When To Break The No Contact Rule After A Breakup

The no contact rule is often misused and misunderstood, and as such there can come a time when establishing contact (for whatever reason) can become awkward. In general, when responding to emails and direct messages, it has become clear that the vast majority of no contact is initiated as part of a crude “strategy” to get an ex back, which then backfires as our ex takes our actions as a terminal way of burning our emotional bridges.

Reaching out to an ex after a period of no contact will depend on how no contact was initiated to begin with. Was it a unilateral decision? Was it discussed? Was a time-frame agreed upon? Or was it a brusque case of burning your bridges? In this article I will offer my subjective advice on when to proceed with contact, and how to go about it. Without incurring the wrath or confusion of our exs.

The no contact rule

Re-establishing contact should ideally be attempted when you are confident that an undesirable outcome will not longer prolong your healing or take you back to a state of emotional trauma.

The contact rule is first and foremost a way of detoxing from post-breakup trauma. If you were the one to be dumped, and erected no contact as a way of starving your ex of your attention to bait a response, things can get tricky. The problem with appearing to burn your bridges is that your ex may well reply in kind. Ultimately only an attempt at contact will begin to solve this riddle. And even then, with a turbulent breakup history between you, there’s no telling how things may pan out.

If you closed the book on communication without letting your ex know for how long, and why, breaking no contact can lead just about anywhere. Make sure you are confident enough to stomach rejection, withdrawal or silence before you begin to pry  open the communication flood gates.

Not quite out of the blue

If, on the other hand, you informed your ex there would be a period of no contact in order to heal, chances are the odds of re-establishing amicable contact are quite high. At the very least you have moral carte-Blanche to attempt contact.

However, nobody can accurately predict (your guess is certainly better than anyone else’s) how no contact will have affected your ex’s own feelings and healing. Strictly speaking, there is no call now moment when it comes to communicating. The only thing you can do on your end is ensure you are level-headed enough to hold a light, direct and objective conversation.

However, before diving for the phone, consider also the feeling’s of your ex by respecting their space. The best way to go about this is by contacting them the right way.

How to break the no contact rule

The no contact rule can be difficult to deal with, both for the dumper and for the dumpee. Even if you were the one to be unceremoniously dumped, enforcing a no contact rule can lead to pent-up resentment. Especially if attempts on their end to reach out went unheeded.

Defensiveness is the bane of post-breakup communication. Even if they still profoundly care about you, and may even wish to tie loose ends or reconcile, they may seek to defend their still-raw feelings by distancing themselves from more potential hurt. To get around this, make sure breaking no contact adheres to the following quick tips:

  • Make first contact as indirect as possible. Contact from an ex, whether “out of the blue” or not, can give just about anyone a case of the jitters. Limiting initial, tentative contact to an informal medium (such as Email), can make the process less uncomfortable for all involved. It also shows that you respect their space and healing. If contact goes well it will escalate naturally.
  • Ask for attention, don’t demand it. Reaching out to an ex can be hit or miss. If they don’t answer promptly, and you’re sure they got the message, let it stew. If a substantial (weeks) amount of time passes and no answer is forthcoming, consider that an answer. They know how to get hold of you should they feel like replying in the future.
  • Be honest but light-hearted. Be transparent with your reasons for calling, but don’t try to ignite old emotional bonfires immediately. They may react defensively. Consider reaching out the first chapter of a first draft. Let your future write itself with piling on insecurity.
  • Don’t over-analyse contact. In order to safe-guard your own feelings take everything at face value, without looking for clues and indulging our patently human pattern-seeking tendencies. If you have questions, ask them.

The bottom-line for breaking no contact is never to assume anything. Contact is not an extension of your previous relationship, it is an entirely new start. With new personal boundaries and typically also different personalities. Breakups lead to a substantial amount of personal change. By reaching out you have to be willing to accept that they may not sound like or be the same person you once knew. And may never be that person again.

If this all sounds redundant (thanks for sticking with it nevertheless!), or is something you at the very least grudgingly willing to accept, I would argue that breaking the no contact rule is something you are ready to attempt. If not, don’t cave into the temptation of quelling the pain. Allow the real value of no contact to continue to work its magic, as it propels you towards security and emotional balance.


Images courtesy of photostock and Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4 Comments When To Break The No Contact Rule After A Breakup

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      I agree with moving on, however I don’t strive for absolute numbness. In the sense that whether I like it or not, it was a part of my life. I firmly believe you can walk on without amputating a part of yourself. To each his own! Thank you for your time Albert!

  1. Sarah

    Hi! I’ve been doing the NC for almost a month. I’m so glad I did it, it makes me feel stronger, when I’m no longer writing him every time I’m missing him. I’m still not ready to break the NC, but my friend told me the other day, that if she was me, she would write him when I was feeling better. She said I should write a mail with such things as a “thank you, I’m feeling better, still thinking about you sometimes, but I’m happy for where I am now.”
    You write that it’s better to start light-headed. So you would prefer a “hey, how’s it going?”

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey Sarah, sorry for the late reply.

      In this case both seem fine, they don’t require much introspection (I consider them both relatively light-hearted). I would only urge against injecting blame, guilt or insecurity — even subtly. In this case you aren’t either way.

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