The no contact rule. It’s the foundational piece of breakup advice, one of the fastest ways to recover. Every breakup survivor becomes acquainted with it at some point and hears about its mesmerizing healing capabilities.
Yet, despite its glaring popularity, the no contact rule is also one of the most misunderstood topics in the entire breakup advice world. Most people believe its sole purpose is to help them win their ex back. Don’t get me wrong, you can use it to increase your chances of doing so — and we will talk about this later — but that’s not the technique’s main purpose. The real reason why someone would go no contact is to win themselves back.
This mentality will also be the lens through which we will be examining the no contact rule and its aspects throughout this article.
By the end of the read, you’ll know what the no contact rule is, its benefits, the psychology behind it, how to apply it, and all the intricate in’s and out’s. I’ll even share techniques that will help you make the no contact rule an everyday habit, even when you’re desperate to reach out to your ex.
What Is The No Contact Rule
To truly recover, you have to emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually separate yourself from your ex. Therefore, ending all communication with them is paramount. That’s what the no contact rule primarily helps you with.
Going to contact, meaning executing this rule, implies cutting off all communication with your ex for a certain period of time. During this period, you don’t call them, you don’t message them, you don’t engage with their social media activity, you don’t wish them “happy birthday,” and you most certainly don’t go to places where you’d have an “accidental” encounter with them.
When it comes to the length of the no contact period, some recommend you make it seven days, some say 30, some 60, and others insist on 90 days. I call bullshit on all those theories. I don’t believe in the whole time period thing at all. The no contact period should be indefinite.
Meaning, once your relationship is over, you devote yourself to personal growth and recovery. You let your ex go. If they ever want another shot with you, they’ll contact you. From there, you can set up a date and rekindle things. You don’t have to, nor should you, resort to chasing after them — especially if they dumped you.
Besides, why would you even want to chase after someone, let alone win someone back, with whom things didn’t work out? Neediness? Fear? Anxiety? Love Codependency? Those aren’t healthy intentions for wanting an ex back. So let the venture go. Cut your ex out of your life whether you want to re-attract them or not. Your heart and mind will appreciate it. And it’s probably going to be one of the most thankful and rewarding decisions you’ll ever make.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of no contact…
Should I contact my ex under special circumstances?
Sometimes classic no contact is impossible to execute. Maybe you have kids with your ex, maybe you live together, or work at the same office. In any of these cases, you’ll have to resort to something called modified no contact.
The difference between classic and modified is that, in the modified variant, you’re ‘allowed’ to contact your ex. However, that contact needs to be straight to the point, formal or almost businesslike, and singularly focused on the pressing topic(s).
If you need to discuss who will look after your kid for the weekend, discuss it. If there’s a living arrangement that needs to be settled, settle it. Preferably, move out or move your ex out. And if something comes up at work and you need to go over it together, do so. In all cases, when conversing with your ex, don’t linger. Be brief and end the conversation as soon as you make a mutually favorable arrangement or decision.
If your ex attempts to talk about the relationship, or just about anything personal, end the conversation quickly. Be respectful and polite, yet firm, assertive, and perhaps most importantly, vulnerable. I would say something like this:
I get where you’re coming from, but I’m not ready to talk about that yet. Still have a lot of healing to do. Please respect that. Now, let’s get back to talking about our kids/living arrangements/work.
The reason for this attitude is not to manipulate your ex (or to be a jackass) but to limit your interactions with them, especially those entrenched in emotion. Generally, The fewer interactions you have, be that digital or in real life, the faster you’ll be able to heal.
Now, if at any point your conversations turn into conflict, it’s worthwhile to handle it gracefully. Here’s how:
1. Calm down. Seriously. You’ve got to break free of the flight/fight/freeze mode. Try taking a couple of deep breaths while you’re arguing, but if that’s not possible, or it doesn’t help, call a time-out.
Literally tell your ex, “Hey, this is getting way out of hand. Let’s take a quick break, so we can cool down. Then let’s talk about this like adults, without all the drama. I want to get to the bottom of it, just not in this emotional state.”
2. Figure out what the issue is how to resolve it. When you’ve calmed down, try to genuinely understand where your ex is coming from — ponder on why you’re arguing in the first place. Usually, it’s because of some sort of emotional baggage or a difference in values.
The former would be an argument about one person being cold and distant, and the letter an argument about one person wanting to raise their child one way and the other another way.
