The only thing worse than the heart-wrenching, mind-numbing, all-consuming pain of a breakup is the confusion and toxicity of an on-again, off-again relationship. If you don’t want to spend the next couple of years with the “Where are we in this relationship?” dilemma, the no-contact rule is your best bet.
Sure, the only thing you’re going to want in the beginning is to pick up your ex’s call and spend hours talking to them, but once you weather the storm and spend a few days without obsessively stalking their social media, things get a lot better and you’ll see the 5 signs the no-contact rule is working. However, before we examine why this step is the best thing you could do for yourself, let’s delve deeper into the concept, how to initiate it, and its effectiveness.
What Is The No-Contact Rule?
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The no-contact rule means snapping all contact with an ex following a breakup. This means you don’t call, text, or stalk them on social media, but also involves cutting all ties with their family and friends. And no, you cannot reinitiate a contact period with them even if you just want to reinstate the rule. It is simply a coping mechanism that helps you process the hurt you’re experiencing after a breakup.
The idea is to focus it on healing and self-improvement. People tend to overlook the self-care bit of the rule and start obsessing about making their ex miss them. That defeats the whole purpose of this exercise. You must use this as an opportunity to grieve the loss of your relationship, get your mind in the right space, and think about the future. This exercise can give you the time and space you need to figure out who you are as an individual and what you want from your life.
Even if you decide to get back together with your ex, that decision will be an informed one. If things start to get clearer and it feels like you’ve made a mistake by letting them go, you’ll know what you need to do next. Trust us, things will only get clearer once you take a step back and cease all communication. That’s why it’s imperative to follow the no-contact rule timeline religiously, without allowing yourself to fall off the wagon of self-control.
How Long Does The No-Contact Rule Take To Work?
Effective as it may be, following the no-contact rule timeline isn’t easy. When you’re lying in bed wearing your ex’s sweatshirt and staining your pillow with tears, it’s only natural to wonder how long does the no-contact rule take to work? Know that there is no set no-contact rule timeline. Plus, it also depends on where your journey takes you, be it toward a new life altogether or toward a rekindled desire to get back what you once had and set things right.
It may take you a month or two before you’re ready to establish contact with an ex without being overwhelmed by emotional baggage. Or you may decide to get back together with them after a couple of months. Perhaps, the period of no contact will make you realize that you’re better off without their presence in your life. In that case, you may decide to cut them out for good. In such cases, putting a timeline on your healing or epiphanies of wanting to restore things doesn’t really do justice to you or your ex.
After all, can you really say for sure that your friend is going to move on from their nasty breakup in the definitive time period of three months? ‘Healing’ is extremely subjective and takes each individual through a unique journey. Similarly, gaining clarity about wanting to restore things may also only happen once the chaos within dies down.
You may discuss things with your friends, with yourself, you might have to come face-to-face with feelings you buried deep within you when you’re single and alone, and you may start spending time doing things that help you grow as a person, all of which will eventually help you make the decision you need for yourself. Depending on the individual, the ‘no contact timeline’ may vary.
Nonetheless, if a ballpark figure is what you came here for, the following might be what a typical no contact timeline looks like:
- If you’re trying to move on:
- It can take anywhere between a month or two months to move on from a mutual breakup
- It might take anywhere between two months to six months to move on from a serious relationship with the no contact rule experience
- It may take anywhere between three months to eight months to move on if the breakup was a particularly damaging one
- It can take up to years if you’re trying to move on from a severely toxic relationship
- If you’re open to reconnecting:
- It might take you a week or two before you reach out to your ex again to try and rekindle things
- It might take you anywhere between a month or three months to try and figure out what you want for yourself before you contact your ex again
It’s important to understand that these figures are rough estimates, and by no means should you rush your decision-making or the moving-on process. The no contact rule experience is different for anyone. If it’s taking you a little longer than you expected to put the dreary nights at bay, know that there’s nothing wrong with you.
