Post Break-Up Cooling Off Period Vs. No Contact

Question: Yangki, I want to begin by saying this is by far the best relationship blog out there. I had to say that so that my next comment in taken within context. Personally, I think that when emotions are high the chances of making significant progress with your ex is almost non-existent. Communication under these circumstances is likely to make the situation worse rather than better. It may be necessary to have a cooling down period. What do you think?

Yangki’s Answer: I agree 100%. In some situations, it may be necessary to take time to “cool off” before attempting to resolve an issue. But there is a difference between taking some time to cool off and “no contact”.

1. Rule Vs Organic response 

The person doing ‘no contact’ has a set number of days for doing ‘no contact’, and during this period they try as much as possible not to break the no contact rule including ignoring any attempts their ex makes to reach out.

The person taking time to cool off is not following a ‘no contact rule”. The goal of the “cooling off period” is try to process your emotions so you can try to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

There is no specified time period for the “cooling off period”. The preferred approach is to agree on how long  the “cooling off period” should be, but in the case that the two of you cannot come to an agreement, my suggestion is 2 – 4 days, a week at most. There is nothing ‘magical” about 2 – 4 days, it is just that it allows not too little and not too much time to pass before you check-in on each other.

In my eBook Dating your ex I outline how to negotiate and agree on the cooling off period and what to say to your ex if you are the one asking for the cooling off period.

2. Self-protection Vs connectedness

The person doing ‘no contact’ is mostly concerned about self-preservation. They prioritize self-protection goals over connectedness and choose behaviours that steer them away from situations where they might need to trust or depend on their partner (or ex).

The person taking time to cool off is thinking of ways that fulfill connectedness goals. Their biggest concern is preserving the relationship. They understand that any actions they take will affect their partner (or ex) and in turn threaten the current connection and/or future attempts to re-establish or strengthen connection.

When I try to explain to men and women doing “no contact” or strongly leaning towards it the difference between self-protection goals and connectedness goals, some of them can not see the difference. They are so into “me” that they can not see how prioritizing self-protection over connectedness hurts their chances of getting back together, and their chance at a healthy happy relationship.

It’s the ability to understand the difference between self-preservation coping and connectedness that makes some people struggle to balance the tension between emotional closeness and emotional autonomy.

It’s the ability to differentiate between self-preservation goals and connectedness goals that separates individuals with an insecure attachment style from securely attached individuals.

I am not saying don’t take measures to protect yourself, not doing so is irresponsible and reckless. What I am saying is: if you want your ex back, the cost of self-protection should not outbalance the benefits of connectedness.

3. Trigger attachment anxiety Vs. make an ex feel safe

This is probably the biggest difference of all. The person doing ‘no contact’ is banking on ‘no contact’ triggering their ex’s attachment anxiety.

Attachment anxiety is characterized by an intense fear of abandonment and rejection. Individuals high on attachment anxiety (anxious-preoccupied and fearful avoidants) become extremely distressed when separated from an attachment figure. This sets off a variety of panicky contact/connection-seeking behaviours. If the attachment figure is not responsive, the attachment system remains fully or partially activated.

The contact/connection-seeking behaviours of an anxious-preoccupied and fearful avoidant ex gives the person doing ‘no contact’ a degree of satisfaction. They feel vindicated, validated and valued. This is why they ask; “Is my ex missing me?”, “Will not contacting my ex make them think of me?”, “How long before my ex misses/contacts me?”. Etc.

The person taking time to cool off is not trying to trigger attachment anxiety in anxious-preoccupied and fearful avoidant ex. They recognize that they, their ex or both people need time and space to process break-up emotions but do so in ways that do not cause the other more anxiety, distress or anguish. They make the effort to reassure their anxious-preoccupied and fearful avoidant ex that the “cooling off” period is not a rejection, abandonment or punishment for them ending the relationship, and that they are not going anywhere. If at any time the the anxious-preoccupied and fearful avoidant ex the need to reach out, they will be available and responsive.

The “cooling off period” answers the question “What would someone with a securely attachment style do if they wanted their ex back but needed space and time to deal with their emotions?”

And if  you are wondering… YES, someone with a securely attachment style goes through the same pain of a break-up, they just handle it differently, and experience break-ups less frequently.

RELATED: 3 Ways ‘No Contact’ Hurts Your Chances (Attachment Styles)

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  1. says: Gem Worden

    Hallelujah! I am so glad I found your website! You talk complete sense. So many people make out that a break up should be treated like some sort of game! You made me realise that it’s not a game, far from it, and saving what is left of the relationship and moving forward is way to important to be trying to manipulate someone. Thank you!

  2. says: Lea

    Hello Yangki, thank you very much for your articles, they really help. I’ve listened to a lot of coachs preaching for no contact but I think it’s weird.

    I do believe than a cool off period is necessary.

    My ex broke up almost 2 months ago. After I tried to communicate about our issues and asking him to work it out he said “I’ll take some time for myself during the summer and we’ll assess the situation in september, maybe we should not throw away everything”
    So I’m in a forced “no contact” but I’m using this time to improve myself, my anxiety and needy behavior. And get less emotionnal about the break up because I miss him terribly.

    Do you think 2 months is too long for a cool off period? Won’t it be disrespectful of him if I try to contact him earlier?

    Thank you!

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      Yes. 2 months is a very long time for “cool off period”. This is more (as you mentioned) a “forced no contact” situation, in which he is the one doing ‘no contact’ and you are respecting his wish.

      If he specifically said September and you agreed to it, it will not reflect well on you to break that ‘agreement’.

      In my Dating Your Ex book, I recommend trying to negotiate ‘forced no contact’ (also see article: ‘Force No Contact’ – What To Do When Your Ex Wants ‘No Contact’).

      Sometimes an ex will tell you it’s okay to reach out once in a while (or give you specific situations and/or how many times a week). It seems that this is not what happened in you case, so wait until September.