By Chris Seiter

Updated on December 13th, 2021

Today we’re going to look at the main differences between the no contact rule and ghosting. I’m also going to add in “the silent treatment” for good measure since this is something I see occur a lot.

Expect this in-depth guide to cover,

  • What the no contact rule is
  • What ghosting is
  • What the silent treatment is
  • What happens to you when you ghost someone versus going no contact on them
  • The secret that almost no one gets on their first try with no contact and ghosting

Let’s begin.

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No Contact Vs. Ghosting Vs. Silent Treatment

Without a doubt these are the three pillars of silence you see thrown around a lot in the breakup community. However, it can be very tricky to define what each one is since the lines tend to blur a bit.

What’s the real difference between ghosting and no contact?

Where does the silent treatment fall into play?

Well, let’s take a look.

What Is The No Contact Rule? 

The no contact rule refers to a period of time where you cut off all conceivable communication with an ex after a breakup. The intent of this tactic should NOT be used to make your ex miss you but instead should be used to rebuild your own life so that you outgrow your ex. By doing this, the no contact rule can have the added benefit of making an ex miss you

So essentially the no contact rule is this tactic that you use after a breakup has occurred where you ignore your ex. However, there’s a planned “stop” date so to speak where you will end the no contact rule and get back in touch with your ex.

In our experience the no contact rule is usually reserved for those individuals who are harboring hopes that they want to get their exes back.

Of course, it gets really confusing because technically speaking “ghosting” operates in a very similar way to no contact so people often get confused when looking at the two.

What Is Ghosting? 

When someone ghosts you it usually happens while you are still in a relationship them. They’ll disappear like a ghost. There is no explanation. One day they are there the next they aren’t.

Now, I want you to take special note that I say this “usually” happens while you are in the midst of a relationship with them. However, there can be a few cases where it can occur when you aren’t in a relationship with them.

Usually our research on “avoidant” people can help you understand why someone is being avoidant towards you.

It’s been my experience that folks with an “avoidant” attachment style tend to greatly value their independence. So, when that independence becomes threatened through the intimacy that a relationship provides they tend to disappear.

Hence, they ghost.

Let’s move on and talk about the third pillar of silence relating to breakups.

What Is The Silent Treatment?

Where the no contact rule and “ghosting” are all about cutting off contact the silent treatment is a little bit more nuanced. It’s a manipulation tactic used in relationships to control you by suddenly going silent or being less engaged in conversations than you would have. It’s a passive aggressive form of communication.

It works like this.

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Imagine for a moment that the two of us are in a relationship and we have an argument about something. Rather than solving that argument in a healthy measured way I decide that I’m just going to disappear for a few hours.

Where it gets tricky is that when you’re dealing with the silent treatment it’s possible to be experiencing this without your partner exhibiting full silence.

Imagine for a moment that you only get one word responses whenever you text them now.

I would argue that this could be a form of the silent treatment because the intent there is to manipulate you.

The Macro View Of No Contact Vs. Ghosting Vs. The Silent Treatment

So, as far as my mind goes when looking at the differences between the three pillars of silence we need to look at the intent, circumstances and timing of each one to gain a better perspective.

No Contact Characteristics

For example, the no contact rule is usually employed by those on the receiving end of a breakup and used to heal from the breakup. It’s also not ever meant to be a permanent form of silence.

In other words, there is an end in sight.

Ghosting Characteristics

Usually what you find with ghosting is that it most often is how the actual breakup is actually carried out. It’s employed by individuals with extreme avoidant tendencies who think that it’s better to run from their problems than to talk through them.

There is also no end in sight on whether they will get back in touch with you ever again.

Silent Treatment Characteristics

In my opinion the silent treatment will occur during a relationship and is usually a warning sign that things aren’t great. That doesn’t mean things can’t be great it’s just that whoever is using the silent treatment has developed some bad habits.

Why The No Contact Rule Reigns Supreme

Out of the three pillars of silence we are big subscribers to the no contact rule for one distinct reason.