Plus, the different stages that a person experiences during this whole ordeal differ for the dumper and the dumped, and also based on the dynamics of the relationship. For example, the person who got dumped may experience the no contact withdrawal symptoms, then experience dejection and improvement, and finally, start recovering.
The dumpers may experience relief about pulling the plug and experience a period of confused emotions which include obsessively thinking about their ex and experiencing grief, before finally making peace with the situation. The unique stages affect each individual differently, which is why you might agree that there’s no real answer to the question: When does no contact start working?
Now, before you start hunting for the 5 signs the no contact rule is working, let’s take a look at what this whole lapse in the contact period does to men. Some people tend to believe that men after a breakup are heartless beings and that a period of staying silent will have no effect on them.
Related Reading: 8 Things To Do When An Ex Contacts You Years Later
Does The No-Contact Rule Work On Men?
The no-contact rule male psychology, let’s get into it. After a period of no contact, “What is he thinking?” might run through your mind. If you want to use this technique as a means to get back together with your ex, then the no contact rule works on men for sure. Here’s how things might play out:
- Playing it cool: He will play it cool and make himself believe that the lack of contact doesn’t bother him, and he may even spend time with your mutual friends to “prove” it
- Confusion: After a short time, your behavior will start confusing him and he’ll miss the contact period
- Wondering: He will try to find out what’s going on with you and why you have disappeared from his life overnight. The more you freeze him out, the more he’ll wonder about what led to this decision
- Anger: The radio silence will make him angry. He may even get into a rebound relationship just to show you that he doesn’t care about all the time you spent together
- Longing: He will start missing you and longing to have you back in his life, there may even be some angry messages sent your way
- Regret: Regret over letting you go takes over. He’d be remorseful of all that he messed up in your relationship in the past
- Trying to get back together: He will take concrete actions to show you how much he wants you back in his life. At this point, his focus is on establishing a healthy relationship
“When my best friend was dumped by his ex, Susan, he tried the rule to get her back. It didn’t really work on Susan, who seemed to check up on him because she was worried about his health, but that was about it. At least it helped him move on, though,” Jackson tells us, talking of his best friend, Kyle.
“A year later, when he broke up with his most recent partner, Gracie, she tried the same trick that he did with Susan. Unlike Susan, however, the lapse in the contact period made him genuinely realize that he wanted Gracie back. Guess it works differently on the sexes!” he adds. If getting back together is what you had wanted all along, this is your chance to make it happen.
Yes, there might be signs he is thinking about you during no contact. However, it’s important to know that not all men will respond in the same manner. If he’s too proud to admit that he’s experiencing grief, he may just lie and tell himself that he’s going to feel better without you. Or, he may just be so filled with anger that the no contact withdrawal symptoms will incite him to send all those “I never needed you anyway” texts at 2 a.m. One thing’s for sure, though, it’s bound to elicit ‘some’ sort of reaction from him.
Related Reading: 17 Subtle Signs Your Ex Still Loves You But Is Scared
5 Signs The No-Contact Rule Is Working
Cutting out a person who has been an integral part of your every day is not easy. Even if the relationship ended on a mutual note, acting as if the person you used to spend all your time with suddenly doesn’t exist gives you a sort of lingering sadness that seems impossible to shake off.
Distracting yourself with a new hobby or trying to move forward by burying yourself with work will only get you so far. So, If you’re taking this approach that tests your willpower and resolve every step of the way, you’d want to be sure that you’re headed in the right direction. When you need reassurance, look out for these 5 signs that the no-contact rule is working:
1. Your ex tries to establish contact
You have vanished from their life. That is bound to leave your ex puzzled and curious, and you’ll see them giving you hot and cold behavior. Especially if they were the ones to call off the relationship and expected you to be wallowing and pining over them. One of the clear signs that things are going your way is when the radio silence gets the better of your ex and pushes them to reach out to you. Repeated texts, calls, or showing up at your door are indicators that you’re on the right path.
Azel decided to cut off the guy she had been casually dating for the past couple of months after he unceremoniously ghosted her following a “Where’s this going?” conversation. Even before she had been through the stages, he created a new profile on Instagram and slid into her DMs.