3. Use requests instead of complaints. Instead of saying, “I’m angry because you’re this, this and that. Why can’t you just do XYZ!” say, “I feel frustrated right now. Please, let’s just do XYZ so we can move on with this. How does that sound?”
The latter response will often institute a calming effect in the dynamic between you and your ex, primarily because the response communicates that you’re not accusing or attacking them but being understanding and respectful.
4. Resolve the issue. Whether that means making a compromise or enforcing your boundaries even further.
Sadly, modified no contact is tainted with a glaring drawback. It commands much higher levels of emotional self-control to pull off than the classic counterpart. Plus, it’s not as effective as you’re always predisposed to re-opening your breakup wounds due to regular proximity to your ex. But then again, don’t let that deter you from applying it. Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. Make the best with what you have.
What If My Ex Reaches Out During No Contact?
Imagine this: you’re going about your day, doing your thing, enjoying life in all it’s glory, when suddenly you get a text message from your ex. It goes, “Hey, this XZY movie reminded me of us.” Now, just seconds after you read it, a nasty thought pops up, “Thanks for reminding me that I’m still not over you. Looks like my day is fucked.”
How would you go about the text? Would you Ignore it? Respond? Ghost? Or desperately call them up?
Well, if you want to get over your ex, I would say something like, “Hey, I’m still healing from our breakup. It would mean a lot if you wouldn’t contact me at this time.” That being said, don’t feel like you have to shy away from other options.
You can tell your ex to fuck off (not recommended). You can block them. You can ghost them. Or you can engage in a short 2-3 message long conversation (or a 5min call) and then say you have to go. It’s your call.
However, if your goal is getting your ex back, you’ll need to handle things a bit differently. When your ex contacts you simply engage in a 2-3 message long conversation (or a 5min call), but instead of saying you have to go, invite them on a date. Then accept whatever answer they give you — including silence.
Note: if your ex is any shade of toxic, they will probably try to hurt you in some way during no contact. Be that through text, call, or an unexpected visit. Thus, mentally prepare yourself for their desperate, needy, angry, or guilt-tripping advances. Here’s what you can expect if your ex leans toward a dysfunctional personality or an insecure attachment:
- They’ll post photos with attractive people of the opposite sex on social media to make you jealous.
- They’ll play tricks on you and use reverse psychology to get you back.
- They’ll call/text you excessively.
- They’ll excessively call/text your family and close friends — mutual or not.
- They’ll lie about wanting you back and give you false hope just to break your heart again.
Above all, resist caving in and starting a fight with your ex. If you fail to do this, you’ll just postpone your healing process. Besides, your ex is not your concern anymore. Who cares what they want to prove. How they feel is not your concern anymore. What they do is not your concern anymore. You’re not responsible for your ex anymore. You never were in the first place.
No contact rule psychology
According to well-known researchers love makes your body release chemicals such as oxytocin, endorphin, serotonin, and dopamine. These are the chemicals that make you feel like everything is honeycombs and rainbows. And they’re addictive as hell. (1)
But, what happens to these feel-good chemicals when you break up with someone? They get cut off from your system. Obviously, your brain doesn’t like that since it’s addicted to them. Therefore it goes nuts, causing you crippling pain and distress. At those moments, what you’re dealing with is literally an addiction. However, this addiction is felt differently depending on whether you’re the dumpee or the dumper.
The psychology of no contact on the Dumpee
Dumpees are the ones who get wrecked in this case. For starters, they, on average, feel way more overwhelmed, worried, and anxious when you cut communication with them compared to dumpers. Primarily because they’re rarely prepared for the breakup. Most don’t even see it coming.
They are also the ones who typically (consciously or unconsciously) want to continue talking to their ex, dating them, or at least keeping a friendship. Unfortunately, their wishes are rarely met. At worst, their craving for closeness gets their ex to take advantage of them.
If you’re the dumpee, here’s my best advice: don’t be friends with your ex. I know you want to. I know you crave that closeness. And I know you’re thinking of using that friendship as a backdoor to a new relationship. Look, reconciliations don’t work that way. You won’t get your ex back by being their friend. You’ll get your ex back by cutting them out of your life, focusing on yourself, and accepting that your relationship with them is over — at least for now.
The psychology of no contact on the Dumper
Dumpers have it easier during no contact than dumpees — they move through the breakup stages much faster, for starters. Still, there are also many similarities when comparing the experiences of the two. Dumpers may also want their ex back. They may also be looking for signs that they still have a chance. They may even be okay with forming a “friends with benefits” type relationship or using casual friendship as a backdoor to a new, committed relationship.
