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So You’re Thinking of Contacting Them…

A Guide to No Contact in Romantic Relationships

By: Ariana Hartman

  

Picture this:

 

You’re in a romantic relationship with someone or a situationship (No judgment. We’ve all been there). Things are going great…until they aren’t. How do you end the relationship and begin the healing process? 

 

Enter in: going no contact. It’s not your typical ghosting scenario, but a strategic move and a bold step toward self-care in messy human connections.

 

Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, a relational and sexual communications professor at Cal State Fullerton, defines no contact as “no interaction or exposure with a subject whatsoever,” which includes in-person and social media.

 

When you break up with a partner or end things in any kind of relationship, it’s part of a process called relationship dissolution. While every person will have a different way of coping with relationship dissolution, going no contact, which is part of a theory called relationship de-escalation, can be a healthy practice, Suwinyattichaiporn said.

 

“I am a supporter of having a no contact period after relationship dissolution for at least one to three months, if not more,” Suwinyattichaiporn said. “It is a very difficult period that deserves quiet time for healthy processing and mourning.”

 

To healthily process a breakup, you have to make sure you mutually end communication. The key point of going no contact is ensuring that both parties agree to stop talking to each other. 

 

Tina Butler, a licensed marriage and family therapist, emphasizes that no contact is a form of boundary setting.  If you suddenly decide to stop talking to them out of the blue and not tell them why, that’s considered ghosting, which is an unhealthy way of communicating.

 

“A verbally communicated piece is the differentiating piece between going no contact and ghosting,” Butler said. “It’s an empowering experience to be able to just confront the person and say ‘This is what’s happening. I don’t know if we can fix it, I just know that I need to disengage and take time for myself.’”

 

Social media is also becoming an issue in the no contact world. We consistently see people post about how they haven’t spoken to their ex and miss them but they left without giving a reason. It then leads to more and more people taking the ghosting route and misconstruing it for no contact, which creates a challenging healing process for both parties involved.

 

“Ghosting, in general, is unhealthy,” Suwinyattichaiporn said. “It can damage the receiver psychologically, and it can damage their self-esteem, but it also damages the self-esteem and self-worth of the person that does it. If you are ghosting someone, it means that theoretically, you are also allowing this kind of behavior to happen to you, so you’re not upholding the best standards for yourself.”

 

Social media also makes it harder for people to stay true to their no contact goal. While it’s recommended to unfollow whoever you’re in no contact with, it can be tempting to want to stalk their social media and wonder what they’re up to. Then you go into a cycle of “what-ifs,” making healing the wound harder. Don’t be ashamed to mute, unfollow or even block someone if it will help you heal.

 

“Social media has made it so much more difficult to truly disengage going no contact after a breakup,” Butler said. “It’s not letting the wound heal. I am always happy when clients tell me that they decided to unfriend their ex or unfollow each other because it really just cuts out a whole bunch of angst and anguish and prolonged pain.”

 

The most important thing to note is that getting over someone through no contact won’t happen overnight. You will feel sad, angry and even regretful. You may even relapse, but that’s okay. You have to give yourself grace and allow yourself to sit with your emotions, but don’t let them consume you.

 

Relationships are chapters in your life, as well as breakups. Utilizing no contact and doing it healthily can allow you to mark the beginning of a new chapter in life— a new, empowered you. 

 

So, if you’re considering no contact or even going through it now, know that the pain won’t be permanent. You got this.

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