I’m going to assume, if you’re reading this, you’ve likely gone through a breakup recently. You’re probably not going to love what I’m about to tell you. But, if you commit to following the Breakup Recovery 101 Golden Rule… it’s highly likely you’ll be on your way to healing MUCH faster than not.
Here it is… are you ready?
You must commit to doing this for a MINIMUM of 30 days.
Before you start panicking and coming up with a hundred “reasons” why this is impossible, hear me out. Anyone worth their salt in the breakup recovery network will agree, going NO CONTACT with your ex, is the healthiest move you can possibly make immediately following a breakup.
There are 2 exceptions to the Golden Rule.
You have kids together.
You work together.
If you fall into one of these 2 categories, the NO CONTACT rule becomes more challenging. But not entirely impossible. Think of it as an exercise class. The instructor shows you how to do an exercise to get the optimal benefit, and then she shows you an alternate method for those with physical limitations. That’s what we’re going to do in this article.
If you’re post-breakup and you find yourself compulsively doing any of the following, I encourage you to put the rule into action ASAP:
Incessantly calling/texting/emailing your ex
Social media “stalking” daily
Looking for any and every reason to talk to or see your ex
Showing up unannounced at her home/workplace
Constantly asking mutual friends what the other is doing
I know it can feel impossible to stop this behavior. I know it feels beyond your control. But, it is within your power to stop this obsessive spiral. Consider this your first step in breakup rehab.
In an article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers from Syracuse University did a study they called, "The Neuroimaging of Love.” The study showed that falling in love affects intellectual areas of the brain and triggers the same feelings of euphoria experienced by people when they take cocaine.
In the same article, the scientists say, when a relationship or affair ends, it’s highly likely to cause depression and emotional distress for at least one partner in the relationship. So, trust science when I say — you my friend, are absolutely working toward breaking an addiction right now.
Every time you try to reach out and succeed, you’re giving yourself a temporary high. But let me ask, how do you feel afterward? Better? Or more depressed? Are you getting the responses you’re so desperately seeking? Or, do you just end up with more questions? You have to allow yourself to go through the withdrawal. It’s going to be difficult, but it isn’t impossible.
No contact —> Peace —> Healing —> Moving on
In theory, you know you shouldn't reach out. But your mind will try to rationalize all the different reasons you need to talk to her. Let’s be clear: these aren’t reasons, they’re excuses. Even the most logical of people will find themselves in a battle between their rational and irrational selves when their hearts are broken. Understand, you’re in an altered emotional state right now. Many of your thoughts aren’t rational.
Fight or Flight... It's Science.
There’s a little almond-shaped part of your brain called the amygdala. This little dude is responsible for receiving and processing the first signs of stress. His job is to signal when we’re in danger. He’s responsible for our, “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always understand that our physical lives aren’t in danger when stressors are present.
So little dude sends a signal down to our good friend Hypothalamus which is like the chief of command that communicates with the rest of our body through the autonomic nervous system, the ANS if you will. The ANS controls things like our breathing, blood pressure, and heartbeat. The exchange happens so quickly, our conscious brains can’t possibly keep up. It's why people are able to jump out of the way of moving vehicles before they have a chance to think about it. Once the danger has passed, our cortisol levels fall, and our brake system (aka the parasympathetic nervous system) slows our heartbeat, normalizes our breathing, and things go back to normal.
When you’re under prolonged stress (such as… DING DING DING… processing through the loss of your love cocaine), your body doesn’t know the difference. It thinks it’s in danger. This is why you’re feeling anxious, restless, can’t sleep, have no appetite, and are searching for any and every reason to interact with your ex. What you’re feeling is NORMAL. It’s not indicative of needing to jump into action and fix what’s broken with your ex. But, EVERY TIME you make contact with them, you're reigniting your stress response and sending little almond dude back into a panic.
Quit it already, he’s tired!
