No-Contact Rule: The Most Effective Way To Move On From An Ex

Ways to keep the skeletons of the past buried to let the unfulfilled desires rest in peace

Reviewed by Mira Masukawa, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist Mira Masukawa Mira MasukawaLicensed Marriage Family Therapist linkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Experience: 4 years
Edited by , BSc Shatabdi Bhattacharya BSc linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
Fact-checked by , MA Gracia Odile MA linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years

A breakup is one of the worst things to experience in life, and getting over it can be an uphill battle. But following the no-contact rule can help you move on in your life. This rule may be especially necessary for people who have recently endured a breakup. They often find it difficult to acknowledge that things are over for them and try to maintain contact (regardless of the feelings of the other party). Unfortunately, this can only worsen things, and in the process, they risk endangering the well-being of both individuals without their knowledge.

So, what is this rule all about? How does it work? Continue reading to know more.

What Is The No Contact Rule?

Couple breaking up and having no contact
Image: Shutterstock

True to its name, the no-contact rule is a prohibition where you cease to maintain any contact with your ex-partner after your breakup for a certain period, ensuring distance and isolation. In other words, you stop having any kind of communication with them. This includes meetings, phone calls, emails, text messages, and contacts through social media platforms, ensuring complete avoidance. You also stop having any kind of contact with your ex-partner’s family and friends. More importantly, you stop stalking your ex-partner in the real and virtual worlds.

The no contact rule enables you to detach yourself from the situation and deal with your emotions and pain in a better way that begins with separation and silence. It allows you the time and space you need to acknowledge the end of the relationship, grieve over your loss, and move on in your life.

This rule also helps you process your feelings and decide whether you want to get back to your ex. At the same time, it may also draw your ex back to you as the playing-hard-to-get factor comes into force.

Esther Yang, a blogger, shares her experience of making the conscious decision to maintain the no-contact rule with her ex-partner, rather than maintaining a friendship or seeking comfort from others. She chose the first and wrote, “Choosing Option 1 paused the relationship, so I could put all my energy into reflecting on my thoughts and emotions rather than dealing with dramas (i).”

Types Of No Contact Rules

Every human being is different, and so are the relationships they maintain. Hence, it is almost impossible to have a one-size-fits-all no contact rule. Here are the different types of no contact rules that you can follow based on your particular situation.

  1. The Standard No Contact Rule: The standard no contact rule is the regular no contact rule after a breakup, as discussed above. In this rule, you stay clear of making any contact with your ex through any means or medium for a specific period. This period of withdrawal provides an opportunity for introspection and healing. Cessation of communication allows you to process the breakup and come to terms with the situation.
  1. The Limited No Contact Rule: The limited no contact rule is a form of restraint that allows you to limit your interactions with your ex-partner while avoiding complete seclusion or exclusion. This rule is particularly useful when you briefly interact with your ex-partner under inevitable circumstances. Such circumstances can arise if you both work together or are involved in running a joint business venture. You may follow this rule if you both share financial commitments, such as a joint loan. This rule is also applicable if you have children together, in which case maintaining a so-called embargo on communication is more difficult.
  1. The Indefinite No Contact Rule: As the name indicates, the indefinite no contact rule is one where you never go back to maintaining contact with your ex-partner. What is interesting to note is that many people start with the standard no contact rule and then continue staying out of touch as they do not want to get back with their ex-partners anymore. As such, they end up graduating to this version of the no contact rule to move on.

The indefinite no contact rule is what you need to follow if you have been in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. You also need to maintain this rule if your ex-partner is a narcissist or a control freak who wants to regulate every move in your life.

The Definitive Guide To The No Contact Rule

The no contact rule is a way to gain control over your life and feelings. But you have to be aware of how to use the no contact rule effectively. Also, you need to know when not to use the no contact rule. There may even be circumstances when you break the no contact rule.

Let us take a look at the various aspects of how the no contact rule works.

