No Contact – What To Do When Your Ex Cuts Off Contact

You decided to end a relationship that was not meeting your needs, was emotionally suffocating, deeply troubled (too many arguments and fights) or simply moving too fast in terms of the level of closeness or commitment you are comfortable with, and the next thing you know – your ex has completely cut you off.

They unfriended you, blocked you, won’t respond to your texts and will not pick up the phone. It’s like he/she disappeared off the face of the earth. No warning. No explanation. Nothing.

Should you fall for the “no contact” ploy and pursue someone who is acting like a sulking child who doesn’t know how to take “no”, “not now”  or “slow down” for an answer?

It depends on whether you believe emotional abuse has a place in a healthy relationship. Look, it doesn’t matter how you slice this cake, someone suddenly cutting off all contact in an attempt to get you anxious, fearful, feel rejected, doubt your own desirability, confused and depressed is not acting with love – and you need to recognize it for what it is. Emotional abuse.

When someone uses “silent treatment”, the “cold shoulder treatment” or “no contact” to get you to comply and do what they want, or give them what they want, it’s a behaviour learned from childhood with a parent or key caregiver.

A parent or caregiver denies a child attention, affection or love as a way of punishing, hurting, manipulating or controlling him or her; young, innocent and vulnerable, a child gives in or does as told to regain the parent or caregiver’s attention, affection or love.

A child repeatedly exposed to this kind of emotional abuse grows up thinking it’s the only way to get others to do what you want and give you what you want. But the effect of this form of emotional abuse cuts deeper and creates scars that are far more lasting than most people realize. Most people exposed to this kind of emotional abuse live with separation anxiety, are needy and clingy, have low self-esteem, don’t trust themselves, have problems telling whether someone is interested in them or not, never ask for what they want, are passive aggressive etc.

But most of all, they repeat this pattern of parent-child relationship in their adult relationships because it feels familiar and even comfortable to them. Most don’t think there is anything wrong with with-holding attention, affection or love to force someone to give in to what they would not give in to if they were not emotionally manipulated into giving in.

Some grown-up men and women even believe that withholding attention, affection or love is how you prove that someone really loves you. The more threatened, anxious, rejected, jealous, clingy or desperate he/she feels, the more proof of their love. That’s how sick this is!

A person using “no contact” to make you feel anxious, jealous, clingy or desperate is not doing it from a place of love.

He/she is doing it because he/she needs to emotionally break you to feel in control – just like in the parent-child dynamic they’re so familiar with. The sad part is, many people using this unhealthy and dysfunctional relating pattern are not necessarily bitter or vengeful people out to hurt the person they love. They honestly believe that because it was done to them and it worked, it will work with you too.

It sucks! Doesn’t it?

If withholding attention, affection or love (silent treatment or cold shoulder), or trying to make you feel anxious, jealous, clingy or desperate is something your ex has a habit of doing or has done in the past, “no contact” is just more of the same.

You know what they say: “You teach people how they treat you.” If you take back someone who thinks it’s okay to punish you for ending a relationship that didn’t meet your needs, was deeply troubled (too many arguments and fights) or that was simply moving too fast for the level of commitment you were ready for, you are only re-confirming to him/her that withholding attention, affection or love works.

If you still have feelings for your ex and want to give him/her a chance to break the pattern of dysfunctional relating, send your ex a text or email telling him/her that if he/she doesn’t want anything to do with you ever again, then you understand that he/she needs a clean break to move on. But if he/she hopes to get back together with you someday, “No Contact” is not the way to do it. It’s immature, manipulative and undermines any efforts to have a healthy relationship. If he/she doesn’t see what’s wrong with this approach to resolving conflict, then it’s best that you both move on.

Don’t just say it as another mind game to try to satisfy your own need to regain control. It’s almost guaranteed that at some point, your ex will come up with his/her own mind game to satisfy his/her own need to regain control… The cycle just doesn’t end.

If your ex sees that you are not falling for his/her “cold shoulder” treatment and are really serious about moving on, he/she will be all over the Internet looking for advice on “what to do when my ex contacts me saying he/she is moving on!” Misery does love company, no doubt much of the advice will be, “don’t give in. stick to No Contact” .

If refusing to repeat your ex’s dysfunctional parent-child dynamic does not force your ex to face his/her childhood issues, then nothing will.

You can’t change someone else. The only person you can change is you. Saying “NO!” to emotional manipulation and/or abuse is taking care of your own emotional health, and cleaning up your emotional energy so that you will be ready for a relationship in which you will be treated with the respect, affection and love you deserve.

Keep in mind that not everyone who suddenly cuts off all contact is doing so to break you. Some people use “No Contact” because they believe it’s the best way for them to heal from the pain and move on. You may not like that this is how they choose to move on, but respect their wish. Some day you’ll want someone else to respect yours too.

It’s also possible that you you are being overly emotional, unreasonable, needy or threatening, and your ex (rightfully) feels that ‘no contact” is the only way to get you back to rational behaviour, or out of his/her life. You can’t fault someone for trying to protect him/herself from “too much” emotion.

But since it is sometimes hard to tell whether someone is cutting off all contact to get their way with you or doing so to heal and move on, especially if they don’t let you know, it’s always best to assume that they are moving on and start the process of moving on yourself.

Fair? Probably not. Heartbreaking? Yes. Healthy? YES!

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  • I stopped contact with my ex because I was very hurt and didn’t want to keep arguing, but when I contacted him again and tried to speak to him he was very upset and everything became even worse. I know it wasn’t mature, but I didn’t know what to do. Now we talked again and things are still weird between us, but agreed to talk in a month again to see how things go. At least I feel more relaxed now.

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    • I understand feeling relaxed. But the reality is things will be even more weird in a month’s time. The longer you are disconnected from each other, the more you become like strangers.

      I have mentioned it over and over; people change (believe it or not). Your ex is having new experiences, meeting new people, doing new things etc, which you are not part of. Trying to fit back into his “new life” is harder than most people realize.

      The way I see it, you are both buying time to move on, or he is at least.

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  • We have had no contact since January as per her request. The hard part for me is to accept that someone I shared 3 years with doesn’t want anything to do with me. How can she forget everything we went through just like that? I suppose there is no hope of us getting back together and I need to move on.

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    • Accepting that it may be really over is hard for most people, even when it’s clear it is over.

      I don’t think people easily forget a 3 year relationship, they just make a conscious decision to move on from it. Without contact, it’s hard to tell whether there is hope or not. You are left in a vacuum. Personally I don’t think that’s fair, but again, a lot of things about break-ups aren’t always fair.

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  • It’s strange that you framed the no-contact rule as emotional abuse.
    Did it occur to you that a man resorting to not contacting his ex may sometimes not be doing it to abuse anyone, but simply protecing himself from the unavoidable pitfalls of maintaining contact with a person you were in love with in the first stages after they dump you?

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  • Yangki, thank you I needed to read this. My ex and I went from talking every day to not talking. Today will be 42 days. I never acted needy or angry after the breakup and we both agreed we played a part in the breakup. I don’t know why she initiated no contact and it really hurts mainly because I never thought of her as someone who wouldn’t care. She was always a kind soul and we both cared for each other and even when we had our couple’s fights we were always kind to each other. I miss her so much but is she’s fine without contact, I should be fine with it too. I just don’t know if and when she reaches out I will want to talk to her. I don’t know if I can accept this side of her.

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  • Unlike most others asking questions here I don’t want to get back together with my ex. He cheated two times and things like that aren’t forgotten easily. I don’t feel guilty at all about ignoring him and at this point I don’t think we can be friends either.

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