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 merely 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 stalking
- No contacting your ex's friends or family
This method is particularly useful following a relationship 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 such as welfare and access. 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 the partnership, than the other. When relationships end, one partner will typically harbour feelings for their ex and struggle to come to terms with the separation.
When this happens, the distraught party is more likely to want to maintain contact with their former lover. This is borne out by research undertaken by the University of South Florida, which also revealed that the seriousness of a relationship had little impact upon whether a couple wished to stay in touch post-breakup.
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 this relationship will feel less rewarding and you are more likely to feel less committed to your new partner. By continuing to see your ex, you are not only exposing yourself to extreme distress, but you are also hindering your emotional recovery and increasing your longing for a reconciliation.
Moreover, a study undertaken by Tara Marshall, also concluded that the best solution for recovering from a split, was to avoid any exposure to an ex-partner, whether that be via face-to-face communication or any form of online interaction.
Fundamental Ground Rules
There are some critics of no contact, who believe it to be nothing more than a manipulative mind game, played by scorned ex-lovers. In part, this is perfectly true. Many people embark upon no contact with false hope and expectations of a reconciliation.
Therefore, it is vital that you familiarise yourself with some basic ground rules. This will help you avoid becoming disenchanted with this strategy and hopefully, achieve many positive benefits.
To clarify, no contact is not:
- A game
- About punishment or revenge
- About getting your former partner back
- About making your ex jealous
Benefits of Using the No Contact Rule
1. You Can Wallow in Self-Pity
Have you ever watched the opening scene in the film, Bridget Jones' Diary? Still in her pyjamas, smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of wine, a forlorn Bridget is miming 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 empathise 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. It is important that you take the time to get your ex out of your system.
Nevertheless, whilst we all deserve a little self-indulgence from time to time, there reaches 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.
No matter how you feel: Get up, dress up, show up and never give up.— Genevieve Rhode
The Grieving Process
The grieving process can be broken down into a number of different stages. However, the following are three of the main phases, that you will experience.
Stage 1: Shock, Denial and Numbness
This is when you will be at your most vulnerable. You will tend to let your heart rule your head and hold on to false hopes of a reconciliation.
Stage 2: Fear, Anger and Depression
After a period of time, you will eventually come to realise that your relationship is over. For several different reasons, this can also be a rather destructive phase. You tend to 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.
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.
2. Gives You Time to Grieve
When a relationship ends, the heartache can be so traumatic, that it often mirrors the grief you experience following the death of a loved one. The raw emotions are particularly similar. In both instances, you have suffered the loss of someone whom you loved dearly although, the circumstances are extremely different: your ex is still very much alive.
Unfortunately, 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 rationally minded individuals can be pushed to breaking point.
Grieving takes time and the process cannot be fast-tracked. If you suffered a serious injury in a motor vehicle accident, you could not reasonably expect to be fully recovered within a matter of days. In addition to receiving emergency medical care, you may well be expected to undergo a period of rehabilitation. 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 it does for some physical injuries to repair themselves. You will not feel better overnight and must allow your body 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.
One of the hardest things you will ever have to do, is to grieve the loss of someone, who is still alive.— Anon
3. Prevents You From Demeaning Yourself
Rejection and desperation can make you do silly things such as: calling, texting and begging your ex to take you back. You begin obsessively checking your messages to see if he or she has been in touch. When they haven’t, it makes you feel a million times worse. Your mind goes into overdrive and you begin to imagine them out partying, whilst you are confined to your bedroom, heartbroken. Worse still, they may even have moved on with their life and found themselves a new partner. Contemplating these thoughts makes you sink into an even deeper state of despair.
This is why you must give yourself some space. When you are in such an irrational state of mind, you become inclined to do things that ordinarily, would not enter your head. Taking time-out can help prevent you from partaking in foolish activities such as: drunk-dialling or texting, repeatedly driving past their home or place of work and, worse still, stalking them.
In the long-term, maintaining a dignified silence will save you from a considerable amount of embarrassment.
4. Puts Life into Perspective
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 your life?
- Who are the people who are always there for you?
- What irritating habits did your ex have?
- What did your relationship prevent you from doing with your life?
- What new opportunities does your breakup give you?
- What five things are you most thankful for today?
- What five things are you going to achieve today?
As time goes by, you will develop your own set of questions, that will be specific to your personal set of circumstances. Gradually, you will begin to realise who and what is most important to you. Often, we tend to forget about our family and close friends, whose loyalty and support we tend to 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. Lets You Reconnect with Your Old Life
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. Allows You to Set Healthy Boundaries
Whilst it is important to set healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life, these often become blurred within relationships, especially when you are feeling vulnerable. When your confidence and 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 exist in order to 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 o'clock in the morning, 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 apologise or justify your reasoning to anyone.
7. Gives You Time to Reinvent Yourself
One positive aspect about being single, is that you don't have to please anyone. You can dress how you like and look how you like. So, take some time to start improving your life. I'm not talking drastic steps here, such as cosmetic surgery, although if you find Botox and fillers appealing, then go ahead. It is important to begin taking 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 relevant specialist.
Also, take a good look at your home. Clearing clutter can be extremely therapeutic. If your ex has any belongings hanging around, make sure you box them up and put them out of sight. Why not examine your finances? 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 embarking upon new activities and hobbies, no matter how outrageous they may seem. 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, will give you a great sense of achievement. Also, the harder you have to concentrate on achieving this task, the less time you will have to think about your ex.
Whatever happens following your breakup, you need to ensure that time does not stand still for you. Whilst we may all have an element of sympathy for Charles Dickens' character, Miss Havisham, none of us us really wants to be her.
Have You Ever Had Success With The No Contact Rule?
- 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
© 2011 C L Grant