Letting go is hard. The no contact rule can help.
“I never want to see you again!”
This is a common cliche in many a Lifetime movie or melodrama. The heroine tosses her head indignantly (or tosses a glass at the spurned lover) and declares her intention to eliminate the man from her life entirely. Ah yes, the no contact rule. But when our relationships go south, is “never wanting to see you again” as easy as it sounds?
In this age of texting, Facebook, and hookups, it may be harder to break free than we’d sometimes like. Whether you initiated the breakup, or he did, once the stuff has been divvied up and his toothbrush and razor are cleared out of your bathroom, what is the next step? Have you agreed to remain friends or will you institute the “no contact” rule? All breakups are different, of course, and need to be taken in context. You have to decide whether there are mitigating circumstances that allow you to enforce a no contact policy.
Is it even possible for you to maintain a civil relationship post breakup? It all depends on the nature of your relationship and how ugly the breakup was and what sort of sex life you had with is what this site is all about (find out more here) but it can be done. However, the fewer reminders and temptations to rekindle the old flame, the easier it is to move on with your life and start the healing process.
WHAT IS THE NO CONTACT RULE?
So how do you institute a no-contact rule and will it work for you? Simply put, the no contact rule means you cut off all contact, all interaction with your ex. No late night calls or drunken texts. No hanging out at his favorite bar. No prowling on his Facebook page. It’s not calling him for help like you used to, or going past his house to see if he’s home.
The first step in pulling off a successful no-contact policy is to clean house. Literally and figuratively. Start by literally cleaning your house of anything that belongs to him: any underwear left in your drawer; shirts in your closet; movies, CDs, and books on your shelves that only he watched, read, or listened to. Clear out your medicine cabinet of his toiletries. Your home belongs entirely to you now. And enjoy reclaiming your space.
Next, clear your digital space of all reminders. Delete his number from your contacts. Unfriend him on Facebook if you have to (and be sure to change your relationship status to “Single”). This virtual world is a little more difficult to scrub entirely clean – you will most certainly have mutual friends online. But the more distance you create digitally, the easier it will be to avoid crossing paths physically.
Finally, this may be a good time to find new hangouts. Enforcing a no-contact policy will be impossible if you stalk the same bars, restaurants, gyms, and shops that he always spends time at. Use your new freedom to explore new neighborhoods, and discover new activities. It will not only reduce your chances of running into him, but you’ll get to meet new people, and become engaged in activities that will help you pick up the pieces and write that new chapter in your life.
WHY YOU SHOULD USE THE NO CONTACT RULE AFTER A BREAK UP
- It helps you forget about him. It is nearly impossible to heal a wound if you keep peeling off the bandage and poking at it.Trying to maintain a friendship after a breakup will bring constant reminders of the romance that you used to have: the romance that for one reason or another, did not work out.
- It prevents you dragging things out and lets you to move on with your life more quickly. Some of us are strong enough to still maintain contact with an ex and be able to keep those old memories and emotions at bay; they have the ability to redefine the relationship into something new. But if those feelings keep flaring up every time you see him, you will only be torturing yourself.
- It shows him that you don’t need him. It also shows you that you can function just fine without him. If you are constantly calling him, or turning to him instead of to your other family and friends, or sending him text messages he will know that he still has a hold on you, and that power can be misused (by the way, if you are looking for some great tips on sending your man dirty text messages, you’ll learn a lot from this). Show that you have respect for yourself by demonstrating that you can make it on your own. Learn to fix your own car; learn to kill your own spiders (as ridiculous as that sounds); learn how to open the peanut butter jar, as I Will Surviveblares on your stereo.
BUT WHAT IF CIRCUMSTANCES PREVENT A “NO CONTACT” RULE?
There are situations that could make it difficult and physically awkward to implement a no contact policy. You may live in the same building or neighborhood; you may work together at the same company. If you have children or even shared pets, you need to arrange custody, forcing you into contact, and at least public civility. There is no working around being forced to see him in those situations, but there are ways to mitigate the impact of the contact.
