Breakups attract a lot of strange advice. Don't text your ex, and certainly don't call them. Block them on all your socials, and do not, I repeat, do not spy on them. Wear a disguise if you have to, but under no circumstances are you to see or be seen by your ex.
Sound extreme? Well, when you're in the throes of heartbreak, you're willing to try anything, including the no-contact rule.
The no-contact rule is often referred to as the only way to move on from a relationship or the best way to win back an ex. But is it really that effective?
How do you tell if the no contact rule is working?
Things to know
- No matter how things ended, having your ex reach out first is a major sign that the no-contact rule is working.
- No-contact is meant to be a period of healing, so you'll know it's working when you're in a better emotional and mental state.
- Finding yourself and being ready to make a fresh start with or without your ex is a key sign that the no-contact rule is working.
To let you in on that and so much more, let's dive into the following:
- What Is No-Contact?
- No-Contact Rule Male Psychology
- No-Contact Rule Female Psychology
- 5 Stages Of No-Contact
- How Long Does It Take For The No-Contact Rule To Work?
- 5 Signs That Prove No-Contact Is Working
- What To Do If No-Contact Is Successful
- Help! No-Contact Isn't Working
What Is No-Contact?
The no contact rule is a post-break-up technique that makes use of zero contact to achieve a specific objective. The premise behind the no contact rule is simple: cut off all communication with your ex, meaning, no texts, no phone calls, no social media, and certainly no stalking them.
Your objective depends on the nature of your breakup and whether you'd like to get back together with your ex or move on.
If you want your ex back, you'll make use of the rule for a certain amount of time. During this period, you'll typically work on processing your emotions, reflecting, and self-improvement. You may even make use of social media (sparingly) to show your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend that you're trying to become a better person.
No-Contact Rule Male Psychology
How does the male brain respond to no contact? Well, men love the chase; the challenge of getting something drives them to pursue it.
So, when the no contact rule suddenly denies them access to an ex, the desire to pursue kicks in.
Unless men initiate a breakup, they often don't see it coming. And even after a breakup, men tend to view their exes more favorably. Frustration attraction combined with the thrill of the chase often makes men fixate on getting their exes back.
Not having access to an ex will make a man feel like he's been wronged, and he'll seek to fix it. Plus, suddenly not having access to an ex can sometimes make a man realize how good he had it or how much he misses you.
No-Contact Rule Female Psychology
How does the no-contact rule affect women? Well, women tend to take breakups quite hard initially. But, because they tend to face their emotions head-on and lean on their support systems, they recover faster.
Following a split, women harbor more negative feelings towards their exes. While the no contact rule tends to bring feelings of anger and resentment to the surface, it facilitates grieving and healing too.
During no contact, women tend to shift their prime focus away from their exes and onto themselves. This makes the no contact phase the perfect time for women to reflect on what truly matters.
So, the rule allows a woman to let go of the negative perception of her ex. As she starts to think more clearly, she may either reconsider the breakup or move on with greater resolve.
5 Stages Of No-Contact
You can anticipate going through five stages during the no-contact period:
Stage 1: Relief
If you initiated the breakup, then your journey starts here. Because you cut things off, you'll feel a sense of relief. Without your ex dragging you down, the future looks bright—until it doesn't.
Sooner or later, you start to question your decision. You may start to wonder what your ex is up to and if they're thinking about you too.
Stage 2: Love withdrawal
If your ex ended things, you end up here after the initial shock wears off. If you pulled the trigger on the relationship, you still end up here. This is because deep attachments and strong feelings take time to resolve.
There's also the biological aspect of love to consider. From a physiological perspective, a breakup followed by the no-contact rule is like going cold turkey.
At this stage, the desire to reach out is unbearable. If you aren't keeping busy and if you haven't put measures in place to make it hard for you to contact your ex, you might cave.
Stage 3: Grief
The gravity of the situation hits you, and as you process things, you may experience mood swings. Again, this is a necessary step, as you must let go of negative emotions to move on.
From a biological perspective, you've hit rock bottom. At this stage, your levels of feel-good hormones are at an all-time low.
Stage 4: Anger/Resolve
As you move out of the grief stage, you may start to experience anger. This is also necessary as anger is a very good motivator. Rage is what will get you out of bed and motivate you to work on your 'revenge body.'
