Healthy Boundaries: New Partners & Old Ones
by Don and Kathy Coryell, Creative Connections
Almost three out of four remarriages fail. One of the most common reasons for failure is the lack of healthy boundaries in the remarriage. We see this issue in a majority of the couples we work with. The emotional connection to the former spouse (whether due to death or divorce) can easily sabotage the remarriage. It is possible to demonstrate agape, God’s unconditional love, for the former spouse without remaining emotionally attached. Each spouse in a remarriage must demonstrate their allegiance to one another first, “forsaking all others”, including former spouses. This does not mean to cease communication or to be unkind, as this relationship can be a connection opportunity to glorify God.
In Genesis 21, Abraham sent Hagar and his son, Ishmael, away into the wilderness, at the demand of his wife, Sarah. This is the second time in scripture, that there was conflict between Sarah and Hagar, her maidservant. She had given Hagar to Abraham to conceive a child because she was barren. Though it grieved Abraham to send away his son, he did so out of self-denial and obedience to the Lord, who had told him to honor Sarah’s request. Abraham obeyed and the Lord still blessed Ishmael and made a great nation through him.
One of the principles illustrated here is deny self, be a servant, and obey God through putting the marriage relationship first, before all other earthly relationships, including your own children, just as Abraham did. Abraham set healthy boundaries in obedience to the Lord, denying his own grief to serve his wife, Sarah, and put their marriage relationship first, above his relationship with Hagar and his son, Ishmael. Notice he did not treat them unkindly. The Bible says Abraham was distressed “greatly because it concerned his son”. He provided for them by giving them bread and water, showing his compassionate care for them.
Examine your relationship with your ex-spouse and answer the following questions. Discuss this with your mate.
- Are you worried more about what your ex-spouse thinks than your current spouse?
- Are you spending more time, money and/or emotions on your ex-spouse than on your husband or wife?
- Do you set aside plans you have with your mate, to readjust to your former mate’s requests?
- Do you engage in lengthy conversations by phone, email or in person with your ex-spouse, talking about issues that are not related to parenting?
- Have you and your mate had discussions, arguments or disagreements about the amount of time, money or emotions you spend on your former spouse?
If you answered “yes” to one or more questions, though you may be legally divorced from your ex-spouse, you may still be emotionally married to him/her. This can result from unresolved feelings such as fear or guilt which can allow you to be controlled by manipulation .You will need to set healthy, firm boundaries in order to demonstrate allegiance to and create oneness with your mate. This is VITAL and time is critical. Begin the process now, by discussing the issue with your mate and praying together for some creative workable solutions. The more you involve your mate in the process, the greater the level of trust and intimacy that will develop between the two of you. If together you are unable to create solutions, it may be necessary to seek professional Christian counsel for guidance. If so, choose a pastor and/or counselor who is skilled in counseling remarried couples.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.
Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.