The no-contact rule. It’s the foundational piece of breakup advice—the first step to a full recovery. Every breakup survivor becomes acquainted with it at some point, and every breakup guru, expert, coach, or blogger preaches about its divine power and 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, thanks to a despicable lie the infamous “get your ex back” gurus preach.
What is this lie? It’s a claim that the no contact rule’s sole and primary purpose is to help you get your ex back.
Don’t get me wrong with this concept. As appalling as it sounds, you certainly can use the no contact rule -a.k.a radio silence to boost your chances of getting an ex back, but that’s not the technique’s primary purpose. It never was.
The real reason why someone would go no contact is to win themselves back, not their ex. And these are the lens through which we will examine the no-contact rule and its details throughout this article.
By the end of the read, you’re going to learn exacly what the no contact rule is, its benefits, the science behind it, and how to apply it to your life and speed up your recovery (sigh…or get your ex back).
I will even share three great techniques that will help you make the no contact rule an automatic everyday habit, which will, as a result, lead to faster breakup recovery.
What is the no-contact rule
To truly get over your ex-lover, you have to emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually separate yourself from them. Therefore, ending all communication or interaction with them as soon as possible is paramount for your recovery. That’s what the no-contact rule primarily helps you with.
Going to contact, meaning executing this rule, means 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 a happy birthday, and you most certainly, don’t go to places where you could have an “accidental” encounter with them.
Now, when it comes to the length of the no contact period, some individuals recommend you make it 30 or 60 days, and a few others recommend you shouldn’t contact your ex for at least 90 days. The number varies significantly from guru to guru.
But what about me?
What’s my take on the optimal length of no-contact?
Well… I don’t believe in the whole time period thing at all.
I would say that a no-contact period should be indefinite, which would mean that once your relationship is over and you’re devoted to moving on, you never contact your ex-lover again. At least not until you’re both entirely over each other. (If they’ll ever want a second shot with you, they will contact you.)
Besides, why would you even want to contact someone, let alone win back someone who things didn’t work out with – someone who probably wasn’t what you wanted, was incompatible, or even dysfunctional?
Ultimately, I don’t even consider the no contact rule a technique like so many others do, but more so, a way of life – a new life devoid of your ex.
As you probably guessed, that life starts with a simple (yet emotionally challenging to make) decision.You have to decide that your relationship is over and that you’re going to move on.
This is probably not the decision you want to make at the moment, but it is the one you need to make. It’s your first step to true recovery. So take the damn plunge and go for it.
the Modified no contact rule
Sometimes classic no contact is impossible to execute. Maybe you have kids with our ex, or maybe you hang out in the same peer groups or even work together. In those cases, you have to resort to the modified no contact rule.
The only difference between the classic and modified no contact is that in the ladder, you’re ‘allowed’ to make contact with your ex partner.
However, that contact needs to be straight to the point, formal or almost businesslike, and singularly focused on the pressing topic(s).
For example, if you and your ex need to discuss who will watch over your son/daughter for the weekend, feel free to have that discussion. But be quick, and en the conversation as soon as you make a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The reason for this indifferent attitude is not to manipulate your ex or make them feel guilty, sad, or uncomfortable. Its sole purpose is to limit your interactions with them because the less of them you have, the quicker you’re going to get over them.
As a rule of thumb, the less of your ex-lovers’ presence you indulge in – be that digital or real life, the sooner you’re going to get over them and your breakup.
Sadly, the bottom line of using this technique is bleak – it command higher levels of emotional self-control to pull off than its classic counterpart, and is not nearly as effective.
But at the end of the day, don’t let that fact deter you from applying the modified no contact rule in your recovery journey. You’re going to see results by using it – maybe no huge ones but results nonetheless.
What if my ex reaches out during no contact?
Let’s pretend you’re minding your own business and 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 flashy phone screen, is “Thanks for reminding me that I’m still getting over you. It looks like my day is fucked.”
What to do now? Ignore, respond, ghost or desperately call them up?
Look, if my ex-girlfriend contacted me at a point where I was not over her yet, I would just respond with something like, “Hey, I’m still healing from our breakup. It would mean a lot if you don’t contact me for a few more weeks/days.”
But don’t assume that my response is the only response. You have many more options to choose from:
- You can tell your ex to piss off (not recommended).
- You can block or ghost them. There’s no shame in that.
- You can engage in a short, 2-3 message conversation with them, then say you have to go.
- If you want your ex back, let your desires be known at some point in the conversation. Tell them that you wish to try again and ask how they feel about that. Then accept and not make a fuss about any answer that comes back, even silence.
