The No Contact Rule: Ending an Abusive Relationship
. . . but she keeps texting me. . . but she keeps showing up at my gym. . . but she’s emailing to say she still loves me even though she’s dating a new guy. . . but what if I just text to tell her to stop texting me. . . but she keeps calling me. . .
No “but’s.” No “what if’s.” No bargaining with yourself. No Contact.
If you’re fortunate enough not to have had a child or children with a controlling, emotionally abusive woman or man of the Cluster B variety (narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, anti-social), the very best thing you can do for your emotional and physical well-being is to institute a strict No Contact Rule. No Contact doesn’t mean No Contact except for x, y and z. By “No Contact,” I mean NO—zero, nada, zilch—Contact. To use Freshmen Orientation parlance: No means no.
[This is the first of a series of posts I'm writing about no contact and gaining emotional distance from an abusive ex. If you share a child, you can't cut off contact entirely, but you can establish strict boundaries and emotional distance, which I'll address in the coming weeks.]
Breaking Up Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic or Sociopathic Style
There are primarily five ways a break up with an abusive individual plays out:
- You end the relationship and want nothing more to do with her, but she won’t leave you alone. Individuals who are more BPD or HPD tend to behave this way. Most NPDs won’t chase after you or grovel to get you back—they’ll bully and threaten, but not grovel.
- She ends the relationship, cuts you out of her life and begins dating other men immediately. You wonder if you ever meant anything to her at all. You convince yourself that you’re still in love (Stockholm Syndrome) with her and contact her only to be ignored or emotionally smacked down. All cluster B’s are capable of this behavior. They view people as objects to use, therefore, everyone is replaceable after they suck them dry.
- She breaks up with you and then begs you to take her back or “magnanimously” offers you another chance. You reunite, she breaks up with you again and a pattern of her jerking your chain develops. A BPD is more likely to beg and plead, while a NPD will make it seem like she’s doing you a favor by reconciling.
- She breaks up with you/you break up with her and you receive a flurry of angry, hurtful, conciliatory, desperate and/or seductive emails, texts, calls and/or voicemails. She spews the most vile things at you—insulting your manhood and threatening “revenge” for the audacity of not wanting to further subject yourself to her abuse—or tries to lure you back in with her crisis du jour (e.g., my car broke down, someone threatened her, someone’s being “mean” to her) or explicit sexual come-on’s. The more you ask her to leave you alone or try to reason with her, the more she amps up her stalking-harassing behavior. All Cluster B’s are likely to behave this way.
- You get caught in a sick dynamic in which you’re both breaking up with each other (sometimes several times in the same day) and hurl insults back and forth via text or email. Then you get back together or plan to get back together or have sex, everything blows up, you break up again, compete to see who can hurt the other more and create a sick and highly self-destructive cycle of mutual abuse. If you’re engaging in this particular dynamic, I urge you to take a step back, look at what you’re doing and get professional help to break the cycle. This dynamic is typical when both individuals have one or some variation of the Cluster B disorders or if one partner is extremely co-dependent and the other abusive.
Why no contact?
If any of the above scenarios apply, you must distance yourself physically and emotionally from your ex and that means No Contact. If you’re having difficulty implementing and/or maintaining the No Contact Rule, ask yourself why and be honest. For example:
- Do you have hope you can work things out with your ex?
- Are you caught up in the conflict and drama?
- Does it give you a rush?
- Do you need to have the last word?
- Do you want her to acknowledge you’re “right?”
- Are you still clinging to some rescuer-white knight fantasy?
- Do you think you can’t live without her?
You’ll have a difficult time establishing and maintaining No Contact if you answered “yes” to any of these questions. If your ex has a personality disorder, the qualities and behaviors that drove you away, caused her to abuse you or discard you are highly unlikely to change. If you’re easily sucked into the drama, want to save her or don’t think you can live and be happy without her, you need to do some work on yourself to understand why you’re so dependent upon your ex. No one else can love you enough for you to be able to love yourself. True happiness is contingent upon you; not what someone else does or doesn’t do for you. You need to be able to do both of these things for yourself before you can find happiness and love with another person.
Think of No Contact as going cold turkey. In many ways, a relationship with an abusive woman (or man) is like an addiction. A heroin addict cannot have just a little heroin nor can you handle just a little contact with your ex. In the best of circumstances, two reasonably healthy and emotionally mature individuals can be friends after breaking up. The opposite is true if you were involved with a borderline, narcissist, histrionic, sociopath or some variation of all of the above. An abusive relationship is not a normal relationship, therefore, you cannot be friends afterward.
Do not view No Contact as a way to “win” your ex back. This is a losing strategy. No Contact is to help you gain emotional, psychological and physical distance in order to heal and move forward in your life. The goal isn’t to make her “miss” you or to punish her. The goal is to establish peace of mind and freedom from the pain your ex caused you. Your ex is the source of your pain. To stop hurting and mend, you need to avoid the source of the pain.
Next week, I’ll publish the second post in this series that explains why No Contact is so important to your overall well-being and physical and mental health.
Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:
Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.
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