessity. 

Even if you want to continue your friendship with your ex, it’s not wise to try things out right after the breakup. Let your ex-partner know that you need space to move on from this breakup before trying something new. 

Take as much time (weeks/months) as you want before starting a new friendship with your ex.

You can also try: 

  • Only talk to them or visit them when necessary and limit your conversations. 
  • In the initial month, make your ex-partner understand why you cannot meet or talk. However, if they still persist— be clear and strict about your decisions. 
  • When talking to them, don’t continue discussing what you guys had in the past. Instead, set ground rules for this new friendship. 

Why is it important to take time for yourself? 

It is of essence to take time for yourself even if you want to stay friends or maintain contact with them because of your kids. Everyone needs time to heal from a relationship, even if it may not have necessarily ended badly. 

  • This time & space will help you move forward with your decision of breaking up. 
  • It will also help you heal and get used to being without the other person. 
  • Use this time to focus on yourself and your life away from the relationship. There’s so much that you need to explore. So, make sure you utilize this time in self-love, self-care, success, and travel. 

Even if it’s only for a little while, space and time can change a lot of things. Please remember, you’re not being weak or mean by asking for your own space— you’re allowed to do that!

Note: Block them if you absolutely must

When it comes to maintaining boundaries on social media, the line may get a little blurred. You may see them posting quotes or statements about something and realize a lot about the relationship during this time. 

If you think that anything your ex is putting out on social media is bothering you, know that it is okay to block them. 

You might sometimes even feel the need to reach out to them if you see their pictures on social media constantly or if they seem like they’re moving on; DON’T! 

It will be easier for you to deal with your emotions if you’re not connected to them in any form when you have decided to be away from them. It will also be easier for you to resist getting in touch with them when it may not be necessary.

If you must, make a plan or a mental note about the following: 

  • When do you want to block them? 
  • How long will it be for? 
  • When will you unblock them again?
  • Do you want to see the content they’re putting out on social media? 
  • Do you wish to not see it all the time but only when you actively look for it?
  • Or do you want to only keep channels of text, call, and email open in case of emergencies? 

Make sure you answer these questions before you choose to block them.

2. See a therapist: 

Sometimes, breakups may be more brutal to deal with for some people than for others. We often know there is a need to set a boundary, but we’re unsure what limitations we must establish and how we should do it. 

We may need to work through things and talk about them before building another relationship with the same individual.

If you think setting boundaries is getting tough for you to deal with, talk to a professional. 

Reasons WHY you should see a therapist: 

  • Therapists are professionals who are taught techniques to help you cope with the difficulties or problems you have in life. 
  • Seeing a therapist will not only help you evaluate your past relationships, but it will also help you set standards for better relationships in the future. 

Overall, detangling your brain with a therapist will give you a clearer image of what you should do and what you shouldn’t. 

3. Decide what boundaries you need to set and maintain: 

Some boundaries are constant and firm and don’t need to be changed over a while. Others might require some modifications in time. The need to set completely different boundaries may also present itself in the future. 

What you must focus on currently are the boundaries you need to set and maintain between you and your partner right now. If you need, write them down and understand the reasons behind setting each of those boundaries. 

Answer these questions for yourself: 

  • Am I okay with this boundary being crossed even in the slightest way possible? 
  • Why is it essential for me to set this boundary? 
  • What am I willing to do to maintain this boundary between my ex-partner and me?

Make a list of the boundaries you want to set based on the answers and your reason for selecting them. Once it is on paper, it will become easier for you to execute these boundaries in reality. 

Don’t rush this process; take your time with it. These boundaries do not have to be set in stone but make sure that you’re not leaving anything out or ignoring anything. Be clear and concise about them. 

4. Be open to change: 

As your priorities change over time, your boundaries may too. You may not be in the best place emotionally right now to set some rigid boundaries. You may even put some of them to protect your mental peace or your feelings. Over time, you will also realize that you need to set some boundaries stronger than others, which is okay.