We believe that it’s the only pillar of silence that promotes self care.

We’ve been blessed over the years with a lot of success stories and we’re finding that in well over 70% of our successes some version of no contact has been used.

Here’s the thing though after talking with hundreds of individuals who have used no contact we have found that what matters more than anything is the intent you have when implementing the no contact rule.

Where most people go wrong is they start a no contact rule with the sole purpose of making an ex miss them.

We’ve established multiple times that no contact can improve the odds of making an ex miss you but the thing no one talks about is why.

After years of searching for an answer we think we found it and it lies with the concept of attachment gravity.

Most of our clients exhibit anxious behaviors after a breakup while their exes tend to be avoidant.

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This is a recipe for disaster.

So, if you implement a no contact rule with the sole intent of making your avoidant ex miss you then what you are really doing is two things.

  1. You’re giving in to your anxious tendencies by neglecting yourself and making it all about your ex
  2. You’re not giving your ex any time away from you at all

Yet it’s interviewing people like this.

Who consistently tell us that the no contact rule became this ultra transformative experience and by the end of it they weren’t sure they even wanted their exes back anymore. This coincidentally is what someone with a secure attachment style would say.

It’s this shift in mindset towards self independence that gives the no contact rule it’s own power.

The problem with techniques like “ghosting” or “the silent treatment” is that if you use them on your partner you are simply giving in to your anxious or avoidant side and that’s ultimately not attractive.

But Isn’t Ghosting Your Ex Kind Of The Same Thing As No Contact?

This is sort of our recap section.

While I will admit that “ghosting” and “no contact” share a lot of similarities they are fundamentally different through intent. With the no contact rule you are ideally supposed to use the time away from your ex to work on redefining your purpose. The biggest mistake I see my clients continually making is that they make their entire lives about their exes. In other words, even when they are doing no contact they are literally thinking only about that ex. It’s understandable but is a recipe for disaster.

I can’t tell you how often I’ll argue to my clients that they need to find a purpose greater than their ex.

Ideally by the end of that period of no contact you’ll feel like you’re in a much better place because your ex isn’t your top priority anymore.

Now, I suppose someone can come out and argue that ghosting can technically achieve the same thing because the difference there is there’s no end in sight. When someone ghosts you they generally have no intent of talking to you again.

Yet I find this thinking flawed as well.


Did you know that over 80% of my clients who try the no contact rule will fail it the first time?

Usually their ex will text them or they’ll feel bad about cutting their ex off and they’ll re-engage with them. In other words, their anxious tendencies tend to overtake them.

Ghosting is the dark twin to that phenomenon except instead of anxious tendencies taking over it’s the avoidant tendencies.

With the no contact rule we encourage our clients to work through the breakup not to simply forget about it.

People who ghost will cut you off because they find it easier to deal with the problem. Yet the trauma remains untouched and will continue to plague their relationships throughout their lives unless they eventually address the problem.

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2 thoughts on “No Contact Rule Vs. Ghosting”

  1. Rose

    September 18, 2022 at 9:34 am

    What do you call it after a 20 yr marriage? After dealing with major anxiety/ depression. Getting the person stellar treatment, full time care giving. Family gets him fans brings him to the west coast and he cuts off communication. I’m dealing but it’s hurtful and very disrespectful.

  2. Ceyda Ersoy

    March 16, 2022 at 7:12 pm

    Hi, my boyfriend of 2 years who has never been able to express emotions.. turned round and told me that he doesn’t see a long term relationship with me and he doesn’t know how he feels about me. We’re still together but I just asked him for the first time to give me some space so I have some time to think about what’s just happened and then when I’m ready I’ll contact him to have the discussion. I feel that when I do contact him again and meet up for the discussion that he basically will end it there as he isn’t the type to do it over text and my stuff is at his. I suppose my question is.. do I have a chance of him coming back to me if we do split up? If I stay being nice as I always have been and don’t contact him like we usually do which is every day. Will he realise that he’s made a mistake? Will he come back?