does no contact really work?

the no-contact rule works to the extent that it’ll be healthy for you to do it after breaking up. but it doesn’t always work for “getting your ex back.” it can even backfire if you are not careful.

flowchart to answer question: does no contact work

everyone and their mother says the best thing to do after a breakup is to start no contact. most of the time, i tell people something similar (with caveats.)

but how does ignoring your ex help? does it always work? can it backfire?

whether you are following this rule now or are considering it, it’s good to question whether it will work for you in the way you intend it to.

to answer your questions, we will look at:

  1. how the no contact rule became so popular;
  2. when it won’t work
  3. how it can backfire on you

let’s start by looking at how this “don’t talk to your ex” rule got so popular in the first place.

how the no contact rule became so popular

here’s a short parable to explain how this rule became popular:

a newlywed husband and wife are preparing a pot roast for easter.

before placing it into the oven, the wife proceeds to cut off the ends of each side of the meat.

her husband, looking puzzled… asks, “why are you cutting off the ends of the meat, sweetheart?”

with a smile, his wife explains this is precisely what her mother does.

and with that, the rest of their day goes according to plan. husband and wife asleep. bellies full.

the following week, the husband is talking to his new mother-in-law. he is unsure what to talk about. but out of nowhere, he remembers the pot roast they had last week, and so asks —

“erm, could you tell me why you cut off the ends of the pot roast?”

with a short pause, the mother replies —

“because that is how my mum does it. and i never thought to ask why…”

the husband perplexed, smiles, and the conversation changes direction.

now… as luck would have it, his wife’s grandma is still alive…

so after a few weeks, he finally asks his wife to pick up the phone and ask her grandma about her pot roast “cooking method” —

“hi, grandma! i have a question for you:

why do you cut off the ends of the meat, before putting the pot roast in the oven?..”

there’s a pause, and then…

her grandma chuckles. and, her reply is clear and to the point —

“because my dear, in my day we had very small ovens. and so even a small pot roast would not fit. so we’d cut off the ends!”

(…)

and with that, the mystery was solved…

[the end]

what does this pot roast story have to do with the no contact rule?

the reason so many promote this rule is because everyone else promotes it. at one time or another, a “grandma” made it popular to do this, and everyone followed suit.

this is why it became a “rule” that many dare not question.

maybe this rule will work just fine for you.

but you must be ready for the times when it could go wrong for you.

otherwise, instead of being alert and ready to adapt the rules to suit (so you get the best results)…

you end up stubbornly sticking to a rigid rule, making your situation worse and ruining your chances with your ex.

look, it is no mystery why people like to parrot the same advice.

for one, humans don’t like to think if they can help it 🙂 we are designed to follow the path of least resistance.

and i assure you this is happening here.

and this is why most breakup advice tells you the same thing:

  1. you’re told to go no contact;
  2. to do it for 30 days;
  3. to never contact your ex during this time

did you notice that?

it is uncanny.

and it reminds me how wise it is to question the reason-why behind what we do.

because context is everything.

if we blindly copy “the way it’s always been done” like drones, then we may miss something important.

when no contact does not work

according to popular opinion, starting no contact after a breakup is a no-brainer. but, what about for you? well, there are situations when it will not work at all. for example, if you live together, have children, or work together, it is not practical. when you can’t avoid your ex, no contact is not for you.

there are other factors as well…

what if it works, but only if you tweak the instructions to fit your situation?

ah.

the pot roast cooks fine, whether the ends are cut off or not. what matters more is how it is cooked, not whether the ends are removed. unless the situation calls for it (a small oven.)

and, the same is true for whether no contact works or not (meaning: how it is done, not whether it is done or not…)

after mentoring thousands of men and women the world over, i found many situations required a tweak or two. pure no contact was not optimal.

no contact works and does the job mostly. but, it can backfire. and it will if we are not thinking about what we are doing. and so, we must use our brains rather than blindly following a rule without concern.

this is why there is…

a risk with following the rule strictly which i warn my clients about.