The Benefits Of The No Contact Rule

There is no doubt that the no contact rule offers several benefits to those who follow it diligently. Here are some of the major benefits of the no contact rule after a breakup.

1. Offers An Outlet For Pent-Up Emotions

Women trying to deal with emotions in a no contact rule
Image: Shutterstock

More often than not, a breakup leaves people in emotional turmoil. You may feel a wide array of emotions, such as anger, depression, sadness, and frustration. But when you cut off every contact with your ex-partner, you get the chance to sit back and deal with your emotions earnestly.

You can cry out and let the pent-up emotions flow. Once you do that, you can bring closure to this chapter of your life and start looking forward to new beginnings. In other words, you get time to heal.

2. Provides The Freedom To Decide For Yourself

One of the reasons the no contact rule works almost always is that people get the freedom to decide for themselves. They begin to value this freedom so much that it becomes easy for them to come out of the breakup.

When you are in a relationship, you are likely to put the dreams, aspirations, and expectations of your partner before yours. Even regular aspects like making plans for a trip or a dinner date may depend on the convenience of your partner. But once you are free from the relationship, you get the freedom to make your plans as per your wish and follow them without any restrictions.

3. Saves You From Looking Desperate

Sometimes, the pain of a breakup is so intense that people become ready to do anything to shake it off. That is when they are willing to even compromise and go back to their ex-partners. While this step can offer you temporary relief, it may prove to be a wrong decision in the long run.

If you contact your ex with repeated requests to reconcile, you may look desperate. By having no contact with your ex-partner, you can maintain your dignity, respect, and your resolve to move on.

4. Helps You Gain New Perspective

Man trying to decide things in a no contact rule
Image: Shutterstock

When you suffer a breakup, you may not be in a mental state to get hold of your emotions and start moving on. But staying away from your ex-partner can help you look at things from a different perspective. You will be able to attain mental clarity and decide things neutrally.

Whether it is about understanding what went wrong in the relationship or discovering the positive sides of ending the affair, the no contact rule works every time to help you assess things in a new light and decide on a future course of action.

5. Paves The Way To Fall In Love Again

A failed relationship or a breakup does not mean you have to give up on love altogether. But staying in touch with your ex after your breakup can derail your efforts to fall in love once more. You may not be able to put behind the old relationship and jump into the new one with full conviction.

By going with the no contact rule, you can mentally prepare yourself for new experiences and new friendships.

Is There Ever A Situation Where The No Contact Rule Will Not Work?

The benefits mentioned above indicate why the no contact rule is so effective for moving ahead after a breakup. But are you aware that there are two situations where the no contact rule may not work?

The first situation is when you both have children together. Being parents to children means there may be many occasions when you have to interact with your ex-partner. The length of these interactions will depend on the situations you face. For instance, if one of your children needs immediate medical attention or faces a major crisis, you will have to keep the no contact rule on hold and reach out to the child.

The second situation is if your partner approaches you the right way – when your partner realizes what you meant to them after the breakup and makes a genuine effort to start everything afresh. If you are sure of their intention and want the same from your side as well, you may reach out to them keeping aside the no contact rule.

The Factors That Allow You To Break The Traditional No Contact Rule

Ideally, you should not break the traditional no contact rule. But there are certain circumstances where you can. If you contemplate breaking this rule, you need to consider these factors before making a decision.

1. The Length Of Your Relationship Before The Breakup

If you had shared a long relationship with your ex-partner, you would have some idea about how to handle the situation. You need to consider how strong your bond has been and what drove you apart. In the case of new relationships, you will have to think carefully if things will work out even if you break the rule.

2. The History Of The Relationship You Shared With Your Ex-Partner

If your relationship history is dotted with multiple incidents of breaking up and getting back, it may not be a good idea to break the rule this time around. It is a pattern that you need to break out of, and the no contact rule can help you out. But if this is the first instance, you can make an exception.

