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How to Set Boundaries When Parenting With a Toxic Ex

by | Apr 21, 2022 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

When it comes to parenting with a toxic ex, it’s unlikely that you will find yourself in a co-parenting situation.

Co-parenting involves respect and communication, which are two things toxic people usually lack.

Because they lack respect, they will not have any respect for boundaries.

When this is the case, how can you establish boundaries while parenting with a toxic ex?

The answer is parallel parenting!

This parenting method will allow you to minimize conflict and create firm boundaries so that you can reduce the negative impact they have on your life and the life of your child.

Maintaining boundaries was one of the biggest struggles I had when trying to co-parent with my ex.

He would constantly ignore my wishes when it came to parenting and continually try to invade my privacy.

When I started to learn about parallel parenting, I was able to establish boundaries and take back control of my life. The best part is that I didn’t need his compliance to have these boundaries!

And when I wrote the second edition of my book You Can’t Co-Parent With a Narcissist: A Guide to Parallel Parenting, I made sure to include establishing boundaries as a key component of parallel parenting.

Keep reading to learn more about parallel parenting and how you can establish boundaries using this method of parenting:

How to Set Boundaries With a Toxic Co-Parent

Know Your Boundaries

It’s hard to establish parallel parenting boundaries if you don’t know what kind of boundaries you can have!

From communication boundaries to financial boundaries, there are many ways that you can take control of your parallel parenting situation with your toxic ex.

Define Your Limits

Identifying and articulating your boundaries is the first step towards a healthier co-parenting dynamic. Reflect on behaviors that are emotionally harmful or counterproductive.

These might include personal attacks, manipulation, or constant interference in your life.

By defining your limits, you create a framework for what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Custody Schedule

One of the first things that need to be figured out when parallel parenting with a toxic ex is when your child will see their other parent. Because toxic parenting can be manipulative and contrary, it’s best to develop a solid plan on paper.

This way, you can establish a boundary by only allowing your child to visit their other parent according to the schedule.

Coming up with a custody schedule is the first step in creating a parallel parenting plan (which we’ll talk about in a bit). Each parent should know exactly when it’s their time to be with the child with an expectation of punctuality and reliability.

It can be hard to sit down with your ex and agree on anything, but you need to try. If you can’t, you may have to seek the aid of a mediator or lawyer.

Create a Parenting Plan

Once a custody schedule is established, you can create a parallel parenting plan. Click here to check out my free downloadable parenting plan that you can use.

A parenting plan is not a legal document, but it can help create boundaries and hold your ex accountable. A solid plan includes contingencies such as cancellations and holidays and who will pick up and drop off the child.

You must accept a certain degree of flexibility regarding the parallel parenting plan. Life happens, so you have to expect that your ex may cancel or show up late on occasion.

However, frequent departures from the plan will lead to confusion and conflict, so if your ex continually deviates from the plan, it may be time to get a lawyer or mediator involved.

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Get a Court Order

In the end, if you can’t establish a parallel parenting plan that your ex is willing to follow, it may be time to get a lawyer and let the court decide how things are going to go.

While this is an ideal move, it may not always work in your favor. The court may decide to give your ex more time with the child than you are comfortable with – and don’t expect them to punish your ex for toxic parenting.

However, rest assured that the court does have your child’s best interest in mind, even if it doesn’t coincide with your wishes.

The good thing about a court order is that it has to be followed, and refusing to do so will result in consequences. While this applies to you and your ex, it’s more likely that your ex will try to find ways to circumvent what is written in the order.

Don’t expect them to end up behind bars, but the court looks at these behaviors unfavorably, and it could affect your ex’s ability to increase access to their child.

Limit Communication

As part of a successful parallel parenting plan, you need to limit your communication with your ex.

But you’re probably wondering how to have no contact and co-parent with a toxic person.

The best way to deal with your ex is to cut them out of your life, but you can’t do this when you have a child together. What you can do is limit how you communicate by text or email.

Written forms of communication are helpful, especially if you are going for a court order. It’s hard proof of what your ex has said and how they treat you.

Plus, it helps to hold your ex accountable for what they say, whether they like it or not.

For example, if you both agree on a visitation schedule and they try to mess it up by claiming certain things were not said, you will have written proof of that agreement.

They can try to argue it, but ultimately, they can’t.

Keep Your Personal Lives Separate

One tactic for establishing parallel parenting boundaries is called “Gray Rock.” This means making yourself as interesting to your ex as a gray rock by not sharing any information about your personal life.

What you do in your free time, how you make money, and even who you are dating is no concern to your ex. Unless there are aspects of your personal life that put your child in danger, no court will stipulate that you share this information.

