The “No Contact Rule” After Break-Up: How to Make it Work for You

By Godfrey Onime, MD

At the clinic recently, a woman shared with me that she had decided to part ways with her boyfriend. They had been having problems and they both felt they needed to take a break from each other. They also opted for the “No Contact Rule” after the breakup.  The woman cried easily as she spoke. She was a usually friendly and pretty 30-something with red head. I handed her Kleenex and she dabbed her bloodshot eyes with it. The woman stated that she knew her boyfriend would try to contact or see her anyway. She did not know whether she wanted him to or not, or if she could say no to him if he tried to get in touch her. Heck, she may even be the one who may try to reach him. What she wanted to know from me was how long is long enough for the no contact rule after a break-up and how she could make it work.

The “No Contact Rule,” as the name implies, means that you don’t contact your ex at all after a breakup. Experts have differing opinions as to how long you should cut contact; one breakup coach recommends a two month time period while others recommend a period ranging from thirty to ninety days depending on the nature of the break-up.

Nonetheless, adhering to the “No Contact Rule” is going to be difficult no matter what timetable you use. Following are five effective tips that can help you stay away from your ex without constantly wondering what he or she is doing, saying or feeling at the present moment.

Move Away

Yeah right, you might be thinking. Easier said than done. And you’d be right. After all, not everyone can afford to move away after a break-up. However, those who can should consider doing so, at least temporarily. Moving away will make it exponentially easier to adhere to the “No Contact Rule” than it would have been otherwise.

If you can’t leave town, then consider some slightly less drastic options. Perhaps you could move to another suburb in the same city. Air BnB and other, similar websites feature homeowners who offer rooms or even whole homes for rent for short time periods. A short-term rental would most likely be cheaper than paying for a hotel room and would also enable you to get back together with your ex if you both so desire after the no contact period has expired. Alternatively, you may want to ask a relative who lives in a different city if you could stay over for a short period of time. If you don’t have a lot of money, offer to help with chores or housecleaning in exchange for room and board.

If you live together with your ex, move out, even if you have to move into a nearby room or apartment. There is no way you can maintain the “No Contact Rule” if you live in the same home.

Change Your Schedule

You may need to change your schedule and habits if the chances are high you will bump into your ex while out and about. Doing so may involve:

  • Shopping at different stores
  • Choosing a new exercise spot and/or form of exercise
  • Taking a different route to and from work or school
  • Changing your class schedule

Naturally, making schedule changes does not guarantee that you won’t see your ex, so be prepare for unexpected encounters. If you do happen to bump into your ex, politely say hello and walk away. No further chit-chat is needed.

Get a New Hobby

There are so many hobby options to pick from that you should have no problem finding at least one that catches your interest. Collecting items such as stamps or coins is an engaging hobby for men and women alike. Those who enjoy outdoor activities may want to consider gardening, golf or an outdoor sport. If you are a “people person” who detests being alone, consider getting involved in church activities or volunteer at a local pet shelter or homeless shelter. Art-related hobbies such as drawing, sketching and painting are great for people who have artistic talent.

Getting involved in a hobby will take your mind off your break-up, helping you overcome the sadness of losing the company of someone your loved. A hobby can also give you a feeling of empowerment, boosting your self-esteem as you learn a new skill.


group of young people running on treadmills in modern sport gymIf you don’t pick an exercise-related hobby, be sure to make time to exercise on a regular basis. Exercise helps to alleviate stress, enables you to sleep well at night, keeps your immune system healthy, helps you stay in shape and releases endorphins in your body that will make you feel better about yourself.

If you haven’t exercised regularly in a long time, start slow. Choose a form of exercise that you feel you will enjoy and then exercise for about twenty to thirty minutes at a time, three days a week. You can increase your exercise time incrementally depending on your schedule and health.

Those who have self-esteem issues after a break-up may want to consider martial arts. Learning a martial art such as karate, Tae Kwan Do or Jiu Jitsu can help you regain a sense of self-worth, learn discipline, boost your self-esteem and make new friends.

Make Time to Think

Staying busy after a breakup is important but it is equally important to make time to think about life. Take some time alone to think about questions such as:

  • Am I ready for a relationship?
  • If there a possibility of having a healthy romantic relationship with my ex once again?
  • Am I open to the idea of getting back together with my ex?
  • What are my life goals?
  • Do I have a healthy sense of self-esteem? If no, how can I help myself realize my own self-worth?

Jordan broke up with Audrey after having regular arguments with her and both parties decided to adhere to the “No Contact Rule”. The result? As Jordan notes, he had time to think about the relationship with clarity and determine that he did, indeed, want to give it a second chance.

Conversely, thinking about your life may lead you to realize that you don’t really want to get back together with your ex. That’s OK too. After all, the “No Contact Rule” is not meant to be a manipulative trick to make your ex miss you and come crawling back asking for a second chance. It’s simply meant to be a tool to help you overcome the hurt of a breakup and go on to lead a happy, productive life either with or without your ex’s company and friendship.

How you behave after a break-up can have long-term consequences. The “No Contact Rule” increases the odds of coming away from the experience stronger, healthier and wiser than before. Use the above tips to help you stay away from your ex while you recover from the separation and decide what you want to do with your life.

On to You

Have you had to use the no contact rule after a breakup? How did you deal with it? Was it productive? Please leave a comment.

About the Author

Dr. Godfrey Onime is a practicing physician in Lumberton, North Carolina. His essays have appeared in the New York Times,  Guideposts Magazine, and the collection of Stories, The Country Doctor Revisited, among others. Besides practicing medicine, he teaches medical students and residents, and enjoys writing and editing for HealAway. Follow him on Twitter @GodfreyOnime.

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