The No Contact Rule: The Uncomfortable Truth About No Contact for Getting Your Ex Back
If you’ve done any amount of research on how to get your ex back, you have likely heard about the No Contact Rule.
But, in case you haven’t, let me give you a brief rundown. This is what it is and how it is supposed to work.
Then, I’ll tell you why I strongly disagree with the No Contact Rule the way that it is conventionally taught.
The Typical (Flawed) No Contact Rule
Okay, here is the typical No Contact Rule that you’ll find online. It is talked about in breakup advice forums and preached by so-called “relationship gurus” across various corners of the internet:
Step 1: Cut Contact with Your Ex
Don’t contact them for a period of time. Most people will recommend a month (or 30 days or 4 weeks of no contact).
This should come without saying, but “no contact” means not contacting your ex. This includes: No contacting your ex via text, via phone, or via social media. It also means no stalking them (online or offline). No having sex with them (duh!). Don’t “accidentally” show up places you know they frequently go. No asking a mutual friend to pass them a message.
In short, there are no loopholes. So abandon hope.
Step 2: Distract Yourself
As a person going through a breakup, you probably feel like crap. Most forms of the No Contact Rule will tell you to distract yourself from your pain so that you don’t feel sorry for yourself for a whole month. Common methods of distraction include, but are not limited to: Dating other people, picking up new hobbies, spending time with friends and family, or exercising.
Step 3: Hope and Pray It Works
Hope that, as you cautiously pick up your phone after a month that, somehow, your ex will want to talk to you. Maybe they’ll miss you so much that they’ll come crawling back to you over shards of broken glass, showing you with calls and texts.
Does the No Contact Rule Work?
(The Fatal Flaw in the No Contact Rule)
The fatal flaw in the No Contact Rule is that it is essentially about ignoring your ex for a period of time.
Supposedly, this is meant to trigger some sort of human psychology, causing your ex to think that you don’t care about them.
They’ll get FOMO and want you back, just like how a reluctant toddler can be tricked into obeying you through reverse psychology.
The problem though is that the No Contact Rule doesn’t work this way.
First of all, I don’t know the details of your relationship or breakup. But I would imagine that your relationship fell apart because you were ignoring it to some degree.
So, if ignoring your relationship caused a breakup, are we to believe that ignoring it is going to reverse the breakup?
I think there was a certain scruffy-haired smart guy who had something to say about doing the same thing and expecting different results…
Secondly, the typical way of implementing the No Contact Rule is about surrendering your power to your ex.
Sure, maybe some people will believe that they have regained some degree of control because they can choose whether or not they will contact their ex.
But the truth is that this whole No Contact business is really about hoping and praying that the time apart changes your ex’s feelings toward you.
In other words, your ex still pulls all the strings.
And you’re supposed to just sit there, white-knuckling it through a month of agonizing No Contact.
Third, you are not giving your ex a damn good reason to get back together with you.
Your relationship didn’t work out for one reason or another.
Your ex isn’t stupid. They’re not going to walk back into the same relationship that they walked out of in the first place.
The only reason they will come back to you is if they believe that things will be better.
(Or if they realize that you are actually their best option, and they are settling for you after being disappointed with the alternatives… But that’s too depressing to address in this article)
The Truth About the No Contact Rule
The truth is that there really isn’t just one “No Contact Rule.”
There are many different types of No Contact, just like there are many different types of diets.
Just like how, if you’re overweight, you don’t just go on “The Diet.” You do some research and find out which diet is right for you. Is it low-calorie, ketogenic, paleo, juicing, etc.?
It’s the same with No Contact.
Here are a few versions of the No Contact Rule that I have observed:
Mind Games No Contact
Use the silent treatment to leverage reverse psychology so that your ex will think that you’re out dating hundreds of other people (All while you’re really just spending your Friday nights sitting at home drinking cheap boxed wine and stalking them on Facebook).
You might consider agitating this insecurity in your ex’s mind by playing games. Possibly consider paying attractive people money to pose in photos with you, and then posting those photos on social media, where your ex will see them.
Your ex will then realize the error of their ways and come crawling back to you with their tail between their legs.
Heal from the Breakup No Contact
Cut contact and focus on healing from your broken heart and the pain of the breakup.
Typically this involves focusing on yourself, exercising, watching sappy movies, ice cream, and packing up everything that reminds you of your ex in a box.
Once you feel better and you’ve had time to heal, you can contact your ex again without coming off as completely desperate and needy.
Distract Yourself No Contact
Cut contact with your ex and distract yourself from the pain.