Anger is what will give you the energy to leave the house and mingle, even if it's to spite your ex or make them jealous. The realization that you've poured months or even years into someone just for things not to work out will drive you to vent to a trusted friend or mental health professional.
As you work through your feelings and the anger fades, you'll move into the fifth and final stage.
Stage 5: Acceptance
When the anger subsides and gives way to reason, the magic happens. You're able to think clearly and see things better. This is usually when you start to determine your next steps. It's also when you finally stop letting your ex influence your decisions.
You start doing things for yourself and finally start to let go. Even if you have the desire to get back with your ex, you're level-headed about it, and you're fine with the fact that things may not pan out the way you want.
How Long Does It Take For The No-Contact Rule To Work?
Because every breakup is unique, it's hard to determine how long it takes for the no-contact rule to work.
If you want to get an ex back, anywhere between 30 and 90 days is said to be effective in processing emotions, reflecting, and letting go of all the negativity surrounding a breakup.
If you're using the no contact rule to finally put a toxic relationship to rest, the no contact rule may start to work after the 90-day mark. This is consistent with research that it takes 11 to 12 weeks to get over a breakup.
The strength of your attachment and the circumstances surrounding your breakup are also major determining factors. After a serious long-term relationship, it may take months or even years to finally let go.
5 Signs That Prove No-Contact Is Working
While it's difficult to determine how long it takes for the no-contact rule to work, there are ways to tell if it's working. Here are 5 signs that your efforts are paying off:
1. Your ex makes contact first
If they broke up with you, reaching out first is a major breakthrough — they might be regretting things. If you broke up with them, they may be trying to patch things up.
Whether your ex reaching out is a good thing or not depends on your goals. If you're trying to move on, the last thing you want is to hear from your ex. However, if you're hopeful about getting back together, hearing from them is a great sign.
Pay attention to how your ex reaches out. If they say hurtful things or make threats, you may need to keep your distance a little longer. If your ex compliments you and acts friendly, they might be looking for a way to get back into your good books. They may also be trying to show you that they've changed.
So, if your ex texts, be on the lookout for:
Text messages that seem upbeat
Trying to make you laugh and only having positive things to say are subtle signs that they're being careful around you. They're trying to get you to associate them with positivity and a good time. This approach is designed to make you lower your defenses and let them in.
Attempts to get you to meet with them.
If your ex is suddenly trying to get your attention and making all sorts of excuses to get you to meet with them, they could be trying to get back together with you. Look out for tricks like 'wanting to get your opinion on something over coffee.'
The bottom line is: if they're making contact, and it's positive and respectful, then the no contact rule is working.
2. You've reclaimed your self-identity
If you and your ex were together for a long time, you might have taken on a shared identity. Because you made decisions together and operated as a unit, the breakup probably left you feeling like you lost a major part of yourself.
The ability to view yourself as an autonomous person as opposed to the other half of a couple is all part of reclaiming your identity. Reclaiming your sense of identity means being more in tune with who you are and what you want.
You know the no-contact rule is working when you finally feel whole and content on your own. Instead of being preoccupied with your ex or the past, you'll be focused on your own life.
If you want to move on, reclaiming your identity is a step in the right direction. It's only once you know yourself that you can go out there and find love.
Even if your intention is to get back with your ex, having your own sense of identity is a positive thing. Relationships can become toxic if partners are overly dependent on each other.
3. You're in a better place emotionally
Immediately after a breakup, you tend not to want to have anything to do with your ex.
However, after a few days, love withdrawal symptoms kick in, and you start to miss them. During this emotional rollercoaster, you may experience extreme highs and lows. It's normal to feel anger, frustration, disappointment, and numbness as you come to terms with a breakup.
The no-contact rule gives you an opportunity to reflect and process these complex emotions. Being away from the trigger (your ex) means you can break away from destructive behavior patterns and start to heal.
You'll know the no-contact rule is working when you finally let go of all the negative emotions surrounding your breakup.
If you don't want your ex back, being rid of negative emotions allows you to reach a place of acceptance and move on.
