I'm going to share with you one of the cornerstones of breakup recovery: do not have ANY contact with your ex for 60 days.
This holds true whether you just broke up yesterday, or if it happened months (even years) ago and you are still caught up in it. Take 60 days without seeing them, talking to them on the phone, texting, emailing, looking at their online profiles, sending smoke signals or, yes, even listening to those old voicemail messages you have saved in your cellphone (you thought I didn't know about them, didn't you? ;-).
And of course, you won't be taking their calls, texts, emails, etc. either.
Why no contact? Because after a break-up you're confused. Lots of feelings tend to swirl around, including regret, self-doubt, anger...the kind of feelings that tend to cloud our judgement. If emotional turmoil can be described as muddy waters, the aftermath of a break-up is a veritable Mississipi River Delta after a big storm. And for many of us those troubled waters were already swirling for a while before the actual break-up happened. Time with no contact whatsoever provides the clarity you need in order to remember exactly who you are and find your emotional center.
Why 60 days? There's something about this timeframe that really helps to activate the psychological reset button. I've seen it in practice in clients, friends, and yours truly and it really works. I used to recommend 30 days, but it's really not enough--double that is just right.
Will it be easy to do? Maybe, but probably not. At least in the short term. For some people after the first week or so they find themselves thinking about their ex/relationship a lot less. Some don't even realize when they hit the 60-day mark because they've stopped keeping track at that point. In general it tends to get easier with time, so don't be discouraged if it seems overhwelming at the beginning.
If you end up texting your ex on Day 15, or taking a call from them, it's okay. Just dust yourself off and start fresh -- it's a new Day 1 for you, my friend.
So if you feel challenged in getting over a break-up, I invite to to try this. Feel free to check in with me and let me know how you're doing.
Sincerely, The BreakUp Coach
P.S. Okay, I can hear the questions coming up in your mind already, so here's a few answers off the bat.
Question: But I really just want to be friends! Why do I need to break contact for 60 days and risk damaging our friendship? Won't they be mad at me?
If you're honestly interested in a friendship with your ex then some time apart will actually improve your chances at a having just that, once the emotional fires have cooled a bit. And anyone who is truly interested in being your friend will understand your need to have some time to clear your head and wouldn't blame you for it.
Question: I think my ex may be the love of my life and I have a feeling we will end up together, but what if lose that chance by doing the no-contact thing?
Let's just imagine that you're right. My response is similar to the question above. If you really are meant to be together then some time apart shouldn't really change that. And no matter what you're thinking will happen eventually, clearly things haven't been going well lately or you wouldn't have broken up. Taking 60 days will allow you both to get clear about how you really feel and what you really want, and if you both decide to get back together it will be because you want to, and not because you were scared/confused/etc.
(Note: The more you find yourself objecting to the 60-day idea really strongly and finding reasons why you why shouldn't do it, the more you probably really need to do it. Behind all of those reasons is a fear of loss and letting go. Yeah, I know, likely not what you wanted to hear.)
Question: How will my ex know not to contact me? Isn't it mean to just stop responding to them? And it will be so much harder to stick to my plan if they keep trying and I have to ignore them.
For the sake of clarity, if you wish, you can send them one email in response to their first attempt to contact you (no callbacks or online chats).
I need some time without any contact at all to get clarity, so I won't be contacting you, or responding if you try to contact me for a couple of months. Thank you for understanding.
(Your name here)
Question: Can't I just get over it without trying this?
Yes, it may technically be possible to move on with a break-up without taking this step, but it will be more messy, drawn-out, and painful than it needs to be.
Question: What happens after 60 days?
That is really up to you. Now that you have completed your full 60 days you can contact your ex, or decide to respond if they contact you, but you may find that you don't really want to at that point. The cool thing is that you will be able to make that choice with a much clearer, more settled mind.
There are lots more questions that I've heard before and probably some out there I've yet to hear, so fire 'em away if you've got 'em.
In a future blog I will be sharing ideas about how to occupy yourself while you're taking some clarity time and not contacting your ex.
The BreakUp Coach