The no-contact rule. It’s the foundational piece of breakup advice—one of the main ways to reach full recovery. Every breakup survivor becomes acquainted with it at some point, and every breakup guru, expert, coach, or blogger preaches 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 you get your ex back.
Don’t get me wrong: you can use the no contact rule to boost your chances of getting an ex back — and we will talk about this topic 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 examine the no-contact rule and its aspects throughout this article.
By the end of the read, you’re going to know what the no contact rule is, its benefits, the science behind it, and how to apply it. I’ll even share three CBT-based techniques that will help you make the no-contact rule an automatic 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 them. Therefore, ending all communication with them is paramount for your recovery. That’s what the no-contact rule primarily helps you with.
Going to contact, meaning executing this rule, implies that you cut 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 like their social media posts, 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 these theories. I don’t believe in the whole time period thing at all. The no-contact period should be indefinite.
Once your relationship is over, devote yourself to moving on. If your ex ever wants another shot with you, they’ll contact you. From there, you can set up a date and rekindle things. There’s no need to wait X amount of days to contact them.
Besides, why would you even want to contact someone, let alone win back someone with who things didn’t work out? Relationships end because two people are wrong for each other.
Ultimately, think of the no-contact rule as a lifestyle rather than a technique — one where you’re hyper-focused on self-improvement and, well… yourself!
So what are you waiting for? Cut your ex out of your life for now. It’s a simple yet emotionally challenging decision, but it’s one of the most thankful and rewarding ones you’ll ever make. Take the plunge. Go no contact. Your heart will appreciate it.
Should I contact my ex under special circumstances?
Sometimes classic no contact is impossible to execute. Maybe you have kids with our ex, maybe you hang out in the same peer groups, or maybe you work together. In these cases, you have to resort to something called the modified no-contact rule.
The only difference between the classic and modified is that you’re ‘allowed’ to contact your ex in the latter. However, that contact needs to be straight to the point, formal or almost businesslike, and singularly focused on the pressing topic(s).
For instance, if you need to discuss who will look after your kid for the weekend, feel free to have that discussion with your ex. But be quick, and end the conversation as soon as you make a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The reason for this lightly indifferent attitude is not to manipulate your ex or to be a jackass, but to limit your interactions with them. The less interaction you have, be that digital or not, the faster you’ll be able to grow from your pain and heal.
Sadly, the bottom line of using modified no-contact is unthankful. It commands much higher levels of emotional self-control to pull off than the classic counterpart.
Plus, it’s not nearly as effective since you’re always predisposed to re-opening your breakup wounds due to regular proximity to your ex.
But don’t let that fact deter you from applying the modified no contact to your recovery journey. You’re still going to see results by using it — maybe not huge ones, but results nonetheless.
WHAT IF MY EX REACHES OUT DURING NO CONTACT?
Let’s pretend you’re casually going through your day when suddenly, you get a text message from your ex, saying, “Hey, this XZY movie reminded me of us.”
Your immediate thought when you see the tacky message on your phone screen is, “Thanks for reminding me that I’m still not over you. Looks like my day is fucked.”
What should you do? Ignore, respond, ghost or desperately call them up?
Well, if you’re not over your ex yet, and want nothing to do with them anymore, tell them something like, “Hey, I’m still healing from our breakup. It would mean a lot if you wouldn’t contact me at this time.”
Also, don’t shy away from other options:
- You can tell your ex to fuck off (not recommended).
- You can block them.
- You can ghost them.
- You can engage in a short 2-3 message long conversation (or a 5min call), then say you have to go.
With that said, if your goal is getting your ex back, engage in a 2-3 message long conversation (or a 5min call), but instead of ending things by saying you have to go, invite your ex out on a date. Then accept whatever answer they give you — including silence.
And as a side note, if your ex is any shade of toxic, they will probably try to hurt you in some way. Be that via text, a call, or an unexpected visit at your doorstep. 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 and toxic personality:
- They’ll post photos with attractive people of the opposite sex on social media to make you jealous.
- 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.
No matter how much your ex wants to hurt you emotionally, you must resist caving in or starting a fight with them. If you fail to do this, you’ll just end up contacting them and consequently postpone your healing process.
Besides, your ex is not your concern anymore. You’re not responsible for them, their well-being, or their happiness. You never were in the first place.
THE psychology BEHIND THE NO-CONTACT RULE
According to well-known researchers — primarily Helen Fisher — 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. (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, you’re dealing with literal addiction.
However, this addiction is felt differently by the dumpee to the dumper. Here’s how the no contact period affects each.
How The Dumpee feels during No contact
The dumpees are the ones who get wrecked in this case. For starters, they’ll way feel more overwhelmed when you cut communication with them compared to dumpers. They’ll also want to continue talking to their ex, dating them, or at least keep a friendship with them.