Whatever might be the reason, you must be open to the idea that boundaries can be changed. While setting these boundaries, you may as well realize what you actually want in your partner. This realization will help your future choices and relationships. 

Boundaries change with situations you’re going through in life, and it’s essential to realize that change is necessary for growth. This will help you solve problems more efficiently and face challenges with strength. 

5. Talk to your Ex:

Perhaps the most crucial step in the process of setting boundaries with your ex is to communicate what you find fit and unfit. Once you’ve figured out what limits you want to select, it’s time for you to openly communicate them to your ex. 

Also, understand that when you set your boundaries, you must also be open to respecting theirs. There may be issues your ex-partner might want to address before you move on to this new chapter with them— it is just as crucial for them to feel comfortable as it is for you. 

This cannot be done on a text or a call. Meet in person and have a conversation face-to-face. Keep the points you’ve written in mind during the discussion and put them across politely. 

How will this help? 

Laying down your boundaries and talking to your ex-partner about them will help the other person know what you expect from the relationship you both will share moving forward. 

6. Get someone to help you with the process: 

Things can get a little messy between two people after a breakup, and that is entirely normal. If you think you might need help coming to an understanding with your ex-partner about boundaries, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

Help could be either a third party in the form of a therapist, a relationship counselor, etc. Don’t involve a person you (your ex) is familiar with— they might “take sides” or may even sometimes be biased in their opinion. 

7. Reach out to your circle: 

Breakups are tough to deal with on their own, and if there is an added urge to get back with your ex-partner, everything might worsen. In cases like these, you may rely on your friends and family to help you stay firm about your decisions. 

Choose one person; it could be someone you know/trust. This person will help you maintain your boundaries and not reach out to your ex in your weak moments, don’t worry; we’ve all had a couple of those. 

If you think you might need more than one person for this, reach out to others you trust. This will be helpful, especially if you struggle with maintaining boundaries or if you’re new to the process. 

What prevents people from setting boundaries?

While setting boundaries is easier said than done, here are some reasons why people may not set boundaries even after a relationship has ended:

1. Fear

Change can be scary sometimes, and many people may even fear it. If you’re scared, some questions that can help you deal with this fear are, “What am I afraid of?” “What are the odds of this impacting me negatively?” and “What will happen if I set this boundary or if I don’t?” 

2. Ambivalence 

You may not always be clear why you need to set boundaries with an ex; this can cause issues. It may be that you’re not convinced setting boundaries will be helpful in any way. In cases like these, tell yourself that sometimes it’s okay to not know everything before acting. 

3. Low Self Worth 

Some people may struggle with feeling loved or worthy. This may negatively affect their lives, such as setting and maintaining boundaries. 

4. People Pleasing

If you wish to avoid conflicts at all costs or if you simply just do not want to disappoint people at any point, you may be a people pleaser. 

People pleasers often fail to put their needs first and stay assertive. They tend to prioritize how others might feel because of their behavior instead of considering how positively or negatively their actions might impact them. These individuals often struggle with setting boundaries, in romantic relationships or even otherwise. 

In Conclusion 

The truth is— setting boundaries is not as easy as it seems and there can be a lot of resistance from both sides and even conflict at times. It may seem like the transition from a romantic relationship to a platonic one can be effortless and uncomplicated. However, that might not be the case. 

The key to setting and maintaining boundaries is communication and respect. Openly communicate and respect your boundaries and those of your ex-partners’ if you wish to have a beautiful and long friendship with them. 

Clear boundaries can help provide a sense of safety and can help form healthy relationships with everyone around you, including your kids, your family, your ex’s family, and in some cases, even your new partner!

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by Genesis Gutierrez

Genesis is the founder of Harness Magazine, a digital media company that celebrates and elevates the voices of women around the world. A first-generation college graduate, Genesis holds a degree in from UCLA with hopes of going back for a Masters in Social Work.

Through her work as an editor-in-chief of Harness, Genesis has dedicated herself to amplifying the stories of women specifically marginalized communities. She is committed to creating space for those who are often left out of mainstream conversations, and believes that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have for building community and sparking social change.


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