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The no contact rule after a breakup

Jesse Martin

November 23, 2012

When we break a bone we have our injury looked at. Typically the bone is set to ensure it heals correctly, the limb is put into a cast and you're told to give it plenty of rest.

In other words, in order to heal, we make sure our injury is protected from further injury.

No one would expect a broken leg to heal if we would attempt to keep walking on it.

Healing from a breakup isn't all that different. In order to heal our emotional wound, we must give it rest. We must protect it from further injury.

This is fundamentally what no contact is about: Protecting our emotional wound from further injury.

(If you're here because you hope to use no contact to get your ex back, I'm afraid you've been duped by some of the manipulative garbage on the internet. As you'll learn in this article, no contact is about allowing yourself to heal — not about manipulating your ex-girlfriend into loving you again.)

Chances are, you're going through a breakup and you're having a hard time holding yourself together. Your emotions are running the show, your ex-girlfriend is acting like she's never acted before, and you're pretty sure you couldn't be feeling any worse. You and her are no longer together, but your heart, your body and your soul long for her. But every time you get in touch it ends up in disaster -- you try to get her back and she pulls away further.

Perhaps she's even giving you mixed signals, at times pushing you away and at times wanting you near. If all this is driving you crazy -- please know that it drives everyone crazy that goes through this.

Your mind will continue to offer strategies aimed towards fixing the situation and you may find yourself asking questions such as "How do I approach this?", "What do I text back?" Your mind will also continue to try and make sense of this, "She sent me a text, what does that mean?" "Why does she want to hang out all of a sudden?"

The result is that we try again. We respond to her texts, we agree to meet wit her, we try to engage with her in a better way. It feels like there's still hope. It feels like she still loves you and that there just has to be a way to get back to how things were before.

The importance of no contact

No contact is not about your ex-girlfriend, it is about you.

It's not a fancy maneuver to reawaken the feelings your ex-girlfriend lost towards you. It's not a social engineering tactic to pique her interest and plant a new seed of attraction. It is also not going to usher in the end of your suffering from one day to the next (although with time it will help you to feel better).

No -- no contact is primarily about making your own wellbeing your number one priority.

If you've been in contact with your ex during recent days and weeks you may have faced repeated rejection, disappointment and arguments followed by feelings of pain, confusion and despair. Those feelings have been taking a toll on how you feel in general. You're not happy. You're miserable. No contact is about cutting your losses and drawing the line. No contact is about saying: No one person is worth this much pain.

No contact is about accepting that you are no longer connected to your ex-girlfriend and letting go of the connection you once shared. How they respond or interpret your decision to sever communications is their business, not yours. No contact is about forgetting about the line you drew around you and your partner and drawing a new one around yourself.

No contact is not a statement. It is a stage one needs to go through and it is a process in and of itself

No contact is about you deciding that you are going to take measures to no longer to get hurt by maintaining a relationship that hurts you more than it does you any good. It is about grabbing the steering wheel and taking back control over your life.

No contact is HARD

No contact is hard. Let me warn you. It is super hard. It goes against your very nature to NOT turn to the person that you were so intimate with when you are upset.

But you must realize, on a rational level, that further contact with them will cause more negative feelings and feed into a negative spiral. You have to realize: the very thing you used to rely on for comfort is now the source of discomfort.

No contact is so hard because your body is craving for interaction with your ex-girlfriend. But your body doesn't "know" that the mode of interaction with your ex-girlfriend has changed. Your body doesn't "know" that you've broken up.

By going no contact you will slowly but surely convince your brain that you and your ex are not getting back together.

The scientific explanation is that you're feeling withdrawal symptoms to a love addiction. Researchers have identified similarities in the way love affects your brain to the way a cocaine addition does. In many cases, the same neural pathways are activated.

