McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail in the Roanoke Valley is a beautiful summit. McAfee Knob is known for its celebrated ledge and a sweeping, panoramic view of the valley. It, though—like all natural features—has boundaries that should be honored. Sadly, Paul Classen tumbled off the Knob to his death not too long ago. Boundaries. They must be respected. In nature, sure, but also in Virginia separation.

There’s A Rat in Separation

It’s an old spelling demon, “separation,” and countless teachers amused their students by pointing out “a rat” in the word. But we tend to run from rats (who, wisely, tend to run from us). That’s not a bad strategy when you separate from your spouse, pending divorce.

Why run from your spouse? To create distance, on many levels, as explained by Diana Spasic at Onward:

  1. Physical boundaries—Stop sharing actual space (bathrooms and the kitchen) and carve out space of your own; if she is leaving, politely help her gather all her things so she has no reason to “drop by”
  2. Communication boundaries—Decide what you are comfortable with (text only, voice and text, email, apps, and so forth) and then stick to it; give yourself some time to enjoy the quiet while also preserving messages in case of legal problems later
  3. Financial boundaries—The court determines spousal and child support, using pendente lite agreements during separation and then codifying everything in a divorce decree; make clear that the court’s findings are all you will honor (so your ex does not expect informal additional gestures of money, for example)
  4. Emotional boundaries—Your privacy and emotional health are yours and you must signal they are no longer your ex’s to know; her household chores, romantic partners, or career moves are not yours to worry over; resist the temptation to be her handyman or landscaper and make clear that your own emotional inner life is not her provenance anymore

Well and Truly Separated and Divorced

Separation in Virginia is a bit of a legal limbo on your way to a divorce, the real dissolution of your marriage. Once you are divorced, you have to choose your persona:

  • Are you an ex-husband?
  • Are you a divorced man?
  • Are you a free spirit?

Hard to tell the difference, right? Well, clears up the differences for its female clientele. We can tweak their findings a bit:

  • The ex-husband still has an attachment to his ex
  • The divorced man has a clear border in his mind, separating an earlier time from his present situation
  • The free spirit not only knows he is divorced, he revels in his newfound freedoms

You need to feel the separation and subsequent divorce down to your bones. You need to accept your new place in life and recognize boundaries on both sides.

Just as you do not want your ex to ask about your sexual escapades, you cannot ask about hers. Her finances are her worry. Anyplace where your paths overlap (children, support payments, visitation), use smartphone apps to create neutral, unthreatening middle grounds.

Are You Crossing or Respecting Boundaries with Your Ex?

PsychCentral offers some advice that we turned into a little self-check quiz. Try your hand at these dozen toughies. For each, decide if boundaries are respected or are the boundaries crossed:

  1. You allow your ex to go through your mail, email, or phone
  2. You unfriend her on Facebook and stop following her on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok
  3. Your ex calls you to come over and fix her leaky faucet
  4. Slightly tipsy or high, you fall into bed with your ex and have sex
  5. You gather all her mail still coming to your address, box it up, and mail it to her new address
  6. You use an online search for help selecting the better of two ties instead of calling your ex for fashion advice
  7. Your ex asks to borrow $300 even though you pay her spousal support
  8. You make sure your ex has a key to your new place
  9. Your ex calls you to talk about her bad day at work
  10. You ask friends, not your ex, for referrals for a therapist or counselor
  11. You no longer feel sad, angry, or upset when you send your ex a text message
  12. You swipe right on Tinder and go on a date

Scoring is easy: the pattern is one-one, two-two, three-three, so the first question is a crossed boundary followed by a respected boundary, then two crossed boundaries and two respected boundaries, and ending with three crossed boundaries and three respected boundaries.

We didn’t design it to be hard; if you struggled, you have some growth to do in setting boundaries with your ex. If you hemmed and hawed (“I could listen to her about her day at work; what’s the big deal?”) then you are still an ex-husband and not a free spirit.

Finding a Close Ally

If you still need a professional, dispassionate ally, consider a licensed therapist, the local bartender, or a religious leader. Another valuable ally is your family law attorney. Your lawyer has seen you through the process and is still available — for a nominal fee, of course — to help with other issues.

Please feel free to contact us today at The Firm For Men. You may also call us at (757) 383-9184 to consult with one of our Virginia Beach based divorce attorneys about your Virginia family law matter. From helping our clients through separation and divorce to safeguarding their rights, we are here to serve the men of Virginia in all aspects of family law.