Along with not talking about your life, make sure you block them on all of your social media accounts.

Being a gray rock is a two-way street, however. Just as you don’t share personal details about your life, you can’t expect your ex to share any about theirs.

Unless, again, there are aspects of their life that are dangerous to your child. I’ve known parents who had court-ordered stipulations that their children were not to be around their ex’s new partner because that partner was an abusive addict.

Worry About Your Own Parenting

Unfortunately, you cannot control how your ex decides to parent your child. Again, there really isn’t anything you can do unless your child is in danger – no matter how frustrating it is.

What you can do is worry about the way you parent your child. Make sure they receive the love, support, and consistency they will likely not receive from their other parent.

Don’t question your parenting skills, and don’t take your ex’s “advice” to indicate that you are doing a bad job. They will try to undermine your parenting skills however they can, but what they say doesn’t matter again.

As long as you make decisions in your child’s best interest, you are a good parent!

Ignore Toxic Behavior

As hard as it may be, ignoring toxic behavior is one way to establish parallel parenting boundaries.

Toxic people will usually do whatever they can to seek attention, both negative and positive. They will say things and do things to try and upset you, prompting you to argue and defend yourself.

Remember that nothing your ex says matters! You can’t change the way they perceive you, so there’s no point in wasting your mental energy and getting upset just to try and prove them wrong.

This takes a lot of practice, but whenever your ex says something scathing or means, just ignore it. Don’t respond, and find ways to calm yourself.

Eventually, what they say won’t even bother you!

What is Considered Harassment By a Co-Parent?

co parent boundaries

Understanding what constitutes harassment by a co-parent is vital when setting and maintaining boundaries to ensure a healthy co-parenting dynamic.

Harassment can take various forms and significantly impact your well-being and the well-being of your children.

Establishing clear boundaries is crucial to protect yourself and your children from these harmful behaviors.

Violating boundaries can be a form of harassment, but here are some other actions that highlight the importance of setting boundaries:

  • Constant Verbal Abuse: Name-calling, insults, and belittling comments aimed at you or your children can be emotionally damaging. Setting a boundary that enforces respectful communication is essential to prevent this type of behavior.
  • Threats and Intimidation: Expressions of physical harm, damage to property, or other threats aimed at creating fear can be traumatizing. Clearly communicate that such behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
  • Excessive Monitoring: Intrusive attempts to monitor your activities, both online and offline, can feel invasive and suffocating. Setting boundaries around privacy can help maintain a sense of personal space.
  • Refusing to Communicate: Intentionally withholding important information about your children’s well-being or making decisions without consulting you can create confusion and conflicts. Establishing a boundary that ensures open and honest communication is essential for co-parenting success.
  • Manipulation of Children: Trying to turn your children against you, using them as messengers, or attempting to alienate their affection can cause lasting emotional harm. Clearly define the boundaries for co-parenting interactions that prioritize the children’s emotional well-being.
  • Legal Abuse: Misusing the legal system to constantly file motions, requests, or lawsuits in an attempt to wear you down can be exhausting and draining. Establishing boundaries around legal proceedings and seeking mediation can help mitigate this form of harassment.

Setting boundaries with a toxic co-parent is a crucial step in preventing harassment and maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Co-Parenting Boundaries While in a New Relationship

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Navigating co-parenting boundaries while being in a new relationship requires a delicate balance to ensure everyone’s feelings and needs are respected. Communication is key:

It’s important to openly discuss your co-parenting situation with your new partner. Ensure they understand the dynamics, including any potential challenges or conflicts.

Reassure your partner that your commitment to co-parenting does not undermine your commitment to your new relationship.

Establish clear boundaries with your new partner regarding their involvement in co-parenting matters.

Make sure everyone is on the same page about their role, whether that’s offering support, staying in the background, or occasionally participating in joint activities.

Prioritize time with your new partner and maintain quality moments together. At the same time, honor your commitments as a co-parent and avoid neglecting your responsibilities.

Regularly check in with your new partner about their feelings and any concerns they might have. Addressing issues proactively can prevent resentment from building up.

Remember that co-parenting boundaries should be flexible to accommodate the needs of all involved parties.

Open communication, empathy, and mutual respect are essential for successfully navigating co-parenting while nurturing a new relationship.

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Establish Boundaries Through Parallel Parenting

There you have it! By creating a parallel parenting situation, you can easily establish boundaries with your toxic ex to prevent their whackadoo from impacting your life.

It takes some practice, and it’ll never be perfect, but you’ll definitely appreciate dealing with less conflict!

Have you tried parallel parenting? What are some boundaries you find difficult to establish? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Let’s create a supportive community and navigate the complexities of co-parenting with strength and resilience!



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