7 Powerful Benefits of the No-Contact Rule After a Breakup
What Is the No-Contact Rule?
The No-Contact Rule is simplicity itself: it just means not having any communication with your former romantic partner for a specified period of time. This includes:
- No telephone calls
- No text messages
- No instant messaging or emails
- No contact via social media
- No "accidental" meetings
- No contacting your ex's friends or family
- No stalking
Going no-contact is particularly useful after a relationship's breakup, especially if you were the one who was dumped or betrayed. It can also be used to detach yourself from a narcissistic or abusive partner.
Of course, if you and your ex-partner have children together, then you will inevitably need to discuss issues regarding your kids. While this type of dialogue is unavoidable, you should do your very best to keep these interactions to a bare minimum.
Nonetheless, if you are prepared to implement no contact, then there are significant benefits to be gained.
Why Use No Contact?
All relationships are not created equal. Thus, it is not uncommon for one person to be more emotionally invested in a partnership than the other. When relationships end, one partner will typically harbor feelings for their ex and struggle to come to terms with the separation.
When this happens, the distraught party is often likely to want to maintain contact with their former lover, even if it delays healing. One of the main dangers with continuing to see your ex is that this stops you from moving on with your life. Even when you find a new partner, research confirms that the new relationship will feel less rewarding if you continue to try to talk to your ex and that you will likely feel less committed to your new partner as a result.
Dr. Tara Marshall of Brunel University in London, in a study entitled Attachment Styles and Personal Growth following Romantic Breakups: The Mediating Roles of Distress, Rumination, and Tendency to Rebound, concluded that the best way to recover from a split was to avoid all exposure to an ex-partner, whether that be face-to-face or online communication.
By continuing to contact your ex, you are not only exposing yourself to extreme distress, but you are also adding fuel to the fire of your longing for reconciliation, hindering your emotional recovery, and sabotaging your future relationships.
7 Reasons Why the No-Contact Rule Works
- It gives you time to properly grieve the death of your relationship.
- You can let yourself wallow in self-pity (that's the first stage of recovery).
- It prevents you from demeaning and embarrassing yourself unnecessarily.
- It enables mental clarity and puts things back into perspective.
- You can reconnect with your independent life and self.
- It allows you to rediscover the distinction between you and your ex and set healthy boundaries.
- It is an opportunity to recover, redefine, and reinvent yourself.
Each of these benefits is described fully below.
Benefits of Using the No-Contact Rule
1. No Contact Gives You Time to Grieve
When a relationship ends, the heartache can be so traumatic that it mirrors the grief you might experience following the death of a loved one. After all, you have suffered the loss of someone whom you loved dearly, even though technically your ex is still alive.
Coping with a breakup can be excruciatingly painful and harrowing. Betrayal, humiliation, bitterness, bewilderment, anger, depression, anxiety, and panic are all perfectly normal emotions to experience. Even the most rational-minded individuals can be pushed to a breaking point.
Grieving takes time and the process cannot be fast-tracked. If you had suffered a serious injury in a motor vehicle accident, you would not expect to be recovered within a matter of days. In addition to receiving emergency medical care, you may well be expected to undergo a period of rehabilitation, and there may well be emotional trauma to contend with. The same is true for mending a broken heart. Emotional healing can take just as long—if not longer—than some physical wounds. You will not feel better overnight and must allow yourself time to rest and recuperate.
There are several phases to the grieving process, and you need time to allow nature to take its course and work through these stages in turn.
The Grieving Process for a Relationship
The grieving process for a relationship can be broken down into different stages. The following are the three main phases you will experience.
Stage 1: Shock, Denial, and Numbness
This is when you will be at your most vulnerable. You won't believe it's true. You will let your heart rule your head and hold onto false hopes of a reconciliation.
Stage 2: Fear, Anger, and Depression
After a period of time, you will eventually come to realize that your relationship really is over. For several different reasons, this can also be a rather destructive phase. You may want revenge on your ex. You may also have a tendency to over-divulge information about your relationship in an attempt to portray your ex in a bad light. (Believe me, you will come to regret this at a later date.) Moreover, you may wish harm to befall your ex. Or, which can sometimes be even worse, you may turn all of these negative feelings on yourself.
Stage 3: Understanding, Acceptance, and Moving On
Eventually, you will progress to the acceptance phase and begin to come to terms with your loss. Whilst you may still feel sad about what has happened, you are more likely to have come to accept what you cannot change.
