Dear Dr. Romance

I am mindful that I am allowing my soon to be controlling, narcissist ex (civil law attorney) to run circles around me, just as we did when we were married. After attending a divorce group session at my local church, they recommend that I set up some specific boundaries and rules of engagement with him. He texts me hours a day, while I'm trying to work.  Do you have anything in your arsenal to send me to get this jumpstarted?

We've been married almost 15 years we have two children and a few months ago I discovered he has been living another life at his office which set the tone for our contentious divorce.  We lost my mother in law and his girlfriend who was her caregiver for her moved in the house, and I was locked out.He tricked me into signing the home over to him when I signed the family trust.  My kids adore her and she them.  He sends manipulative toxic texts and emails daily, which always upset me.

I need to set boundaries with emails/ texts during work.  Any guidance you have would be appreciated.

Dear Reader:

It's good that you're getting support from your church group. I recommend you don't answer his texts until you're ready, or not at all. Get a lawyer of your own, if you don't have one.  Maybe there's one in your church group who will help you. Figure out what you want, write it down, and send a copy to him and a copy to your own lawyer. Then, you stick to it whether he does or not. You have sold yourself out, so now you have less power, but you have to use all the power you've got. Stop focusing on how much he's texting you.  Block him or don't answer him.  Force him to use email by not responding to any texts.  Don't whine, complain or nag, either your ex or your kids. It's critical that you be totally grownup now.  You're in a very adult situation.  

Your relationship with your kids is already established. Stop chasing after them, let them seek you out. They're old enough to know they want time with you. Let them deal with their Dad about it. Continue to let them know you love them (they already know it) and have some patience. If you stop chasing them, they'll come to you. "Setting Boundaries and Saying No"  will help you with setting boundaries. Also, you might find the following info helpful.

Dr. Romance's 3 tips to maintaining sanity during divorce

1. Know your rights: If you're even considering divorce, spend the money for one consult with a reputable, good attorney (preferably, recommended by a friend who went through it) and find out what the divorce laws in your state are. Go armed with information and questions for the attorney. What is your current financial situation? Who earns how much? What properties are in joint tenancy? Most courts use a formula to decide how the assets, support and alimony are derived. Ask your lawyer to explain the formula to you, and what you'll need if there's a fight for custody. You'll make better decisions if you know the consequences beforehand.
2. Surround yourself with friends: This is not the time to be looking for a rebound relationship; and you probably aren't ready to consider that anyway. So, spend a lot of time with your friends and/or family. You need to be around supportive people who have your best interests at heart. You'll need shoulders to cry on, sound advice, hopeful information about the future, guidelines from people who've gone through it, and even child care and possibly financial help. Communicate with others on this site when you need information or support.
3. Get a good therapist: As your friends to recommend a counselor who can help you through the ups and downs of the year to come. Whether you want this divorce or not, you'll be on an emotional roller coaster. You can check your decision-making, understand what went wrong, perhaps even learn to save your marriage.

Dr. Romance's 3 tips to dealing with a difficult ex

1. Choose your battles. One of my clients once said "I don't want to die on that hill." She meant: that battle isn't worth what it will cost me – I'll ignore that problem and save it for a bigger one. Don't get into adversarial positions with your ex when it's not necessary. Even if he or she drives you crazy, don't become oppositional. Save your energy for the big issues.

2. Don't react, respond. Think carefully about everything you say before you say it. Calculate your words to get the response you want from your ex, rather than to create a problem you'll have to clean up later. It often works better to deal with difficult exes by phone message or e-mail, rather than in person. Everyone stays calmer.

3. Leave it in the divorce court. You've fought your battle, it came out however it did, now let it go. Remember, you once chose this partner, and you have things to learn about your choices. Focus on learning your lessons, and don't re-fight the old battles that are already settled. Do your part in the custody agreement, and if he doesn't do his, just keep a diary of all the times he didn't. If she creates scenes, just quietly listen and tape record them. If you get a nasty phone message, tape it and save it. If you need to, you can bring all this evidence to your lawyer to take to court, and win your big battles there.

The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty will help you rebuild your life with more respect for yourself.

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Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.