Question: I’ve read many of your articles and answers and you say no contact hurts the chance of getting back an ex. I think no contact if used properly is way more powerful than you give it credit for. When I broke up with my girlfriend April 09 I went straight n/c for 4 months. No texts, calls, asking friends how she was doing, no checking her Facebook page, no information, no anything. It was very difficult for a while but it got easier with the passing of time.
Then out of nowhere she texted me! She wanted to talk and see if we can work things out. This week she again decided she needs to figure out if I am the one for her. I’m letting her do what she wants but I’m going back to n/c. I’m confident that she’ll contact me again. No Contact is hard but I believe it works well.
Yangki’s Answer: This is what I don’t understand with people who say “no contact worked”. After 4 months of ‘no contact’, she wanted to talk and work things out, and I am sure you were happy and excited that “no contact worked”, but she’s gone again and so now you are back to ‘no contact’. If “no contact worked”, why are you back to “no contact”? What if the same thing keeps happening, do you keep doing “no contact, and for how long before you realize that you are doing the same thing over and over?
I am not saying, you shouldn’t do what you believe works. If you believe that ‘no contact’ works, you should do what you feel is right for you. My role as a coach is not to discourage people who want to do it from doing it. My role is to help those who are not sure if it is the right strategy for them to make an informed and educated decision.
The No Contact Strategy is designed to trigger attachment anxiety
If you are working towards becoming more securely attached, it’s important to know this about no contact.
1) ‘No contact” is an avoidance/deactivating coping strategy meant to help those overwhelmed by break-up emotions distance from the stress-causing event or person so they can move on.
2) ‘No contact’ used as a strategy to get back your ex is designed to trigger attachment anxiety in anxious-preoccupied attachment style (high-anxiety/low-avoidance) and fearful avoidant attachment style (high-anxiety/high-avoidance). These two attachment styles already score high on attachment anxiety and have a fear of rejection and/or abandonment.
No Contact does not work with securely attached and dismissive avoidants
While dismissive-avoidants (low-anxiety/high-avoidance) use “no contact” following a break-up, “no contact” does not work on dismissive avoidants. They score low on attachment anxiety and no contact needs to trigger high attachment anxiety (fear of rejection or abandonment) for it to work.
People with a secure attached attachment style (low-anxiety/low-avoidance) are the least likely to use ‘no contact” and the least likely to be affected by “no contact” because like dismissive avoidants, they score low on attachment anxiety but unlike dismissive avoidants, they score low on attachment avoidance as well.
As a strategy to attract back an ex, ‘no contact’ not only undermines your attempts to become more securely attached:
1. No contact damages the very foundation of a relationship
In the short term, making an ex feel anxious, scared and fearful looks like a brilliant strategy. The fear of rejection and/or abandonment will make your ex contact you and your ex may even come back. In the long term, the damage you create is deeper than you realize.
Once you use someone’s fears against them, it will be very hard for that person to trust that you will always have their back. This is why many people after no contact struggle to emotionally connect and/or get an ex to open up.
Put yourself in your ex’s shoes. You meet someone you think is your person and allow yourself to be vulnerable and confide in them about your childhood abandonment issues. The relationship like most goes south, and next thing you know, they are using the information you shared with them to make you feel worse than how you felt as a child. Would you fully trust that person again? Would you let yourself be that vulnerable again?
Even when your ex comes back, the fear that you will cut off contact and make them feel abandoned the way they felt in childhood will make your ex cautious and unable to fully open up emotionally or fully trust you. Most exes disappear after briefly re-establishing contact and others break-up again soon after getting back together, and for good reason.
2. No contact takes away your control of the situation
Some of my clients who did ‘no contact” prior to signing up for coaching with me have told me that when they cut off contact they felt like they were ‘taking control’ of the situation. But since re-establishing contact, they have felt that their ex controlled the process.
The sense of control you feel when doing ‘no contact’ is short lived at best and an illusion at worst. In reality, when you go ‘no contact’ you are giving up control of not just the situation but also of the process of getting back together.
Here is how you are giving up control of the situation and the process:
1) While you are in ‘no contact’, you can not contact your ex, but your ex can contact you.
Who is in control? The one who controls contact or the one who can’t do anything because they committed themselves to doing nothing?
2) When you commit yourself to a ‘no contact’ period, the goal is that after you complete ‘no contact’, you will reach out to your ex and begin trying to get back together. So far so good. Here is where the illusion of control hits you square between the eyes.
You finally complete the “no contact” period and have your first text to you ex ready to go. You hit “send” and wait. Seconds… minutes… hours… days… weeks…months. No response.
Now who is in control? All that time wasted waiting to contact your ex, you would have found out sooner that you ex does not want you back.
3) Let’s assume that your ex responds. The two of you exchange a few positive texts but struggle to emotionally connecting. Too much time has passed, and it feels like talking to a stranger.
You wasted 1 – 3 months in “no contact’, it’s going to take you another 1 – 3 months, maybe even 4 months to get some real emotional momentum. You have now been broken up for 6 months or more. Realistically, time is not on your side.
My point is, ‘no contact’ is like shutting all the doors, windows, vents, chimneys (all access your ex would use to get to you) and expecting your ex to burst open the wall and come begging you to take them back. Good luck with that!
3. No contact sends confusing messages to your ex
When you cut someone off and block your ex everywhere, the message it sends to most reasonable people is that you want to be left alone or want nothing to do with them. Most people get it. But when out of the blue you contact them 30, 60 or 90 days later acting like everything is cool it can be confusing to many people. Most exes will be like, “seriously?”
I tell my clients: Before you do anything ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?” “Why am I behaving this way?” “How will my actions right now help/hurt me later on?”
If you are doing the opposite of what you want, chances are your actions will hurt you later on.
If you what you want is:
- Your ex back and behaving like you do not want them back, you are hurting your chances.
- Closeness but behaving like what you want is distance, you are hurting your chances.
- Show your ex that you still love and care about them but behaving like you don’t give a rat’s ass, you are hurting your chances.
- For your ex to see that you have changed, but acting like the same old passive aggressive, manipulative, cold, angry and vindictive you, you are hurting your chances.
Not everyone needs to distance themselves from an ex after a break-up
Do ‘no contact’ if you think it works for you. But keep in mind that ‘no contact” only works when attachment anxiety is triggered. If you are working on becoming more securely attached, ‘no contact’ undermines those efforts.
People in relationships that were generally good and healthy, and people who had a no “too much” drama break-ups have no good reason to cut off their ex or distance in order to ‘feel better’. In fact, the opposite is true. Directly dealing with whatever needs to be dealt with may not feel good in the short term, but in the long term, it’s the healthier and securely attached thing to do.
Staying through an emotionally trying situation (especially one you played a role in) when everything in you is telling you to run (avoidance coping) is what builds emotional resilience. It moves you close to becoming securely attached.