the truth is there are caveats to be aware of.

in particular, there is one gotcha frightfully few speak of, which squanders the benefits of no contact.

and, while it would be a bit strong to say it is a secret —in truth— i do not see this particular risk explained out there (shrug.)

so, i have written a short article to reveal it.

i did this for my ex-communication daily subscribers (who get uncommon tips…)

and now i would like to share it with you, too.

so, if you want to know what this risk is so you won’t ruin your chances during no contact?

keep reading.

how no contact can backfire

yes, no contact can backfire and cause more harm than good. to demonstrate the risk, let’s role-play for a second. below, i give the super-short story of “dave and lisa”:

so dave reads for the 10th time the power of the no contact rule and decides to commit.

five days later, lisa pings his phone, asking how he is.

“great,” thinks dave…

“it’s working!”

and just as the articles instruct him, he ignores her.

.

.

fast forward to day 30, dave finally completes nc and sends lisa a “happy memory” text.

and he waits…

and he waits some more.

.

.

silence.

.

.

uh oh. lisa isn’t playing. and dave is now 30 days away from lisa time-wise and has no clue what’s going on.

good job, nc rule!

ok —

now here’s what happened from lisa’s perspective:

day 5: “i wonder how dave is doing.. i think i’ll text him.”

[receives nothing back…]

lisa’s brain: “wow, what a child. he probably is following that lame ‘nc rule’ and thinks he can make me miss him or feel i’m missing out..”

“well, two can play that game!”

(uh oh, dave!)

the end.

hopefully, you now see the risk of rigidly following a rule.

maybe it isn’t so smart to copy what everyone tells you to do?

hmm.

the problem with nc is that while it is a good move for plenty of good reasons…

i’ve noticed too much emphasis is made about never contacting your ex for any reason whatsoever.

(during nc.)

and listen…

i almost give the same advice myself in my private membership program, breakup dojo (with caveats — important ones.)

but what i’ve found?

there really is a risk with how most people do nc (and it is a risk that is entirely unnecessary and completely avoidable.)

and that is:

you can quickly appear petty, small-minded, or even rude to your ex if they contact you and you blank them.

make sense?

worse — if your ex thinks you are using no contact as some “tactic” to “get back at me” with the ultimate goal of winning them back then you’ve really screwed up.

you must not let your ex perceive your actions in this way. does that make sense?

see…

no one likes being played or manipulated.

it doesn’t take a genius to see that if your ex perceives you as “game playing” you will only make your position weaker.

right?

we all know communication is essential for good relations. it is good to talk. and so sometimes you are better off acknowledging your ex and talking. not ignoring them.

so my advice is simple…

if your ex contacts you during nc?

don’t ignore that gesture.

yes, that means “breaking” nc. yes, that means replying.

and on that?

the goal here is to acknowledge them without getting into a deep conversation.

so don’t talk about what went wrong with the relationship, or what you’ll do different “next time” (etc.,) because that would be a mistake.

the point is, we must not give your ex ammo to use against you.

it’s tricky business this…

so…

keep it brief.

will no contact work for you?

as you now know, no contact works but not always and, it must be said, not without risks. you have to think about the signals you are sending your ex (if you plan on salvaging your relationship.)

to repeat —

the main problem i see is people going out of their way to not contact their ex when there are situations where doing that risks painting them as a “jerk” or similar.

you don’t want to do that. it is not going to help you.

(there are exceptions, provisos, and a bunch of conditions a-plenty to consider of course, making nc a potential minefield to navigate. and hopefully this article sheds a light on that.)

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About the author: i’m a relationship coach specialising in breakup recovery. i’ve been doing this for 12+ years helping thousands worldwide. i created the Breakup Dojo, a popular program with over 1,000 members. i’ve authored several in-demand breakup recovery products, drawing from my deep fascination with psychology. i also publish the “ex-communication” newsletter that’s packed with actionable advice to over 10,000 subscribers worldwide.