You need to give yourself space to lose what Susan J. Elliot refers to in her book, Getting Past Your Breakup, as the “couple identity.” You were used to spending most of your time together. Likely, you were the biggest part of each other's day-to-day lives. The emptiness she left behind is palpable. You are desperate to fill the space she used to occupy in your life. You think if you can say a quick hello, keep it light and “casual,” it’ll make you feel less empty. But you’re kidding yourself. Every time you reach out, you’re stalling your progress.
It’s natural to want to know what she's doing. After all, you used to know. It used to be your business. But, it isn’t anymore. The more time you spend obsessing about who, how, and what she's doing, the less time you’re spending on the person who truly matters now; you.
Allow yourself the space and time to learn to sit with the loneliness and the pain of missing her. Do other things to distract yourself. Give yourself permission to feel everything you’re feeling, without trying to run and hide from your pain. That is why you keep trying to reach out because it feels easier than being present with yourself.
If your ex is trying to reach out to you — set boundaries. Tell her, you need space to process and heal. This act is massive in learning to put yourself first. Your TRUE needs post-breakup, are SPACE and TIME. Commit to giving yourself these things.
If you’re still struggling, or think your contact isn’t a big deal. I encourage you to start keeping a log of every instance you interact or try to interact with your ex. Then, write a couple of words about how you feel before and after. Do this for a week, then read back and review. You might be shocked at what you find. This is a brilliant way to hold yourself accountable.
For those of you who fall into the, 2 Exceptions, categories… you can still abide by everything in this article. Your “alternate exercise,” is to keep your interactions STRICTLY about the children, or work. And I do mean STRICTLY. You need to arrange the kid's schedules so you know who has them when, or who’s in trouble for what, etc. That’s fine! You don’t need to ask how she's doing, you don’t need to tell her anything about anything else. This also goes for working together. If you need to interact about work, then do that - interact ONLY about work. Nothing else. Discuss the work at hand, then go back to your desk.
So, what do we do when the urge to reach out to our exes arises? All of this is well and good in theory… but how do we actually keep ourselves from reaching out? I encourage you to make a list. Write down 5-10 things you MUST do, before making contact. Such as:
Take a 20-minute walk
Phone a friend
Blast some music and sing while dancing around the house
Take a long bath or shower
Go for a jog
Meditate for 10 minutes
Make a list of all the reasons you love yourself
Read through your logs of how often you’ve already interacted/tried to interact
Go to a 12-step meeting
Make a cup of tea
Scream into a pillow
Do some yoga
Clean the house
Purge your closet
Go see a movie
Write a letter with all the things you’d say and DON’T send it.
I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Commit to working your way through your list, before reaching out. If at the end of your tasks, you still want to talk to her, I want you to walk into the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror, gaze intently into your own eyes and say (out loud),
“I value myself far more than I’m showing by sending this text.”
Repeat that to yourself at least 3 times. I want you to tell yourself,
“I am stronger than my urge to reach out.”
Say it loud and say it with conviction. Take out a dry erase marker and on your mirror, write whatever makes you feel powerful.
“I AM WORTHY OF LOVING MYSELF UNCONDITIONALLY!”
“I AM WORTHY OF BEING LOVED EXACTLY AS I AM!”
Whatever your affirmations may be, write them where you will see them. Remind yourself constantly that you are worth SO MUCH MORE than chasing after someone.
I also recommend removing temptation as much as possible:
Block her on all social media platforms.
Delete her contact info out of your phone.
If you can’t keep yourself from social media stalking, delete the apps from your phone.
If you frequent the same coffee shops, bars, or hang-spaces… stop going to those places for now. I know our community sometimes feels very small. But, this is only temporary. It's much better to give yourself time now than continuing to try and be around her since you have all the same friends. CREATE SPACE.
None of this needs to be permanent. But it’s going to make the next 30-90 days of NO CONTACT easier.
Now, I can already hear you over there preparing your discourse.
“BUT, MAYBE WE CAN BE FRIENDS!”
“BUT, I NEED CLOSURE!”
BUT BUT BUT!
I know, I know. In my next several posts, we’ll be diving deeper into your contentions. For now, I want you to decide, no matter what you’re hoping for in the future, that right here, right now, you are committing to doing exactly what you need to do to heal YOUR heart and take care of YOU.