The no contact rule: learn what, why, and how long for (and more…)
How many times have you read or been told by someone that the first step following a breakup is to implement the no contact rule?
You might be confused about what precisely this rule means and requires of you, and wonder why it is so commonly recommended.
Learn What, Why, and How Long…
Below I have taken the time to answer the most basic frequently asked questions on the no contact rule. However, be sure to read my warning at the end! It will help you, I promise, because there is a danger to blindly following this rule that few appear to know.
Let’s begin by looking at what this is and how to do it (and how long for!)
No Contact Rule — what is it?
This means no interaction whatsoever with the person you’re using it on.
No interaction means no talking, texting, or instant messaging, and certainly no calling or visiting in person. Nothing at all.
This includes all the forms of communication you could imagine, including texts and posting on social media, such as Facebook, and Twitter, and even includes “liking” status updates, etc.
Taking it further, I would also hold back on commenting about the breakup online. Instead, post about other things you are doing. Not about what you think or feel about the breakup itself! Better still, share happy, upbeat updates rather than about your grief or the problems you have.
Anyway, by completely avoiding contact, as far as your ex is concerned, you will have “disappeared” for a while. Off the radar.
Aside: it is hard work going without contact with the one you love. You will want to reach out and communicate. After all, until recently this was your boyfriend or girlfriend. The special someone that was everything to you.
Why Go No Contact?
Here are three reasons to get you started:
- So you can give yourself time to gather your thoughts, process your emotions, see where things went wrong, and rebuild yourself;
- So you give your ex what they want: much-needed SPACE. After breaking up, they want space from the relationship. Not giving them this can make matters worse for you. If you pursue them, they may react by pushing you away even harder, and further, you risk doing or saying something you may later regret;
- If you give your ex what they want (see my 2nd point above, i.e., space from you) they then have the opportunity to MISS YOU. This can only happen after your ex has fully experienced the consequences of their decision (which you enable by doing the no contact rule thing, see?)
There are other reasons, but the above are the main ones. Pay particular attention to #1 above all others (time to heal).
How Long to Go No Contact?
Well, a few days is too short.
And, a few months is probably too long (though there are exceptions.)
However, a few weeks?
That’s more like it.
2 weeks is OK for some, but at least 3 weeks suits most, usually.
Thing is, I’ve seen many advise a rather specific duration of time: 30 days of no contact.
I guess if I had to give a one-size fits all answer, I’d say the same.
Update: I have made a simple tool you can use to quickly and effortlessly figure out your no contact duration. It’s called the SUMO tool (Shut Up, Make Opportunity.) Just answer three questions, and it’ll tell you how long to stay silent with your partner. Interested? I explain more to my email subscribers. Look for the box at the end of the page. Do not miss it!
Without using my SUMO tool to calculate how long to go no contact for accurately, what I can say is this:
You need to do this long enough to give your ex and yourself ample space. And a few days is not enough. And, one week is likely still too short as well, except for some specific cases (remember, breakups are unpleasant and require ample space for the dust to settle).
Think about it. One week means one Monday, one Friday, and one weekend.
Not enough for most cases.
One month, however? That’s more like it.
So while I couldn’t give you a definitive timeframe here that’s backed up with statistics, you hopefully can see that a few days is indeed too short, and a few months is almost always too long.
(When you hear about those couples who reunite years later, they are not getting back together because of a marathon no contact strategy… that’s a different thing altogether!)
No Contact Period: Contacting Friends and Family of Your Ex?
During the no contact period, most will advise you to stay low even around the friends and family of your ex.
This means not only will your ex not see or hear from you directly, but they will also get minimal feedback indirectly as well (through the proxy of someone else, including friends and family.)
Going without contact is as much for YOUR benefit as it is about creating the conditions for your ex to miss you (we’ll get to that later.) Therefore contact with their friends and family is also generally not done.
Do Not Spy on Your Ex!
While you could keep tabs on your ex without them knowing, it would not be advised.
Commitment to the no contact period includes abstaining from peeking into your ex’s world.
That means if you’re going to do this correctly, you are not to stalk your ex or check out their Facebook profile, etc. even if they’ll never find out about it.
Even if you knew for sure they’d never know, it would not matter because it would be eroding the benefit that no contact brings YOU when you pursue such activities.
When you correctly understand that going without contact is more for your benefit than for anyone else, you will then appreciate the value of tending to your own life over spying on other people.
What to Do During Your No Contact Period?
Most people screw this part up.
If they manage to cease all contact with their ex at all, they still waste this period. They win in one area to lose in another.
By not working on themselves.
This is a huge mistake!
If you leave dirty dishes in the sink, they’re still dirty 30 days later.
People mess up by doing NOTHING.
They sit around, moping, putting their lives on pause.
But this isn’t about waiting! This is not a “no action” time.
Being passive is a big mistake. Please do not wait around for the period of time to end.
I would argue that the most significant benefit and reason to go no contact on your ex is so YOU can take the time and space to reflect on life, on what happened, and work on becoming a better and stronger version of you.
The purpose of the no contact rule is to temporarily make your ex and the drama between you both, distant, so that you can:
- Find relief and rebuild your confidence;
- Use the time to get a plan together;
- Deal with your heartbreak and any anger you have in your own time…
I urge you to take this time to look back over the relationship, over your behavior and the habits so you may identify what you could do better next time.
What could you change or improve that would be better for you regardless of whether or not you succeed to get your ex back after no contact?
What would be better for your ex AND positive and good for you, too?
Do precisely those things during your no contact period.
And I’d be looking at trying new experiences, developing healthy habits, and kicking at least one bad one to the curb.
