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An Introduction To No Contact

No Contact is what I like to think of as the last resort, as in you've tried the traditional breakup route, possibly on a number of occasions with the same person and it didn't work, or due to the nature of your relationship, you already recognise that once you say it's over or that you quite simply want to stop engaging in this dynamic, that for your own sake and possibly theirs, you will need to distance yourself and cut contact.

No Contact (NC) (also known as the No Contact Rule) is the boundary building actions and habits that come into place post breakup by way of emotionally and physically distancing you from someone so that you can gain perspective, grieve the loss of the relationship, and rebuild your life so that you can move on.

NC communicates to the other party that whatever access they have enjoyed prior to NC is over.

It's an actions based breakup technique that is especially useful to people who have lost credibility either during a relationship or post breakup, because their actions and words don't match. When your ex stops taking you seriously and figures out the 'pattern', which is basically like knowing how to jig your lock or break the door code so that they can get back into your life, you will find that NC is the only way of communicating that you are not that person anymore, that you're serious, and that the relationship is over.

NC should generally be regarded as a means of solidifying an existing breakup as opposed to cutting off and disappearing as a means of breaking up, which is actually disappearing, not No Contact. (You can read about the difference over on Baggage Reclaim). The only time you would make an exit with no warning is with an abusive relationship and even then, in the run up to making the exit, you would need to handle the situation carefully to minimise the danger to you.

No Contact is an enforced means of gaining space between you and a person who together with you, it combines for a toxic dynamic. It is an assertive, not aggressive or passive aggressive means, of rebuilding healthy boundaries.

It is absolutely critical at this point to remember: breakups do not need absolute agreement from both parties. They're not a democratic decision. Once one person wants out of a relationship, it's over whether the other person wants it to be over or not. Even if the other person starts 'campaigning' for the relationship, the fact that the person who instigated the breakup wants out, is a major warning sign that something is seriously wrong.

The aim of No Contact is about taking command of you. What it isn't about, is trying to influence or control that person's behaviour and feelings. What this essentially means is that this isn't about using pleasing or force to passive aggressively or even aggressively, get a person to do what you originally wanted. This is about taking ownership of your needs, expectations, wants, feelings, and opinions. Right now, you are engaging in habits that are reliant on this notion that the other party will eventually be or do something to make you feel better about engaging with them. If you've already attempted NC and then broken it, what you likely haven't realised, is that you were people-pleasing - you hoped that in pleasing them that they would do as you want, whether it's to back off or to spontaneously combust into a different person. Until you do No Contact and really embrace the process, you just don't realise how much of this dynamic is based on trying to be and do what you think that this person needs, wants, and expects, even if it's to your detriment, and ultimately making everything about them.

It's time to take the focus off this person and bring it back to you.

You do not need to get him/her/people to understand your reasons for wanting to distance yourself. The key is that you understand the reasons and that they're your reasons. Part of the reason why the process of No Contact often has to be learned, is because it takes over counterproductive habits. It is a shift in mindset. Many people who have shared their stories of pain with me and attempted NC, were at first struggling because it's very difficult to grasp the concept of having boundaries and recognising and representing your own needs, expectations, wishes, feelings, and opinions.... when this is foreign territory. It's like, I'm supposed to basically treat and regard me with love, care, trust, and respect about this NC situation even though I don't like me or I always devote myself to others?

A loss can leave you feeling exposed in the sense that if the person or situation represents you avoiding aspects of you and your life, you're going to feel as if you're re-opening a wound, plus the feelings of loss and possible rejection will feel extra intense because you probably 'plugged in' or stuffed down old feelings with this person. You will then feel seemingly overwhelmed by the pain and try to get them to make you feel better. This will give you temporary relief and then you will be hit by an onslaught of pain.

This is where you can end up being blinded and even trapped by your feelings, your emotional responses which are based on your intuition, as opposed to reasoning and knowledge. During this course, you're going to learn that feelings aren't the same as facts, but that your intuition will be off-base if you've been in the habit of not having boundaries and suppressing your feelings, opinions, needs etc. You will also find that your intuition is off if you treat each thought as a fact and so have unhealthy beliefs that are governing why you engage with this person in the first place.

No Contact will help you to listen to you and your feelings but to also observe them without judgement, as opposed to having a feeling and then trying to get rid of it or soothe it in an unhealthy way. One of the struggles that many people have in this situation is treating feelings as a permanent statement of the future - they lose perspective. This means that you may feel as if it's never going to get better or that you're always going to be alone and then panic at this 'fact' and try to make you feel better by reaching out to this person.

This is the whole trying to get other people and things to be the external solution to internal issues that you need to be addressing. The more you try to make a person your salvation is the more hurt that you're going to be.

No Contact is very good at knocking codependency and fear of abandonment issues on the head because if you stick at it, you will increase your personal security and break what may be a very toxic pattern.

In turn, because you will have finally dealt with this stuff, you will not have to keep living in and being affected by the past and you will also be free to be in a relationship more befitting of you. This situation that you're in contains information in it about where you need to look out for and represent you more. It gives you a window into what you truly need and you can learn to meet those needs healthily, and also ensure that in future, you engage with people who share similar values. If it was missing honesty, this process will teach you to be more honest with you. If it felt imbalanced, this process will help you to rediscover your personal power. If you pursued security where you need to be stepping up for you, you will now have the opportunity to provide this. If it revealed that you have unresolved issues from childhood that are manifesting themselves in your habits and even in the choice of people you engage with, this process gives you an opportunity to face this.