One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is to grieve the loss of someone who is still alive.— Anon
2. You Can Wallow in Self-Pity
Have you ever watched the opening scene in the film Bridget Jones' Diary? Still in her pajamas, smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of wine, a forlorn Bridget is lip synching to the song "All By Myself." She then proceeds to check her answerphone, only for it to tell her, "You have no messages."
Anyone who has ever suffered a breakup will no doubt be able to empathize with Bridget's character. Well, just like her, you have permission to throw your very own pity-party. Lock yourself away, wallow in self-pity, cry your heart out, and totally indulge yourself. Take the time you need to get your ex out of your system.
Nevertheless, whilst we all deserve a little self-indulgence from time to time, there will reach a point when you really must get your act together. So, after a few days, you need to put on a brave face and get on with your life. Hence, if you haven't made it out of bed for several days, then make today the day when all that changes.
3. No Contact Prevents You From Demeaning Yourself
Rejection and desperation can make you do silly things like calling, texting, and begging your ex to take you back. You might begin obsessively checking your messages to see if he or she has been in touch. If they haven’t, it makes you feel a million times worse. You may lash out at your ex—aggressively or passive-aggressively—or you may try to hurt yourself by neglecting your health or indulging in misery. Your mind goes into overdrive and you begin to imagine them out partying while you are confined to your bedroom, heartbroken. Worse still, they may have moved on with their life and found themselves a new partner. Contemplating these thoughts sends you into an even deeper state of despair.
When you are in such an irrational state of mind, you are inclined to do things that, ordinarily, would never enter your head, like overindulging in food or alcohol to drown your sorrows, drunk-dialling or texting, repeatedly driving past your ex's home or place of work, stalking them, or even worse.
In the long-term, maintaining a dignified silence will save you from a considerable amount of embarrassment.
4. You Can Regain Perspective on Your Life
Following a breakup, it is perfectly natural to be in such mental turmoil that you do not know which way to turn. Creating space between you and your ex can help improve your mental clarity and enable you to solve your problems more effectively.
Writing down your thoughts in a journal will also help you to put recent events into perspective. Don't worry about what you write, just get all of your thoughts out of your mind. Transferring your feelings and problems to paper helps free the mental clutter in your head and leaves you with a greater capacity to think clearly.
Without any external influence, you can begin to reassess your life by asking yourself questions such as:
- Who is the most important person in my life?
- Who are the people who are always there for me?
- What irritating habits did my ex have?
- What did my relationship prevent me from doing with my life?
- What new opportunities does your breakup give me?
- What five things am I most thankful for today?
- What five things am I going to achieve today?
As you gain perspective, you will begin asking yourself other questions that are specific to your personal set of circumstances, things you never allowed yourself to ask before. Gradually, you will begin to realize who and what is most important to you. Often, we tend to forget about our family and close friends whose loyalty and support we take for granted. People suffering from a serious illness may simply be grateful to wake up in the morning. So start appreciating your life and be truly thankful for all that you have.
5. No Contact Lets You Reconnect With Yourself
Let's be perfectly honest: we are all more than capable of getting into a rut with our relationships. We tend to give up hobbies, that we once so enjoyed, in order to spend time with our partner. Friends, that we were once so close to, have long since disappeared off the radar.
Well now, you have time to do whatever you want. Ring up those old friends and reconnect with them. By all means, let them know that you are going through a breakup, but don't solely use them as a shoulder to cry on. Rekindle old friendships and begin doing those hobbies that you once so enjoyed.
6. It Allows You to Set Healthy Boundaries
While it is important to set healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life, boundaries often become blurred within relationships, especially when you are feeling vulnerable. When your self-esteem is low, you are more likely to let your boundaries slip. This is often due to fear of rejection or abandonment. However, it is important to remember that healthy boundaries can protect you, both on a physical and emotional level.
Boundaries are all about being treated with respect and letting others know what you are—and what you are not—prepared to tolerate. From time to time, your ex-partner may test these boundaries. For example, if your ex sends you a drunken text at 2 a.m. asking you to pop over to see him, is that treating you with respect? Do you honestly believe that he is desperate to have a deep and meaningful conversation with you? My guess is probably not and you should not let your relief at hearing from him cloud your judgement.
Use the period of no contact to draw up a list of relationship boundaries. When enforcing these boundaries, be assertive but remain calm. You do not need to apologize or justify your reasoning to anyone.