Use the NC days and weeks to become a better you. That’s the most important thing you can do with this time. If you don’t, you miss out.
Do not sit around and do nothing.
Make an effort during this critical phase of your life, and you will be rewarded one way or another.
You can’t lose when you take that approach.
Do all of this for your benefit, and you’ll also get coincidental benefits, too…
Some of which just happen to help your ex find new reasons to consider giving you both another chance.
Or to reignite what they liked about you in the first place.
That way, when you learn what to do after no contact and meet up, you won’t be the same (or worse) person that they broke up with.
Specific No Contact Rule Instructions
At first it looks like a simple rule: stay away from your ex!
And yet today more than ever, it is anything but simple.
In no particular order…
Don’t Tell Your Ex
Don’t tell your ex you’re “going NC.” Just do it. It’s not a trick you’re performing. You’re just retreating from the relationship to tend to yourself.
If You Bump into Your Ex During No Contact?
If you accidentally bump into your ex during the no-contact period for whatever reason, e.g., perhaps you can’t entirely avoid them (because you work or live with them,) the next best thing to no contact is to use polite contact! Be polite and to the point. Be professional and put aside the history you share with this person just for now.
In fact, one of my clients started no contact 2 weeks ago, and literally just the other day was telling me about his encounter:
Crazy thing happened! I met my ex in public by accident. A true chance-meeting kind of thing (argh!) and I nearly went to pieces. But then I remembered your advice to just be diplomatic and polite…
I said hello with a smile. Nice and simple. And she definitely looked a bit uncomfortable… yet she stopped and returned the gesture. We then spoke for less than a minute, completely amicable and fine.
I think she was surprised I didn’t try to make anything of it, and I feel sure she will be more open to having a chat with me in the future as a result. All in all, what could have been terrible ended up a success! I said goodbye and then continued on with my day!
The point is, if you come face-to-face with each other you don’t have to perform miracles or say something amazing. This needn’t be complicated! Just keep it simple, and move on with your day.
Is No Contact a Gimmick or Trick?
No! Do not see the no contact rule as a “trick” or “tactic.” It is a key step in the how to get your ex back journey, and is more about giving you both the space to reflect and process your emotions.
If you have low willpower, I recommend avoiding alcohol during this difficult radio-silence time (or moderating your intake accordingly) as I often hear from men and women who broke their silence because they got tipsy.
Keep yourself busy and your mind on productive and wholesome tasks!
Should I Do No Contact in a Long Distance Relationship?
When you are in a long distance relationship the no contact rule works and applies just the same.
Just withdraw from the online places you usually meet in (because it helps to prevent temptation taking over.)
The upside to an LDR is you will unlikely “accidentally” bump into your ex during NC…
Should You Date During The No Contact Period?
Dating during the no-contact period can complicate things for you. In general, I do not recommend it.
In fact, if your ex were to have second thoughts about the breakup, and then finds out you started dating someone, your new “love story” may derail your chance of working things out.
Experience shows that dating too soon can distract you from taking on the recovery work. While it feels good to be dating (though not guaranteed!) it can be more of a distraction in the early stages, and will delay your healing journey.
In almost every case the typical time frame followed for the no-contact period is too short to make dating a good idea. In most cases, you should wait longer before dating (when you can do so from a more positive place). Besides, you risk entering a rebound relationship if you act hasty, which is not a solution at all and will only hurt you in the long run.
What if You Break No Contact?
If you give in and contact your ex before finishing no contact? Long story short, you should probably reset and start again.
It’s hard to go cold turkey and ignore your urges, so don’t be hard on yourself thinking you failed. Of course you wanted to speak to the one you love! And, it doesn’t mean you ruined your chances by doing so.
Maybe you just need a little more support to stay on top of this?
Remember to utilize your friend network and family, too. Maybe together you can form a strategy to help keep you on track (it would be great to contact one of your friends each day so you can be reminded of what you are doing here, and so they can give you the energy to stay the course.)
Besides, the second time around will be easier.
No Contact: My Warning
Here’s what so few seem to understand —
If your ex believes you are staying quiet because of some “trick” you read about, they may double-down on their negative opinion of you. Because no one wants to be manipulated! And, even if it’s not true, and you are not doing this as a game, should your ex PERCEIVE it that way or be suspicious, the potential damage remains.
And so, what you gain in one area, you could lose in another. And that’s a real problem.
Many guys and girls focus on tricks and games because they want to control the situation. If you apply the tips from my article on how to make your ex want you back wrongly, for example, you risk your ex believing you are following some prescribed method to manipulate them back into your arms.
You do not want that! It will damage your position.
You will only motivate your ex to stay your ex IF they sense they are being “played.” While the no contact rule is not a trick or gimmick, it could be perceived as one.
Does that make sense?
As such, while most people will recommend that you do not RETURN text messages or phone calls during this time (because that’s the no contact rule) I am one of the few who understands that this behavior can ruin your chances.
You do not want to be perceived as a “jerk” do you?
This is the risk when you ignore your ex.
It is not a nice feeling to be ignored or blanked, the psychology of which is akin to physical pain. And so, if your partner felt the reason they were cut off is because you decided to follow a rule you found online? Yeah… not good!
Use this period as more of a “no initiating contact” phase (which means IF your ex initiates contact then use your brain about whether or not to return contact and respond…) besides, you are going to feel better during this period of time if you look at it this way.
I talk more about the specifics of this in my Ex-Communication Daily newsletter (see below.)
Please understand that the no contact rule is effective yet you still must use your head and consider the implications of what you are doing!
Stay strong. NC is not easy, yet you will feel better for it, I promise. Good luck!