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. Depending on how anxious or avoidant they are, there is crucial window of time in which fearful avoidants (and anxious attachment) go from wanting to get back together to detaching and start engaging with someone else and/or reject your attempts to get them back and show strong signs of anger.
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. They develop what I call “Who needs you?” attitude.
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.
Not only does no contact not work on an ex with a secure attachment, secure attachment exes are also the least likely to use ‘no contact” as a means of getting back an ex. This is because secure attachment don’t see a break-up as an end to any kind of possible relationship. They see no need to disconnect or distance from someone who they may still care about even though the romantic relationship has ended. To them, breakups happen all the time and an ex has a right to walk away from a relationship they don’t want to be in anymore. Someone with a secure attachment style may not agree with an ex’s reasons for breaking up or the manner in which they did it but they accept the break-up.
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.
No Contact Works Differently With A Dismissive Avoidant Ex
Why No Contact Will NOT Work On A Secure Attachment Style
This Is How An Avoidant Ex Reacts When You Reach Out After No Contact
7 Reasons Why Fearful Avoidants Do ‘No Contact’
I refused to do the no contact after her broke things off. I protested my undying love for him! LOL Then I took time to think about what went wrong and out loud. I mean to him in texts and emails. I wanted to know everything he was feeling and what I did to make him unhappy. I then made a game plan to fix my mistakes. I did that with him knowing exactly what I was doing the entire time. He was skeptical but I could tell he was interested in seeing where it goes. I asked to be friend and still see each other. He agreed. He still even got me gifts. He had broke up with me right before Thanksgiving.
I asked to see him once a week randomly. He agreed. I talked about a place he took me to last holiday and he said I will take you there this year if it makes you feel better. So we went. If I didn’t text him every few hours he would check in with me as if he liked me constantly texting him and when I didn’t he worried or was concerned. I fixed my finances, starting training for a marathon again like I use to do, make sure I was always happy when speaking to him and emailed him my game plans and process constantly. I told him I would never give up on “US”. It took three months but we grew a stronger better relationship in those months and it worked.
Congratulations. You put in the work and it worked!!!!
Good for you for recognizing that contact/connection is what works best and fast for an ex high on attachment anxiety. Many people blindly doing “no contact” don’t realize that some exes need constant connection, validation and reassurance to feel, loved, valued and wanted, and respond very well to the approach you took.
Just so people reading this do not run and start doing what you did, I need to clarify that if an ex is high on avoidance, constant contact, validation and reassurance will backfire. It will not work with a fearful avoidant high on attachment avoidance and it will DEFINITELY not work with a dismissive avoidant. But neither will ‘no contact”.
Finding the right balance of contact/connection and respecting an avoidant’s inherent need for emotional distance is the right approach to attracting back an avoidant. But it’s not as simple as it sounds because avoidants often have other unmet emotional needs (often unspoken and unacknowledged if they are dismissive), that if those needs aren’t met and/or they don’t feel the safety and security they need to feel, even the right balance of contact/connection and respecting an avoidant’s need for emotional distance will not work.
Creating a safe and secure environment where an avoidant feels safe to allow you into their inner world, the world they protect with their life literally is the first step. If you can do that, you are pretty much set for success.
I always had my doubts about the no contact rule, it didn’t make sense to me why two people who didn’t fight, have mutual respect for each other and still love each other but have to work on some personal issues have to go no contact.
My ex broke up with me because she did not feel loved and appreciated. I was advised by exgirlfriend recovery expert to do no contact for 30 days. Before that we were texting and friendly, she even called me ‘babe’ and then tried to take it back. We both laughed about it. She also told me she was not saying never but I hurt her deeply and she needed to find and love herself again.
Fast forward to a month and 4 days, I contacted her and she was cold and distant. I think I made her feel the bad memories of not being loved and appreciated with the no contact rule.
Now she has blocked me in every way. I hate myself for doing no contact.
Thank you, I really needed to read this today. 5 years living together and talking everyday and him not talking to me for months really destroys the foundation of a relationship. If someone’s okay with not talking to me for months, then they don’t really need me in their life. This gives me the strength to move on. I can’t see a relationship with him after this.
I hear you. Most people don’t realize that whatever you do, whether it is a fight, a break/separation or break-up, you should never EVER put the other person in a position where they question or doubt your love for them. Once someone questions your love for them, the foundation of the relationship is shaken. This applies both ways.
Some people with a lot of work can heal the foundation of their relationship, but most people can’t. They may even get back together but the damage is done. They keep having one problem after another and don’t understand why they can’t make the relationship work.
I followed all the material with NC and all that for 12 weeks but my ex still won’t talk to me. I texted him on his birthday, “I hope you have a good time.”, never heard back from him. Waited one week and texted him asking him how he was doing and let him know I’m fine. Nothing. Waited another week and then texted him asking him if he wants me to stop texting him. FINALLY, got an email back, “Sorry, I’m busy. I don’t have time to text you.”
I really love him but the fact that he won’t talk to me even after all this time has passed tells me it’s probably better to move on.
Sorry you had to find out the hard way that NC is to allow you to heal and move on, not a strategy for getting your ex back.
You have no idea how happy I am to find some people who dont approve of the NC system for all situations. I tried it and it just started making things worse between us, so I scraped that idea and I am now just myself around him.
While I was trying the NC it just made him feel rejected, he felt awkward to talk to me, and that he was losing his best friend. The last thing I wanted was to hurt him because I love him and I want him in my life. We didnt break up because we hated each other, we broke up because we are in our mid twenties and dont know what we want out of life right now, he wanted time to be single to see what it felt like because he has never had the opportunity to do that. I just hate mind games and that is a tricky mind game that could have really back fired on me.