Why the No Contact Rule Works (and How to Do It)

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It is undoubtedly mentally and emotionally draining to suddenly make the shift from talking to your partner morning, noon, and night to cutting off all contact–especially if you’re not the one who initiated the breakup. Chances are, you will walk away from that conversation feeling like you're still in love with that person and now that you've lost them, you've lost a big piece of your life that you don't know how to move on from.

I’ve been there. I remember being so distracted by feelings of longing and emptiness that the only thing I could focus on was checking my phone every few minutes to see if I had missed a text–with my heart sinking each time I saw my unchanged screen.

While this is hard to see as it’s happening, doing a clean split after a breakup is usually the best way for both you and your ex to heal and move on–whether you were the dumper or the dumpee.

Cutting off contact gives you the time that you need to process the breakup without reverting back to the old feelings that you’ve worked so hard to move past. So whether your ultimate goal is to reconnect with your ex in a platonic way, get back together one day, or to never see them again–the no-contact rule will help it will allow you to move on with your life starting today–because regardless of what you want from your ex in the future, it cannot happen right away.

So in this article, we are going to learn about the no contact rule and how you can use it to get over your ex. First, we will define the no contact rule and then look at some specific reasons why it works. Finally, we will give you a step-by-step guide to using this concept to help you move on after a breakup.

Let’s get started.

What Is the No Contact Rule?

The no contact rule is pretty self-explanatory: it is a period of time that you take to cut all ties with your ex, allowing you both to have the time and space that you need to process your breakup. When implementing the no contact rule, there is no gray area–it means putting an immediate stop to any form of contact, no matter how hard that is to do. This means:

  • Blocking them on social media
  • Deleting and blocking their phone number
  • Getting rid of memorabilia and pictures that you display or otherwise see every day
  • Notifying mutual friends that you don’t want to hear about this person’s current life events at this time

The saying “out of sight, out of mind” has been around since the 1500s, and its meaning is extremely relevant here. When choosing to apply the no contact rule and taking any hint of your ex out of your sight, you can start to reclaim control of your life and the situation and replace your thoughts, actions, and time spent in a way that helps you be the best version of yourself.

Some people say the no contact rule takes 30 days, some say six months, and others say a year is needed in order to properly grieve the end of a relationship. No matter how long you implement it, the no contact rule will only be effective if you’re completely committed to it and you stick with your original plan.

Going cold turkey with your ex is extreme–no one is doubting that. In fact, research done through MRI scans shows that experiencing romantic rejection or going through a breakup has similar effects on the brain as an addict’s drug withdrawal does. So using the no contact rule will certainly be a struggle–but the truth is that this is the fastest and most effective method to use if you truly want to move on from your ex.

Now, if you’re going to put forth all of this effort to hold yourself back from doing what you may really want to do (and what is so tempting to do through the easy access that social media provides us into other people’s lives) then you’re going to need some reassurance that this rule works. Let’s look at some reasons that you can have faith in the no contact rule.

Why the No Contact Rule Works

1. You’re Robbing Your Ex of an Emotional Need

Consider this: When you’re the dumper, you’re in control. You’re stating to your partner that you’re choosing to end the relationship and there isn’t much they can do about it at that point. The dumper is demanding freedom from the relationship’s commitment in order to gain independence and some personal space.

Assuming you oblige and offer your ex the freedom to return to his or her prior state of being (pre-relationship), a shift of power occurs, as you demonstrate the desirable–yet rare–personal qualities of confidence, belief in your worth, and self-respect. Negative memories from the relationship will be erased as you’re giving your ex freedom from a commitment that they think they crave–while their biology says otherwise.

As we know, humans are social beings who have an emotional need for connection with others. The more time passes while practicing the no contact rule, the more your ex will remember the positive aspects of the relationship. Time apart will expedite the healing of any broken parts of your relationship while you’re also using that time to work on yourself. So if/when your ex reaches out in hopes that you’ve been waiting for them to call, you’re in control of what happens next.

2. You’ll Get a Dose of Reality

Your judgment can get seriously clouded when you’re lusting over someone. The oxytocin and dopamine that your body releases makes you feel euphoric around your partner, despite their (in hindsight) questionable actions. When you implement the no contact rule, you will see your ex in a whole new light.

Once that pedestal is removed, you won’t be making excuses for your ex’s behavior–you’ll be able see them for who they actually are.  Maybe the actions that you once excused as being independent now seem incredibly selfish. Or while you may have appreciated your partner’s self-confidence, you're starting to wonder in hindsight if he or she was actually a narcissist. And once you have the time and space to put the pieces together, some of their stories really don’t add up.

