How To Communicate With An Ex After The No Contact Rule

Going “no contact” after a breakup is never as simple as it seems. Abruptly cutting communication and depriving ourselves (and our exs) of the routine of each others presence will usually catalyze the need to talk rather than diminish it. At least in the short-term.

But before you dive head-first into an awkward oh-hey-its-me conversation filled with heart-thumping silences, it will pay to consider the situation as objectively as possible. For instance…

Time is your friend

The most common fear regarding no contact is that our exs will simply forget about us and move onto something new. And while this can happen, this is exactly why we need space and time to begin with.

The more time we give no contact, the greater our capacity to see the relationship and our feelings objectively.For example, if all it took for them to move on was a little time apart, at the very least you now know how deeply their commitment and feelings really ran. Seeking truth over comfort is never fun, but is nevertheless necessary for functional reconciliation.

No contact is primarily a way of healing from dependency. It’s about us, not them. Giving it time will eventually allow us to get to an emotional place where needs are turned into wants.

If we use no contact (as many do) as a way to starve our ex of attention, so that they contact us out of fear or pain, we are going to lose. They will either return out of emotional trauma (and the reasons why you broke up will remain) or they will see through the manipulative smokescreen and allow their pride to propel them to greener pastures.

Bear in mind that no contact is just a guide, it is not a “get your ex back” gimmick, it is not a magic bullet. If your ex is resentful or confused by no contact telling them the reason why you enforced it will ease both your, and their pain. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

How to communicate after no contact

Distance will catalyze confusion, and that “connection” you had may have frayed at the edges. I say this because contacting an ex after NC is often fertile terrain for misinterpretation and over-analysis.

Don’t let fear of rejection or resentment compel you to write mixed messages. Be clear and concise regarding your intentions (prompting them to respond in kind). Also, for the love of all that’s holy, strip all traces of resentment and tension from your messages. While you feel that they may deserve a figurative spanking, I absolutely guarantee they will also carry their own indignation close to their chest. Do not engage in nihilistic blame games.

If you do choose to contact (ideally after a lengthy period of time), do so only if you are willing to declare a general amnesty and start from scratch. Keep the tone even and light-hearted, but direct and concise.

If your attempts at contact are rewarded with silence, bear in mind that is also an answer.

Don’t push to tie loose ends. It is at these times when the value of your no contact will really begin to shine, because it will have actively prepared you for rejection. If you have allowed enough time to pass the silence will sting, but not nearly as much had you masqueraded as a friend or as a backseat driver in their life.

However, if your ex is open to negotiation, here are a few ways to go about it:

  • Write your first message on an impersonal platform (such as E-mail) to reduce the jitters, and make it easier for them to answer honestly.
  • Keep the message open-ended, so as to encourage a reply.
  • Be as clear as possible. They might think you hate them. Remember; they probably have no idea how you feel at this point in time. If you make it easy for them, most of the time they will make it easy for you.
  • Escalate contact to more personal methods as time goes by. If your initial message is positive (i.e they answered), try to call or meet face to face and see how they take it. Obviously, this shouldn’t be done impulsively or disrespectfully. Take it slowly, but keep building.
  • Ignore resentment, anger and manipulation. See them for what they are and do not respond in kind. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t get heated.

No contact is just a phrase

At the end of the day no contact is just a tool, and should never be taken as law. You will not jeopardize your chances for breaking no contact (unless you overdo it). After-all, if reconciliation is to take place down the line, contact is the only way that is going to happen!

Images courtesy of Imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15 Comments How To Communicate With An Ex After The No Contact Rule

  1. Camilla

    Hi! So my ex wrote me after 3 months of NC. He wrote a textmessage about how I was doing, and if I wanted to meet up. And that he hoped I didn’t hate him, he definitely didnt hate me.
    I still really miss him, and I know I can’t be his friend. However I don’t see how a reconciliation is possible, if I’m not going to meet him? I wrote him back, that I couldn’t be ‘just friends’ with him, but I was sure that we would meet again someday. It took him a day to answer, and he answered: I’m really happy for you, (answer for how I was doing) and I hope you’re right.
    So… I’m not sure if I did the right thing. Maybe I should have acted cool and in that way getting closer to him. Or should I just hope that one day faith will make us meet again?

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hi Camilla, that’s our collective timeless conundrum from hell. No matter which way you go you risk pain and false hope.

      I don’t think there is a right answer here, since the answer would depend on an intention that is undecipherable. It could be a sign he is interested romantically, or it could be a sign he wants to make peace (potentially also to eradicate guilt) with a person he cares deeply about (sans the intention to reconcile).

      Personally though, I agree with your establishing of a no-friends zone immediately. Implied in that sentiment is obviously that you wish to protect yourself from further emotional hurt. Meaning: there are still some feels involved. Should he miss you romanticalley a great deal, this disclosure may prompt him to up the ante. But obviously, there are no guarantees.

