That Whole No-Contact Rule Thing
January 21, 2008 3:12 PM   Subscribe

What is this whole no-contact rule for breakups and does it work?

My question history has more on my specific situation, but basically I had a relationship for a few months that was great, until I realized there were some skeletons in the closet and went off my rocker. I broke up with him and on the advice of friends, initiated the no-contact thing. I set my timer for a month.

One week in, I was romanticizing the relationship and fantasizing about getting back together. I sent him a short e-mail and we met for dinner. Back at my apartment he held me close and we discussed getting back together. It was right before break, so he said we'd think about it until school got back.

Over break we talked a lot and it seemed things were going OK, but when we got back he said he no longer had feelings for me. It hurt to have hoped for a month and have him let me down like that.

These past two weeks we stupidly tried the whole "just friends," but it felt really out of context for was this man I used to embrace just treating me like I was any of his guy friends. Part of me also still wanted to prove to him that I had changed so he'd care about me again. I told him tonight that I couldn't do it.

It's hard because we will be on opposite sides of the globe next year and we really did enjoy doing things together. There is also the added complication that many of my friends recently graduated and I'm pretty lonely. It seems like a shame not to see him.

I guess my question should this no-contact thing work? Is there a way to know how long is appropriate? How do you keep the resolve when you a feeling low?
posted by idle to Human Relations (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I guess my question should this no-contact thing work?

How it should work is that you should have no contact. It's really quite simple- no contact. None. Block him on your buddy list, take him out of your phone, don't even look at his MySpace. You should not fall into your ex's arms just because you are lonely; in fact, that is probably the worst thing you could do for yourself right now. You will never move on if you keep using him as a crutch. Go out and make new friends.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:17 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

he said he no longer had feelings for me.

Let it go. Let him go. Move on. You will feel better, probably not tomorrow, probably not next week, but you will feel better. Maintain some self-respect and don't give into impulses to call him, text him, email him, or see him. Go live your life and stop waiting for him.
posted by collocation at 3:23 PM on January 21, 2008

How it should work is that you should have no contact.

Ditto. Nobody ever said it was an easy rule to follow, but it means what it says. You've discovered the downside of not following it the hard way.
posted by languagehat at 3:33 PM on January 21, 2008

There are people who can break up with people and instantly be "friends." There are far more people that can't but make a great show of faking it until something awful happens and they are forced to confront the fact that they can't be just friends and they they are hurt as a result.

Be honest and gentle to yourself and respectful of your own hurt feelings. There is no "rule" that says when or if you can ever be okay with him as a friend again. All you have is your own experience and feelings.

Cut him out of your life for as long as it takes; no meetings, no email, no phone. If you have to, put everything away that reminds you of him. Change things about your life that remind you of him or leave you feeling alone.

There are millions of new people in the world that you haven't met yet. At least a few are fabulous. Find a few of those and make new friends. Do new things. Be brave, and be okay.
posted by answergrape at 3:38 PM on January 21, 2008

Here's how I read this: you broke up with him, then you waffled a little bit. He came to the realization that you were, as you say, "off your rocker," and prone to letting loneliness drive you in and out of relationships. He wisely didn't want any of that.

Now you're learning that the "just friends" thing doesn't really work.

You'll get through it, and there will be plenty of other good friends and relationships in your future, but this one is over. Let it go and learn from it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:40 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's hard because we will be on opposite sides of the globe next year

Actually, that's probably the best thing that could happen to you. You'll be able to move on and not worry about running into him all over the place. answergrape is right - there is no universal RIGHT, only what works for you and being honest and gentle with yourself is really important. I'm so sorry - breaking up is really painful. One day you'll find yourself thinking about someone else though, and that will make you really happy.
posted by MiffyCLB at 3:44 PM on January 21, 2008

It seems like a shame not to see him.

Being blunt, it seems that way because whether you admit it or not, or even know it, you're likely continuing to "romanticiz(e) the relationship and fantasiz(e) about getting back together."

Cut him off. In a nice way. Once "normal" starts meaning "not seeing him" to you, these feelings will not be triggered by things you see in your environment (namely, you won't be seeing him). And then you're well on your way to getting past him.

There's no best time. It's different for different people.

Really, this is best for both you and him. Throw a bonfire party, where you toss everything of his that you still have into the trash into the imaginary bonfire and move on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:45 PM on January 21, 2008

No contact until you no longer want to have contact with him. When you don't want it anymore -- and that means honestly don't think about him, heard a funny joke and didn't occur to you that he would think it was funny too, wouldn't bother calling him back if he called you because you're busy and have better things to do, forgot that it was his birthday, don't really care that you lost one of those earrings he gave you, don't want it anymore -- that's when it would be okay to see whether or not you can be friends. If you still think it's worth the bother.

This is not true for everyone. Some people apparently don't need the no contact period. Most people do. And they need it until they don't want to contact the person anymore.
posted by decathecting at 3:49 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

"As long as it takes" by the way might be longer than you think. Wait until you're sure, and then wait another month (or longer).

Find a way to put aside those impulses that collocation mentioned... specifically, you're probably not really ready to contact him until those impulses are either gone or very infrequent.