Love, however, can be a tremendously positive force in your life. But as soon as the love is not reciprocated, the addiction changes from a positive, constructive force, to a negative, destructive one. You are now, all of a sudden, an addict displaying some of the worst and most intense withdrawal symptoms, longing for another hit of the addictive substance: your ex girlfriend. Not surprisingly, the best thing to do is to abstain from the addictive substance.

Renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher did an experiment where the brain activity in recently dumped college students was monitored while they were given pictures of their exes to look at. Viewing a picture would light up their brains like fireworks, eliciting a strong emotional response. This is what's happening in your brain every single time you see, or hear about your ex. Contacting her will trigger an even larger response.

Entering no contact creates silence, and silence is much better for the healing process -- it doesn't give you false hope.

"I'm afraid no contact will drive her away."

The most important point to realize is that you're not going to argue yourself into someone's heart. You don't choose to fall out of love with someone in as much as you chose to fall in love with them in the first place.

Secondly, if she really loves you, she'll find a way to get in touch with you. No contact does nothing to drive someone further away. If anything taking something away from someone which they've always had may actually spark renewed interest.

"I don't want to lose her as a friend."

You can only be friends once you are no longer in love with her. Some couples can transition into friendship right away because the flame of romantic passion has died out already. It's more likely that you still have feelings for her and thus it will be impossible to be friends. What's more likely is that you want to be friends because you don't feel ready to let go.

"I need to know why she broke up with me."

You don't need her for this. Often women aren't able to accurately tell you why they're breaking up with you and end coming up with some rationalization after the fact (which may not even be accurate!) The truth is we don't choose who we fall in or out of love with, it just happens.

"I need to tell her I'm sorry"

It's common to have things you feel sorry for and for wanting to address those things to your ex. What most people don't realize is that your message doesn't necessarily need to be delivered for it to have an effect on you, the one transmitting it. Oftentimes simply writing out an apology directed at your ex is therapeutic enough and sending it doesn't add anything to it.

Here's a member of our Facebook group finding this out the hard way:

I broke no contact last night. I don’t know if it was the right thing, but I apologized for my wrongdoings in the last fight we had. Somehow I felt relieved that I had sent the message. It was like a burden I was carrying had gotten lighter. I was prepared for the scenarios that followed. Either I get no answer or a negative/positive one. Her answer was very indifferent. It showed me that she hadn’t self reflected like I had. She didn’t apologize for her mistakes and the indifference stings a little bit, but it shows me ultimately that she didn’t change as a person. I know breaking no contact is usually not the way to go, but since I don’t want her back, this has somehow helped me move forward by a small step. My next step is to forgive her for my sake, so that I won’t carry on negative feelings (I won’t message her that of course). I will now go on with full no contact.

How long should no contact last for??

(See my post how long to get over a breakup)

Going no contact forever is an incredibly daunting idea. How are you supposed to never talk to or see this other person again, when you still long for them? The answer is: start small. Go no contact for 30 days and observe how it changes the way you think, see and feel. Before no contact guys tend to have this irrational tunnel vision mentality where nothing else matters but her. You have become reliant on your ex girlfriend in some way, and by doing so you have divested an amount of your care and safety to her. That's okay, it happened to all of us. But now is the time to reclaim those responsibilities.

At first it is terrifying and lonely, and you will be infused with the past. But as time goes by you will notice more things about the present.You might notice that you think about her when you're tired, or sick. But the pain this time around has nothing to do with her. Anything painful will strike the same chord which was struck so violently when you broke up. But slowly you'll come to understand that this new pain, has nothing to do with the old pain. It's something in the present that concerns you, no longer what happened in the past.

A month of no contact can seem very daunting. Once you've completed 30 days, try another 30 days, or even go for a 60 day no contact rule. Don't try to 'never talk to her again', the idea notion can be too intimidating and too painful right now. You need to approach this in segments, pushing yourself a little bit further every day.

And further down the road you will realize that you no longer think of her as your ex. Thinking of her that way implies ownership, whereas people we were involved with do not belong to us or own us. You don't have an ex taxi driver any more than you have an ex girlfriend. You were driven by that taxi driver and involved with that woman.