If you want to get back together with your ex, the emotional healing brought on by the no-contact rule is still a positive thing. Let's face it; you can only work on your issues when you're in the right emotional state.
4. You're excited about your personal growth and development
The first few weeks of the contact rule will challenge you and test your resolve. This is why keeping busy is the best way to stay focused and not contact your ex. Initially, everything will feel forced.
The prospect of meeting up with old friends or new people will be daunting. You might be reluctant to explore your passions. Even tackling day-to-day tasks will feel like a drag.
However, if you stick it out, you'll actually start to enjoy your new way of life. Self-care will no longer feel like such a drag; it will be a necessary part of your routine to recharge. Doing a fun activity won't be something you need to check off your list; you'll actually crave the experience.
Attending therapy won't feel like such a chore anymore; you'll appreciate the experience. If you're finally excited about your own personal growth and development, the no-contact rule is working. Whether you're moving on permanently or considering reconciliation, saying goodbye to low self-esteem and becoming the best version of yourself is a major win.
Plus, if you want your ex back, there's a pretty good chance that they'll want you back too when they see that you've changed for the better.
5. Your next steps are clear
A breakup can upend your entire life, and with the heartache ache comes a separate challenge: figuring out where to go next.
The no-contact rule is designed to help you reflect and think about things. In fact, sticking to the no-contact rule gives you the opportunity to think about the future.
Whatever your future looks like, be it a future where you are back together with your ex or a future where you are open to a new love — you should be ready to face it after giving yourself time.
You know the no-contact rule is working when you're no longer confused about your next steps. If you want to move on, you'll finally feel comfortable with dating and meeting new people. If you want to get back together with your ex, you'll be ready to reach out.
What To Do If No-Contact Is Successful
Now that the no-contact rule is working, what are your next steps? Well, you should:
Go after what you want
If you want to get back together with your ex and they haven't reached out to you, reach out to them first. If they've reached out to you, then keep the conversation going and see where it takes you.
On the other hand, if you've decided to let go of your ex, focus on the future and be optimistic about what's to come. Whether it's taking on new interests, traveling, or finding new love, dive into it with a positive mindset.
Keep at it
You're in a good place: your self-love is through the roof, your confident and you finally know what you want. If your intention is to get back together with your ex, then getting in contact and smoothing things over is probably at the top of your list. But, you've got to consider what happens after the fact.
You don't want to fall into old habits or engage in the behaviors that lead to your breakup in the first place. That's why it's important to keep doing the things you were during no contact.
If you had a self-care routine, don't neglect it because you're getting back together with your ex. If you were finally trying new things and working on your goals, don't give that up to get back together with your ex.
Similarly, if you were attending therapy and working through personal issues, don't stop just because things are back on track with your ex.
Keep reaping the benefits of being more focused on personal growth. Your relationship stands a better chance if you have self-love as well as interests outside of the relationship.
Even if you want to stop loving your ex and move on once and for all, it's still important to keep up the momentum. You want the positive changes you made during no contact to stick.
Starting over will require you to step up in new ways so, don't stop doing what you're doing. Let these changes usher you into a better life and quite possibly, better romantic relationships.
Help! No-Contact Isn't Working
Unfortunately, the no-contact rule is hard to stick to. People often underestimate just how difficult it is to remain focused. Plus, when it comes to the no-contact rule, not actually working on yourself is counterproductive.
The no-contact period is meant to be a time to figure out who you are and let go of a failed relationship. It's not about moping around and waiting for things to change after a couple of days. It's about actively working on yourself.
If you don't keep busy by working on yourself, you'll start to obsess over your ex. There's also the risk that you may develop depression and other mental health issues.
Another misconception is that the no-contact rule is about isolating yourself. It isn't about hiding away; it's about reconnecting with friends or family and leaning into their support to help you heal.
Another reason no contact might not work is if you don't actually follow the zero contact rule. If you're texting or seeing your ex, the no contact rule won't be effective. Not distancing yourself from your ex and even mutual friends only prolongs the healing process.
Even after using no contact, things may not work out the way that you want them to. Your ex might not be interested in reconciliation. They may flat-out ignore you. Worst-case scenario, you might even find out that they're dating someone new. If that's the case, keep your head up, focus on yourself and move on.