      But that is about as far as I would go. He’s cast a preliminary permissable hook into the water, but now it is time for him to either take stock of his intent by manifesting it transparently, or allow you to get on with your healing, without confusing you or reseting the cycle of grief.

      This is all, of course, assuming he broke up with you.

      Should the banter persist, and it isn’t clear, I would put the foot down for myself and err on the side of healing, rather than that of the off chance he may be interested. You have indirectly told him you still feel something to him, and it is now up to plow through his own uncertainty if he wants to know what it is.

      In short, its business as usual. For now put it down to his desire to reconcile feelings of guilt rather than love. I would resist the urge to over analyze his intent, as it will propel you back in the cycle of grief, and possibly also cause resentment as well. As things stand, his well wishings may still mean romantic nothings, but it is still a selfless act that shows he cares.

    2. Anonymous

      He asked you to meet up too soon. If he would have just said hi that day and then slowly texted you every other day the out come would have been much different. If he would of just been a friend’s at first then hangout 8 days later and still slowed down the process after that things might of been different. He didn’t approach you the right way and that’s why you felt like your back was up against the wall.

  2. Camilla

    Thank you, you make the whole situation more clearer..
    But! He wrote me again last night, about my new apartment. He said it was a nice place, and concluded that this time would be better because it was on my own premises and I was not going to live with two guys (before the breakup I lived with him and his friend). This was the reason he broke up, I was unhappy living with them and were a pain in the ass (if I should say it myself). Well.. I was surprised that he took the whole situation up for a talk. I wrote back that I thought it would be better because of my own attitude, and that it never were the two of them that were the problem. He wrote back that he understood me leaving my apartment, friends and family to live with them were difficult, and that he was happy that I didn’t blame them.
    I ended the conversation after that, but it really made a mess in my head. He couldnbe writing out of guilt or simply just as a friend.. It’s like starting over with the NC, but more difficult because we’re now ‘friendly’. I want to see him, but I know it could make me even more confused. However I don’t think he thinks a reconciliation is way out, but I have to be very careful. So I bet NC is for the best!?

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Ah, well there you go. He did up the ante slightly. But its still a game of smoke and mirrors.

      Yes, I would still stick to a form of limited contact. Unless he is able to give you a clear interpretation of his intent — I would minimize the small talk. I do still think it might be a case of latent guilt, or doing what he feels he must in order to move on without undue remorse. If this is the case, it is unfair to you as his recovery comes at your expense (he gains clarity while you tumble down the ladder of grief).

      It bears remembering that there never really is “closure”. And that communication, if it remains in the grey area, will only ever lead to more questions than answers. If the banter continues without any kind of escalation, do what it takes to live in a world of absolutes (yes or no) without feeling guilty. If you were forced to weather his breakup, then he must accept your right to healing. Don’t allow feelings of “friendliness” make you compromise your own emotional well-being. After-all, he didn’t compromise about breaking up and doing what he did for his own fulfillment (and he has every right to do so), so neither should you.

  3. Camilla

    Hi again!
    I ran into my ex this Saturday. I felt surprisingly on the top, and even though I thought about it afterwards, it was not as bad as I imagined. He told me that he’s been working 60 hours a week the whole summer, and “nothing much has changed”.
    He wrote me later that night, that it was nice seeing me again even though he was not prepared, and if he could help me with something I should just call him, and if not then good luck with everything.
    I answered him the next day, that he could stop by to see the new apartment if he wanted to. (I don’t know if it was too much too fast)
    He wrote back that he would love to, and he was back in town on Thursday.

    So now we have some kind of a meeting sat up, I just really don’t know where to go from here. Should I be honest about my feelings or just let him run the show? I really don’t know what’s he’s thinking. I don’t want to push anything, since I know I’m not quite over it. I know we have to take it slow if there is any chance of reconciliation, but how slow?

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hi again Camilla,

      If you were fast in offering a meetup, he was also fast in accepting, so don’t overthink it too much. Go with it. The great thing about a face-to-face is that you will have a far better understanding of his intent (by including body language into the picture) after the fact.

      I just really don’t know where to go from here.

      Not knowing is the only sane conclusion, because you can’t know what his intentions are. I know it is frustrating and can lead to stress, but try to shred any questions and re-assess both your intentions and his after the meetup. Right now, it could mean anything, from him trying to relieve guilt, quell emptiness or want to reconcile.

      I also wouldn’t rush things when you do meetup. Treat it as a fresh start. As if he was a new romantic prospect. Which also means keeping your emotional barriers high.

      Enjoy the face-to-face, don’t attach any expectation to it (if you can), and see what happens!