Time heals all wounds, right? (Hint: No, it doesn’t)
So, once you’ve stopped contact, pick up some new hobbies. Learn Spanish, take yoga classes, maybe even date someone else to boost your self-esteem (we all know that self-esteem comes from other people, right?).
Then, after you are thoroughly distracted, get back in contact with your ex.
White-Knuckle No Contact
There is something magical about simply not talking to your ex for a month, so brace yourself because you’re in for a hard time.
So, stop talking to them. Count the days. Fantasize about the last day of No Contact, when you’ll reach out to them again. Plan your message you’re going to send them. Stalk them on social media to see if your ex starts dating someone new or not. (Essentially, you are focusing on all the things that don’t matter in getting back together with your ex.)
Then, breaking of the No Contact period after 30 days, hoping for the best.
There are probably other types of No Contact Rules as well, but you get the idea.
The main problem with these types of No Contact is that they are PASSIVE.
These different types of No Contact Rules apply the same fundamental thinking: They involve you changing nothing about your ability to connect or bond with your ex. The only thing that has changed is that you haven’t contacted your ex for a period of time. They demonstrate to your ex that getting back together with you is more of the same.
(You know, the same dynamic that they walked away from already…)
That is why I lump these types of No Contact together and call them simply “Passive No Contact.”
If you’ve done No Contact, chances are good that you are actually doing Passive No Contact.
The Alternative: Active No Contact
The alternative to Passive No Contact is something I created called Active No Contact.
Not surprisingly, Active No Contact, involves being active, rather than just sitting around and hoping for the best.
Specifically, you are being active in developing the ability to create positive emotional connections with your ex. Even through you may not be talking to your ex, you are practicing in “low stakes” situations. Once you start to improve your ability to create great emotional experiences with others, you’ll start to feel more confident in your ability.
And that’s when it’s time to get back in contact with your ex.
Your ability to create positive emotional connections should be second nature now. This means that if you’re put in a stressful situation, such as talking with your ex, you’ll still be able to fall back on all that practice and training, rather than slip back into Damage Control Mode.
Active No Contact takes as a given that you will heal from the pain of the breakup by addressing your own emotions.
Doing Active No Contact gives you the power to take control of your own emotions.
Active No Contact gives your ex the freedom to feel however they are going to feel. They they miss you, that’s fine, but that’s not the point of Active No Contact.
Active No Contact shows your ex that they are not walking back into the same broken relationship dynamic that they left in the first place.
If you follow No Contact, I would strongly recommend that you make sure it is Active No Contact.
Okay, now let’s get into some of the nitty gritty of the Active No Contact Rule.
How Long Should You Do Active No Contact?
Most versions of the No Contact Rule pick some arbitrary amount of time. Maybe a month. Maybe a couple of weeks.
However, it’s not like there’s going to be something there on day 31 that wasn’t there on day 30… unless you put it there.
So, even though a month is a good starting point for most people (probably even you), the point isn’t to think about it in terms of X number of days.
The reason you should be doing No Contact is because, before doing No Contact, interacting with your ex isn’t bringing you closer together.
Therefore, the purpose of No Contact is to change that dynamic so that interacting with your ex does bring you closer together.
So, how long should you do No Contact? Until you have good reason to believe that interacting with your ex will be a positive emotional experience that brings you closer together.
For some people that will be a month. For others that will be 3 months. Others will take longer. Others will take less time.
It’s really about how active you are at learning how to create a stronger emotional connection.
Will My Ex Forget About Me During No Contact?
Your ex will not forget about you during No Contact.
I’ve been helping people with breakups since 2009. In that time, I have never heard of someone’s ex forgetting about them during No Contact.
I guess it could be possible, if the two of you only went out on one date (could you even call them your “ex” then?).
But your ex will not forget about you. It doesn’t matter if you were in a long distance relationship. Or if your ex is seeing someone new. Or if you and your ex were only in a short-term relationship. Your ex will not forget about you.
What Do I Do if My Ex Contacts Me During No Contact?
It happens. Your ex might miss you and contact you.
Or maybe they’re angry and they want to unload on you.
Or maybe it’s a little bit of both (hot and cold behavior)
But either way the phone is ringing. What do you do?
As, I mentioned above, the purpose of No Contact is to change the dynamic so that you can have a positive connection with your ex.
If you think you can interact with your ex and that it will be an uplifting and rewarding experience for both them and you, then get back in contact with them.
If you don’t think that you can have a positive interaction with your ex, then I would not recommend being in contact with them… even if they’ve initiated contact with you.
One of the huge mistakes I see people make is thinking that No Contact should end the moment your ex initiates contact with you. Let me be clear, No Contact should only end if you can have positive interactions with your ex.
