How To Respond To Your Ex’s No Contact Rule

how-to-respond-to-your-ex-no-contact-ruleYou decided to end a relationship that was not meeting your needs, was emotionally suffocating, deeply troubled (too many arguments and fights) or simply moving too fast in terms of the level of closeness or commitment you are comfortable with, and the next thing you know – your ex has completely cut you off.

They unfriended you, blocked you, won’t respond to your texts and will not pick up the phone. It’s like he/she disappeared off the face of the earth. No warning. No explanation. Nothing.

Should you fall for the “no contact” ploy and pursue someone who is acting like a sulking child who doesn’t know how to take “no” or “not now” for an answer?

It depends on whether you believe emotional abuse has a place in a healthy relationship. Look, it doesn’t matter how you slice this cake, someone suddenly cutting off all contact in an attempt to get you anxious, fearful, feel rejected, doubt your own desirability, confused and depressed is not acting with love – and you need to recognize it for what it is. Emotional abuse.

When someone uses “silent treatment”, the “cold shoulder treatment” or “no contact” to get you to comply and do what they want, or give them what they want, it’s a behaviour learned from childhood with a parent or key caregiver. A parent or caregiver denies a child attention, affection or love as a way of punishing, hurting, manipulating or controlling him or her; young, innocent and vulnerable, a child gives in or does as told to regain the parent or caregiver’s attention, affection or love.

A child repeatedly exposed to this kind of emotional abuse grows up thinking it’s the only way to get others to do what you want and give you what you want. But the effect of this form of emotional abuse cuts deeper and creates scars that are far more lasting than most people realize. Most people exposed to this kind of emotional abuse live with separation anxiety, are needy and clingy, have low self-esteem, don’t trust themselves, have problems telling whether someone is interested in them or not, never ask for what they want, are passive aggressive etc.

But most of all, they repeat this pattern of parent-child relationship in their adult relationships because it feels familiar and even comfortable to them. Most don’t think there is anything wrong with with-holding attention, affection or love to force someone to give in to what they would not give in to if they were not emotionally manipulated into giving in.

Some grown-up men and women even believe that with-holding attention, affection or love is how you prove that someone really loves you. The more threatened, anxious, rejected, jealous, clingy or desperate he/she feels, the more proof of their love. That’s how sick this is!

A person using “no contact” to make you feel anxious, jealous, clingy or desperate is not doing it out of love. He/she is doing it because he/she needs to emotionally break you to feel in control – just like in the parent-child dynamic they’re so familiar with. The sad part is, many people using this unhealthy and dysfunctional relating pattern are not necessarily bitter or vengeful people out to hurt the person they love. They honestly believe that because it was done to them and it worked, it will work with you too.

It sucks! Doesn’t it?

If withholding attention, affection or love (silent treatment or cold shoulder), or trying to make you feel anxious, jealous, clingy or desperate is something your ex has a habit of doing or has done in the past, “no contact” is just more of the same.

You know what they say: “You teach people how they treat you.” If you take back someone who thinks it’s okay to punish you for ending a relationship that was not meeting your needs, was deeply troubled (too many arguments and fights) or that was simply moving too fast for the level of intimacy you were comfortable with, you are only re-confirming to him/her that withholding attention, affection or love works.

If you still have feelings for your ex and want to give him/her a chance to break the pattern of dysfunctional relating, send your ex a text or email telling him/her that if he/she doesn’t want anything to do with you ever again, then you understand that he/she needs a clean break to move on. But if he/she hopes to get back together with you someday, “No Contact” is not the way to do it. It’s immature, manipulative and undermines any efforts to have a healthy relationship. If he/she doesn’t see what’s wrong with this approach to resolving conflict, then it’s best that you both move on.

Don’t just say it as another mind game to try to satisfy your own need to regain control. It’s almost guaranteed that at some point, your ex will come up with his/her own mind game to satisfy his/her own need to regain control… The cycle just doesn’t end.

If your ex sees that you are not falling for his/her “cold shoulder” treatment and are really serious about moving on, he/she will be all over the Internet looking for advice on “what to do when my ex contacts me saying he/she is moving on!” Misery does love company, no doubt much of the advice will be, “don’t give in. stick to No Contact” .

