Here is a real life situation I would like to share with you in hopes it will give you tools for your own journey. I have a client who asked this question: How do you respond to a repeated request which violates your boundary? The backstory: Her x husband of 3 years is asking she meet with him in private counseling sessions. They in have a court order stating they can only communicate via a court approved communication method of either: Our Family Wizard for emails, scheduling, and expense reimbursement or in case of an emergency, text or verbal communication. (Kinda lets you know how contentious this situation really is.). The x husband believes counseling between mother and father is in the best interest of their 4 children.
Here is how I go about clearing the smoke to identify the situation:
Define the chaos.
Organize the chaos.
Respond to the chaos.
1: Define the chaos. Chaos is common in contentious relationships so I find it imperative to define the issue. The issue here is “Do I or don’t I attend therapy with my x husband?” I have chopped up and placed all their communication in chronological order to see what the chaos is. Being hit with information from varying sources made her brain feel muddled even though the question and answer has already been established by the courts. These are portions of my client’s emails and texts. There was a lot of fluff around these statements which is what made it more challenging for her to clearly identify the issue.
2. Organize the chaos.
Father’s responses in Our Family Wizard (OFW) are in BLACK. Mother’s responses in Our Family Wizard are in BLUE. All texting is in GREEN.
OFW 7.22.22 (2:39pm) Father: Perhaps what is saddest of all is that you never pick up the phone and we can never just talk through these issues about our children. Instead we exchange numerous emails that solve nothing. I hope at some point you can move yourself past where you're at for the betterment of our children. Again, I am more than happy to sit down with you with a therapist so that we can be on the same page for our children's benefit.
TEXT 7.23.22 Father: Oh I wish you would allow you and I to meet someone. Your are living in a different place than me. And your reality is wrongly skewed sadly. 7.23.22 Mother: No. She has activities all day. 7.23.22 Father: Great thanks. My request of us is still the same. Pick a neutral third party and let’s meet. It’s time to stop this nonsense.
OFW 7.23.22 Mother: We have a court order not to communicate via phone because the GAL (a guardian ad litem- GAL- is an attorney who rules for the children), judge and magistrate believe our inability to communicate in a healthy manner verbally was best done via OFW. I continue to concur. 8.1.22 Father: All I will say is, once again, I invite you to sit down together with a neutral, 3rd party therapist so that we can be on the same page for our children's benefit. I believe our children are worth the effort. 8.2.22 Mother: As for joint therapy between us, it may be something to consider. However, at this point, it seems Bonnie and Dylan are in more immediate need of therapy. 8.3.22 Father: Again, this is why we need therapy so we can figure out a way to communicate on points such as these. The kids consistently tell me they are tired of this and wish we could just get aloneg. For their sakes, I hope you will consider it because it's not about you and me, it's aboutthem.e (The father obviously did not check his grammar.) 8.3.22 Mother: Therapy: You owe quite a bit of money in back pay for the children's therapy that you deemed unnecessary and you stated you are not financially able to support their therapy visits. I'm wondering how you plan to pay for therapy for us? 8.4.22 Father: In the meantime, continue to pray for you, our children, and for healing. If at any point you decide you would like to attend counseling with a neutral, third-party therapist, I am willing. Have a blessed day.
Text 8.9.22 Father: I don’t know why you won’t agree for us to see a therapist. Kids are going on 6 years and look at Bonnie. She is worse and especially with this lady (her current therapist).. If they saw us doing better I believe they won’t need to have a “paid for” friend. Offer stands.
OFW 8.10.22 Father: So a normal way to ask someone their availability is to simple state what you need without the odd behavior of building an accusatory case of why they should added on to the request. Again, my offer for counseling still stands. 8.22.22 Father: Happy to go to counseling with you to work through these issues for the benefit of our children if you are willing. 8.22.22 Father: However, I once again ask for counseling for us as it is unhealthy to assume Bonnie will never come over, nor do I hope you support such a decision. 8.25.22 Father: It's very kind of them to support him that way. My hope would be at some point you would be willing to attend counseling with a neutral, 3rd party counselor so we can approach the current circumstances we are in honestly for the financial and emotional well-being of our children versus the financial benefit of lawyers.
Text 8.28.22 Father: My offer for joint counseling still stands. I really do think it will help us both. And help our kids.
OFW 8.31.22 Father: I realize you believe you have done nothing wrong in this situation and that is unfortunate. Yet another example of the reason why we need to attend joint counseling, which I hope you will consider. 9.4.22 Mother: I will not attend counseling with you, unless it is court-ordered. Your repeated requests for me to attend therapy with you is noted (including your recent email via OFW). 9.7.22 Father: Perhaps you can see how this might be confusing, and why joint counseling might help us to communicate more effectively about our children. 9.16.22 Father: These budgeting decisions are difficult and hard, as I deeply wish I could afford it all. Again, counseling with a qualified, neutral 3rd party may help you meaningfully understand why the constant demands seem a bit out of touch with what is happening.
3. Respond to the chaos.
YIKES!! In less than 2 months, the father asked 15 times for the mother to meet with him in therapy. (And they aren’t even married. Can you imagine what she endured during the marriage?) Remember my client’s question:
How do you respond to a repeated request which violates your boundary?
Stick to the facts without emotion. Her answer on 7.22.22 “We have a court order not to communicate via phone because the GAL (a guardian ad litem- GAL- is an attorney who rules for the children), judge and magistrate believe our inability to communicate in a healthy manner verbally was best done via OFW. I continue to concur.” is perfect. She stuck to facts and had evidence to back up her statement. It was emotion free and concise.
Expect the same behavior and insist on different behavior. If you have someone in your life who has always ignored your boundaries, expect the same until they prove you wrong. She could have done better if she anticipated he was going to ask again, and again and again because that is what he has always done. Her response, “As for joint therapy between us, it may be something to consider.” opened the door just a bit for him to continue asking. She did NOT expect him to ask again and did not insist on honoring her own boundaries.
If you stray from #1 or #2, it’s ok. Just state the facts, remind the asking party that you will no longer respond to the question, put your armor on, and ignore the repeated requests. More words will not help him “see the light.” She honored her boundary with her final response “I will not attend counseling with you, unless it is court-ordered. Your repeated requests for me to attend therapy with you is noted (including your recent email via OFW).”
I hope this was helpful!! I love to reorganize chaos. If you need more of this, please contact me and I’ll breathe fresh air into your situation!
“In all chaos, there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” — Carl Jung