This craving for closeness will also make them prone to getting taken advantage of and only prolong their healing.
How The Dumper feels during No contact
The dumpers have it easier during no contact. However, there are still many similarities when comparing their no-contact experiences to the ones of dumpees.
The dumper may very well want their ex back, may also be looking for signs that they still have a chance, and may even be okay with forming a “friends with benefits” type relationship with their ex.
The only difference in how they feel during no contact is that they may not be as overwhelmed with emotions in contrast to the dumpee. Yet, they still suffer.
No matter what camp you fall in — the dumper or the dumpee — the only way you’ll feel better, quickly move through the breakup stages, and reach recovery is by resisting the urges to contact your ex.
BENEFITS OF THE NO-CONTACT RULE
As I’ve said, cutting communication with your ex promotes faster breakup recovery. But that’s not all. It also grants copious benefits for your mental and emotional health.
But since I don’t want to bore you to death, I’ll solely focus on five of these benefits, which are most prevalent.
1. GOING NO CONTACT LESSENS THE INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS and NEGATIVE FEELINGS
Intrusive thoughts about an ex-partner are unwelcome and involuntary mental patterns or unpleasant ideas that may be upsetting or turn into obsessive thoughts. Going no contact is proven to lessen them.
But wait, there’s more!
A study also proved that no contact lessens the power of negative thoughts regarding your breakup. The researchers behind it stated that if you have contact with your ex, either out of choice or because you work with them, you’re going to have more difficulties extinguishing negative feelings about them. (2)
But when it comes to exclusively intrusive thoughts, there’s a catch.
When you implement the no-contact rule, the number of those thoughts increases in the short term. You will probably even begin to miss your ex more during this time.
I call this period the no-contact pain period. Judging solely by my clients’ experiences, it lasts from about one week to 6 months. And sadly, it’s essentially unavoidable, especially if you’re the dumpee.
But here’s the silver lining: in the long term, no contact lessens the intrusive thoughts and the perpetual thinking of your ex. That’s why it’s worth all the initial fuss!
2. GOING NO CONTACT MAKES IT EASIER TO “FIND YOURSELF AGAIN.”
I’ve written countless times that losing a significant partner has detrimental consequences to your overall identity. So, I won’t go into this topic here.
But I will point out that 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. In other words, 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.
Ultimately, this process of updating and deleting old values, beliefs, and worldviews is what’s called the process of “finding yourself.”
In fact, 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.
3. GOING NO CONTACT HELPS YOU SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE
Applying the no contact rule gives you a broader perspective on your problems, worries, and concerns — you begin to see your loss in a more down-to-earth way. Put differently, you don’t perceive your breakup as some life-ending event.
It’s also proven that cutting your ex out of your life drastically reduces your overall stress levels in the long term, helps you build self-esteem, and makes it easier to start building a greater sense of self-awareness. (3)
However, these pleasant benefits are only possible once you a) come out of the devilish no-contact pain period and b) employ a large sum of personal improvement advice.
4. GOING NO-CONTACT HELPS YOU GET YOUR EX BACK FASTER
As I mentioned, the no-contact rule is a reliable and effective option if you want your ex back. Contrary to common belief, the technique 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. However, the overall chances of rekindling things with your ex — no-contact or not — are still relatively low. And staying together if you rekindle things even lower.
Therefore, make sure that you ponder on reconciliation — ask yourself if it’s a good idea, weigh the pros and cons, examine the reasons behind your desire to rekindle things, and so forth.
5. GOING NO CONTACT reminds you that you don’t NEED your ex to be happy
I’ve said it times and times again; you don’t need your ex to be happy. Think about this: you didn’t need them before they entered your life, therefore it’s only logical that you don’t need them now. The truth is that before they came into your life you attracted them by being yourself and enjoying your life.
They existed in your life for a period of time, but you began acting differently over time and then they eventually lost attraction. It’s that simple. Of course, every situation is different and there are many variables, but the truth remains: maintaining your individuality is an attractive quality.
5 signs the no contact rule is working
Whether you want to get your ex back or simply move on, 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 moving on 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.
When it comes to the signs your ex will eventually come back, remember to not obsess over them. That will only flick you into overwhelm from which you can do stupid things, like acting needy around your ex, and diminish all chances of reconciliation.
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.
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.
3 WAYS TO STAY ‘IN NO-CONTACT’
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 us following through with no contact till you’re feeling better. And that’s precisely what the three techniques below will help you with.
You can find the first two in a book titled, Getting Past Your Breakup by Susan J. Elliott, while the last one is something I’ve created after years of breakup/relationship consulting.