It doesn’t matter if your ex texted you that they miss you or not. End No Contact on your own terms.
What About Social Media and the Active No Contact Rule?
Let me make it clear, stalking your ex on social media isn’t helping anyone. Least of all, you.
Trying to read between the lines isn’t allowing you to focus on the present moment, which is critical in building a positive emotional connection.
Instead, you are feeding your insecurities, fears, and anxieties by “keeping tabs” on your ex’s every move.
Trust me, you will be much better off if you do not allow yourself to keep an eye on your ex’s every move during No Contact, and you, instead, focus on living your life and your own experiences of life.
What if It Isn’t Possible to Do No Contact Due to Circumstances?
I get it, some people have kids together with their ex, and completely cutting off contact isn’t realistic.
If that’s the case, then doing a modified form of the No Contact Rule is the best route.
Limiting your contact (known as “Limited Contact”) allows you disconnect the emotional hose you have connecting you to your ex. This allows you to focus on your own experience rather than trying to win their approval, all while remaining in contact.
Another situations that may warrant Limited Contact might be when you and your ex work together.
(I never recommend you date a co-worker, but people keep doing it anyway.)
And if you still live together with your ex, you should probably also consider Limited Contact.
(You should also consider searching for other living arrangements so you can actually follow the No Contact Rule)
Maybe you and your ex have mutual friends (which is common if you’ve been together for a while). I would talk to your friends and let them know that you’re taking time to re-center yourself. Ask them to keep that in mind when they invite you to events or give you updates on your ex. A close friend will understand and support you in any way that they can.
What if I Break No Contact in a Moment of Weakness?
Once you have started No Contact, you should only get back in contact with your ex when you can have a positive emotional connection with them.
You cannot have a positive emotional connection when you are in Damage Control Mode or otherwise controlled by fear, anxiety, or desperation. It just isn’t possible.
“Accidentally” texting your ex isn’t a reason to put the No Contact Rule behind you. It is a reason to start over.
What if My Ex’s Birthday or a Holiday Happens in the Middle of No Contact?
Make no mistake: wishing your ex a happy birthday is not a good excuse to break No Contact if you are not in an emotional place where you are capable of having positive interactions.
I don’t want to you be a cold hearted SOB, either though.
So here’s what to do:
Check to see if you are having some sort of hidden agenda, such as thinking that you’re going to send some kind of birthday or holiday text and it’s going to melt your ex’s icy little heart and make them come running back to you, all because you texted them “HBD!”
If that’s the case, then don’t break No Contact.
However, if you don’t have a hidden agenda and you genuinely want to wish them a Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, or Jubilant Festivus, then go ahead and do so.
Just don’t expect a response from them. Dive right back into Active No Contact until you are prepared to actually be in contact again.
What if My Breakup was a Long Time Ago?
It doesn’t matter if your ex broke up with you recently or if you’ve been broken up for a long time. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen them in years or if you’ve remained friends since the breakup.
If you are having interactions that feel bad, you should stop interacting with your ex until you can have interactions that feel good.
Will My Ex Move On If I Do No Contact?
Maybe, but that is a good thing.
You want your ex to move on from your breakup even if you want to get back together again.
Because, if your ex moves on emotionally, and you can relate to them in a calm and reasonable manner, rather than someone who is heartbroken, desperate for validation, and spiraling out of control.
If by “moving on” you are actually worried that your ex will start seeing someone new, then that’s not something to be worried about either.
If your ex ends up in a rebound relationship, it’s nothing to be concerned about.
Because, your connection with your ex is the most important thing in getting back together. It is more important than your ex’s connection to someone else.
If you focus on improving the emotional connection, then it really is pretty easy to outshine rebound relationships.
Plus, you also have the Decoy Effect working to your advantage.
Will the No Contact Rule Cement My Ex’s New Rebound Relationship in Place?
What is going to cement their new relationship in place is you continuing to have interactions with your ex that do not feel good on an emotional level.
This will drive your ex and their new partner closer together. Why? Because interacting with their new partner feels better than interacting with you.
Doing No Contact may not stop your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend from dating or being in a relationship with someone else. However, it will stop you from shooting yourself in the foot by consistently having interactions that feel bad.
Once you’re able to have interactions that feel good and bring you and your ex closer together on an emotional level, the rebound relationship will take care of itself.
Does the No Contact Rule Affect Men Differently Than Women?
However, there are definitely differences in masculine and feminine energy.
If you are doing No Contact with your ex-boyfriend, for example, it’s important to realize that he’s gone because of a lack of emotional connection. For women, this means that you can improve the connection with your ex-boyfriend most of the time by stepping into your feminine more strongly.