3. The Number Of Days You Have Passed Maintaining The No Contact Rule

If it has been just a few days or a week and your partner is trying to reach out to you, it can be a case of rebound emotions. In other words, it may be too early to take a call. But if you have passed a couple of months and see your partner trying to reach out to you desperately, you can give it a thought.

4. The Reason For Your Breakup

What was the reason for the breakup? If it was cheating or infidelity, then you are better off continuing with the no contact rule. But if it was something that did not evoke a great deal of anger or hatred, you can consider taking a call in favor of breaking the rule.

5. Your Current Stage Of Healing

Pain of a couple in a no contact rule
Image: Shutterstock

An essential factor to consider is the stage of healing you are at currently. Are you ready to deal with your ex-partner? Has the pain of your breakup subsided? Are you ready to look at things from a new perspective and get back to the relationship once more? These questions will help you decide for yourself.

6. The Way Your Ex-Partner Is Making Efforts To Reach Out To You

If you have received just a brief positive communication from your partner, it is not enough to jump to conclusions and break the rule. Also, if they bombard you with negative messages or send threatening messages, it is better to carry on with the no contact rule. However, if you see that they are persistent with their positive communications, you can decide to break the rule and reach out to them.

How Long Does No Contact Take To Get Your Ex Back

Sometimes, people want a future with their ex-partner even after a breakup. They may be very upset with something that their partner said or did and decide to breakup. Often they want to make their partner realize how much they hurt them, and they do this by maintaining a period of no contact.

When it comes to getting back your ex through this rule, there is no fixed period. For some, the rule works within a couple of days, and for others, it may take a couple of weeks or even months. Usually, you can follow this rule for 30 to 45 days.

Big No-Contact Mistakes To Avoid

If you want the no-contact rule to work for you, there are a few mistakes you must avoid:

  1. Thinking About Your Ex At All Times: Not contacting your ex does not mean you put your life on hold and keep on thinking about them at all times. This will only make you miss them more and you will feel miserable.
protip_icon Quick Tip

You can write yourself a letter where you talk about why you broke up with your ex in the first place. Reading it will remind you to stay strong and help you move on.

Woman thinking in a no contact rule
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Making Your Ex Jealous: You may start liking someone else when you are still in the no-contact period. But that does not mean you can use this new person in your life as a tool to make your ex jealous.
  1. Overanalyzing The Situation: The no-contact rule is supposed to heal you. By overanalyzing the reasons for your breakup, you will drive yourself towards frustration. Or you may end up agonizing over what your ex is doing while you are in no contact with them.
  1. Setting A Deadline: If you want your ex back, setting up a deadline may equal setting yourself up for disappointment. You will be putting yourself under a lot of pressure and worry if things will really work out within that set time frame.
  1. Expecting Results Right Away: Whether you want to let go of your ex or want them back after the no contact period, nothing will happen instantly. In other words, expecting instant results will not bear any fruit.

But what if you follow all the rules but feel like it is amounting to nothing? Check below for signs to rest your anxious mind.

5 Signs The No-Contact Rule Is Working

The following signs can help you assess your progress:

  1. You are now able to extract yourself from the relationship and look at it objectively. This is offering you clarity about the issues you faced.
  2. You are enjoying doing things for yourself, by yourself that you found selfish earlier but now see how helpful they are.
  3. You do not feel anxious and you find yourself looking forward to new experiences.
  4. You enjoy meeting new people without feeling guilty, hesitant, or insecure.
  5. Your ex reaches out to you (if your purpose was to get back with them after a period of space), instead of you chasing after them.

However, if you do not notice any of these signs, you are probably failing. So, what next?

5 Signs The No-Contact Rule Is Working

The following signs can help you assess your progress:

  1. You are now able to extract yourself from the relationship and look at it objectively. This is offering you clarity about the issues you faced.
  2. You are enjoying doing things for yourself, by yourself that you found selfish earlier but now see how helpful they are.
  3. You do not feel anxious and you find yourself looking forward to new experiences.
  4. You enjoy meeting new people without feeling guilty, hesitant, or insecure.
  5. Your ex reaches out to you (if your purpose was to get back with them after a period of space), instead of you chasing after them.