The only tangible difference in how dumpers feel during no contact is that they’re usually not as overwhelmed with emotions as are dumpees. But don’t get me wrong, they still suffer regardless.
If you’re the dumper, here’s my best advice: be honest with your ex. If they keep nagging and chasing and hinder your breakup recovery, tell them that they’re annoying and ask them to stop. Hopefully, they comply. And more extreme cases, don’t be afraid to tell them that don’t want to get back together or stay in touch.
Do men and women respond differently to no contact?
There’s a lot of hoopla around the differences in how no contact influences female and male psychology. However, truth is, there’s are no big differences. It’s all a marketing ploy—a form of differentiating from the competition.
Let me explain.
There’s a general consensus in the online business space: the more specific your brand, the better it is in terms of relatability, traffic, and profit. In other words, the more you hone in and master a particular territory of a larger subject, the more people will be interested in your perspective and give you credit for having something unique to say.
Now, this is all fine and well. It’s good advice. But sometimes, people go too narrow. Meaning, instead of creating a business, let’s say, around helping people get their ex back, they create one around helping only men get their ex back.
Sure, this decision grants a way better chance of attracting the right audience, building a unique brand message, and potentially can even lead to larger profits than if you’d opt for a broader pie of the market (i.e., breakup advice in general. Oh shit…)
However, here’s the drawback when entrepreneurs niche down too much: they create artificial complexity around a subject. Meaning, they make a topic more complex than it needs to be in order to appeal to their (potential) customer’s biases and frustrations and help them make more money.
So these unnecessary complications of simple problems are where the whole “female/male psychology during no contact” stems from. Like I’ve said, it’s a marketing gimmick. There are NO noteworthy differences in how men and women respond to no contact.
Sure, women are more emotional on average, and the no contact period is somewhat more turbulent and chaotic for them, especially in the beginning. And men are more closed off on average, which makes them suffer far more than women following the breakup. But that’s really where the differences end.
In fact, from a broader perspective, the similarities men and women share far outweigh their differences. As I’ve said in a previous article, sexual polarity is overrated.
Why is the no contact rule so effective?
As you know by now, cutting communication with your ex promotes faster breakup recovery and increases your chances of getting back together. And while those are the main reasons the no contact rule is so effective, they are not the only reasons. There’s way more under the hood! Let’s investigate further.
No Contact Lessens Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts about an ex-partner are unwelcome and involuntary mental patterns or unpleasant ideas that may be upsetting or turn into obsessive thoughts. And going no contact is proven to unclench their hold. But there’s a catch.
When you implement the no contact rule, the number of intrusive thoughts of your ex increase in the short term, making you think and miss them more and more. However, the number of intrusive thoughts decreases drastically in the long term. So while going no contact may hurt now, it saves you a bunch of unnecessary future suffering.
No Contact Mends Negative Feelings
A study From the Emerg Adulthood Publication proved that removing your ex from your life — a.k.a., going no contact, diminishes the frequency and intensity of negative thoughts concerning your breakup. Yet, another reason why no contact is so damn effective. (2)
The researchers behind this study even went on to say that if you have contact with your ex, either out of choice or because you work together or have kids with them, you’re going to have more difficulties extinguishing negative feelings about them.
No Contact Makes It Easier To “Find Yourself”
Going no contact makes it far easier to recollect yourself and rebuild your shattered identity after a breakup. For instance, it makes it easier for you to reflect on what’s essential in your life. It enables you to make better and primarily clearer decisions about the new personal values, beliefs, and sources of meaning you wish to try on, own, or displace.
This process is often coined “finding yourself.” Put differently, whenever a person who just came out of a traumatic experience says they have to “find herself/himself,” this is the process they are referring to, be that knowingly or unknowingly.
No Contact Helps You See The Bigger Picture
In other words, applying the no contact rule gives you a broader perspective on your problems, worries, and concerns.
First off, you begin to see your loss in a more down-to-earth way and not as some life-ending event. Good going! You also begin to see that you don’t need your ex to be happy. You didn’t need them before they entered your life, so you don’t need them now. Way to go! And finally, cutting your ex out of your life reduces your overall stress levels, helps you build self-esteem, and makes it easier to improve your ability to be self-aware. Hell yeah!