If you are using the No Contact Rule with your ex-girlfriend, it is the other way around. You would likely benefit a lot from stepping into your masculine more.
If your girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with you because of a lack of masculine-feminine polarity, then use your No Contact period to cultivate that. When your boyfriend sees a more feminine side of you, it might change his mind. If your girlfriend broke up with you because you lost a masculine edge, seeing you own your masculinity might help her feel more comfortable with you.
Of course, masculine and feminine dynamics aren’t the only consideration, but it can help.
What Should I Do After I Complete the No Contact Rule?
After No Contact, you should, obviously, get back in contact with your ex.
Calling or texting are equally fine. Texting is “safer,” but you run the risk of being more easily ignored. Calling can be riskier because you don’t know how you’re going to find your ex in any given moment.
Moving forward from being out of contact with your ex, I would recommend testing the waters first. This allows you to see how responsive your ex is to interacting with you. After you know where they are at you can do something like asking them to meet up.
Once you know where your ex is at, emotionally, you can meet them there and do what you need to do to create a positive interaction. If your ex is warn and receptive to you, you can easily transition to meeting up. If they are standoffish, then it will take a stronger emotional connection before they are ready to meet up.
Should You Do a Light Version of No Contact Whenever You Have a Bad Experience with Your Ex?
Another common mistake I see people make is retreating to No Contact whenever they have a bad experience with their ex.
Maybe they had an argument with their ex, so they want to jump back into No Contact for a couple of days.
Sometimes this can make sense… IF your strategy is to disengage when you realize that the dynamic between you and your ex has taken a negative turn AND you are planning on doing something to change the dynamic toward the positive (aka, Active No Contact).
It isn’t a good idea if you just plan on giving your ex time and space, while you idly wait around, only to reconnect with your ex after changing nothing (aka, Passive No Contact). Here, you are just showing your ex that when the going gets tough, you run away (hint: this doesn’t broadcast the message that you are equipped to handle a serious relationship).
Do You Have Any Active No Contact Success Stories?
Yes, I do. The one I like the most is from a successful entrepreneur named Evan. He applied the No Contact Rule in a very powerful way. Doing this changed the emotional dynamic between him and his super model (!) ex-girlfriend.
And, this is a little personal (okay, EXTREMELY personal), but here is my No Contact experience as well. I didn’t contact my ex and focused on personal development, and this was what happened:
So, yes the Active No Contact Rule works. However, in order to get it to work for you, you have to make sure that something meaningful is different in how you are bringing yourself to the interactions with your ex. If it’s just going to be “more of the same,” then don’t expect much.
How to Stack the Deck in Your Favor with the Active No Contact Rule
Okay, we’ve talked about the difference between the Active No Contact Rule and the Passive No Contact Rule.
Most of you have done, or are currently doing Passive No Contact.
That puts you at a disadvantage.
I would recommend that you use the Active No Contact Rule instead.
During Active No Contact, spend time focusing on developing the ability to have a strong emotional connection with other people.
This is practice for when it comes to interacting with your ex.
You’re going to be practicing on a consistent basis. A lot like you would if you were going to the gym and exercising over a period of time.
Because, as Archilochos says:
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
That means that, when you get back in contact with your ex after completing the No Contact Rule, you’ll find yourself in something that you consider a “high stakes” situation.
Who knows exactly what you’re walking into.
Maybe your ex is seeing someone else.
They might still be angry with you.
Or maybe they still have a lot of resistance to talking to you.
You don’t know.
An if you’re just memorizing a hack or quick ninja trick, it’s very, very easy to get caught off guard.
But, if you’ve been practicing and training, then you’ll be able to hold your composure. You will create a positive emotional connection even when things are extremely challenging or intense with your ex.
And you’ll be showing your ex that they are not walking back into the same broken relationship dynamic that they left in the first place.
So what exactly should be practicing during Active No Contact?
I’ve been teaching people Advanced Relational Skills for years now.
These are skills that are designed to bring you into a deeper, more connected emotional place with your ex.
(Actually, they will work with anyone, but you’re here to learn how to connect with your ex.)
These are SKILLS, mind you.
That means that they require training and practice.
These aren’t hacks, tips, or tricks.
So, if you’re looking for a shortcut so that you can leapfrog past the effort it takes to have a relationship that works, then this isn’t for you.
Maybe there’s something for you out there somewhere… But it’s not here.
Anyway, these Advanced Relational Skills are the cornerstone of a training course I created called the Ex Solution Program.
If you’re tired of wasting your time with Passive No Contact, and you just can’t figure out a way to get through to your ex, then you might be a good fit for the Ex Solution Program.
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