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You will see your ex partner in a whole new light when you implement the no contact rule.

This dose of reality that is coming together will help you make better judgements and decisions about who you allow into your life and whether your ex was really a great fit for the long-term. You want someone who doesn’t come with red flags when you’re thinking about committing for the rest of your life, and if you can see some of these warnings in hindsight, you may become thankful pretty quickly.

3.  You’re Breaking the Power Dynamic

When your ex dumps you, he or she holds the power of assuming (maybe correctly) that you will disagree and plead with them to change their mind. This gives your ex power– as they know that they can walk away and test the waters outside of your relationship for a week or two. Then, if the grass isn’t greener on the other side, you’ll be there waiting for them with open arms to come back. They’re assuming that you still want them, but–at least for right now–they don’t want you.

If you don't implement the no contact rule and you keep yourself available to your ex post-breakup, you’re providing them with an ego boost that shows them they can come and go as they please because you’re giving them the power to do so.

But by sticking to the no contact rule, you're breaking that power dynamic. You’re stripping them of their dictator role and putting yourself in control. You’re allowing yourself to experience the presence of other people and you’re taking your ex off of their high horse–especially if they try to reach back out to you and you stay committed to your no contact rule. You gain back all of your power when you choose to be in control.

With these benefits in mind, let’s look at how you can use the no contact rule after your next breakup or if you’re struggling now to get over an ex.

How to Implement the No Contact Rule

1. Recognize Why You’re Doing It

This is a key first step. The no contact rule will only be effective if you’re doing it for yourself. It should be seen as a time to rebuild your independence–not as a way to “get back” at your ex by ignoring and/or blocking them. If your ex reaches out to you during this time, remind yourself that you’re doing this for you, which will help hold you back from responding.

Your wellbeing is more important than your ex. If you allow this other person to define your joy in life, you’re giving up a critical piece of control that only you hold. You owe it to yourself to be selfish with your time and attention in this moment and focus on how you can attract positivity into your life.

While the no contact rule will probably send a clear message to your ex that you’re moving on for now, sending this message in a passive aggressive way shouldn’t be the purpose of your efforts. You aren’t working on self-improvement for your ex, as this will only make you feel trapped and potentially heartbroken in the future. Recognize you’re doing this for yourself–and with the goal of becoming a better person, you’ll be appreciative of your efforts no matter what the future holds.

2. Purge

After your breakup, you’re going to want to return any of your ex’s personal belongings so you don’t have excuses laying around to call/text/meet up with them in the coming weeks.  You should delete your ex from your contacts, block them on social media, and get rid of any reminders of this person that you have laying around.

If your ex has been attempting to initiate contact with you, you should inform them that you’re taking some time away and request that they stop reaching out at this time. Be honest about why you don’t want him or her to call you–that you need some space to move on, heal, and gain some perspective.

3. Live Your Life

It’s time to move on–at least for now. Find your new normal. Do everything that you need to do to make yourself feel good and important. Practice self-care and put yourself first. Now is the time to figure out how you can be happy and confident on your own.

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Do everything that you need to do to make yourself feel good and important.

The point of living your life from here on out is to help you learn that you don’t need your ex in order to be happy. While you’re healing from the breakup, you may miss your ex and you may even want them back, but you don’t need this person to survive.

Obtaining this changed perspective won’t just happen if you’re sitting around the house. Here are a few things you can do:

4. Process Your Emotions

Don’t just try to keep yourself busy to avoid painful emotions. While distracting yourself is helpful so you don’t wallow in your sorrows, you eventually will need to process your breakup and understand what happened. You need to use this time as intended and mentally deal with your breakup.

One study found that those who suppress their feelings about a current failed relationship tend to experience these feelings later, and with more intensity than they originally had. This suggests that it's better to process your thoughts sooner rather than later and try to understand what happened rather than just suppress the thoughts by keeping yourself busy all the time.

Here are some things you can do to help process your breakup:

Final Thoughts How to Implement the No Contact Rule

In this article, we have learned why the no contact rule is so effective and the steps you should take to implement it. Hopefully, if you’re trying to get over an ex, you can effectively use this method to help you grow and move on.

While it might be hard to do this, you ultimately need to trust the process of the no contact rule and believe that while it may feel like a passive way to get over someone, it’s actually a very proactive tool in helping you move forward.

Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.

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Why the No Contact Rule Works (and How to Do It)