What boundaries do you need with a narcissistic ex?


In my German club of courageous mothers there are daily impulses to reflect and move forward.

Some time ago, I asked the question of what necessary boundaries moms have not yet allowed themselves to set

The answers that came out of this exercise were exciting!

And it made clear to me that the topic of setting limits is not completely clear to everyone.

What does it actually mean to set boundaries? And what does it definitely not mean?

Setting boundaries always means that you set boundaries for yourself personally. That protect you and your person – be it your physical persona or even your innermost being.

Imagine it, you are a big house and you are standing in the middle of beautiful greenery and fragrant flowers. The fence that protects your front yard from passers-by on the street and from parked cars would be the first boundary you set up.

Who is allowed to enter your front garden?

Certainly the postman or the parcel service, and certainly dear and invited guests. The evening peddler or the Jehovah’s Witnesses you would surely fend off right at the fence, easily and clearly you would insist on this boundary – the garden gate.

With fundraisers from the Red Cross it becomes more difficult, because you would like to do good, but you feel that the approach is too intrusive.

However, if someone parks on the street in front of your house so close that he blocks another car (whether yours or someone else’s), and you shout over the fence that he should please find another parking space, then this has nothing to do with setting boundaries.

You simply do not agree with his behavior. This is okay and absolutely understandable.

But it is not a boundary!

However, if the guy comes to the garden door and wants to start a discussion, then you make sure that he does not come through the garden door, e.g. by raising your hand and sending a stop signal.

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​Applied to your situation, this means

When you bash your toxic Ex for behaving irresponsibly towards your child, you are not setting a boundary for him. You are merely showing him what you don’t agree with.

However, if he always picks up the child too late and irregularly from you, then a boundary would be that you inform him that you will only wait for him for 15 minutes in the future, otherwise the contact will be cancelled.

Your boundary in this case is your time, which you will not let notorious time thieves take away from you.

This boundary also applies to your job, if your time is important to you (which is not the case for all people!). The nice colleague who keeps showing up at your desk and stopping you from working while you have to do your job so you can leave on time at noon needs a similar boundary.

Setting boundaries doesn’t have to hurt the other person, nor does it have to be delivered rudely. Boundaries can definitely be set lovingly and with a lot of understanding for the other person.

“Sorry, I don’t have time for our chat on Wednesday mornings – can we move it to the afternoon?”

To the child’s grandma: “I think it’s so nice that you like spending time with Jonas! Please understand, but I don’t want to commit to a specific day of the week anymore, I just need more flexibility in my calendar and Jonas’ calendar currently. Is that okay with you?”

To the boss: “I have this and that project on my plate right now – which one do you think I should put on the back burner for the new job?”

What a personal boundary does NOT include


Always go with your gut on how much you want to say about it. To rather unpleasant people, it is enough to point out the boundary succinctly and factually, yet still politely.

Close loved ones, on the other hand, may be given a more detailed explanation.

You can tell the difference between explanation and justification by how you feel.

An explanation that is presented clearly and with goodwill feels much better than a justification that makes you weak inside.

You decide!

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


Another boundary could indeed be a physical one

“From now on, child drop-offs will only take place at the front door.”

Or the communicative boundary:

“To avoid further misunderstandings, I ask you to discuss open issues with me only via this new email inbox in the future. I will handle the inbox at least 1x a week unless there are items that need to be decided quickly.”

If he is frequently abusive in email tone:

“Please note that in the future I will only respond to emails from you that are politely and factually worded. I reserve the right to share the inbox with my attorney otherwise.”

What is not a boundary:

“I hereby request that you cease and desist from manipulating the child, effective immediately.”

Can you tell the difference?

His behavior may perhaps – or most definitely even – exceed the measure of all good things and acceptance, and you can certainly make your displeasure known about it (although I wouldn’t recommend that to a narcissist either – remember the no-contact rule!), but you cannot afford to demand compliance with a boundary that you can’t control or have control over at all!

You can only ever demand your own boundary for yourself.

  • You turn away if the colleague does not immediately check that you do not have time now, and signal to her with your body posture that you do not take time for her now.
  • You don’t answer the poisonous emails.
  • You don’t give grandma a firm appointment time 4 or even 8 weeks in advance.
  • You stand broadly in the doorway, unwilling to step aside when the child drop-off happens.

You make the decisions, sweetheart. You can take responsibility and control for maintaining your personal boundaries, because your behavior is still determined by you!

However, if the boundaries are vague, you don’t have to be surprised if your fellow men trample over them regularly.

If you have only talked about it so far, but then let the boundary be crossed with your body posture, then you can’t blame the others either.

The tension between “being nice and gentle”, “not wanting to hurt anyone” and “I’m allowed to protect myself – at any time!” confronts us mothers with all our beliefs that we have nurtured in ourselves over the years and not questioned further.

In parenting with a toxic Ex, however, we have to confront them. We have no other choice if we don’t want to go to the dogs.

Therefore, my dear:

What is your boundary that you must now demonstrate from here on?

How do you see it, sweetheart?

What boundaries have you already been able to successfully establish with your toxic Ex? How did you manage to do that? And which ones are you still struggling with and having a hard time with?

Please write it in the comments so other moms can benefit. Merci! 🙏

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