1. THE JOURNALING TECHNIQUE
Note: For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to the desire to contact your ex in any form (call, text, real-life) as your desire to call them, considering that’s the most common way people break no contact.
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.
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, 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?
- Why am I so focused on my ex-girlfriend/boyfriend?
- Am I hoping that my ex won’t move on as long as I’m spamming their phone?
- Are my phone calls my way of letting my ex know that I still exist?
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.
2. THE HABIT/ACTIVITY STACKING TECHNIQUE
Think of this technique as the previous, but in overdrive. We’re going to be stacking additional activities on top of your journaling efforts.
So, whenever you get the urge to contact your ex, first journal — exercise one — then throw yourself into your favorite activities. These can be anything you like.
Here is an example of how I would implement this technique into my life to avoid breaking no contact.
…When I get the urge to contact my ex, I will:
- Write my thoughts down in your journal (exercise 1)
- 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.
3. THE EXCUSE ELIMINATION TECHNIQUE
To start, try to notice the urge to contact your ex. You have to recognize that you’re about to reach out to them before you actually do it.
The actualization of this 6th sense is achieved and perfected mostly through meditation and reflection. If you’re interested, I wrote a guide for both modalities here.
After you noticed yourself in the process of reaching out, muster up some willpower and stop yourself from doing it.
By this point, you’re probably convincing yourself on why you should contact your ex instead of holding back. This is your emotional mind’s way of deluding, and therefore, hurting itself. It’s the addiction talking.
Don’t give in to the bullshit.
Next, examine the excuses you’re telling yourself about why you think it’s a good idea to contact your ex. Write them down.
Finally, browse the list below, find the excuses you’re telling yourself (they are probably there), then read the explanation of why they’re a big no-no.
Excuse #1: I just want to be friends
Why it’s BS: You’re probably not trying to be a friend but are searching for a way to keep the emotional connection intact, get laid one last time, or you’re looking for a sneaky way to rekindle things.
In any case, there’s too much emotional baggage around this past relationship right now to consider a friendship. So do yourself a favor and don’t go back. At least not until you’re able to let go of your ex.
Excuse #2: I’m confused and need an explanation of why things didn’t work out
Why it’s BS: Just accept you were with someone incompatible, meaning their values, beliefs, and goals didn’t align with yours. Maybe you valued loyalty and honesty, and your ex didn’t. Maybe you wanted kids, and they didn’t. Who knows.
Perhaps it was always evident that you thought and lived your life in different ways or saw the world differently, but you chose to ignore it or worked hard to conceal or correct it. It’s okay. It’s over now. Accept that you think and are different and let it go, so you can find someone who is actually compatible with you.
Excuse #3: I need closure
Why it’s BS: You don’t need answers or explanations to find closure. No matter how difficult the loss, closure comes from inside you. You’ll also never be satisfied with any response your ex gives you.
Excuse #4: I just want XYZ back from his/her place
Why it’s BS: Wanting an item such as a sweater or a mug back from your ex is usually an excuse to see them. If you can sense that this is the case with you, please don’t do it. Don’t go.
If you really have something valuable, and your intention – and only intention – is to go and get it from your ex, then fine, go for it. But try to do it as soon as the breakup happens and not months later.
An even better solution to getting items back from your ex is to ask them to mail them to you. This way, you avoid seeing them and fucking up your recovery process.
Excuse #5: I’m like….really horny
Why it’s BS: While breakup sex seems like fun, it only brings tidal waves of confusion and complications most of the time. So, until you’re healed and over your ex, avoid it.
Excuse #6: We have kids together/work together/are in the same social circles
Why it’s BS: This is the place to use the modified no contact I wrote about earlier.
NO CONTACT AND BEYOND
Out of all the techniques I teach, no contact is the most rewarding and beneficial. It truly is the first step to recovery. And it’s remarkable what one can achieve with it.
Just remember that above all, you should not commit to no-contact to win your ex back. Commit to it to get yourself back. That’s what it’s really for. If your goal is getting an ex back, think of them returning as a bonus — a side-effect — of the no-contact life.
So, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and cut the proverbial rope tied to your exes tight ass. Jump out the old, into the new. Don’t think. Just do it, fucker. Let yourself get engulfed in the celestial firestorm of uncertainty, wonder, and change. This is a new beginning. Make it count.
1) Why We Love: The Nature And Chemistry Of Romantic Love, by Helen Fisher (source)
2,3) Kansky J, Allen JP. Making Sense and Moving On: The Potential for Individual and Interpersonal Growth Following Emerging Adult Breakups. Emerg Adulthood. 2018;6(3):172-190. doi:10.1177/2167696817711766 (source)
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