He was apologetic and begged her to take him back. However, Azel didn’t want to act in haste this time. While she still has feelings for him, he remains consigned to the block zone and she’s using this time off to assess what exactly she wants for herself. Out of the 5 signs the no contact rule is working, this is the easiest (and the quickest) to spot.
The way an ex tries to establish contact with you might be through any of the following:
- They text you to “check in” on you
- They comment on your social media posts
- They post pictures of you two on their social media
- Repeated phone calls, under the pretext of ensuring closure after the breakup, or asking how you are
- Asking your friends and family about your well-being and relationship status
- Showing up at your workplace or places you frequent
- Asking someone close to you to deliver a message to you
- Befriending the people close to you just to contact you is a good sign that it’s working
2. You start practicing self-love
The rule gives you the much-needed space to focus on yourself. The breakup ought to have been hard on you. After going through phases of anger, denial, bargaining, and depression, you’ve finally gained acceptance and begun moving on from a serious relationship. It’s one of the signs that the no-contact rule is working when your well-being and happiness become your prime focus.
You commit to caring for and improving yourself. Be it fostering self-awareness about the kind of life you want for yourself or looking after your physical and emotional health better, you indulge in self-love. This paradigm shift in focus is one of the subtle signs no contact is working.
Even if you decide to get back together with your ex, you will do it with much more certainty, knowing that this is exactly what you want for yourself. On the other hand, if your ex contacts you and you’ve made your mind up to let go of the relationship, you’re going to be much bolder about your choices and won’t spend nights thinking about what could’ve been. If the no-contact timeline makes you realize that your ex isn’t good for you, you can move on without hesitation or remorse, thanks to the new-found self-confidence. Ironically, that will make your ex want you back that much more.
Related Reading: 12 Signs His Ex-Wife Wants Him Back (And What To Do)
As one of the 5 signs the no contact rule is working, this is how self-love will manifest itself in your life:
- Spending more time thinking about yourself than the relationship
- Taking efforts to improve your mental/physical health
- You feel excited about new hobbies and social activities and feel motivated
- Being capable of accepting your grief and working with it, not against it
- Asking for help and feeling like you’re making progress
- Focusing more on your mental health instead of dwelling on the past
- Connecting with new people and making more friends
- Talking more to the people in your life who really matter
- Accepting the fact that things will get better
- Your social media accounts are no longer just tools for you to spy on your ex
- You stop trying to keep track of the contact period with your ex
3. You start responding to overtures by others
All that work you have done on yourself during the no-contact phase is paying off. Others start finding you irresistibly attractive. If you can respond to their overtures or at least revel in the attention without your ex taking up all your mind space, it’s a clear sign that the no contact rule is working.
You have freed yourself from the toxicity of the past. One of the 5 signs the no-contact rule is working is that you no longer put your life on hold, waiting to revive your old relationship. Your mind is open to new possibilities. Even if one of those possibilities is getting back together with your ex, you’ll be able to start afresh in earnest, without the baggage or problematic patterns of the past.
Here’s how the psychology of no contact rule will make itself apparent in this stage:
- You’ll be able to imagine yourself with another partner
- You will not wait around for the old relationship to come back and even if your ex reaches out, you’ll handle it with poise
- You will not be weighed down by the baggage of your past relationship
- You look forward to the idea of a new relationship
- You can even consider getting back with your ex after making an informed decision
- You start to believe in yourself and manage your insecurities
Related Reading: How To Get Over A Married Man Who Dumped You?
4. Your ex becomes more responsive
One of the signs that the rule is working in your favor is a sudden spike in your ex’s responsiveness. They’ll make repeated attempts to initiate contact and be one of the first ones to respond to all your social media activity. All in the hope of making their presence felt and getting you to reciprocate. The no-contact period changes how they respond to you and you’ll see them putting in a lot more effort.