The Disappointment Cycle

No Contact is very much about getting you off The Disappointment Cycle - this is when you keep repeating a sequence of responses (emotional, thought, action) in response to a certain cue or trigger, because your hopes get raised. You act in the moment and chase the instant gratification or short-term fix from responding and on some level hope that this time, things will be different. Then you experience disappointment again and feel devastated. This can keep going round and round, especially if you retreat but then respond again due to hope.

The truth is that someone who is even remotely empathetic, would give you the space and respect your need for it without you having to spell it out so forcefully. You can also go from here to eternity trying to get them to admit fault or to recognise who you are and your worth. You may be in Shady Pines nursing home before they might so much as consider making a fractional change to their behaviour and attitude. This process will increase self-awareness - you may be unaware of how your habits of thinking and behaviour are setting you up for a fall.

There comes a point when you have to start questioning why you are continuing to pursue your vision of things, including wanting a person to change, when you could be putting that energy into your own life. It's not that they couldn't do with making these changes but they are theirs to make (or not to), not yours to pursue even if it in part stems from seeing a better version of them than they themselves care to recognise or embody. One of the things that you will learn during this process, is that No Contact is there to help you to reduce your pain and bring you back to reality.

NC tends to be employed with unavailable people who don't want to accept that the relationship is over, unavailable people who are trying to change their destructive relationship habits, and available people that recognise they're involved with a sociopath and/or believe that the person poses them harm.

Types of situation and people where NC is needed

1) Boundary busters. Did not respect your boundaries in the relationship and are continuing the habit outside of it.

2) Ambiguity and confusion prolonging the pain. Even though they may have respected your boundaries in the relationship, are getting mixed messages by a continued 'friendship', or are not accepting that the relationship is over, making it difficult for you (and them) to move on.

3) Stalkers. It doesn't matter if they were nice as pie in the relationship - if they're stalking you now that the relationship is over, NC and involving the law are necessary. Some people take not being in control and/or rejection to its extreme. Control is not love. It would be remiss of me to only focus on the other party - it may be you that is crossing the line, or at the very least, tormenting you by hiding in the shadows of their life so that you can keep tabs.

4) Abusers. Trying to be friends or tippy-toe around somebody who has already abused you, sends mixed messages. You don't need to appease an abuser - you need to act with self-preservation and with additional support distance yourself. Same goes for users. Users keep using. If they're a suspected/diagnosed narcissist, sociopath etc, NC is also the only way.

5) Codependency. If you don't know where they begin and you end, you've got problems, especially if it feels like you can't live with or without them and gaining approval and attention from them is 'necessary'. This includes if they are addicted to something - for their good, as well as your own, it's critical that you separate. You are not helping them by remaining in this dynamic. They also don't have the ability to take responsibility for their actions.

6) Loss of dignity. As a result of your involvement or you continuing to engage, you're doing things that you now or in the future, will come to regard as at best embarrassing and at worst, humiliating. If you have less self-esteem than what you entered into this involvement or situation with, this is a code red alert. Low self-esteem can and will impede your ability to healthily judge a situation and act in your own best interests. You will put too much energy into trying to control the uncontrollable.

7) Affairs. When you're involved with somebody who is already in a relationship and you're finding it difficult to leave, NC is vital because it is only in understanding why you are in this and also the reality of what you've been involved in, that is finally going to break this unhealthy dynamic and pave the way to freedom.

8) Fantasy. Sometimes you're acting as if you 'know' a person when you really don't. You're letting your feelings dictate when your feelings are not representative of or indicative of the facts. If you're lying to you in order to keep a toxic situation going, code red alert. It's time to find out what you're truly avoiding.

9) Power issues. If you've been in a dynamic that is reliant on you being powerless, that is a major code red alert that something is seriously wrong. Whether it's that they're a power grabber or you're giving it away, NC will enable you to identify why this dynamic exists as well as the habits that facilitate it.

And this is where you can learn something very fundamental about breakups or in fact any dynamic where you clearly have power and pain issues:

Only someone who has little or no regard for your feelings because they're only thinking about their own needs etc., would continue to try to maintain this relationship/dynamic when they know (even if they won't admit it) that you're hurting. This all the more the case if they keep doing the very things that exacerbate the hurt.

In fact, a decent person who recognises that you are struggling and they cannot give you what you want or even that you being involved with them is causing you to do things that are destructive to you, will distance themselves from you, politely, and then sometimes very firmly - yes sometimes that means them doing NC!

No Contact is a very positive, empowering process, but I'll be honest with you - you're likely to wrestle with guilt, blame, shame, and an overactive imagination before you truly begin to recognise not only the benefits of going No Contact, but also the incremental and often significant improvements that happen to your wellbeing once you allow you to recognise what you've been in and what you're doing.

I will emphasise this regularly: The process of No Contact is actually about treating and regarding you with the love, care, trust, and respect that you deserve so that you can heal and move forward. This is more than 'just' distancing yourself - you're doing this so that you can gain some objectivity and reclaim you.

 

THE NO CONTACT RULE BOOKFURTHER READING

If you haven't done so yet, read the chapters:

Modern World, Modern Breakup

Getting To Grips With The Concept of No Contact