This is what the no contact rule is all about. It's about you calming down, recovering, feeling better and letting go that relationship. It's about disassociating your current self from your previous self. This is just one more person you've met on your life journey, and you'll meet many more. You undoubtedly had some extraordinary and memorable times together in which you touched each other's hearts. Now don't be sad it's over - be happy it happened.

So the no contact rule is a process - a stage in your life. By deciding to stop the harmful process of maintaining contact with her, you have made a conscious and targeted decision to remove that stress from your life. You have decided to reclaim control over your own happiness. You give yourself space to accept what has happened, where you are now and to let go of the feelings that were holding you back. You have made the first step towards moving on.

And then you end up in the now, as a better, happier and more present version of yourself, ready and able to make more of your life. To identify things that make you happy and to go out and do them. So change your phone number, turn off Facebook, block emails and get rid of pictures. Get out of town, the country or the continent. Follow the  no contact rule diligently. And let me know how it goes!

"Don't worry, she blocked me everywhere already"

I've been workin hard on me, and the man I want to be since last Easter, and slipped up over the summer because I couldn't check my emotions, and was unsure of myself and my intentions/what I want in Life. Now that I'm exceeding in my career and making steps in my life, this situation arises.... I'm not sure how to feel, and so many questions arise. My 1st thought is I'm unblocked because she wants to see what I'm doing-if I'm posting pics or anything regarding my current situation. The next thing that comes to mind is that she's realized that the grass isn't greener on the other side, and this is a gesture(olive branch) to speak or make contact... Its just it came out of nowhere, when I'm finally starting to piece things together. And I'm starting to build my future and she's not in it. Wondering if any of you Men had any thoughts?

You cannot rely on her implementing no contact for you.

You must initiate contact yourself. If she blocks you or not is irrelevant — you should block her.

A lot of the difficult emotions you're dealing with can spin up or spin down depending on how much you're reminded of her. That's why your goal should be to eliminate as many reminders as possible and let all the memory tracks in your brain decrease in strength. You do this by initiating no contact yourself — not relying on her to do it for you.

All the questions you have are the questions that naturally emerge when we're in the wrong state of mind: Having been reminded of her. Avoid the questions by avoiding that state of mind by avoiding reminders.

Don't give her the power to break no contact whenever she wants. What she has or hasn't done is irrelevant at this point. Unfriend her everywhere on across all networks in addition to blocking her (if the website/app allows it). You are going no contact to take care of yourself. Exposing yourself to the possibility of her contacting you and throwing you off of your recovery would defeat that purpose entirely.

What to do when you feel the urge to contact her

  1. Buy yourself some time. Can you postpone your urge by an hour? If that hour comes and passes, try postponing it again. Sometimes our emotions pull us in a certain direction with such force, that resisting it is not an option. Instead of resisting it, we can redirect it slightly; slow it down. Often when we're successful at redirecting the urge, it loses its initial intensity and we can overcome to completely.

  2. Talk back to your urge

  3. Remind yourself of her negative traits

  4. Remind yourself of the negative dynamic that you get yourself in with her

  5. Change activities

  6. Call someone from your support network

  7. Write her a letter (Without sending it!)

I broke no contact, now what?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is: "How did the no contact rule get broken?" Did you let it get broken? Were you in fact disconnected from your ex girlfriend in all possible ways? Or was it easy for her to get in touch with you or send you a little text?

Even if it is your fault, you need to start off by forgiving yourself. You can't change the past, so you must accept it, and re-initiate no contact. Make sure it's fool proof this time. It's best to delete her number, remove her from facebook and avoid 'slippery' activities such as viewing her facebook friends.