No Contact Helps You Get Your Ex Back Faster
When your ex broke up with you, they are telling you the two things: a) my attraction for you dropped, and b) I no longer want you in my life, at least not in the same capacity as you want me. And these things are usually the result of you chasing, pleading and showing a lack of self-respect. So the dynamic in this case is: your ex has all the power; you have none.
The no contact rule helps rebalance this. It prevents you from chasing, pursuing, and pleading further — a.k.a., making more mistakes. It gives your ex the freedom to re-chose you at their own pace. It even sparks their curiosity since you’re not communicating. And if they do contact you at some point during no contact, the relational dynamic consequently shifts. Now how to move forward is your call.
Just keep in mind that while no contact contributes to getting your ex back, it doesn’t help you keep them, especially in cases where a) your relationship is toxic or b) you’re incompatible. That’s what self- improvement is for. And that’s why you should always couple no contact with self-improvement for best results.
5 signs the no contact rule is working
Luckily, there are signs that indicate that the no contact rule is working as it should. Below, I’ll go over 5 of the most recurring ones. The first two are related to getting your ex back and the last three to letting them go for good.
1. Your ex contacts you. Whether their contact is in the form of an obnoxious, “I miss you and can’t live without you,” or the subtle, “This thing reminded me of you,” it’s a good indicator that they’re interested again.
Another sub-sign that we can attach to this point is when your ex becomes more responsive after no contact. This is easy to spot. It’s when they don’t need much time to respond to your texts or calls, when they don’t think twice about meeting up with you or when they unblock you from social media.
2. Your ex is asking around about you. Whether they ask your exclusive friends, family, or shared friends, it’s all a decent sign that they’re still interested.
3. You begin to feel mild indifference toward your ex. This means you’re nearing the final stage of breakup recovery, acceptance. It’s when the thoughts about your ex don’t ruin your day anymore. It’s when you’ve made peace with what has happened. It’s when you got a new sense of confidence back and are beginning to feel excitement for what the future holds.
4. An idea of a new partner begins to feel exciting. Whether you’re just excited to date around, ready to settle down with someone, or anything in between, it’s a good sign that you’re nearing full recovery. A rebound may just save your life.
5. Encountering Them doesn’t make you feel anxious. Instead, you’re swamped by relaxation and the feeling where you have nothing left to prove to your ex, no validation you’d want from them, or any expectations around the encounter.
How To stay in No contact Once You Started?
Implementing the no contact rule is difficult, but it’s even harder to stay in no contact amid the shit life throws at you. If you slip up, you may re-open your breakup wounds and fall back to square #1.
So to avoid this predicament, you’ll have to build some protective psychological mechanisms around you to keep following through with no contact till you’re feeling better. And that’s precisely what the technique below helps you with. Here’s how to start…
Whenever you get the urge to call your ex, take out a journal and write how you felt just before the call, how you felt during the call, and how you felt after the call. Leave no stone unturned. Write down everything about the experience.
Note: For simplicity’s sake, I refer to the desire to contact your ex in any form as your desire to call them, considering that’s the most common way people break no contact.
Here are some additional questions to reflect upon that will help you out when journaling, but be sure to formulate some of your own too.
- What was the intention behind my call?
- What am I feeling now, what did I feel and think before the call, and what did I feel after?
- How was this yearning to call my ex triggered?
- Do I feel forgotten, neglected, unworthy, or rejected?
- Do I simply want closure?
- Am I trying to change what once was?
- Am I trying to get a particular reaction from my ex?
- Am I trying to make myself feel better about my pain or the pressure of no contact?
- Is it just the desperation and hopelessness calling?
- Do I feel bored, anxious, needy, lonely, or forgotten?
- Am I hoping that my ex won’t move on as long as I’m spamming their phone?
Once you’ve written down all of your thoughts and feelings, don’t forget to repeat the process. Make this exercise a habit or an instant response whenever you feel like reaching out to your ex. The more times you do it, the more disciplined you’ll become.
Now, there is a way to make this technique even more effective in keeping you “in no contact.” The secret? Stacking additional activities on top of your journaling efforts. These can be anything you like. Here’s an example of how I would go about it…
…When I get the urge to break no contact, I would:
- Write my thoughts down in your journal (Part one of this whole technique)
- Take a few deep breaths.
- Turn off my phone/computer.
- Go for a walk in nature.
- Contact a family member, friend, or anyone I feel is open and willing to talk and listen to me.
- Play with lego’s/solve a puzzle/buy groceries/go to the movies, etc.
You may need to experiment with different sets of activities to find the combination that works best for you. Don’t rush. Take your time, and be patient with yourself. It’s worth it.