7. No Contact Gives You Time to Reinvent Yourself
One positive aspect about being single is that you have more time to focus on what you want: You can do what you want, dress how you like, and eat what you want. So spend that extra time focusing on and improving yourself.
- It's time to take that spin class you never had time for or pull your bicycle out of the back of the garage. Walking, yoga, dance—find an activity that makes you feel good. I don't suggest cosmetic surgery (although if you find Botox and fillers appealing, then go ahead), but start with baby steps—possibly a new hairstyle, new makeup, and a wardrobe overhaul. If you are unsure of how to go about this, then simply book a consultation with a specialist.
- Also, take a good look at your home. Clearing clutter can be extremely therapeutic. If your ex has left any belongings hanging around, make sure you box them up and put them out of sight. Why not examine your finances while you're at it? What steps can you take to improve these, so that you can feel more secure with your life and your future.
- Finally, there is nothing to stop you from embarking upon new activities and hobbies, no matter how outrageous they may seem. Now is the time to do that crazy thing you always wanted to do. I know of a woman in her seventies who, following the death of her husband, took up belly dancing. Try to step outside of your comfort zone a little. Trying something that you think you cannot do and it will give you a great sense of achievement.
Also, the harder you focus on yourself, the less time you will have to think about your ex. Whatever happens following your breakup, you need to make sure that time does not stand still for you.
No matter how you feel: Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.— Genevieve Rhode
Have You Had Success With the No Contact Rule?
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Goal of No Contact?
There are some critics who believe this method is nothing more than a manipulative mind game for scorned ex-lovers. In part, this is true, since many embark upon no contact with hidden false hopes and expectations for reconciliation.
Many mistakenly start no contact with the wrong attitude. Instead of viewing it as a healthy way of recovering from a breakup and helping yourself become stronger, they become obsessed with getting back together with their ex. Some even start to think that the goal is to punish their ex. Losing sight of the goal—which is healing—will only lead to more pain and heartache.
Don't get confused: The goal is recovery, not reconciliation. In order for it to work, it is vital that you stay focused on why you're doing it. To clarify, no contact is not...
- a game
- about punishment or revenge
- about getting your former partner back
- about making your ex jealous
It's about refocusing on yourself and getting your individual life back on track.
Why No Contact Fails to Work
There are two main reasons no contact fails to work:
- You forget the purpose. The rules exist for a reason. They are there to help you rebuild yourself. Sitting at home for 30 days, wallowing in self-pity, is not going to cut it. You must take positive steps to reinvigorate yourself and your life.
- You break the rules. Maybe you reached out to your ex. You tell yourself that you really had to, but you kid yourself. You tell yourself that a little interaction doesn't count and that you can resume no contact where you left off, but you can’t. Sporadically breaking no contact is probably the worst thing that you can do. If you don't say true to yourself and follow through on your initial plan, no contact probably won't work for you.
If you want no contact to work, it might be smart to read 7 Dumb Mistakes People Make After No Contact. Being aware of the mistakes will help you avoid them.
How Do I Go No Contact on Social Media?
Hopefully, most adults should know by now how ugly, awkward, and painful it can be when someone uses social platforms like Facebook or Twitter to air their relationship problems. Don't do it. In fact, if you are in contact with your ex on any social media, you need to take some extra steps to extend your no contact to the internet.
- Temporarily hide or unfollow your ex's posts. Every platform has a way for you to unsee the posts of a specific contact without breaking contact with them entirely. Do a quick Google search to find instructions for all of your social media platforms. You can decide later if you want to unfriend or unfollow them permanently.
- Refrain from broadcasting any details of your breakup. You don't have to lie about it, and you certainly don't have to keep it all bottled inside you, but instead of making grand announcements about your new relationship status, dramatic posts about your pain, or posting selfies of your recovery, find a real-world friend to talk to in the flesh.
- Don’t use social media to take revenge, make your ex jealous, hurt their feelings, or try to get them to love you again. Whatever you do, do not rant, drunk-post, whine, brag, gloat, stalk, or look at photos of your ex.
- Take a break from using all social media if you can't control yourself.
- If you need to see a therapist, then do. Don't use social media as a cheap alternative to therapy.
What If I Break No Contact?
No contact means no contact. Although some contact might be permissible under an extreme circumstances (like if something scary happens to your shared child), contacting your ex because you can't find your favorite sweater violates the rules. If you break no contact, then you really need to start again from the very beginning.