(And still you can get hurt. It's part of the way it goes, you can't protect yourself completely. But you *can* escape when you know it's bad, like now!)
posted by nat at 3:49 PM on January 21, 2008

there's a Spanish phrase that covers this:- "Mejór sola que mal acompañada". Nostalgia is responsible for most of your residual feelings. Seriously. Look within or elsewhere.
posted by Wilder at 3:58 PM on January 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

On the other hand, I am a firm believer that, for every month you dated, you should be able to enjoy one post-breakup booty call. But some people can't handle it and use it as a pretext for getting back into bad relationships.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:06 PM on January 21, 2008

Wow that would mean I can have 96 booty calls with my ex (not that I want to)?
posted by greta simone at 4:39 PM on January 21, 2008

When things that remind you of him (foods, songs, bands, books, jokes, a quality of light in the sky, movies, the model of car he drove, a sports team, etc.) no longer make you yearn to contact him. As others have said, the no-contact rule is not easy, and not everybody needs to adhere to it every time. But you've already experienced the failure of your attempt to stay in contact, so initiate no-contact and stick to it.
posted by rtha at 4:39 PM on January 21, 2008

Yep, it's not easy. But it really can work, eventually, if you give it time.
posted by scody at 4:52 PM on January 21, 2008

I always enjoy the emotionally destructive sex that comes with a break-up, who doesn't?

All kidding aside, break any and all contact. If your like most people, this is probably the only way you will get over this.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:08 PM on January 21, 2008

If no contact is what you truly need. Then you simply cut it off. I'm one of those for whom being friends after a relationship usually does work, but even then, some exes have needed time or complicated feelings arose later needing to be worked out.

If you can be friends with an ex, it can often be a wonderful thing. But neither of you are ready.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:09 PM on January 21, 2008

I'd suggest "no contact" until you no longer want, need, or expect anything from him.
posted by davetill at 5:27 PM on January 21, 2008

One response you hear a lot when questions like this are asked that I've found to be mostly true from my own experience: Until you have reached the point where you would feel absolutely no jealousy or hurt feelings if your "friend" told you about the hot sex he had with a woman he met at a club over the weekend, how he's working up the guts to ask out the woman who works at the coffee shop or how he wants to introduce you to the woman he's been dating for a few months, you're probably not ready to enter the "friends" stage.

It is antithetical to the idea of moving on/getting over somebody to simultaneously keep the person as the primary opposite sex figure in your life.

I sincerely wish you the best, idle.
posted by The Gooch at 5:28 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know it's a minority opinion here, but I'm not a fan of no contact, and I would have been devastated and maybe I'd have some issues with intimacy and trust today if one of my exes had decided we had to go from together to dead to me in one break up conversation. That said, as you've learned, that doesn't mean it's possible to continue hanging out, with friends, at old places, like you did. I'm more a believer in structured contact - like, decide that you'll have a phone call at a particular time (say, I'll give you a call a week from sunday) for a catch up chat. It's also nice to make a no drinking, non-romantic daytime plan out in the future (say, brunch or coffee three weeks from now). I've found that having a plan to check back in makes it much easier to get used to being apart... grieving a relationship is hard enough without having to deal with the prospect of never! seeing! him again!
posted by moxiedoll at 5:29 PM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

seconding moxiedoll. "no contact" is dumb. i've been booted out the door, romance-wise, by some of america's most gracious women, but i have never had an acrimonious breakup, the wrecks of relationships past are still my closest friends today. i still get to visit them, take them out to dinner, get to meet their grandkids, and help them out when they need it, i just sleep on the couch during visits now.
posted by bruce at 5:47 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

moxiedoll, I didn't mean to say that people who have been in relationships can never be friends. But in this particular case, since the relationship was so short, and from the sounds of it, stormy, some time will have to pass. She can't be emotionally tied to him and still attracted to him and expect that not to make things uncomfortable, at least for now. If she wants to eventually be friends with him.

She can't depend on him to ease her loneliness, since she dumped him in the first place.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:50 PM on January 21, 2008

Seconding M.C. Lo-Carb: "No contact" does not necessarily equal "can never be friends, ever." I am friends -- extremely good, close friends -- with my ex-husband and numerous ex-boyfriends. But in each case, it took a period of no-contact to get there -- sometimes just a few months, sometimes a few years. Indeed, in my experience, no-contact is a necessary (if difficult) precondition to being able to cultivate a solid, healthy friendship (wholly free of ulterior motives to get back together, jealousy over subsequent relationships, etc.) with an ex.
posted by scody at 6:44 PM on January 21, 2008

What is needed is a new point of view on things, clear some emotional garbage out of the head space. This takes time, and you can't do it whilst in the thick of things.

Like some people here maybe you can keep close contact, but it doesn't sound like it. (And I truly haven't met a person who can.)
posted by P.o.B. at 6:59 PM on January 21, 2008

MC and Scody - I totally agree with what you're saying, and agree that as a rule, a period of no contact is a good thing. One definitely has to get out of the habit to talking on the phone, emailing all the time, hanging out, depending on that person for everyday emotional support, etc.. I'm just disagreeing with the idea (not from you, specifically, but the general advice on the thread and on others) that there has to be no contact for however long it takes to be completely and 100% over the breakup. I agree that you can't call your ex every time you see something funny that only they'd appreciate - but for me, it would not have helped me to not call if I was holding myself to that standard. For me, it's so much easier to think "ah! I'll have to remember to tell him that when we have lunch next month". This provides a kind of safety net, and allows me to put it out of my mind (whereas, were I doing NO CONTACT FOR YEARS, IF THAT'S WHAT IT TAKES - I'd have the initial twinge of sadness at the funny thing, followed by a yawning gulf of sadness that he was completely out of my life). Everybody's different.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:02 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think moxiedoll makes a good point; there's nothing wrong with setting an arbitrary lunch or brunch or whatever a month or two from now. I actually think it's better because you can put it out of your mind and worry about you getting over it and working out how things are going to be out of the relationship without stressing about how and whether you should maintain contact.

So to summarize, it's not no contact ever, it's a set period of no contact after which you can reevaluate what kind of future contacts you want to ask.
posted by SoftRain at 8:10 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't hang out with him unless you can hang out with his new S.O.
posted by spiderskull at 1:27 AM on January 28, 2008

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