No contact is of the utmost importance when it comes to recovering from any unhealthy relationship. Why, then, can it be so hard to maintain? How is it that we can do so well for long stretches and then become instant Jell-O with seemingly little warning?
Of the myriad of struggles we may experience during recovery, this seems to be one of the most common snags. The cold reality is that we are going through withdrawal and there is no methadone to ease the pain of this addiction. Making matters worse, each and every time we break it, the clock starts over, feeling worse than we did previously.
However, from experience, I know that we do get to the point where we truly do not care to emotionally interact with our past counterparts. We also genuinely get to the point where their attempts yield little or no emotional response from us. At the same time, I also know that the road to that place can be quite long and challenging.
Recently, I realized that another interesting snafu exists regarding the no contact rule: successful implementation with one individual often does not automatically carry over into other relationships where the same is necessary. Yes, we may pay better attention to various red flags and recognize certain behaviors and know what must be done, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily smooth sailing. However, with diligence, we can do it.
How can we fight the urge to talk, text, or write?
1. Examine the feelings causing the need to want contact
Other than in cases where we were so deeply involved that we became “addicted” to our pathological other halves, fear and old habits are two very common reasons we consider re-connecting with our pasts.
Believe it or not, one of my past no contact struggles was prompted by a dinner conversation with someone I had known much of my adult life. Over steak and a Stella (Artois) the nicest man in the world (not a psychopath) revealed that he was interested in a relationship with me. Instantly, the twinge from within took over. “Me?” I asked in a shocked, surprised, and probably fairly horrified voice. “Yes, you. You are beautiful, smart, and strong. What guy wouldn’t want that?”
From there it got fuzzy. I began to sweat profusely and my head began to spin. However, once I got past the shock, I mentally reviewed my past relationship life. The sad fact was that I didn’t think I could be attracted to a “nice” guy (an issue for another article, which, by the way, I now have totally figured out, at least in theory, even if not in practice.)
So, what did I want? Why did a nice person make me long to reconnect with someone I have absolutely no business being with? Much like a dieter looking for a cheeseburger, I wanted to travel back in time to something that felt more comfortable; I longed for an unhealthy relationship where I could give, give, and give some more, while only receiving small amounts of reciprocity along the way.
Being a “fixer,” giving more than I get comes naturally, but it shouldn’t and fear of the unknown and desire for familiarity should not be the driving force behind contact, especially when the outcome would not yield satisfying results. Thus, just because it’s comfortable, doesn’t mean we should return to it.
2. Examine what happened after the previous communications….and there probably were previous communications
It is likely that prior attempts did not work or we wouldn’t be here. No good can come of making contact with someone who either does not want it with us, is just not that into us, or is pathological. Therefore, we must examine our motives. What do we hope to achieve from our communication? Unless the answer is more heartache or irritation, which will send us reeling and feeling terrible, we should not do it.
How many times have we poured our hearts out and offered explanations for things not working if we wanted to make peace with an ex or ex-interest? How many times have we tried to explain “just one more time,” for some semblance of closure?
We are famous for owning everything; the things we should take responsibility for, as well as those we should absolutely not! They know this. It takes most of us concerted efforts to stop that…and we should stop it. Although counterintuitive, it will bring us to a better emotional place, as we take control of our own peace.
When I thought about all of this, I resisted.
3. Review “old material.”
Most of our counterparts assume we have short memories. In some ways we do, but not always. For most of us, it is in our nature to try to see the good in others and forgive. Many of us have also endured such extreme trauma that we block quite a bit out. However, for those of us who are savers of correspondence, it helps to resurrect what we have. It’s like relationship Soduko.
When last I felt weak over a past connection, I wanted to text to say something…anything, exactly what I didn’t know. I spent the better part of two hours talking myself out of doing so. While my heart and rational brain dueled like two pianos in a night club, I pulled up his name in my phone. Fortunately, I am not one to delete much, so I scrolled to the last break-up conversation (there are a few) and read what he had written. Needless to say, I put the phone down. There would be no text from me.
I decided that I did not really care for how he spoke to me in those texts. I re-visited the feelings the silent treatment that followed evoked. There was a time when I minimized the words, but not at that moment. The words were mean and I felt empty. I did not care that my reactions to them were not perfect (they were not.) I was able to re-live the experiences in my mind and chose me and my well being.
Likewise, years ago, I felt I needed reassurance that my decision to enlist no emotional contact with another individual was warranted. While years of experience should have been enough, the volumes of past e-mail and the journals I kept were what really told the tale. “Normal” was not part of the equation. The pathology in that correspondence was like graffiti on a wall and the ability to see the big picture, a written gift.
With that, I continued to resist.
4. Examine the situation objectively
What would you tell your girlfriend to do if she came to you for advice, assuming the tables were turned? If the answer is run, resist contact.
This goes hand in hand with using old material. We can pull from past conversations and experiences, re-examining the negative feelings those situations created, and acknowledging the red flags we noticed throughout our relationships. We should try to trust in our initial reactions to them. If we felt hurt before, they will hurt again once re-opened. It helps to step outside ourselves and recognize our own worth and beauty, just as we would a friend’s.
When I thought about how I’d counsel my bestie, I resisted.
5. Give it time
Sit on your desire to initiate contact for at least one week or some other extended period of time. It’s a good idea to use this time to think about all of the potential consequences. The wait will probably be worth it.
Isn’t this difficult? Trust me when I tell you, this goes against every fiber of my being, but the wait time will clear us for the option and allow us to choose what’s best for us, which is probably resisting.
What about when they dangle the carrot and casually contact us first?
Resist. Truly. Resist. Depending upon the circumstances, we may or may not choose to respond. Just as we did above, when we were thinking about initiating contact, we must ask ourselves what we hope to achieve by answering them, as well as what the consequences could be for either. If it is a communication that does not require a response or would send us backwards, we should let it go. If we choose to respond, keep it short and unemotional. If we cared or care more than they do, we are the ones at risk for becoming emotionally entangled again.
There is always the possibility that the contact may be legitimate, unless, of course, the person truly is pathological, which may or may not be the case. Regardless, if they tell us they are thinking about us or they miss us, they may. We may actually be on their minds. Truthfully, however, it probably means nothing near what we tend to turn it into.
Typically, when they make contact, they are merely “fishing” to check in on our emotional states. Our reactions act as barometers. Therefore, we should guard what we give back. We may truly no longer care, we may be full-on acting, or we may legitimately be somewhere in the middle. But that’s ours to know.
What do we want for the long haul?
So…we had a bad experience or two. That’s ok. What matters is that we part with a clearer picture of what we see for our futures. How do we want to feel and what are we willing to tolerate? No contact helps us stay the course.
While various things will undoubtedly wreak havoc with our desire to maintain no contact, understanding the roots of our struggles and using our tools can be incredibly helpful. Be strong, friends, and if you falter, know that it’s ok to re-set the clock, but also allow yourself extra care while dealing with the challenges that go hand in hand with that re-set.
Above all else, know that the day will come when the urge to re-connect will disappear for good. If the need repeats itself with another individual, use what you know as empowerment. If we were successful once, we can be successful again. Always learning, always improving.