Seeing that the rule was working for Azel, her best friend, Joe, who had been caught in a hot-and-cold post-breakup equation with his ex-boyfriend of over two years, also snapped all ties with him. After nearly three months of radio silence from both sides, Joe’s ex started making overtures to get back together with him.
“When your ex checks up on you on social media, it is almost like a Phoenix has risen from the ashes. That’s what happened here too. His feelings for me were stronger than ever. Although the no-contact rule timeline was longer for me than it was for Azel, it did work in the end. But I’m in no hurry to get back together, so we’re taking it one day at a time,” he says.
If you’ve been using the no contact rule to get her back (or him), the best way to notice the progress is by paying attention to the following details:
- They’ll try everything to communicate with you
- They’ll be a lot more receptive to your needs
- They will text or call you back immediately
- They won’t give any mixed signals
- Establishing contact with your ex will seem easier now since they’re more responsive
- They’ll tell you how much they want to talk to you again
5. Your ex wants to get back together
The ultimate sign that things are going your way is when your ex does everything in their power to get back together with you. This means your absence has made them realize your importance in their life. It’s one thing if they just text you under the garb of “checking up” on you, but if they explicitly say that they want to get back together, consider it the strongest among the 5 signs the no-contact rule is working. From confusion to longing to regret, almost all stages of no-contact for dumper are driven by a need to restore the status quo ante.
Once they get to the stage of wanting to get back together, you have an important decision to make. Get back together or move on. Should you give him a second chance? Don’t let all the hard work you’ve done so far go to waste by letting emotions get the better of you. Take your time, introspect, and do what’s best for you.
If you’ve started to feel better without them in your life, perhaps the best way to stay happy is to continue along that path. However, if contact with your ex has made you realize that you’d like to give things another shot and feel like things can work out this time, you should give it a go.
When your ex wants to get back with you, this is what they’ll do:
- They may make claims of being a changed person
- They’ll beg you to come back and restart the relationship
- They will tell you all the ways they’ve missed you and how important you are to them
- They’ll tell you that this time round, it will be different
- They won’t be able to stand the thought of you being with another person
- The primary focus of the rule is to help you process the hurt you’re experiencing after a breakup
- The rule can help you move on or even get your ex back into your life
- The signs s/he is thinking about you during no contact include getting back in touch with you to check up on you, asking mutual friends about you, doing anything to re-establish contact
- The answer to “When does no contact start working?” is unique for every individual and depends on the desired outcome and the journey
This approach is the unsaid holy grail of coping with heartbreak. It makes you emotionally stronger and better equipped to deal with all the negative emotions that come in the wake of a breakup. When does no contact NOT work, though? When you succumb to temptation. So, if you’re struggling with moving on after a breakup and feel like you need some help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists can help you understand how to cope with the overwhelming emotions you’re feeling.
This article was updated in January 2023.
You know that it’s working on you when you get over your grief and find yourself in a space where you want to socialize and indulge in self-love. You know it’s working when the person who has dumped you starts fretting about your silence and wants to establish contact again.
Once you have severed all contact, you will go through different stages. First, there will be grief and anger. Then, even if your ex tries to contact you, you will not respond and you will see your relationship from a different perspective. That’s when you will move on. Or, if you still feel that your relationship is worth saving, you will get back together.
During no contact, dumpers initially feel a sense of relief that the relationship is over. Then they start getting curious about why their ex never called. Then they start stalking the ex on social media to see how they are doing without them. Then they become obsessive about the ex. Finally, when they realize that the ex will not respond, they feel sad that the relationship is over.
If your ex initiated the breakup, they might be relieved and enjoy their single life initially. But when the reality kicks in that you have not attempted to contact them, they start missing you. It could be a matter of a few weeks or a few months for this feeling to take over.
If you want to get back together, then the rule works on men for sure. A man would get curious about your silence, then eventually start missing you and try to establish contact with you again.
No, he wouldn’t. You would be on his mind. All the more, because he would keep wondering if his position in your life was so irrelevant that you didn’t contact him even once. He would be nursing a hurt ego and there is no way he would forget you.