Is No Contact the Same Thing as Breaking Up?
Just as a separation is not a divorce, going no contact is not quite the same thing as breaking up entirely. Sometimes, it follows a tentative breakup, but sometimes it's not entirely clear if you have broken up or not. Regardless, if it's going to work, you both need to understand what "no contact" means and what its purpose is. That means the terms should be spelled out before you break contact. Tell them exactly what you're doing, why you're doing it, how long it will last, and why.
Is No Contact the Same Thing as the Silent Treatment?
No, it's not: No contact is not the same thing as the silent treatment. Why? Because it follows a break in the relationship, because you are doing it to heal yourself rather than punish another, and because you are being completely transparent and up-front about your motives. No contact is a powerful tool for healing, but the silent treatment is a form of punishment or abuse. Read 7 Facts About the Silent Treatment in a Relationship if you want to learn more.
How Long Does No Contact Last?
For most, 30 days is enough to gain perspective, although those who have been in a relationship for quite some time might need longer—even 60 days—to detox and clear the mind.
- Field T. Diego M. Pelaez M, et al (2009). Breakup distress in university students. Adolescence, 44: 705–727. [9 April 2016]
- Rodriguez, L. M., Øverup, C. S., Wickham, R. E., Knee, C. R., & Amspoker, A. B. (2016). Communication with former romantic partners and current relationship outcomes among college students. Personal Relationships, 23: 409-424. [9 April 2016]
- Marshall, T. C. (2012). Facebook surveillance of former romantic partners: associations with postbreakup recovery and personal growth. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15(10): 521-526. [9 April 2016]
Questions & Answers
My boyfriend asked me to give him space to figure out his feelings between me and his ex. He said he wants to be with me without thinking of anybody else. Should I wait for him or should I move on? Does the no contact rule mean removing him from my social media accounts?
While your boyfriend has been honest about still having feelings for his ex, it is unreasonable to keep you dangling by a thread. Yes, you should give him space, but you also shouldn't put your life on hold.
Undertake a modified form of no contact as regards your social media accounts. Don't block or unfriend him, but unfollow him and make a pact not to look at any of his social media profiles. Furthermore, maintain radio silence and refrain from posting anything on your social media account.Helpful 46
My girlfriend broke up with me seven days ago. I was obsessed with contacting her for the first six days. However, she told me she needed some space. Yesterday was my first day of no contact, and it was painful. My birthday is coming up in four weeks time. What advice can you give me in case she texts me to wish me happy birthday?
Firstly, continue with no contact. Your ex has already explained that she needs some space and will begin to feel emotionally suffocated, if you don't respect her request.
Also, it is best not to focus on receiving a text from her on your birthday. Instead, make plans with family and friends to keep yourself busy on that day. If your ex does contact you on your birthday, then you can acknowledge the message in the same way as you would anyone else. However, don't reply straight away. Ideally, leave it until the following day. You should be so busy that you won't have time to check your texts in any event.Helpful 41
My boyfriend dumped me, and now has a new girlfriend. I'm totally heart broken. What should I do?
You should implement no contact and allow yourself time to heal. Read through the rules again and make sure you follow them. Give yourself a little time to grieve, but then you have to begin planning for your future.Helpful 40
My girlfriend broke up with me a few days ago, but keeps messaging me. I want to start the no contact rule. What should I do? I don't want to tell her I want to start the no contact rule because she might think I am being childish?
You don't say why your ex is messaging you, but I guess it is not to get back together.
You do not have to mention the no contact rule. If she contacts you again, just politely let her know that you would appreciate some space to gather your thoughts and move forward with your life. If she messages you again, after this, then it is reasonable for you not to reply.Helpful 29
I had a relationship with a lady for a year. Everything was okay until three months ago when she became difficult to deal with and made excuses not to meet with me. I recently realized that she's been dating another guy behind my back. I dumped her a week ago, but she maintains that she still loves me and we should maintain contact. What do you think I should do?
You need to give yourself some space to process what has happened. Your ex is asking you to stay in touch for her benefit, not yours. She is essentially playing the 'friends' card and, in doing so, is keeping her options open. Remember, most cheaters don't regret the cheating, they just regret getting caught.
Follow the no contact rule for 30 days then assess how you feel about your ex then. I'm not advocating that you don't forgive your ex, but you do need to set boundaries and ask yourself if you deserve to be treated with more respect.Helpful 27
© 2011 C L Grant