When one of my best friends broke up with her boyfriend last fall, she did something very different from what I’d ever done during any of my breakups — she decided to remove all forms of communication with her ex completely.
At first, I thought that removing him from all of her social media accounts and deleting his number from her phone sounded a little extreme.
However, I watched her rise above the heartache of the breakup in record time, and eventually, she and her ex found a way to reconnect on friendly terms.
Although I saw the evidence of success, I was still completely perplexed by this idea of a “No Contact Rule,” so I decided to do some independent research.
I quickly learned that many people are using the rule these days — and it’s helping people in more ways than I could ever have possibly imagined.
What is the no contact rule?
Believe it or not, this rule is exactly what it sounds like — a conscious choice to cease all forms of contact with your ex after a breakup.
According to relationship expert and breakup coach Lee Wilson, the rule includes phone calls, text messages, or any other forms of communication, like social media. In fact, you may want to completely remove your ex from your contacts to avoid any temptation.
Furthermore, those who follow it fully also choose to not communicate with any of their ex’s friends or family members — so it might be time for a social media purge.
The rule is important because it gives you the adequate space that you need to heal and, in time, discover exactly who you are again.
You can use this time to rebuild your confidence, mend your broken heart, and move on with your life — or reconnect with your ex when things have calmed down if that’s what you want.
Although this “rule” may sound like something relatively easy to follow if you broke up on bad terms, the fact is that not contacting your ex requires some serious restraint and willpower, especially if you have a long-standing history with your ex.
Why is it so effective?
Like any other type of loss, breakups come with their grief stages that you need to work through. Unfortunately, this grief lingers for a lot longer when your ex is still active in your life.
When you enact the rule, though, you create a safe space for you to grieve and focus on your emotional needs. Without reminders of your ex, you can work through all of the stages of grief without interruption or confusing messages that often cause more pain.
In other words, the No Contact Rule is effective because it completely removes any ability for your ex to trigger painful memories.
Furthermore, this time apart is useful because it clears your head and gives you a chance to explore other perspectives.
When you replay the breakup repeatedly with your ex, you get stuck in this rut that is often hard to break out of. Their words, and their opinions, clutter your mind and wear you down. When this happens, it can be hard to see yourself or the situation differently.
However, when you remove yourself from your ex, you can take time to evaluate the breakup from numerous perspectives. This is not only an essential step in the healing process, but it may help you see your ex in a new light — which may make them more or less attractive.
Finally, for those who want to use the rule to mend bridges or even get back together, the experts at Magnet of Success claim that over 90 percent of people who use it will hear from their ex, most often within six months of ending the relationship.
What are the stages of this rule?
Since the rule involves withdrawing contact completely, both parties will go through stages of withdrawal and processing the breakup the longer the lack of contact remains in place.
In fact, Arushi Chaudhary says there are several very distinct stages that each person experiences when the rule is in full effect.
Stages for the Dumpee:
Stage 1: Withdrawal
As expected, most people first experience heavy withdrawal symptoms when a relationship ends and they cease contact with their ex.
You may be in denial about the breakup, or you might just feel really depressed and rejected — your feelings are completely valid.
Stage 2: Desperation & Temptation
Once the initial shock of the breakup and honeymoon phase of the rule wears off, chances are you’ll feel extremely depressed and desperate. Your emotions will consume, and you may want to break the boundary you’ve established… but don’t!
Contact during this critical phase will only make things worse, so avoid tempting to reach out and ignore your ex if they randomly reach out to you.
Stage 3: Recovery
Although it may take some time, eventually you will reach a place where you feel better about the breakup and don’t miss your ex as much. In this phase, you’ll start looking at your phone a little less and start living a little more. Who knows, you may even start seeing someone new!
During this phase, you’ll start feeling more confident, less hung up on your ex, and better able to tell if the rule is working for you.
Stages for the Dumper:
Stage 1: Relief
Dumping someone is always uncomfortable, and there’s a certain fear of backlash and weeks of angry messages. When someone eliminates contact, though, you may feel a sense of relief if you dumped your ex — because the lack of contact removes any chances of retaliation.
During this phase, you’ll likely feel free and take advantage of the moment. You’ll feel lighter, less confined, and maybe even a little bit excited to play the field again.
Stage 2: Curiosity
No matter how good the relief and newfound freedom feel, though, eventually the rule causes the dumper to get curious about how their ex is doing.
If you don’t know that the rule is in place, you may wonder why your ex isn’t communicating with you. If you do know it’s in place, you may still wonder how they’re doing and want to text them to check-in.
The unknown will eventually drive you into a spiral of obsession.
Stage 3: Obsession
Right around the time your ex is moving into recovery, you’ll start really missing them and may even grow increasingly obsessed with trying to reconnect. Chances are you will desperately reach out to contact them or find ways to catch their attention — but they probably won’t work.
Stage 4: Fear of Loss
If zero contact lasts long enough, the dumper will find themselves in a state of grief and fear that they’ve lost their ex for good. However, as time continues, the one who dumped their ex will also hit a recovery phase and, hopefully, move on.
Signs the no contact rule works
Obviously the beginning stages of the rule are painful and difficult to endure. However, as time goes on and you enter the recovery phase, you will start to see the incredible benefits that this rule provides.
In fact, a recent article in She’s Single Magazine explores the 5 signs that it's working. Those signs include:
- Your ex trying to reach out to you and asking to reestablish contact
- Your confidence and newfound self-love starts attracting new people
- Your ex becomes more responsive than they were before the breakup
- You no longer feel sad when you think about the past
- Your ex asks to get back together
Of course, what happens at this point is entirely up to you. While some people decide to try it again with their ex, others realize that their ex really wasn’t the right person for them. Whatever you decide is fine, as long as it feels right to you.
Just remember to stick to your guns and don’t let your ex (or anyone else) persuade your decision. Your happiness matters more than anything else, and the ball is entirely in your court.
Is 30 days sufficient or should it last longer?
When people decide to commit to the rule, one of the first questions they ask is, “How long do I need to commit to zero contact with my ex?”
While every relationship is different, A New Mode co-founder Sabrina Alexis says you should commit to at least one month of no contact before you even think about lifting it.
After the month has passed, Alexis says that it’s best to use your own judgment on what feels right.
If your relationship lasted a long time or the breakup was especially painful, a month may not be enough time for you to process things and move into recovery fully. Inversely, if you had already emotionally moved on before the relationship ended, 30 days might be plenty of time.
Before you reach out or respond to your ex’s text messages, sit and ask yourself some questions:
Are you ready to move on? Do you feel like your heartache is healed? Can you talk to your ex without getting angry or emotional?
If the answer to those questions is “yes,” then chances are you’re ready to end the rule and see what happens.
Although I was skeptical when my friend enacted the No Contact Rule after her breakup, I can honestly say that watching her heal from that experience definitely made me a believer.
Is it easy? Absolutely not. But the benefits that come with time far outweigh the few weeks of pain and temptation that you’ll endure. Not only will you heal from the breakup faster, but you also may find that you and your ex can get along in the aftermath of it all.
This rule isn’t for everyone, and you need to weigh your options before you commit.
But if you’re in the early stages of a breakup and feel like you’ll never be able to move on, give it a try for a month or so and watch it work wonders for you.