Once I got away from the relationship that saw me reduced to a shadow of what I was before, I remember the feeling of wanting to run and hide. I had tried every avenue possible to cut contact between us. The only exception that was there was a solicitor contacting me on his behalf to arrange him seeing our son. This didn’t stop him trying to gain access, both to me and our son, in other ways.
I went through months of stalking, harassment and constantly having to fight his attempts at finding an ‘in’ into my life. But my life was just that, mine! He had no reason to need to know everything anymore. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t just cut contact and we go our separate ways but I couldn’t. We still had to co-parent.
It took me a long time to navigate what contact between us would look like. He would find any way he could to initiate conversations that we didn’t need to have. He would try his best to find out things he had no right to know. He would still unload a barrage of abuse at any chance he got. For a while I was lost. I sometimes gave him more information than he needed in the hope of our co-parenting relationship being transparent. It never worked, the age old saying of ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’ was very applicable. He always sought any opportunity to crack open more conversation than was needed. Always sticking to the same narrative of finding something to cause an argument which always ended in him pushing his stance of most things being my fault leading me to defend myself and then we were stuck in this loop of abuse, denial and nothing being resolved for our son.
So, what were my options if I couldn’t cut all contact? Well, instead of no-contact I went low-contact. It was hard to paint a picture of what low-contact would look like. What to do and more importantly, what not to do. How would I pinpoint what contact was necessary and what contact wasn’t? So it took me probably longer than it should have, and I definitely learnt the hard way but these are the main points I stick to;
- Social media – Block, delete and ignore. I deleted him, his family and any mutual friends/acquaintances we had on all of my social media. I set all profiles to the highest privacy setting possible. Most importantly, I stopped looking at his social media. After we split up, however he wanted to proceed with living his own separate life away from mine was his business.
- Written contact only – We broke up ten years ago. I stuck to written contact so I had proof of everything that was said. Emails and text messages only. For the first seven years after we split up I had a cheap PAYG mobile that I used specifically for contact – my ex didn’t have my personal number due to the amount of harassment I went through after we split. I could switch the phone off when it wasn’t needed and create that barrier for my own sanity. Only recently, now our son is older have I spoken to him over the phone, mostly to hand the phone over to our son. He is at the awkward stage of being too young for his own phone but I’d never stand in the way of them speaking over the phone.
- I choose what to talk about carefully – It has taken practice and I haven’t always got it right. I have been sucked into he said/she said games and I have reacted to accusations and abuse in the years following the break up. It got me nowhere. I’m not expecting progress within a co-parenting relationship, especially not with a man who still denies to this day what he did, but I can set my own boundaries for my own sanity. To generalise, anything about our sons wellbeing and progress I will engage in conversation and won’t hold back. Anything else, I don’t talk about. My life is mine, his life is his. If he chooses to try and engage in conversation outside of our son then I respond only to what he has said/asked about our son or he gets no response at all. The only exception I have to this is I don’t respond to anything accusatory. “Our son will hate you when he’s older” “you’re not doing him any favours” “he hates you” etc all get ignored. Its not relevant and it’s said to provoke reaction.
- I don’t facilitate drop off/pick up. I am really lucky in that over the years I have had a team of people willing to help me out with this so I physically see him as little as possible. In the beginning contact was supervised and the contact centre arranged for drop off/pick up not to cross over. My parents have helped to but the majority of the facilitating has been done over the years by my husband. Yes my ex has hated this and it has been the cause of arguments and he has threatened not to return our son if I’m not the one there, but I’ve stuck to my guns and he’s had to get used to it. I’ve also always made sure that drop off/pick up was in a public space. Plenty of witnesses. We’ve even had a court order previously stating it should be done outside of our local police station.
As I have stated previously I don’t hold back any information about our son. Even at times when I’m not frequently asked how he is, I’ve still been up front because as his dad, he has a responsibility to be up-to-date on what goes on in our sons life. As far as my private life is concerned, it has always remained private. I have given the courtesy of telling him when I planned on moving towns when my husband and I moved in together as I see this as a direct impact on our sons life; but that is the only information I have ever given. My barriers are there to protect me. The abuse I endured was horrendous and the effects have lasted a long time. It is now my responsibility to take care of my mental health for the sake of being the best mother I can be and that will always be treated as priority.