sometimes, I hear from people who ask me for specifics about a “no contact rule” during a marital separation. Perhaps they are dealing with a spouse who has been very clear on his desire for space and, as a consequence, has asked for no contact from the other spouse. Or, maybe they have read or been told that “no contact” makes their spouse more likely to miss them or it will help them to deal with the separation in a more positive way.
For example, I could hear from a wife who says: “it honestly breaks my heart every time I call my husband. It is clear that he is not excited to hear from me and he can’t seem to get off the phone with me quickly enough. He seems annoyed already by my voice. I know that he wants his space. And I’m trying to respect that, but does he really expect for me to not already want to check in? That’s just unrealistic. I was talking to a friend about this and she suggested that I try ‘no contact.’ She says this method that I don’t contact him via phone or text unless he contacts me first. And already then, she says that I should not be in any hurry to talk to him and I should not be all that receptive. She says that this will allow him to miss me and that by the end of a few weeks of ‘no contact,’ then he will welcome talking to me. Does this really work? And if so, how specifically, do I carry it out?”
Before I attempt to answer, I have to make it clear that I’ve never coined the term “no contact” or already advocated it. I let in that I’ve written about backing off of on contacting my husband as much during my own separation and seeing very good results with this. When I was reaching out to him regularly (and clearly too much,) he was very cold and almost bitter to me. I kept this up until I honestly knew that I was risking him shutting me out forever. So, in desperation, I went home. And by home I average my childhood home. This ensured that I wouldn’t excursion by anymore. And because I hadn’t seen some people from home for a long time, I was able to keep busier. It was far easier for me to not call or text when I wasn’t within driving distance from him.
And yes, because I wasn’t contacting him on a predictable basis anymore, he began to reach out to me (much to my surprise.) But, I never initiated any “no contact rule.” What I did was change my outlook. I made a pact or agreement with myself that I was no longer going to make a pest of myself. I was going to give him the space he asked for and I was going to stop calling as much. Optimally, I was going to wait and allow him to contact me, but I didn’t make any hard and fast rules about this. There were times when I would contact him. And generally, I could tell right away if it was going to go well. If it wasn’t, I would very promptly get off of the phone.
I did keep myself busy with family and friends from home. So I wasn’t always obtainable when he called. This wasn’t me playing games. This was genuine because I really wasn’t at home waiting for him to call. But I never specifically set out and made a plan that there would be no contact. It just worked out that there was a lot less contact on my part because I knew that things were deteriorating rapidly. My backing off contributed to him calling me. But that wasn’t a master plan of mine. It was just a happy consequence.
I have heard from people who have told me that having absolutely no contact has worked for them. I don’t doubt this. I think that the plan that ultimately works is going to depend on the situation. And I could see that in very volatile situations like where there was infidelity or a nasty fight, then having no contact could be a good idea, especially until things calm down. But I never took things this far.
I suppose if I had to define my strategy, I would say that it was just me backing off, and having limited contact, and then re-evaluating as time went on. If my husband and I had a wonderful conversation and it was clear that he would be happy to hear from me, then I felt free to call, unless or until something happened to make me reevaluate.
I think that flexibility is very important. Because sometimes, no contact can backfire. Sometimes, when the spouses don’t check in, people can make untrue assumptions. They will assume that their spouse has moved on, doesn’t want to talk to them, or is dating someone else. So I would suggest that you be open to different strategies depending upon what is happening. It’s important to learn to read your spouse’s cues and to respond consequently. You never want to adopt an unyielding strategy that continue to use when it’s clear that it’s not working. Instead, you want to be able to change and adapt as time goes on, so that you are always able to make progress.