Post-divorce boundaries:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

Even if we fall out of love it does not change the fact that bonds do form over the years, although they can be distinctly different than the ones we started with. Therefore, can you still count on each other after divorce?

For instance, if one was married for over a decade, some bonds were formed.  If an ex calls you and is in a crisis, should you be there for him/her?

Ex in need


Dear Ex,

No, this idea is false and an assumption. Once the bonds of marriage are severed there is no obligation between ex’s besides the legal ones defined in the divorce. There usually are reasons people separated in the first place and boundaries need to be clearly defined or people will just keep playing the same old games.

Often the decisions that people make create the crisis they find themselves in. If your ex is in a bind, and it is of their own making, then it would show poor boundaries to rescue them.  If kids are involved and the situation is bad enough, sometimes the children may need to change primary caretakers. This still maintains the boundaries that the divorce created.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: I think that obligation is the wrong word to use when speaking of commitments to exes. There can often be a continued sense of caring, because not every divorce ends badly. Sometimes, two people just realize they shouldn’t be married. They can still be the best of friends, or even business associates. They simply no longer share an intimate home base.

I think the question of whether or not to come to the aid of an ex is completely up to the situation at hand and the people involved. There is no hard or fast rule. If you have a manipulative ex who is causing a rift in your current relationship by intruding on your time, then screw ’em. Any destructive games should most certainly end with the divorce. But if an ex is genuinely in need and you are an appropriate person for them to turn to, for heaven’s sake, help them out. You would help any other friend. Does your ex have cooties?

Some of us divorce with a bad taste in our mouths and want to make that clean break. Some of us don’t.

Quite honestly, unless there are bad feelings for damned good reasons, it is always best to maintain good relations with an ex. If you burn too many bridges in this life, you can come to the end of it marooned on an island with no way off.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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5 Responses to Post-divorce boundaries:

  1. Dr. Brilliant Cliché adds:

    If one can be friend’s with the ex, then there really was no reason to divorce. I suspect the ex friendship is also flawed.

    I know many people that are friends with their ex’s but they don’t form new relationships or the ones they do form are also flawed. One woman I know even bought a house for her ex so her kids had a nice place to stay when visiting him. She did it for her kids more than for him, and she is wealthy, but it sure doesn’t encourage his independent or self reliant skills. I am not sure it’s better to be on the island with your ex than it is risking being alone. It’s only while alone you usually find someone else.

    Granny says: I can’t quite believe my ears. Is Dr. Brilliant really saying that if two people can be friends after a divorce, there was no reason to divorce? And that people who can remain friends are psychologically handicapped and can’t form new relationships? Yikes!

    I know a great many people who remain good friends with their ex’s and have also managed to form new relationships. In fact, in my experience, if someone remains bitter and distant after a divorce and cuts all ties, that person is even less likely to find a new relationship that works.

    Marriage is a mutual contract. Sometimes people who are young and uncertain of their identity get married, and then realize they have grown completely apart as an intimate pair and the contract needs to be dissolved. This doesn’t mean they have to banish each other for life. I have a friend who’s wife divorced him when she realized after 10 years of marriage that she was gay. They remain good friends. Should they have remained married? No!

    In Granny’s opinion, people who feel they must cut all ties with their ex’s are often people who have unresolved issues and a great deal of resentment. I think that perhaps the fact that Dr. Brilliant sees dysfunctional patients rather than emotionally healthy people is responsible for his opinion that ex’s should walk away and never look back.

    • Rockie says:

      Granny, I agree wholeheartedly. People change, their feelings changed. Though two can realize they were not meant to be married (be it lack of love, lack of interest, or whatever) does not mean they cannot be civil. My sister remained best friends with her ex. They were good friends apart, but they could not function healthily as a couple. I’m recently divorced, and though we aren’t truly friends, its still so soon, we are very friendly and want the best for the other… and I haven’t been happier in 20 years!

      • Sometimes says:

        This is true for a friendly divorce. It is not applicable where one spouse hurts another. Therefore, divorces can be civil but not all the time.

  2. What works says:

    I agree that some people can and should stay friends or be cordial after divorce especially when children are involved. Then there are some divorces where one can’t and shouldn’t stay friends. Sometimes it is healthy to cut all ties. Like Dr. BC says, why divorce if nothing really changes.

    Divorces are complicated. Each case is different and not one can be a model for all. It depends on the situation and the individuals. Overall, one should not encourage or enable the person you are divorcing to lead them to think that you will be always be there for them when they are in crisis. What happens when the person gets involve in a new relationship, I don’t think the new partner will be understanding of you giving any time to your ex. Basically, during the divorce process, all individuals involved need to prepare themselves for after the divorce.

  3. Dr. Brilliant Cliché says:

    All good points and I agree there is no one recipe for all situations. One has to look at the big picture and use common sense. Just make sure you maintain your self respect.

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