  4. Camilla

    Once again I have to turn back to you!
    Lots of things have happened, and we’ve both been confused. He’s not sure how he feels, he knows he loves to be with me (yes, he used those words) but yet he feels like he’s missing the butterflies. I know I have the butterflies and I know I want to be with him, but I’m feeling its going too fast. So while we’re both confused, we decided not to see each other in some weeks. Or I decided that. He got sad and annoyed about the fact, that we couldn’t hang out.
    I just don’t want to get hurt once again. He doesn’t know if he ever wants a relationship with me again and he doesn’t know if he’ll ever get the butterflies again. In my opinion he won’t, wouldn’t he be sure about it now? Can you just change your mind if we keep seeing each other, like he wants to?
    I told him I would write him when I was ready. It’s a week ago today, I miss him, but at the same time, I know it would only end up hurting me if I acted like everything was okay and were his platonic friend.

    My question is if, in your opinion, it’s possible to fall in love again if he didn’t already? He says the history in his back mind, and he’s afraid it’ll end up the same way. He also says he’s willing to ‘try’ to get that spark again, but is it worth it for me? Shouldn’t love be something you never doubt about or is it just a girly dream view of love?

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey again Camilla,

      Yes, I’m personally certain it’s possible to fall in love again with the same person (it has happened to me). However, you are right in being a little wary of hanging onto these kinds of expectations.

      I wouldn’t base reconciliation completely on “the butterflies” personally, or at least not everything. The state of feeling “in love” (the butterflies) is, as far as I’m concerned, less important than love itself, which may not necessary manifest itself as an ideal, but instead as the desire to simply enjoy someone’s company (without any emotional fanfare). Check out this article for my take on the three stages of love, and how the differ psychologically and chemically.

      The fact that he wants to spend time with you is great. A better indicator of what his current intentions are would revolve around what he seems to get out of your company. Do you make him smile? Do you ease his mind? Do you make him feel comfortable? Why is he choosing your company in his free time instead of someone elses?

      Call it my down-to-earth and blunt manly view of love, but if reconciliation is what you want, I would trust concrete action over idealism (at least for now). The fact that he wants to spend time with you (the action) is great. But, as you have been doing, slowing the process down is a great way to see whether his missing you is genuine or whether it is borne out of loneliness or other destructive needs.

  5. Camilla

    Here I am once again! First of all; thank you for this website and all your advices. It really helped me through a lot when I was sad but also at this time, when reconiliation actually is something I can believe in.

    We had some time apart (two weeks) and then we started the whole “lets see if this could be something”. The two weeks apart made my ex think, and he told me that he was IN love with me and wanted to be with me and only me. But he didnt feel ready for a relationship (and neither do I), but we have been seeing each other to see if it the outcome could be a relationship anyway.

    This saturday he heard about a woman who’d been seeing a man for 11 months, and he still didnt want a relationship. He came to me with bad conscience and wanted to talk about “us”. He still didnt want a relationship, and he didnt know if he ever would. He said he knew he was in love with me, that the time we’ve been seeing each other, he felt much more happy and he didnt wanted to be with anyone else and la la la.

    I just don’t know what to do. We both want to see each other, but we both know that I have more feelings in it than him. I don’t want to stop it, but at the same time I feel like I’m putting myself out there. Is it becoming unhealthy for me, or do you think there’s still a chance he might want a relationship one day? Would a ‘deadline’ help? I don’t think you can set a timelimit on it, but we’re both really confused on what to do. I know he WANTS to want a relationship, but he says he old relationship is still too close and the bad feelings still ‘hunts’ him sometimes.

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey Camilla,

      You’re right to be skeptical, I’m not a firm believer in words, it really is far too easy to say all kinds of things aimed at preventing you from moving on. If he truly was in love with you, there would not be a moment’s hesitation in attempting to act on his desire and repairing the romantic side of things.

      He may well have strong feelings, but unless he is willing to demonstrate this with commitment (or at the very least a minimum of relationship structure out of respect for you) there’s very little we can dig our teeth into here.

      I think a deadline would help only in that it would force him to come to a decision, and not just string you along so he can get over it knowing that you are there should things not pan out for him. The important thing is that you shut down any attempt at maintain in a romantic “grey area” (in my opinion). Establishing a time-frame is a respectful way of doing just that.

  6. Sok

    Camila,

    I was reading your comments and this is my opinion. Excuse me if i am rude for interfering.

    You are not seeing things clearly because you are in love and because you are going through emotional trauma. That is blurring your vision. There are 2 people here. You know what you want and he doesn’t know what he wants. But in the same time he knows that you are somewhere there and that he can take his time to decide. The end might be very ugly for you…so after making attempts to come to agreement..you must take your time now to distance yourself emotionally from this. Otherwise, you are taking the risk to get very hurt in the end and with crushed ego and dignity.

