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The Golden Rules of NC When You Have Children Together

First things first - It's you cutting contact to the necessary minimum, not your kids. You're not cutting your kids off from him/her - you're injecting boundaries into your own personal space that will benefit all of you because your child(ren) need consistency not unnecessary drama created by the fact that your ex or you won't respect your boundaries. Thinking of it this way will spare you guilt that you really don't need right now.

It's like doing NC at work - you have 'low contact' which is that if and when you engage with them, it's specifically to do with your child. If it's not specifically and directly related to them and is instead about engaging with them to get the relationship back, to seek validation etc, that's not low contact or NC.

It's in both of your interests to keep things as civil as possible for the sake of your child so it's important that you don't use NC to play games that may create drama. Start as you mean to go on - civil and handling things maturely. You can do this without being bosom buddies.

Unless your issue with your partner pertains to their ability to parent your child emotionally, physically and spiritually, don't mistake what they're doing with you as being a reflection of what they'll do with your child.  If it's not about their parenting, the issues are really about you and him/her and ultimately how your child can be parented. Believe me I know a lot of poor relationship partners who are great parents. The fact that they won't give you the relationship you want, or that you cannot get on doesn't mean that that ipso facto they cannot be in your child's life. Equally it's safe to say that you and your ex remaining together isn't the only way that your child can be parented. If they claim that you keeping your distance is stopping them from parenting, do remind them that they can be a parent without sleeping with or arguing with you and that you're not stopping them from having their relationship. They can't have it both ways and keep you in an unhealthy relationship.

Don't use your child as a weapon against them. Believe me as a child who was in this situation, it will only backfire and ultimately children will work out who and what their parents are through their own experiences with them without you referring to them as an asshole/bitch at every opportunity or giving them a hard time for loving/caring about the parent even though they may not be stepping up in the way that you are.

In time, they will see things for how they are and them loving their father/mother doesn't take away from what they feel for you. Don't use NC to make them be on someone's side.

I won't lie - it isn't easy. This is one of those situations though where the repeated action of rebuffing all inappropriate contact forces the other person to have to respect your boundaries.

This is about keeping contact to the absolute bare minimum for the sake of your child.

It is important when you make this decision that you judge the situation and make decisions that are appropriate to the wellbeing of your family. Children don't get to dictate what you do. This means that, yes, they're five or whatever age and want you to be together but they are not schooled in the nuances of adult relationships, nor are they privy to the ins and outs of why your relationship hasn't worked out. Are they going to affected by the breakup initially? Yes but when they come to learn that they still have both parents (if the other is around) and that they have a source of support and feel loved nonetheless, it goes a long way. I also wouldn't base your decision on your child if they're an adult. Believe me when they're off living your life and you're still in an unhealthy relationship, you will rue the day you let them drive your life because they didn't want to deal with change.

The type of people that require no contact to be used on them are the type that are inclined to use the kids to cross your boundaries.

Forewarned is forearmed. To be fair, people who have to instigate NC are likely to use the kids as a justification for breaking NC and engaging. "It's for the kids!"

Your ex (or soon to be) if they spot that you have a vulnerability on the kids or they know that they can guilt you, they will exploit this.

When they do this, it's "Don't use _______ to __________ ". Equally for you, if you're going to reengage in what may be an unhealthy pattern of behaviour that forms part of your relationship cycle with your ex, don't put it on the kids. Certainly don't tell them that you're doing it for them because if they see you in pain or later on come to realise how destructive and unhealthy the relationship was, they'll feel guilty.

Whilst there’s nothing wrong with being polite, keep the overwhelming majority of the conversations you have with them about the kids, until you've firmly established the boundaries and they've received the message loud and clear that you are not interested in anything beyond the kids.

Don't give any airtime to offers of sex, hanging out, or discussing your relationship to the nth degree. There should be no sex or unannounced visits. If they keep turning up, change the locks. You'll thank me for it when you move on to a new relationship.

Agree on when they will spend time with the kids (you may need a mediator or a lawyer) and be clear on what the arrangements are. If they keep turning up or hanging around, come up with a convenient excuse for why you can't 'hang out'.

If you find yourself in the position of feeling that talking about the kids is being used as an opening to line you up for sex or something else inappropriate, keep it brief, and if they cross the line, feign another call coming through or a place you have to go.

Shut down inappropriate discussions including those that rehash the relationship, as soon as possible. Don't justify or argue. Don't feel guilty. Believe me - testing to see if you respond is a way of getting confirmation that you still care.

Be ready a few minutes early and bring the kids out to the car or to meet rather than inviting them inside and going through awkward sessions. Be focused on dropping off and then collecting from a neutral place.

This means you need to be organised and prepared so that you don't feel like your space has been intruded on and are left with the imprint of their visit.

Obviously don't speak badly about your partner to the kids no matter how tempting it is - they're unlikely to understand it at the level that you want them to.

If they pass messages through the kids, good, bad, or indifferent, ask them (not the kids) not to do this as it's manipulative and confusing. Email can be really handy for giving a weekly update on what they've been up to.

If you're struggling and already experiencing difficulties keeping your boundaries in check, I highly recommend that you both see a mediator who can set out the boundaries for you without it being intimidating like a lawyer/solicitor. A third party helping will also convey the consequences of the disrespect and you can cover off what is appropriate now which will show your seriousness. If they insist a mediator isn't needed, you will need to sit them down and make clear what the boundary lines are. Plan it beforehand so that you have your key points.  You can also follow up with an email so that it's there in writing.

You may be afraid of setting boundaries and having what you perceive to be awkward conversations. Believe me, you will regret not getting this out of the way now when you move on or they do. I've heard too many tales of new partners coming along and shaking up what seemed like harmonious agreements or even unspoken agreements. Especially as you're going NC which indicates boundary issues, there is also a likelihood that your ex may not be entirely truthful with their new/next partner when questioned about your relationship.

Don't involve your child in any drama. My friend has had to go NC with the father of her child after discovering that he'd been cheating and had been using dating sites and dating agencies. He thought that he could weasel his way back in and has tried every trick in the book - she says, "Natalie, I'm civil to him so that he finalises the sale of the house but he must be f*cking mad if he thinks I'm going to sleep with him or that we're getting back together". She also told me that of course she's gutted about the breakup but that it's not good for her or her daughter for her to remain in a relationship with a liar and a cheat. He can be her father without being her lover or her problem.

Don't forget - You need time to get over the fact that you've broken up and that also means that you need space. If you look at NC as your way of achieving this for the greater good of you all, you won't lose sleep about being mean. You can't just skip straight to friendship.

In time, when you're over them and they know that there is no room to mess around with you or try to be with you, you may be able to be more friendly, but for now, you need to focus on your own life and not get the waters muddied with their needs when you have the kid(s) between you both.