You also may need to work out, as part of the breakup, “custody” of mutual friends and even places where the two of you both enjoyed hanging out. While there are benefits to breaking out of your old routine and discovering new places, it certainly is not fair to be forced out of going to your favorite hamburger joint just because you know he will be there. What can you do to make the no contact rule fit with your life? Perhaps you can agree to certain days that are “yours” and others that are “his”.
Your mutual friends will often form their own camps: some will have sided with you, and others will be on his side. Custody of your friends in those cases will be easily determined. However, there are friends who will have formed close bonds with both of you. It is not fair–and can be petty–to force friends into choosing sides. Acknowledge that certain friends will still maintain contact with both of you, but if you have a no-contact policy, do not pump your friends for details on what he is doing; do not ask them if he is dating anyone else, or if he seems miserable. Don’t deliberately hang out with them at the same time they are hanging with him. Or if you do, don’t pull them into unnecessary drama, and keep a safe distance from the ex.
What if you work together or live close to each other? If you met at work, hopefully you were able to maintain a separation between your professional and personal lives prior to the breakup. If so, you should still be able to maintain a professional relationship now. It’s not easy, but keep conversations strictly work-related, and avoid run-ins at the break room or after work parties.
THE MAJOR DOWNSIDES OF THE NO-CONTACT RULE
“I never want to see you again” admittedly can be a very “cold” and drastic move. It could come across as overly dramatic, especially if the breakup was reasonably amicable. Remember, a no-contact policy is an extreme step to take. And as we have seen in some of the situations mentioned above, it can take more work than it would be to continue to maintain contact. Ultimately, the decision is yours as to whether having constant reminders of him is more painful than eliminating him out of your life entirely.
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As with any extreme actions, there are middle grounds you can take: an alternative to the no contact policy can be to only hang out with him when there are other people around. If there are kids or pets for which you share custody, arrange to drop them off or pick them up in a neutral place, especially if it is going to be too awkward to have him in your home or to go to his house. [But do keep things civil when you are dealing with him in front of the children. They don’t need to be saddled with your baggage.]
MAINTAINING AN EMOTIONAL NO-CONTACT POLICY
Whether or not you are able to cut off all physical ties, the most important key to moving forward with your life is to maintain an emotional no-contact policy. Keep him away from your heart and your memories. Don’t let fantasies of getting back together prevent you from picking up the pieces of your life. It may seem like the end of the world to be alone, but endlessly running on the hamster wheel of trying to resuscitate a broken relationship is much more of a waste of your time.
In the long run, reclaiming your freedom, and reclaiming your heart is worth more than any feeble stolen moments you can claim, breathlessly waiting for him to text or catching a glimpse of him at a party.
HOW LONG DOES THE NO-CONTACT RULE NEED TO STAY IN PLACE?
It really depends on how quickly you are able to pick up the pieces. If you are able to see him walk down the street without the old pangs causing your heart to flutter; if you can talk about him with friends with more nostalgia than angst, then, congratulations, you are over him, and perhaps you can trust yourself to hang out at a gathering where he has been invited.
The whole point of making a clean break is to focus on yourself and make a fresh start. The most important rule is to put yourself first. Redefine your life in terms of your needs and desires, and not what he might have had you do. Yes, a door may be closing in your life, but, to quote an old cliche, that simply means that a new door, a new chapter in your life, is beginning. If you continue to knock on that old door, you deny yourself the opportunity to see what wonderful new adventures lie in store for you. If you keep picking at the old scab, the wound will never heal.
Whatever post breakup arrangements you make, contact or no contact, make a hard and fast rule for yourself that there is to be no contact back into the romantic realm. Granting yourself that strength to be free of him will allow you to heal that much quicker. You will be amazed how quickly you will start forgetting the pain and loneliness of breaking up, and the faster you can move forward into the next chapter of your life.