What To Avoid During No Contact?
Whether you just started no contact or you’re months in, there are certain things you should never do. Not only will these actives prevent you from recovering and improving, but they’ll also cause permanent damage to your mental health if indulged in for too long.
Suppressing and repressing your emotions means pushing them down instead of feeling them wholly. The only difference between the two is that when we repress our emotions, we push them down unconsciously, and when we suppress them, we push them down consciously. In both cases, the more we do it, the worse we’ll feel, and the more mood swings, temper tantrums, and general irritability we’ll experience.
Escapism is when we avoid facing and overcoming our painful feelings by indulging in a variety of trivial pursuits that act as distractions. These can be binge playing video games or watching movies, exercising, drinking, shopping, and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with occasional distractions, but it is wrong when they become frequent.
For example, playing video games for a few hours every evening to get your mind off the whole no contact and the breakup is healthy. But having a two-week-24/7 video game binge to keep you preoccupied is unhealthy.
Over-expression is another word for lousy emotional management. It refers to venting all negativity to the point where it gets smothering and destructive for the person or people that are interacting with you.
For instance, when one of my ex-girlfriends dumped me, the next thing I did the other day is met up with an old friend to vent my worries. Little did he know that my venting would turn into a two-hour-long fiery rant about how my ex is the incarnation of Satan. This was toxic vulnerability on my part. It’s oversharing. It’s overexertion. It’s unnecessary. After we drank our coffee, we regretted the decision to meet up. My friend was frustrated and I was ashamed. The lesson? Don’t be toxic.
Whine and vent if you have to, just not for two hours straight.
A lot of people, primarily those who want their ex back, obsess about it during no contact. It’s safe to say that that’s probably the worst thing you can do in your case. It only amplifies frustration, stress, worry, neediness, self-sabotaging tendencies, and fear.
If you find yourself obsessing over your ex (Hint: you’ve read at least five other articles on the topic), remind yourself that it’s bad for your sanity. Remind yourself to stay in no contact. Distract yourself with something else that can hold your interest and engage you — but not to the point where it becomes escapism.
Optional Grey Box Of Doom
Top questions about the no contact rule and my best attempts at answering.
1. I broke the no contact rule is it too late?
No way. Whether you want your ex back or not, just restart the no contact period once you broke the rule and your problem is solved. It’s that easy.
2. Does no contact work after acting desperate or needy?
I get it, you really want the certainty that what you’re doing is the right move, but here’s the deal: you’ll never get that certainty. You’ll never know if if no contact is the right move after being desperate and weak. All you can do — and all that you should do — is learn how to handle that uncertainty well.
3. Won’t my ex forget about me if I Don’t Reach Out?
No. Contrary to common belief, the no contact rule doesn’t make your ex miss you less (or forget about you), but more. Hence the saying, “attraction grows in space.” The longer you stay in no contact, the greater the chances of your ex reaching out become.
4. My Ex Unblocked Me But Hasn’t Reached Out. What now?
Do nothing. If you want them back, let them make the effort to contact you directly. Change your mind about getting your ex back. Instead of thinking: “How can I get my ex back. How can I impress them? Do they still like me?” Think: “How will they go about getting me back? Will they put in the effort? How will they impress me? Will I even be impressed in the first place? Would I even want them back?”
5. What if my ex is angry because we don’t Talk?
Anger means that they’re still emotionally invested in you — a.k.a., not over you. So if your goal is to get them back, that’s good news. However, until they calmed down, I wouldn’t bother trying to get them back even if they reached out and gave you all the right signs. You’re not going to get far with someone who’s upset. And don’t feel guilty for not engaging with your ex while they’re pissed off. You owe them nothing. You’re not responsible for how they feel.
Out of all the ways one recovers after a breakup or re-attract their ex, the no contact rule is most beneficial. It’s remarkable what one can achieve with it. But be warned: never mistake the method for some sort of panacea. It’s effective as hell, yes, but nowhere near a miracle cure.
And above all, remember to NOT commit to no contact to win your ex back. Commit to it to win yourself back. That’s what it’s really for. That’s what it was always for. Everything else is just a beautiful side effect.
So, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and cut the proverbial rope tied to your ex. Jump out the old, into the new. Don’t think. Don’t linger. Just do it, fucker. Let yourself get engulfed in the celestial firestorm of uncertainty, wonder, and change. Cut them off. This is a new beginning. Make it count.
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