Are You Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex During the Holidays?

Are you setting healthy boundaries with your ex during the holidays?


Or do shoulds, outdated obligations and unhelpful thought patterns get in your way?


A friend of mine came to me struggling with her plans for the holidays. This was to be her second Christmas since she and her husband split, but somehow it felt very different to her this year, and she was very confused by her new feelings.

She was wrestling with mixed emotions and felt a knot in her stomach when she imagined celebrating the holidays together AGAIN this year with her ex.

They had agreed to spend them together last year, just like all the years before when they were married. And last year, my friend admitted, it didn’t feel like any big deal. But this year, she was worried about old expectations and hurting his feelings.


A year ago when they’d separated, they’d decided to approach their uncoupling in a way they felt had best supported their children.


Are You Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex During the Holidays?The way that this looked in their home was that holiday celebrations and many daily routines remained the same. He was often at her home after work for family dinners with the kids, for bathtime and putting their kids to bed. The main difference in what had previously been an average day during their married life was that now her ex went home to his place every night.

Their priority, she insisted, was for their children to have a smooth transition into their new life.


A year later, however, these routines are beginning to feel like a lot of blurred boundaries. An uncomfortable, confusing, internal incongruence was starting to bubble up inside my friend.


Co-parenting with healthy boundaries in place

If you and your ex are fortunate enough to have a civil, healthy and cooperative co-parenting style, that is excellent for your children. It’s equally important, however, that within that co-parenting structure there are healthy and clear boundaries set up between you and your ex. These should apply year-round and especially during the holidays. And any boundaries you may have set up in the past should remain open to change over time.




1. Your well-being is priority number one.


Are You Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex During the Holidays?Period. Your well-being takes precedence over any self-imposed shoulds or old, tired obligations that linger based on what the holidays looked like when you were married. It’s okay to change your mind about how you want to do things. Living your life by your values and what is right for you is so crucial to how well you feel.


2. Well-being is enhanced when you live authentically.


If your behaviors conflict with the authenticity of your life, you can feel out of sorts. For example, like my friend getting a divorce, yet continuing to eat dinner at her home around the kitchen table each night with her ex. Over time, that can become emotionally damaging because you’re creating a cognitive dissonance when your beliefs don’t match up with your behaviors.


3. It’s not your responsibility to worry about how your ex is feeling.


If you devoted much of your time and attention to your ex and children during your marriage, it might be your natural tendency to worry about others before you worry about yourself. When you don’t set healthy boundaries out of fear of hurting your ex’s feelings, you only end up hurting yourself.


4. Change is inevitable and will feel uncomfortable in the beginning.


For my friend, it might have felt comforting to her a year ago to have the holidays look and feel the same. She might have been pushing the reality ball down the road to be dealt with another day. But deal with reality you must. Adjusting to new changes can feel very painful, but not as painful as keeping things the same when EVERYTHING has changed.


5. Your children will adjust.


Are You Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex During the Holidays?Children are adaptive little creatures. What’s essential for them is structure and consistency, and your love and attention. You’ll become a healthier parent when you take care of yourself in this fundamental way by setting healthy boundaries in your new life.


Taking care of yourself

Taking care of yourself means prioritizing your health and well-being. Healthy boundaries will give you more freedom to move, breathe and heal. Boundaries are known to promote:

  • Mental and emotional well-being
  • Self-respect
  • Loving actions toward self
  • Self-compassion

SOCIAL MEDIA: Taking care of yourself may include setting limits on your ex and social media. If you’ve remained friends on Facebook, ask yourself if this is hurting you or helping you? Set appropriate boundaries with social media, too.


Paying attention to thought-based boundaries

It may be that you and your ex-have established physical and behavioral boundaries. The behaviors of your daily lives may match the fact that you are divorced, and your experiences reflect those limits.

But what about the unhealthy thoughts that can creep back into your head during the holidays with all the triggers that this time of year can activate?

Thought-based boundaries require you to become aware of your thoughts and then decide to stop those that don’t uplift and serve your higher good.


In the end, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate your holidays.

What matters is that whatever way you do celebrate, that you are in alignment with your authenticity, your values and what feels true.

Honor your feelings, and live by healthy boundaries that support and promote your well-being. Permit yourself to let go of the shoulds, outdated obligations, and unhelpful thought patterns that keep you from experiencing a joyful season.



My name is Jamie Daniel-Farrell. I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a practice in Westlake Village, CA. If your life feels out of alignment, or you could use support in setting up healthy boundaries for yourself, I would be happy to help. Please feel free to reach out and call me at 805-444-4968.

  • Get help when you need it