I’m sometimes asked whether I think the No Contact Rule works.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the No Contact Rule refers to ceasing all contact with your ex for about 30 days after a breakup.
You don’t text, you don’t comment on his posts, you don’t ask his friends about him, and you avoid one another in real life and on social media.
The rule became the norm for two very different situations:
- Situations where any contact with your ex is toxic to your mental health, or
- Situations where you want to get your ex back.
But the rule has become so popular that it is now considered basic breakup protocol in many circles.
If you didn’t know about this rule, you might wonder why you’re being ghosted by your ex. Why isn’t he responding to your texts? It’s not like you’re trying to get him back or anything.
Knowing about the No Contact Rule can help you feel a little better, even if you still don’t think his behavior is very polite.
Should you practice the No Contact Rule yourself?
When is it helpful, and when is it hurtful?
Let’s find out!
How the No Contact Rule Works
When a relationship ends, the feelings can be so intense.
You’re confused, you’re upset, you’re angry, and you’re feeling so lost.
Even though you may not want him back, your heart yearns for connection and reassurance from the one person who’s no longer going to give it to you.
Because of that intensity, any communication in the early days of a breakup is going to get messy. It’s going to stir up a lot of emotions. You might find yourself being pulled back into fighting.
Every time you talk to him, your heart tells you this isn’t over. Maybe there’s a chance to fix it. See? There’s still an emotional pull between you; otherwise, he wouldn’t still be talking.
Remaining in contact with your ex under these circumstances is doing you more harm than good.
It’s like you’ve slapped a Band-Aid over the gaping wound in your heart. Each time you have contact with him, you’re ripping it off again.
You need some separation to get used to the idea that you’re no longer together. You need to break yourself of the habit of emotionally relying on him.
The No Contact Rule gives you something to focus on when everything in you just wants to pick up the phone and text him, or give in when he suggests coming over at midnight to “talk.”
It’s an absolute rule. You are not doing no contact if you seek information about him from other people.
Properly doing no contact means removing any reminders of him from your environment. No looking at old pictures, no wearing the sweatshirt he left behind, no stalking him on social media.
You don’t have to delete his number from your phone, but you might want to rename it so you don’t see his name as you scroll through your messages. Similarly, you don’t have to unfriend him on social, but you’ll want to unfollow him so you don’t see his posts.
You’re making a clean break.
When No Contact Helps
No contact works when it enables you to set the boundaries you need to heal. It’s a kindness to yourself and a kindness to him.
At its best, the No Contact Rule puts a secure bandage over that wound in your heart. That bandage is not coming off for at least 30 days. You’re going to leave that wound alone and trust that it will start healing on its own if you don’t poke at it.
Not having any reminders of him in your life helps supercharge the healing process.
You’re quicker to accept that it’s over. You’re quicker to find new forms of support to replace his emotional support. You’re quicker to remember what you liked about your old life before you got together with him.
You have more energy to focus on yourself and your new life, and more space in your head when you’re not feeding thoughts of him.
When No Contact Hurts
If you look for information about the No Contact Rule online, you might see it described differently.
It’s often presented as a way to manipulate the other person.
It can feel good to cut off all contact with your ex as a way of punishing them for breaking up with you.
These sites describe how the No Contact Rule can drive your ex crazy. At first your ex is just fine. He’s filled with satisfaction for the way he handled the situation.
Then, the longer he doesn’t hear from you, the more he starts to wonder what’s really going on. He’s certain you’re missing him. But you’re not trying to get in contact. Why?
So he shoots you a text, probably something magnanimous, to show that there are no hard feelings and he’s hoping you’re doing well.
And you don’t reply.
At first he brushes it off. You’re probably still mad at him.
So he engineers another form of contact. He comments on one of your posts. He bumps into you at a party.
When you still refuse to engage, he gets mad. Now he feels personally affronted that you’re not talking to him.
Do you see how this kind of drama is keeping you emotionally engaged with your ex?
It can be satisfying to know that your ex is hurting as much as he hurt you, but it holds back your healing.
Your job after a breakup is to look after that sore, tender heart of yours with all the love and compassion you can manage.
So go no contact if it feels like the kindest way to disentangle your life from his. But don’t do it as a way to hurt or manipulate.