    I always think that people should fight for love and every case is unique. None of us knows what is happening between two people, but the best approach is to get out of the picture until he sorts things out with himself. Because he knows how you feel and he knows that he can have you whenever he wants. He can have second thoughts and without experiencing consequence of his behavior. And you must put a limit to that and make him to experience real life without you. Tell him that nicely and backup completely. Show firm and don’t fall on first sweet word. I know that its hard to do it, but you must do it for your own sake. Take time and when he calls, don’t answer, disappear from the earth.

    People always say that we don’t need the ones who want us when they can’t have us anymore. I think that it can be partially true. But it is also in the human nature to take things that are around us for granted and to realize their real worth only when those things are gone. Also, based on my own experience and looking at the others, i have never seen a person who is really changing and growing when everything is right..job, love, family, friends. People usually learn the most and change when they touch the bottom or when they hit the wall. When they lose the job, when they get a divorce or when they get ill. In that sense, bad phases in the life are actually the greatest push for self improvement and growth.

    In that sense, it is human and natural that we can have doubts and that we can go though different phases in the life. It’s not unforgivable sin that maybe we are not sure if we should stay in some relationship. But what can give us better insight is distance. Whenever we doubt, break, distance, we take risk that we might lose that person. But, that’s life and nothing is 100% sure. The best present that we can give to the other party in a moment when there are doubts is to have experience of life without us. Once they really see how it is, they will be very sure which way is better and they will appreciate much more the road that they have chosen.

    If they don’t chose you, they don’t. They weren’t the one for you and you should let go. But if they do, if you show them that you are not dependent, that you can be fine on your own, that there might be other options for you as well, they will appreciate you much more and wouldn’t take you for granted.

    I hope that i could help you a bit.

    1. Camilla

      Thanks a lot for the thoughtful reply! Even though I know all the facts, its always difficult to remember them in the situation.
      With the comment from The Unknown, I realised that maybe he says a lot of sweet things, but he doesnt really act after them. Fx we talked about celebrating my birthday together, he had to figure out when he was in school and said he would text me the day after. He didn’t…… I wrote two days after, that it was better to stop it here, if he couldn’t even find the time to write me. He wrote an apology (not a good one), but I know with myself, its not enough. I can’t make someone want me, and especially not by begging.
      So I’ll follow your advice and go on without him. If he truly wants me, he’ll show it somehow, if not I’m better off without him. The difficult part is that its a small town and I’ll definitely run into him – and Im new in this town, so I don’t have many friends. I’ve been enjoying having someone to be with, but see.. That’s not even a good reason for holding onto him.

  7. Fran

    Hey James!

    I have been reading your emails for quite a while now and they deeply help me to finally understand the psychology behind it all. Now I write to you, because I can’t help myself to see clear and need peace of mind. Ill try and make it short.

    So I am 22 and I fall in love very very rarely. Before my first and only boyfriend I met this boy at 17 and we fell in love. Before we could become anything and even kiss, he moved to another country. I pined for him over a year(!). 4 years later (after my first rs) we got back into touch and I visited him. Instantly all the feelings came back, but he wasnt over his ex, so we left it. Last fall, a year later, we met again. And instantly on the first day, we fell back in love for a month. He said he would never let me go again. Then suddenly, he withdrew and said he is still in pain over his last rs…. And not ready. But has feelings for me. He’s been hurt and betrayed in every single one of his rs, so I wanted to make him happy finally, his history is not easy.

    Then we broke things off. Stayed friends. But even after 2 months he did not try to restart all tho he still has feelings for me. I don’t understand why!! But we saw each other at the gym all the time (mistake, that way I was very available) Last week I told him that I need to break off all contact because I still think of him too much. He was sad. We said farewell….

    Do you think 30 day nc will make him want me back? Or is it over for good? And how should I approach him if…?

    Thank you a million times for your time. I would really appreciate your advise.

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey there Fran,

      Well, my stance on no contact is that while it may make him miss you (by forcing someone to no longer take your affection for granted), it may also create greater distance (they move outside of our sphere of influence, or just get used to it).

      No contact is only ever a win-win when you do it for yourself, to heal, so that you no longer depend on him for fulfillment in the long run (which is why you went no contact, right?). But if you use it as a strategy it becomes a gamble, and a gamble that you may lose.

      If you want no contact to help yourself heal, while keeping the hope alive I would try “limited contact” instead. Limited contact means that you make sure he knows that if he has something important to tell you, that he should feel welcome to reach out, but only if it is important. No crumbs and no mixed messages. No funny photos and what’s ups. It’s basically a form of no contact that isn’t as aggressive and doesn’t lead to situations where our exs thing we want nothing to do with them or are angry.

Comments are closed.