As I’ve followed people and their breakups over the years, it has become increasingly clear to me that no contact is nearly always detrimental to reconciliation.
These reasons are why I feel no contact won’t work the way you hope. So before you dive into no contact as that last, desperate attempt to get back with your ex, make sure you understand the risks.
What If Silence Is What Your Ex Wants?
No contact can work as a healing tool to slice through mixed messages and confusing behavior. It is a way of detoxing from the anxiety of not knowing where you stand.
What it shouldn’t be used for, is a way of emotionally blackmailing an ex by starving them of attention and hoping they crack under the pressure. I’m not making a moral judgment here, I’m simply saying that it is counterproductive.
In most cases, no contact is used by the dumpee as a last-ditch effort to get their ex to understand what life is like without them. The problem here is that going no contact when you were the one that was dumped will usually mean the silence becomes permanent because your ex will assume you’ve burned your bridges and want to move on. And often, somewhat ironically, they will then use this distance to move on themselves.
I’m going to be blunt here, but it pays to ask ourselves who is better equipped to endure this silent stand-off, the dumpee who wants to reconcile, or the dumper who just called things off?
I’d venture that 90% of no contact ends with the dumpee breaking their own silence, not the other way around.
What if your ex doesn’t take the bait?
What if no contact really does become no contact?
Silence Isn’t A Magic Bullet
Leaving the fate of reconciliation in the hands of silence is the opposite of a strategy. It is a plan of inaction.
You are trusting the silence will make them realize they made a terrible mistake, but if that doesn’t happen, you are now powerless to convince them otherwise. Or, worse, even if it does, how will you know?
Most of the articles and books I’ve read that advocate using no contact fix this glaring problem by offering an arbitrary date (30 days is the most common number) that is supposedly a scientifically calibrated “sweet spot” for us to reach out.
There’s nothing scientific about this.
It should be obvious that this is all guesswork.
Nobody can be sure your ex will miss the relationship. And if they do, nobody can know when or how this occurs. There is no magic number, there is no sweet spot. Don’t believe me? Read the fine print on any “no contact” product page or on the inside cover of any book.
Don’t forget that you know your ex better than any “expert” ever will. Now is the time to leverage that knowledge, not abandon it on the fire of false hope!
No Contact Means Feeding Denial
Embarking on a 30 day no contact “plan” is an excellent way to feed false hope.
- We don’t have to risk being directly rejected, and because we don’t face our fears we don’t have to face a potentially painful reality.
- We trust that, despite doing absolutely nothing to repair the relationship itself, there’s a “plan” working away in the background improving our chances of reconciling.
If denial is the first stage of the Kübler-Ross model of grief, then no contact is the manifestation of that denial. No contact, in most cases, means that given space and distance the dumper will realize they made a mistake. But did they? Will they?
I would argue that it would be a better strategy to attempt to use contact constructively. At least you will know where you stand (which will help ease much of the anxiety associated with the breakup).
What If Your Ex Misinterprets Your Silence?
I can only speak for myself here, but if the ex I break up with goes purposefully silent, I’m going to take that as a sign I need to prioritize moving on over reconciling.
What if your ex thinks like I do? What if they take that silence as a sign you’re done?
No contact means giving up your ability to clarify, not just to communicate. It means that if they have questions or doubts, you won’t be around to steer them in the right direction.
Maybe, just maybe, no contact will work as intended and your now distraught ex will reach out for validation. But don’t count on it. And what will you do if it doesn’t work?
Try Limiting Contact Instead
Limited contact is not a strategy, it is the groundwork on which you will base your attempt at reconciliation. It is a breakup framework.
In essence, limited contact means communication is limited to only let important messages through and avoiding the mind games and chit-chat. This is important for many reasons.
- To prevent breakup burnout or confusion because of mixed messages and crumbs.
- To respect an ex’s need or desire for space.
- To give both the dumper and the dumpee time to process the breakup (but without no contact making anxiety worse).
- To prevent emotions from confusing communication (limited contact means being crystal clear about what you say).
Once the basics of communication are established, you can slowly start to build. It is beyond the scope of this article to talk about reconciling, but the objective is essentially that of moving from the impersonal (email), to the personal (call or meeting in person) over time as the trust grows.
Start with simple, impersonal contact, and slowly build from there.
No Contact Grants The Illusion Of Control
No contact feels like a plan, and will therefore give dumpees a much-needed sense of control over their lives. But that control doesn’t actually exist. And not only that, but you are also forsaking the weapons you do have by choosing not to use them.
If your ex truly made a mistake by dumping you, then surely making them feel comfortable enough to convey this turn of events is preferable over pushing them away and hoping their pain is strong enough to override their dignity.
You don’t have to contact them, but just by letting them know they are welcome to contact you, you are improving your chances at reconciling because it is one less barrier they have to climb over should they need to tell you something important.
Make sure your ex knows what your intentions are first and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you what theirs are. Leading by example is rough, I’ll grant you that, but it is also the best way to know where we stand.
The bottom line from me is this, if you are scared no contact won’t work, don’t play the game, because you aren’t improving your chances by doing so. All you are doing is feeding a false sense of control and hope.
When Does No Contact Work?
If no contact doesn’t seem to be drawing your ex out of their shell you risk making the silence your prison. And the more entrenched the silence becomes, the more you will both get used to it.
This is a tragedy in the making for couples that actually miss each other romantically. But not all breakups pan out in remorse.
It goes without saying that I think that you should reach out, or at least remind your ex they can reach out. But there are some situations that no contact is necessary.
Personally, there are only two main scenarios I would choose to remain no contact.
No contact can work surprisingly well as a healing tool because it means giving up on closure. It means accepting the situation as it stands.
This is the core of what acceptance boils down to.
We might not have all the answers we want (there will always be questions), but we accept the situation unconditionally anyway. Acceptance is an attitude, not an arrival. When it comes to achieving a clean break, no contact is unparalleled.