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No Contact Includes Not Keeping Tabs on your Ex Via Facebook, Twitter, Blogs or MySpace

April 9, 2010 184 comments

For those of you who are following the No Contact Rule and have stopped calling, emailing, texting and staging accidental run-ins or have stopped responding to calls, emails, texts and are actively avoiding probable run-ins, congratulations! It’s difficult to remove the hooks of an abusive ex—especially if they’re personality disordered (e.g., narcissistic, borderline, histrionic or sociopathic).

If you’ve recently broken up with a crazy and/or abusive wife or girlfriend, the No Contact Rule is explained in the following articles:

Many readers have shared that while they’ve been able to go no contact and stop telephonic and electronic communication with their exes, they’re still visiting their exes’ Facebook, MySpace and other social network pages, blogs and Twitter feeds. I hate to break it to you, but visiting your ex’s various web pages—even if there’s no interaction—is a form of contact and is just as unhealthy as talking, emailing or texting with her. Stop it, stop it, stop it.

Visiting your ex’s web pages is worse than going through your old scrapbook, photos, letters or emails or mentally revisiting whatever happy moments or infrequent episodes of normalcy that you shared. These events are in the past. Actively remembering them is an unhealthy and masochistic form of nostalgia.

Keeping yourself abreast of her current activities online creates fresh pain for you every time you do it. The same holds true for well-intentioned news updates. If friends, colleagues or family members are carrying tales about her latest misadventures, respectfully and firmly tell them that you prefer not to hear about her anymore. The pain is supposed to stop once the relationship ends. Monitoring your ex’s ongoing shenanigans has several unhealthy and unproductive consequences.

1. Rubbing salt in your wounds. An abusive narcissistic, histrionic, borderline or unspecified crazy ex will use her online presence to:

  • Rub your nose in her brand new, “most amazing boyfriend ever!
  • Rub your nose in her “new found happiness and peace” that she’s never known before.
  • Trash you publicly.
  • Use your old photos, etc., as normalcy props.

Observing these four behaviors or some variation of them will only hurt you and/or make you crazy, so stop taking the bait.

2. Giving you a false sense of connection. When a relationship ends, most people need to go through a distancing period in order to recover from the loss. If your ex wasn’t abusive and your relationship was basically healthy, perhaps you can be friends some day in the future. A relationship with an abusive person is neither healthy nor normal. Therefore, there is no basis for a future friendship.

Perhaps she’ll keep you on a string for future ego boosts or to torment you if she’s bored, but that’s not friendship—it’s more of the same old same old that caused the relationship to unravel in the first place. Keeping tabs on her keeps you connected to her; even if it’s only morbid curiosity. Surely there’s a better way to spend your time that will help you feel good.

3. Giving you new information to ruminate upon. Again, there are better ways to spend your time. If you really want her out of your heart, mind and life, keeping abreast of her most recent train wrecks and distortions is not the way to do it.

4. Falling into the trap of analysis paralysis. This is another form of unproductive rumination. Why is she like this? Why couldn’t she be happy with me? What’s wrong with her? What could I have done differently? How could she move on so quickly with another guy? Why does she still have photos of us together on her profile? Why? Why? Why?

You can torture yourself endlessly with these questions. Over-analyzing her and the relationship is not the way forward. It won’t change anything. Furthermore, if trying to make meaning out of her crazy and meaningless behavior isn’t bringing you peace and closure, you need to knock it off.

There may very well be good reasons why your ex is the way she is. Ultimately, however, the reasons why she is abusive do not matter. What matters is how she treats the people she claims to love. Abuse is wrong no matter the reasons. There’s no excuse for abuse. It’s a slippery slope from finding excuses for her abusive behavior and making excuses and enabling her abusive behavior.

5. Keeping your anger and hurt alive. She’s not worth your sanity and your happiness. You have a right to be angry for the way she treated you. However, nursing your anger by finding new reasons to be upset is not productive. Feel your anger. Express it in healthy ways and then let it and her go.

6. Continuing to feed the beast it’s favorite treat: Attention. Even if you don’t respond to her online attention seeking behavior, you’re still giving her attention by visiting these sites.

Legitimate Reasons to Keep Social Media Surveillance. There are some legitimate reasons to keep tabs on your ex via the Internet. For example, if you’re gathering evidence for a divorce and/or custody case, if she is making physical threats and you need evidence for a restraining order or if you want to file a libel lawsuit for an online smear campaign/cyberstalking. If you aren’t compiling evidence for an impending court case, to initiate a protective order or because you’re concerned about your children’s welfare, there’s no reason to visit her profiles (including Internet dating profiles), blogs or follow her Tweets.

Outta Sight, Outta Mind.

Perhaps this isn’t true at first, but it’s the ultimate goal. Unless visiting her web pages makes you feel good—i.e., “I’m so glad I’m not with this wingnut anymore“—or you’re gathering evidence for legal purposes, there’s absolutely no reason to do so. Find a buddy to IM, call or hang out with when you feel tempted to click the mouse. Go for a run. Play a video game. Find something to distract yourself with until the urge passes and you feel strong again. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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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If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

The No Contact Rule: Committing to It and Making It Work

November 19, 2009 124 comments

The Power of “No”

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.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Photo credit:

Caller ID made at signgenerator.org

The No Contact Rule: Ending an Abusive Relationship

November 12, 2009 94 comments

man looking at phone1. . . 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

 

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