Question: How is no contact cruel and does it hurt my chances of attracting back my ex?
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 early April and I went straight no contact 30 days. No texts, calls, asking friends how she was doing, no checking her Facebook page, no information, no anything. Then out of nowhere she texted me! For 3 weeks things were really great but 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 no contact. No Contact is hard but I believe it works well. I’m just curious to know why you think no contact hurts my chances from attachment theory perspective?
Yangki’s Answer: First of all, 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 no contact 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.
In your case even if you say “no contact worked’, it’s obvious it didn’t work if you’re going back to doing no contact. In your own words, after 30 days 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 going “no contact, and for how long before you realize that you are doing the same thing over and over; and getting the same result?
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.
Does no contact hurt your chances? Yes, in so many ways than many people realize.
1. The no contact rule is a cruel strategy especially used on someone with an anxious attachment
No contact is a 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. This is a healthy use of no contact.
No contact is a cruel strategy for getting back an ex because it’s designed to trigger the fear of rejection and abandonment. People with an anxious attachment become distraught and panic-stricken when an ex doesn’t respond or goes no contact. This is because “no contact anxiety” triggers feelings of rejection and abandonment someone with an anxious attachment experienced in childhood and activates their attachment system. The activation of the attachment system cause someone with an anxious attachment to frantically seek reassurance and validation and to try to re-establish connection. The more reconnection is denied, the more hyperactivated someone with an anxious attachment becomes.
Intentionally triggering someone’s attachment trauma is cruel whatever the reason for doing it. But most people don’t see how cruel no contact is because no contact is such a common strategy for getting back an ex that most of us have come to accept it as the “rule”. But just for a moment imagine your ex in a vulnerable moment showing you a scar of an injury from childhood. They also tell you that even if it’s a long time ago, it makes some movements hard and painful. And you have witnessed them in pain a few times. Would you if they broke up with you intentionally punch their scar to make them feel pain? Would seeing them in intense pain make you feel vindicated and justified since they broke up with you? Would you be asking “how do I make my ex feel even more pain?”, “How long will it be before my ex stops crying and reach out?” Etc.
Our childhood attachment trauma and attachment wounds and scars are invisible to the eye. And many of us don’t even realize that we have these wounds and scars until something like a break-up happens, and we feel the attachment trauma in real time.
Attachment theory is like an x-ray that shows the wounding and scaring that affects how we act in close and intimate relationships. We can either use the knowledge and insight from attachment theory to trigger attachment trauma in real time or or use it for healing for both ourselves and the people we love and care about.
In the short term, making an ex feel rejected and abandoned seems like a brilliant strategy but the long term damage of no contact hurts your chances in ways you may not realize until it’s too late. When you reach out after no contact, the attachment damage is done.
2. No contact does not work with all attachment styles
Attachment theory has gained so much attention and become more relevant over the years because the strange situation experiment mirrors adult romantic break-ups and attempts to reunite with an ex.
In the strange situation that first introduced the world to “attachment styles”, Dr. Mary Ainsworth did a test to understand how different children react to separation and reunion with the attachment figure, in this case the mother. The mother was asked to leave the room briefly and a stranger who had previously interacted with the child in the mother’s presence was re-introduced to the child and tried to interreact with the child in the mother’s absence. The mother then returned and the stranger left.
Anxious attachment: Anxiously attached children were inconsolable when separated from the mother, were angry with the mother for leaving but still sought comfort from the mother.
This is similar to how exes with an anxious attachment feel and act when you go no contact. They’ll remain preoccupied with the break-up and reconnection with their ex even in no contact. They may also go into protest behaviour because of separation anxiety but ultimately feel soothed when an ex reaches out or comes back.
Fearful avoidants: Anxious-avoidant children found separation from the mother distressing and confusing and acted conflicted and fearful when reunited with the mother.
This is how no contact affects fearful avoidants. It provokes anxiety and confusion and makes them conflicted and fearful of losing an ex and also fearful of getting close.
Dismissive avoidants: Dismissive avoidant children showed little to no separation anxiety and didn’t seem to need any comforting when the mother left or returned.
When you go no contact or stop contacting them, a dismissive avoidant ex will notice it but not be affected by it the way no contact affects someone with an anxious attachment or even fearful avoidant attachment style. It doesn’t mean they don’t notice your absence, they do, but dismissive avoidant sub-consciously (and consciously) choose not to be bothered by an ex going no contact.
Secure attachment: Securely attached children experienced distress but were able to regulate their emotions and feelings because they were confident of their attachment figure’s love and care.
This is how exes with a secure attachment feel and act when you go no contact. They’ll not chose to go no contact but if you ask for it or decide not to contact them, they’ll accept it as something you need and respect your wish not to be contacted. When you reach out, they’ll decide how they feel at the time whether they want to reopen the lines of communication or leave things as they are – and will communicate their decision with you and not just ignore you.
People with a secure attached attachment style are also the least likely to use ‘no contact” as a means of getting back an ex. A secure attachment style is about providing security and not triggering insecurity. Dismissive avoidants on the other hand although not affected by ‘no contact’ may use no contact to create even more distance with an ex.
If you’re working towards becoming securely attached, triggering insecurity in an anxious person undermines secure attachment. The question you ask yourself before doing no contact is, “What would someone with a secure attachment style do if they wanted their ex back, but needed space and time to deal with their emotions?”
3. No contact sends confusing messages to your ex
When you cut 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 no contact will hurt your chances.
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.
Making an avoidant feel safe should be your number one priority
Making each other feel safe should be the short-term and long-term number one priority of both individuals with an anxious attachment and avoidants. No contact “to make an ex miss you” is doing the exact opposite of making an ex feel safe – and may even damage any confidence or trust your ex may have in the connection you once had.
1) An anxious attachment ex who already is scared of separation will feel unsafe trying the relationship again with someone can easily cut them off and leave them feeling abandoned.
2) An avoidant ex who already has fears about coming back after being apart will feel unsafe coming back to someone who has a hard time dealing with separation (which avoidants need from time to time).
3) Even when “no contact” works to get back an ex, the anxious-avoidant dynamic doesn’t change. The relationship continues to struggle because neither person learned how to create safety for the other or is trying to make the other feel safe – and most people end up breaking up again.
But whether or not you should do no contact is a decision you’ll have to make for yourself. I’ve worked with so many people who say, “I don’t regret doing no contact” even when it’s obvious that no contact hurt their chances and they’re unlikely to get back their ex because no contact created more distance and resistance.
Does going no contact make you a bad person? No. I don’t believe so. I think most people who go no contact to get back their ex do it because “everyone advices no contact”. Most are hurting, and some desperate and no contact is so popular that it seems like the only thing to do.
Here’s the thing, when you are hurting or desperate you are only focused on how you feel and what can make you feel better. This in itself is not a bad thing, but if in the process of protecting yourself you make your ex feel insecure and unsafe, you will have a hard time getting them to feel safe enough to want to come back, and stay.
Dr. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Attachment theory confirms that we never forget how unsafe and insecure someone made us feel. Even so years later, we never forget how our parents or attachment figures made us feel. How we felt plays out in our relationships over and over, until we consciously our attachment style to secure.