However, if you do not notice any of these signs, you are probably failing. So, what next?

What Happens If You Fail The No Contact Rule?

If you fail in your commitment to maintaining the no-contact rule, it could mean you are not trying hard enough. But it does not mean you have to give up on your efforts. You can simply start all over again and make it a success.

protip_icon Quick Tip
You can get a breakup buddy, a friend going through something similar, or a family member to keep you accountable. This can help you keep yourself on track and focus on healing.

Infographic: Unexpected Benefits Of Moving On

The no-contact rule helps you move on from your ex-partner and the breakup with the least possible amount of pain. Moreover, moving on has some unexpected benefits other than you being ultimately free from a relationship that wasn’t headed anywhere. Check out the infographic below to know more about these incredible advantages.

unexpected benefits of moving on (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

It is natural to find your life in disarray after a breakup. Your emotions are all over the place, and you might find it hard to make rational choices. The no-contact rule is a powerful strategy that will help you bring your emotions back under your control and build a new perspective. This detachment will give you the solitude and privacy necessary to heal and face new changes. After trying this strategy, you may either move on or get back with your ex, but the choice will be in your hands. If the no-contact rule feels like the right fit for you, try it out. Take care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the 30-day no-contact rule work?

Yes, the 30-day no-contact rule can work. It gives you and your partner space to think and work on various aspects of your relationship. If you feel this duration is not sufficient, you should extend the timeframe to get things settled.

How often should you text your ex after no contact?

If you get a neutral response or even no response after your first message after the period of no contact, wait for at least a week to send a new text again. If the response remains the same, you should give your partner some space. If there is a positive response from your partner, maintain at least a gap of 2 – 3 days between your text conversations.

What are some alternative strategies for coping with the pain and emotions that arise after a breakup, besides the no-contact rule?

Prioritize self-care, do not push yourself to get over your feelings overnight, indulge in things that you enjoy, and express your feelings by writing them down or discussing them with someone but do not drown in your emotions.

How can one establish boundaries with an ex-partner who is resistant to the no-contact rule?

Try explaining the situation for you, block them from your contact and social media, and stop giving in to their demands.

Are there any potential negative consequences of practicing the no-contact rule, such as regret or missed opportunities for reconciliation?

The no-contact rule will help you better understand your emotions and true feelings towards the situation as well as the person. If you regret breaking up and want to get back together, recollect yourself and contact your partner. But if your partner wants some more time or does not want to get back, it is better to give them their own time to heal or move on.

Can the no-contact rule be used in other contexts, such as managing toxic friendships or ending a professional relationship?

Yes, the no-contact rule works regardless of the person. When you cease connection with your toxic friend or colleague, it gives you peace of mind and space to make your own decisions without anyone’s influence. The first few days might be difficult but when you see improvement in yourself, you embrace your decision.

Key Takeaways

  • The no-contact rule involves cutting all contact with your ex-partner after the breakup.
  • It provides insights into your emotions and helps you get a new perspective on life.
  • You should avoid thinking about your ex or attempting to make them jealous when you go no-contact with them.
  • However, this rule may not work in a couple of situations — when you have kids or your partner has realized their mistake and is seeking a patch-up.

Get to know about the secrets of relationships and learn about the ‘no contact rule’ and how it can help you from the following video.

Personal Experience: Source

Was this article helpful?
Mira Masukawa

Mira MasukawaLicensed Marriage Family Therapist

Mira Masukawa is a licensed marriage family therapist with 10 years of experience in grief, trauma, and anxiety cases. She also owns a group practice, San Diego Grief Counseling, and deals with clients through tele-therapy. She also runs a nonprofit, California Grief Therapy Center, to help families in need. Mira received her bachelor's degree in psychology from the San full bio

Latest Articles