Make no mistake, breaking no contact will hurt and set you back. Here's a story from a client:

The No Contact was the hardest. And I failed. I texted her. We met up.  At first it was magical. All those feelings.  It turned into a disaster pretty quick though. I felt like I was auditioning for my old job back. And I was turning into a door mat very quickly. Needless to say, it didn't work. And we both knew it wouldn't. What makes it hard is the I, probably like some men, care. And it's hard to just walk away when you do.

Success Stories

My favorite success story is from a guy that goes by the nickname "hunk" on the Loveshack breakup forums. According to him he struggled to get over his ex for over 2 years, maintaining no contact all that time. Then, after 4 years he gets a message and... well... read for yourself:

The ex that brought me to LS [Loveshack forums], some 4 years ago, has messaged me basically pouring her heart out. I was sitting at my desk writing a paper and my phone went off, I instantly recognized her number, even after 4 years. I have NO idea how she got it.

She's spoken about how "we've both grown, how time apart and other relationships has made her realize what she wants out of life and out of a partner and that we were both young and neither of us had any idea what we were doing. She said she forgives me for being a lousy boyfriend and that the connection we had and feelings she has/had for me overrides any stupid mistakes either of us made in the past and that she can't stop thinking about me and wants an adult relationship starting slowly if i'm willing to give it a shot. She said "Most of all I just miss talking to you. I haven't connected with anyone like I did with you". If I had received this message a few years ago I would've had a heart attack and thought I was dreaming.

She said not speaking for so long was extremely difficult and it felt like she'd completely lost someone she cared deeply for - translation = NC worked.

The real success story here isn't her messaging me though. I don't want her back anymore. I feel nothing for her. I honestly don't care - translation = NC worked.

I won't be responding to her message. I don't even have it in me to write up a response of any sort because I just don't care. I don't think I'm even over the pain she inflicted on me, even after all these years. I am certain however I do not want a relationship with her ever again. I went through so much misery and pain over this girl, it consumed me for years and irreparably destroyed my perception of her as a person. I have no feelings left for her as I completely convinced myself we would never be back together, and I allowed myself to slowly view her as being gone, even dead.

I don't want to inspire false hope here - the point of this post was to show that no contact is the indisputable best course of action post break up, and that time completely heals all wounds. I'm still in a bit of shock, I've only given myself a couple of hours to digest the message. It is mindblowing to compare the way I feel now receiving this to the way I would've felt ~3 years ago.

Here are some other no contact rule success stories:

It's amazing but everyone was right when they said it would "get better with time". Definitely No contact is the key, because otherwise you will keep cutting the wound open.

--George from Alabama

Here's what Dan from the UK had to say:

In these three months of no contact i realised that this woman treated me like dogshit and i let her get away with it too often. In reality i know i deserved better, but my thinking was cloudy as hell. The no contact rule was a blessing, it gave me time to realise that even if she re-initiated contact like i thought she would, there was no way i was going to take her back in any way.

--Dan from the UK

This one's from Ryan from CA:

4 months ago, my ex of almost 2.5 years and I broke up. We had lived together for almost a year. She was my first everything. Hug, kiss.... and more.

She always talked of marriage and children, and I had convinced myself that all I get is 1 shot, so no matter how bad it scared me to think of these things at 20 years old, and having been with no one else, I had to accept it.

Since we split, I've gone no contact and I've become millions of times better than the person I was. I realized that she did nothing to make me comfortable. She always created doubt in our relationship, always was super jealous if I went to hang out with friends, and generally dragged me down. I woke up feeling like crap every day.

In the last few months, I've really turned my world around. I no longer crave her. I don't feel like I'm dragging myself out of bed anymore. I go to kickboxing class 5 nights a week, and I hang out with friends a lot. I've started reading a lot, and I've started writing again. I've met some girls and made new friends, and I'm just more productive overall. And, for the first time in my entire life, I FEEL CONFIDENT. I don't find reasons to put myself down, or have to convince myself that things HAVE to be one way for someone, and not for me.

I don't want her anymore. And that's as successful of a story I can have.

Ryan from CA

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