Ultimately the nature of your response, completely depends on your breakup and personality. I can’t tell you exactly what to do since I don’t know you, so decide for yourself.
And as a side note, if your ex was any shade of toxic, they will probably seek attention by trying to hurt you in some way. Be that via text, a call, or an unexpected visit at your doorstep. Thus, be mentally ready for their desperate, needy, angry, or guilt-tripping advances.
But that’s just the start. Certain toxic and dysfunctional ex-lovers tend to go to the extreme by doing things like:
- Posting photos with attractive people of the opposite sex on social media solely to make you jealous.
- Calling/texting you excessively (some even resort to calling your family members and close friends).
- Telling you they want you back and then changing their minds a few days later to get revenge and inflict emotional pain upon you.
In any case, no matter how much your toxic ex-lover wants to hurt you emotionally, you must resist caving in or starting a fight with them.
If you fail to do this, you’re going to end up opening your breakup wounds and so, postpone your healing process.
The bottom line is that your ex-partner – toxic or not – is no longer your concern. Besides, you’re not responsible, nor were you ever, for their happiness and well-being. So if you’re inclined to moving on resist their attempts at reconnecting – use the responses I presented to you above.
The science behind the no-contact rule
And because of this sudden and lavish release, you feel like you’re on cloud-9 while having 72 Instagram models hand feed you juicy grapes.
But, what happens to those feel-good chemicals when you break up with someone? They get subdued and cut off, especially in the case of dumpees.
Your brain naturally doesn’t like that since it’s addicted to them – to love, so it goes nuts, causing you crippling pain and distress. At those moments, what you’re dealing with, is an addiction – an addiction to love.
Let’s dig deeper into this concept.
Think of love as cocaine, and your brain as the cocaine addict. Now let me ask you this… What happens when you cut cocaine off a cocaine addicts menu? Without a doubt, they are going to have countless urges and cravings for it.
The same may happen to your brain while going through a breakup; You’re going to have countless urges and cravings to contact your ex just one last time.
But, like with the cocaine addict, it’s never just one last time – one last sniff, one last hit…
The only way you can feel better and out of this desperate state is to resist your urges to contact your ex-lover. Not contacting them is the best and healthiest course of action you can commit to after a breakup. Conversely, contacting your ex while battling with your urges is probably the worst thing you can do for your recovery.
Benefits of the no-contact rule
In a broad scope, cutting communication with your ex – a.k.a, going no contact, promotes faster breakup recovery and grants numerous benefits to your mental and emotional health.
But for simplicity sake of this article, I’ve decided to solely on focusing on the few benefits, which are proven to be most prevalent among breakup survivors.
1. Going no-contact lessens the negative feelings around your partner
A study from the North American Journal of Psychology proved that if you have contact with your ex-partner, either out of choice or because you work with them, you’re going to have more difficulties extinguishing negative feelings about them. (3) And thus have more trouble accepting your breakup.
2. Going no contact lessens the Intrusive thoughts you might have about your ex in the long term
Intrusive thoughts about an ex-partner are, by definition, unwelcome and involuntary mental patterns or unpleasant ideas that may be upsetting or turn into obsessive thoughts. And going no contact is proven to lessen them.
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. 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 virtually unavoidable, especially if you’re the one who has been dumped.
But there is a silver lining to the whole no-contact pain-period. In the long term, it lessens the intrusive thoughts and constant thinking of your ex that is probably plaguing your mind right now.
That’s why it’s worth all the initial fuss!
But if you think that’s still too tough, let’s examine the other side of the coin.
What happens if you stay in contact with your ex, and keep having aimless conversations with them?
For starters, you probably won’t move on anytime soon and you’re probably going to develop a mild (or severe) addiction to your ex, which could make you barrage your ex with texts or calls and make you look overbearing and suffocating as a result. Eventually, It all leads downhill fast.
Therefore, go no contact. Plow through the pain period. You’re going to come out a more resilient person from the other side of it. It’s worth it.
3. 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 subjectively 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 from your psyche.
Ultimately, this process of updating and deleting your 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.
4. Going no contact helps you see the bigger picture
Applying the no contact rule gives you a broader perspective on your problems, worries, and other concerns. In essence, you begin to see your loss in a more down-to-earth, pragmatic sense at that point.
You also don’t consider yourself as forsaken or a failure, nor do you perceive your breakup as a life-ending and earth-shattering event.
