The No Contact Rule: Committing to It and Making It Work
Whether you’re a man or a woman who’s been on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, here’s why the No Contact Rule is the best policy after breaking up:
- The sooner begun, the sooner it’s done. The sooner you make a clean break and stick with it, the sooner the healing process can begin. It’s natural to sentimentalize an ex after a break up, however, you’re playing with fire when you wax nostalgic for an abusive ex. She may have been nice from time to time and occasionally very sweet, sexy, etc., but these fleeting moments don’t make up for the pain and damage she caused you. Each time you initiate contact or respond to her overtures, you have to start the healing process all over again. Re-initiating contact only prolongs your pain. It’s the difference between ripping a band-aid off quickly and all at once or peeling off the adhesive very slowly, one arm hair at a time. Ouch.
- Do not apply salt to an open wound. Engaging in contact with your ex, even a little bit, is like rubbing salt into an open wound. Some men maintain no contact for a year or more, run into their ex and bam! They’re caught up in all the old painful feelings again. This is why it’s just as important to really explore why you were in that relationship while maintaining no contact so that you’re not susceptible to your ex or others like her in the future.
- If you give her an inch, she’ll take a mile. You may think you’re being nice by accepting her calls and responding to texts and emails, but you’re not. You’re giving her permission to keep yanking your chain. If you give an abusive ex an inch, she’ll take a mile. This woman interprets your willingness to maintain contact as interest in rekindling the relationship or that she still has you on a string—and if you respond to her, she does indeed still have you on a tether. She’ll continue to be possessive and intrusive. All she needs is the smallest bit of attention—negative or positive—to keep her going. If you want her to move on and find another target, you must starve the beast. That means no contact and no attention.
How to do it:
1. No calls, no texts, no emails, no smoke signals, no carrier pigeons. Make a list of every nasty hurtful thing she said and did to you and keep a copy near every communication device you own.
2. No “accidental” meetings (if you can help it). Change your routine. Go to the gym at a different time or on different days. Find an alternate sports pub. Go to a different grocery store. Yes, it’s unfair that you have to change your lifestyle for the moment, but time and distance is how you’ll heal. Alternatively, even if you have to have your best friend lock you in your apartment/house, do not go to places you know she’s likely to be. Even if you think you’re doing this to show you how happy you are without her, this will backfire on you. Don’t do it.
3. Avoid places that remind you of her. If it makes you turn into a sentimental mess to go to the restaurant the two of you went to every Friday night; don’t go.
4. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Ask your friends, family and associates not to tell you news of your ex or act as her intermediary. For example, when a woman like your ex can’t reach you because you’ve gone No Contact, she’ll often enlist others to contact you for her. Alternatively, some people think they’re being helpful by telling you about your ex’s latest crazy antics or newest boyfriend. Nip this is the bud and explain that you prefer not to hear about your ex. Tell them that you know they mean well, but for the time being, you don’t want to know what she’s doing, who she’s dating or what her Facebook status is, etc.
5. Don’t keep a foot in the door. This applies to your foot as well as hers. Whether it’s leaving a few things behind at your place or negotiating visitation with a pet, you must cut your losses. When you break up, get all of her stuff out of your home asap. Pack it up yourself and drop it off at her new place when you know she won’t be home or have it delivered. If you’re the one who moved out, do your best to get all of your belongings at once. Don’t leave anything behind that you can’t live without. Do not allow her or yourself an excuse to resume contact. If you adopted a pet while you were together, I know it’s painful, but just let her have the dog, cat, ferret, etc., and be grateful you only shared a quadruped and not a child.
6. Don’t take the bait. Many of these women send cruel, demeaning and often obscene emails, texts and voicemails. Your initial impulse may be to defend yourself or be “right.” Don’t fall for this. If you do, you’re taking her bait to keep you engaged. The only way you can “win” with a woman like this is not to play her sick games and get on with your life without her.
7. The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. Pack away photos, gifts, notes, etc. that remind you of her and “the good times”—all 2 or 3 of them.
8. Delete her from your life. Delete her name and number from your phones. Delete her email addresses. Delete her from MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn and every other website on which you’re currently connected. Block her incoming numbers, texts and emails. Do not answer calls from unknown or private callers. An abusive, crazy ex is the reason Caller ID was invented. Exception: If she is physically threatening you, blackmailing you or threatening to lie about you, save these communications and contact an attorney. You may need them for a restraining order and/or to press cyberstalking charges.
9. Avoid alcohol and other inhibition reducing substances. Drinking and dialing is generally always a big mistake. You don’t want to let this woman back into your life because you had one too many gin and tonics. Plus, if you’re feeling down or depressed about the break-up/divorce, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and will only make you feel worse.
10. Reconnect with yourself, your family, your friends and your life. Get in touch with the people you weren’t allowed to see because your ex threw a fit if you did. Start doing the things you used to enjoy. Pursue your interests again. Make a commitment to exercise/working out if that’s one of the things that fell by the wayside while you were with your abusive ex. The goal is to make yourself healthy and strong in body, spirit and mind.
One of my readers refers to No Contact as “living in the bunker.” Here’s a list he shared with me on how to be a successful “bunker dweller.” Everything on this list may not be feasible for everyone, but I think it’s a good example of the level of personal commitment No Contact requires:
- Ability to give up personal comforts and not care at all.
- Refusal to be influenced in any way by threats, further intimidation, or bad consequences.
- Ability to change residences quickly and frequently. I have moved three times, soon to be four.
- Decisive severance of any residual communication links–mutual friends, Facebook, etc.
- Absolute refusal to feel shame or be put on the defensive–especially in your own mind.
- Insistence that any discussion of the facts begin with the words “abuse,” “destruction,” and “control”
- Refusal to negotiate until there is absolute capitulation (*he’s in the process of divorcing).
- Satisfaction that she picked the wrong guy to F*** with
- Accept collateral damage philosophically as the cost of freedom and further evidence of the rightness of your cause
- Extreme patience–don’t be worn down by any reversal, surprise, or consequence. Stay in the bunker as long as it takes
Next week, I’ll post the third piece in the No Contact series about developing emotional distance for those of you who can’t go No Contact because you share a child(ren), work in the same office or some other reason.
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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