If refusing to repeat your ex’s dysfunctional parent-child dynamic does not force your ex to face his/her childhood issues, then nothing will.

You can’t change someone else. The only person you can change is you. Saying “NO!” to emotional manipulation and/or abuse is taking care of your own emotional health, and cleaning up your emotional energy so that you will be ready for a relationship in which you will be treated with the respect, affection and love you deserve.

Keep in mind that not everyone who suddenly cuts off all contact is doing so to break you. Some people use “No Contact” because they believe it’s the best way for them to heal from the pain and move on. You may not like that this is how they choose to move on, but respect their wish. Some day you’ll want someone else to respect yours too.

It is sometimes hard to tell whether someone is cutting off all contact to get their way with you or doing so to heal and move on, especially if they don’t let you know. In this case it is best to assume that they are moving on and start the process of moving on yourself.

Fair? Probably not. Heartbreaking? Yes. Healthy? YES!

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324 Comments

  • I stopped contact with my ex because I was very hurt and didn’t want to keep arguing, but when I contacted him again and tried to speak to him he was very upset and everything became even worse. I know it wasn’t mature, but I didn’t know what to do. Now we talked again and things are still weird between us, but agreed to talk in a month again to see how things go. At least I feel more relaxed now.

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    • I understand feeling relaxed. But the reality is things will be even more weird in a month’s time. The longer you are disconnected from each other, the more you become like strangers.

      I have mentioned it over and over; people change (believe it or not). Your ex is having new experiences, meeting new people, doing new things etc, which you are not part of. Trying to fit back into his “new life” is harder than most people realize.

      The way I see it, you are both buying time to move on, or he is at least.

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  • My ex contacted me saying he still loves me after ignoring my several texts for 10 weeks. When I didn’t respond he sent me texts saying he wanted know how I am and whats going on in my personal life. I never answered his texts to make him feel better for what he did. After a month of trying to get me to answer the texts stopped. he will probably text me again after 10 weeks but I still won’t answer. Life is too short to waste on immature games and it was an unhealthy relationship.

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  • My ex sent me this article, now I see why. She has a point. Thanks you for making me realize what I was doing with NC was destroying our relationship.

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  • When people break up for a good reason, it is usually forever. Attempts at contact are generally self serving and pointless. You can’t remain “friends” with someone who gave up on you and decided they were better off without you in their life.

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    • I am sure you are speaking about YOU. I can’t argue with that. You may be right that in your case it’s pointless to stay in contact… may be your breakup is forever.

      However, if you read stories on this blog, you’ll see that others have a whole different experience. Staying in contact made a huge difference, and for some, staying in contact is the main reason they got back their ex.

      Different folks, different stories.

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  • I didn’t try to stop my ex’s no contact and never contacted her in the 6 weeks she was in no contact. Now she’s mad that I didn’t try to get her back and texting me telling me she’s so over me but obviously she’s not. Why else is she mad that I didn’t try to get her back? She made it clear she wanted nothing to do with me when she initiated no contact, all I did was follow her lead.

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    • She’s mad because you didn’t try to stop her no contact. She had expected you to contact her to validate her reasons for doing no contact (make you miss her) but since you didn’t contact her she’s upset that you didn’t miss her.

      You getting all upset isn’t worth it. If you don’t want her back, then just let it go. If you want her back, then try to work things out instead of playing “who is more mad.”

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  • I was abandoned by my mother when was 3, I am 38 years old but it still has effect on me. I will give you space if you ask for it but when you cease all contact after only one attempt to reach them to see if they are okay, I don’t contact them again even if they later contact me.

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  • Secure people will understand, and support your need for space, once you communicate that your space is necessary to your self-care and well being. After a certain amount of time has passed, they will check to see if you want to resume communication. BUT if you continuously ignore and not communicate at all, eventually after a couple of attempts, the secure person assumes you’re just not interested and they’ll go about their own thing. Why would I continue to contact someone who’s not interested?

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    • I agree with everything you said. I wish more people would understand that most grow-ups understand the need for space, but you have to clearly communicate to them why and what to expect. Just cutting someone off and ignoring them for long periods of time is so childish.

      At a certain age, most of us don’t have tolerance for “high school behaviour”.

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