However, these cheerful realizations are only achievable once you a) come out of the hellish pain-period and b) utilize a large sum of personal improvement advice into your life and thinking.
5. The no contact rule is good for your mental health
Firstly, cutting your ex out of your life drastically reduces your overall stress levels. Secondly, it’s proven to help you with the recovery of your broken or bruised self-esteem. And lastly, it makes it far easier for you to start building self-awareness and self-reliance—two crucial components for living a good life.
6. GOING NO-CONTACT helps you get your ex back faster
As I previously 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. Overall, the longer you stay in no-contact, the greater the chances of getting your ex back become.
However, your overall chances of rekindling things with your ex, no-contact or not, are still next to none, or put differently, they’re virtually non-existent. We can say the same thing about staying with your ex long-term in cases where you do manage to rekindle things. Sorry, but this is the painful truth. Getting an ex back is very unlikely.
3 ways to stay ‘in no-contact’
Implementing the no contact rule is difficult, but it’s even harder to stay in radio silence amid the shit life throws at you. And like we discussed, if you ever break the silence, you might open up your breakup wounds and consequently prolong your healing.
To avoid prolonged healing, we need to build protective psychological mechanisms around our psyche to keep us following through with no contact till we’ve moved on. And that’s exactly the purpose of the below three techniques.
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 as your desire to call them, considering that that’s the most common thing people do when they break the no contact rule. But know that you can do the same below exercises, when texting your ex, or even when meeting them in real-life.
This exercise is straightforward. Whenever you get the urge to call your ex-lover, 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, alone, 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, it’s time to get yourself ready to repeat the process.
In other words, make this exercise a habit or an instant response whenever you feel like reaching out to your ex. The more times you do this when the craving for contact arises, the more discipline you will build around not breaking no contact.
Another side benefit of this technique is that it successfully helps people relieve stress and combat compulsive and undesirable behaviors.
2. the HABIT/ACTIVITY STACKING TECHNIQUE
This next technique is, in essence, the first in overdrive. But before we get into it, let me provide you with some background to what we’re even doing here.
Wanting or needing to call your ex can be identified as compulsive behavior. It’s often an obsession or addiction, so we treat it and learn to overcome it precisely as such.
You can’t talk yourself out of it, just like a crack addict can’t talk himself out of taking crack (love is a drug to the brain, remember?). You’re just going to have to deal with this obsession/addiction or succumb to its grasp.
One effective way to dealing with it is with the activity stacking technique. That is, a technique where you’re going to stack additional activities on top of your journaling habit.
In other words, simply add additional actions to your journaling when you get the urge to contact your ex. These actions can be literally anything you like doing. 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 behaviors to find one collection of them that works best with your personality type. Take your time, and be patient with yourself when doing this. It’s worth it.
3. the EXCUSE ELIMINATION TECHNIQUE
Another way you can stop yourself from contacting your ex is with the excuse elimination technique. It’s simple as hell. Start by following my simple 4 step process:
First, you’re going to try to notice the urge to contact your ex-lover. You have to recognize that you’re about to reach out to them before you actually do it.
After you noticed yourself in the process of reaching out, you’re going to muster up some willpower and stop yourself from doing it.
By this point, you’re probably already 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. 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. What are they? Write them down.
Lastly, browse the below list, find the excuse you’re telling yourself (they are probably there), then read the explanation on why it’s BS. This way, you’re going to learn reasons why contacting your ex, despite your blinding excuse, is 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 rebuild the relationship back up.
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 fully healed.
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 ok. 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, the closure comes from inside you. That’s it. You’ll also never be satisfied with any closuring-answer your ex might give 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 go and see them. If you can sense that this is the case with you, please don’t do it. Please 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 like three months later.
An even better solution to getting items back from an ex is to ask them to mail them to you. This way, you avoid seeing them and getting into a drama infested or awkward talk that fucks up your recovery process.
Excuse #5: I’m like….really horny
Note: This one applies more towards men, but, to my surprise, I’ve also talked to a few women who had this same excuse.
Why it’s BS: While breakup sex seems like fun, it only brings tidal waves of confusion and complications most of the time. So, I insist that you avoid it in your time of grieving and healing.
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 my clients, no contact is the most rewarding and beneficial. It truly is the first step to moving on from any relationship. It’s remarkable what one can achieve with it in their breakup recovery.
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.
So, take a deep breath, close your eyes, cut the rope tied to your ex, tied your past life, and just fucking jump. Don’t think. Let yourself get engulfed in the celestial firestorm of change and uncertainty. This is your new beginning.