Dim is about protecting yourself while being distantly available. You're able to observe the situation and can step in, increasing or decreasing contact as necessary. Since Dim isn't a cut-off of contact, monitor your tendency to go into analysis paralysis and give up your power. Use this in the beginning when you're living together or apart and are uncertain what mood and personality your MLCer is in at any moment. Use this later when your MLCer is less abusive or not a serious cake-eater and you want to begin to reconnect. Dim is to proceed with caution.
Dark is a more distant level of Dim and may approach No Contact without making it an official boundary. It allows for contact when No Contact is not possible either because you work together, live together or must have regular communication because of parenting responsibilities. It's about maintaining an emotional distance when in contact. Detachment facilitates the ability to go Dark, but the reverse is also true; going Dark will help you detach. It's acting as if. It's not about ignoring your MLCer, which shows that you're affected by the antics, but rather acknowledging with neutrality such as passing them in the hallway without reacting. It's about responding rather than reacting and learning that your MLCer's behaviors are their problems and not personal. It's about making yourself unavailable, not answering every phone call from him, being busy and showing that you have a life.
How do I realistically go dark when we have 3 kids? And is it the right thing to do?
Going Dark can help you separate from the Monster. It is a step before No Contact and thus more realistic when children are involved. It's an assistant to Detachment. Speak to him only regarding issues with the kids; no chit chat. Be cordial but reserved.
Though No Contact may seem like a more advanced stage of contact limitation, it does not mean detachment is stronger and being Dark does not mean detachment is weaker. When doing No Contact, an LBS is no longer observing the cycling emotions and changing mind and behaviors of the MLCer which can lead to analysis paralysis. But your imagination can also lead to analysis paralysis if you continue to focus on your MLCer by creating imaginary actions and emotions that suit your fears. No Contact benefits detachment because of the space and distance from the cycling enables healing. Going Dark is useful when contact is inevitable—your MLCer lives at home with you. But it also teaches you how to deal directly with the chaos. A person in No Contact may seem detached until resuming contact and they are without the skills for dealing with the chaos in direct communication.
Dim and Dark are not boundaries, No Contact is a boundary and boundaries are rules which are communicated along with the consequences for breaking the boundary and ways to have the boundary removed. Dim and Dark do not need to be communicated because they are not boundaries and thus the contact limitation is not a rule, it's just a way of interacting even when there is actual contact: responsive rather than reactive, reserved, distant and detached.
It is possible to have no contact (notice the lack of capitalization) without the rule against contact, thereby keeping a path open for communication—which is important for Paving the Way. In the beginning MLCer's cycle more and thus they may have longer or more frequent periods when they are receptive to their spouse, which means more opportunities for Paving the Way. A boundary may prevent an early and cycling MLCer from seeking you out for positive touch-n-goes because No Contact is often associated with anger, disgust and giving up. An early MLCer is still too fresh in their crisis to understand or at times care about ways of removing a boundary because they are still too caught in their crisis as well as in in-fatuation with an alienator.