By Dana Morningstar
Low contact is the alternative to “no contact” and is usually done if a person wants or needs to keep communication open with a narcissist. For instance, a person might want to stay in minimal contact with a family member who is a narcissist, or they may need to stay in minimal contact if a person has a child with a narcissist.
Low contact is whatever amount of contact that you want it to be. You may decide that you can handle seeing this person only for three days over the holidays, or you may decide that you can’t do three days, but you could do one day—or maybe that one day is too much, but meeting for dinner is fine, or if that’s too much, perhaps limiting contact to a phone call on holidays or a couple of times a year is your limit.
A great way to tell how much contact to have with a person is to examine how you feel when you are around them, and after you are around them. If you feel angry, resentful, hurt, annoyed, or that you need to decompress after being around them, then these are all signals that something needs to change. Some boundaries need to be set for how you expect to be treated, the length of time you are spending with them might need to decrease, or you might need to increase your self-care when you are around them or after you are around them…or some combination of all three.
If a person has to keep in contact with an emotional manipulator, they can do a combination of low contact and “gray rock”—so when they (infrequently) have to see them, they also stay as emotionally neutral and unreactive as possible.
Example: John’s mother has consistently ruined every holiday since he was a child. She creates a scene, starts a fight, or criticizes his life choices. John has only kept a relationship with his mother out of a sense of obligation. He has come to the point where he is tired of her behavior and has decided that he won’t fly home to spend time with her this Christmas—that he will call her instead.
Example: Chad and Sue are divorced. Originally, Sue thought they could divorce and be on decent terms. This has not been the case. Chad continues to text and call her with messages that are demanding, obsessive, and accusing her of being a whore and seeing other men. Chad also stops by the house at all hours of the day and night, claiming that he wants to talk to her or to see their daughter without regard to her or their daughter’s schedule. Sue decides that she doesn’t want (or need) to talk to Chad about anything other than their daughter, so she arranges it with her attorney that from here on out, all communication from him needs to go through the court, and a parenting plan needs to be developed. So while Sue’s daughter may have a relationship with Chad, Sue realized that she didn’t need to continue to be exposed to his abuse and went as low contact with him as possible.
Dana Morningstar is a former psychiatric nurse turned domestic violence educator who specializes in abuse awareness and prevention. Her passion is working with survivors of abuse to reclaim and rebuild their self-esteem, boundaries, confidence, and identity. She is an author of multiple books on the subject, and also has a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, as well as several online support groups, all of which you can find under the name “Thrive After Abuse.”