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 cool off down period. What do you think about no contact vs. cool off period after a break-up?
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 “no contact” and a “cool off” period after a break-up.
1. Contrived rule Vs An organic response
The person doing ‘no contact’ has a set number of days for doing ‘no contact’. During this period they try as much as possible not to break the no contact rule. They don’t contact their ex and ignore any attempts their ex makes to reach out. Their main concern is “respecting” the no contact period and making sure that their ex does not “distract” them from ‘no contact”. If their ex contacts them and they respond, it is a violation of the ‘no contact rule”.
A ‘cool off’ period after a break-up is a time to process your emotions so you can try to resolve the issue as soon as possible. There is no specified time period or rule for “cool off” period. The person taking time to cool off tries to communicate:
- How long the “cool off” period” is going to be
- What the boundaries during this time are (is there going to be contact and what kind)
- How you re-engage (who reaches out and where do you go from there)
In the case that the two of you cannot come to an agreement on how long the “cool off period” after a break-up is going to be; my suggestion is 2 – 4 days, a week at most. This is not a reasonable time before you check-in on each other.
The point is for each of you to go into the ‘cooling of period” feeling confident that at such and such a time, you will re-engage and this is how you will do it. You both feel good about it and bot feel that the relationship is safe. The time “apart” will not negatively impact your chances of trying to make things work again.
In my eBook Dating your ex I outline how to negotiate and agree on the cool off period. What to say to your ex if you are the one asking for the cooling off period etc.
2. Avoidance coping Vs connectedness
Someone doing ‘no contact’ is mostly concerned about avoiding feeling the pain of a break-up and chooses avoidance coping to achieve that.
Elizabeth Scott describes avoidance coping—also known as avoidant coping, avoidance behaviors, and escape coping as a maladaptive form of coping in which a person changes their behavior to avoid thinking about, feeling, or doing difficult things.
No contact shields them from situations where they might need to trust or depend on their ex. In addition, it denies them the opportunity to trust themselves to be able to handle the stressful demands of contact with an ex. Most people after ‘no contact’ find themselves feeling even more anxious about contacting their ex. “What do I say?”. ‘Should I reach by text, write a letter or send a short vide message?”
The person taking time to cool off is thinking of ways that fulfill connectedness goals. Their biggest concern is preserving the relationship. You are not necessarily dealing with the problem; but a cooling off period helps you reframe how you approach the problem (hopefully). 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.
It’s this ability to to deal directly with stressful demands that separates individuals with an insecure attachment style from securely attached individuals.
I am not saying don’t take measures to protect yourself; doing so is irresponsible and reckless. I am saying there are better ways to do so than avoidance coping.
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 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’ some 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 cause the other more anxiety, distress or anguish. Most make the effort to reassure their anxious-preoccupied and fearful avoidant ex that the “cool off” period is not them abandoning the relationship or punishment for them for ending it. They are not going anywhere, they just need to briefly step away from the situation. If at any time the the anxious-preoccupied and fearful avoidant ex the need to reach out, they will be available and responsive.
The “cool 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. They also experience break-ups less frequently, because of how they deal with conflict and stressful demands.