The no contact rule is easily the biggest cliché in the breakup world and at one point even I got sick of talking about it all the time but it’s just THAT important!
Of all the times I’ve talked about the no contact rule in my YouTube videos or articles, I’ve never really gone deep into the psychology of why it’s so important for the average person to do a no contact rule in pretty much every imaginable breakup.
We’re circling back to the no contact rule today because of new research and findings about why it works so well.
I also have an updated 2021 definition of the no contact rule that shifts the focus to the true purpose behind the no contact rule.
What Is the No Contact Rule (Updated Definition For 2021)
The no contact rule is a period of time where you ignore your ex on purpose. 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.
In the past, I’ve always talked about the no contact rule as a dual-purpose strategy where you work on rebuilding your life AND making your ex miss you.
Here’s the problem with that: Practically speaking, most people focus way more on the “making your ex miss you” part and miss out on any true chance at self-improvement.
If you go into the no contact rule with the intention of making your ex miss you, there’s a high chance you will either fail the no contact rule or come across as too anxious and clingy.
The actual intent behind the no contact rule should only be to utilize that time on emotionally healing and becoming the best possible version of yourself. Your ex missing you can be a welcome side effect of that, but it should not be the goal if you want to be successful.
Statistics About Successful No Contact Rules
One of the things I’m most proud of across all our ex recovery properties is how many success stories we have and how willing they are to sit down and talk about exactly how they got their exes back.
Over the years, as we interview success stories to see what works (and what doesn’t!), we realize just how important the no contact rule truly is and how its effectiveness has evolved since we shifted focus from a “make your ex miss you” purpose to a “work on yourself and if your ex misses you because of that, it’s a bonus” ideology.
Here are a few statistics about the success of the no contact rule:
- 5 Years ago I polled success stories and found 70% of them have used the no contact rule.
- 2 Years ago I polled my private Facebook support group and found that 90% of them have used a no contact rule in some form to get their exes back.
- In 2020 I polled my one-on-one coaching clients and found that 98% of them used a no contact rule to get their exes back.
These statistics clearly show that not only is the no contact rule an extremely vital part of the ex recovery process, it’s effectiveness is increasing every year because of how we adapt our teaching style.
We no longer look at the no contact rule as a simple way of making your ex miss you – that is actually a side effect of rebuilding your own life and outgrowing your ex.
We’ve noticed people who go into the no contact rule with the intent of using the no contact rule as essentially this “play hard to get” strategy, they end up doing the exact opposite.
The Psychology Of Playing Hard To Get During No Contact
Their ex doesn’t miss them at all and then they’re wondering why didn’t this no-contact rule work.
Playing hard to get definitely works but it has to be done in a tactful way using the no contact rule. Let’s dive deeper into why playing hard to get works with evidence from a team of researchers from the University of Rochester and the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
You can read about their research here, but I have short-listed the key findings that are relevant to our explanation of the no contact rule.
“The duo of Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the IDC Herzliya, and Harry Reis, a professor of psychology and Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at the University of Rochester, discovered that immediately reciprocating another person’s interest may not be the smartest strategy for attracting mates.”
So what’s going on here?
Well, these two psychologists have basically proved that being forthright with your feelings with someone is not usually the smartest strategy of partnering up with someone – nothing mind-blowing there, but that’s not what they were studying.
They were studying playing hard to get and they ran their subjects through a series of tests to see how they responded to potential partners that were accessible vs. hard to get.
These findings are deeply interesting for how we approach the no contact rule.
The Reciprocity of Attraction
From the ScienceDaily article referenced above – “We tend to like people who like us — a basic human trait that psychologists have termed “reciprocity of attraction.”
This principle generally works well to start relationships because it reduces the likelihood of rejection. Yet, making the chase harder also has its upsides.”
This statement is a basic understanding that we see at the start of relationships all the time in what we call the “honeymoon period”.
Both parties are reciprocating attraction and actions that show how much they are interested in one another and that feels great. However, this principle doesn’t work when you’re not dating.
The basic “reciprocity of attraction” doesn’t apply because you are no longer in a relationship with your ex.
Whether you like it or not, the rules of the land are completely different after your breakup so simply showing attraction won’t be reciprocated.
Why is that?
According to the masterminds behind this study:
“People who are too easy to attract may be perceived as more desperate,” says Birnbaum. “That makes them seem less valuable and appealing–than those who do not make their romantic interest apparent right away.”
Your ex already knows you have a romantic interest in them, and they also know how you show that interest.
There’s nothing new there as if there would be in trying to win over someone you have never dated before. If you ask or beg for your ex back, it won’t work because you will just look desperate.
This is even more true in most of our clients who have an anxious attachment style.
They tend to go overly crazy about blowing up their ex’s phone or doing absurd gestures like showing up at their doorstep. Such actions are extremely off-putting and do not work to create any attraction.
Here are the three main findings of Birnbaum and Reis, as summarized by ScienceDaily:
- A person who is perceived as hard to get is associated with greater mate value.
- Study participants made greater efforts on/and found more sexually desirable those potential dates they perceived as hard to get.
- Study participants made greater efforts to see those again for whom they had made efforts in the first place.
In other words, the more someone has to jump through hoops to get to you, the more Ungettable you are and the higher value you have.
Is your ex really jumping through any hoops if you keep begging for them back?
This is essentially why the no contact rule is so important, but it still doesn’t explain why people who enter no contact with the intent of playing hard to get don’t see positive results.
Your value will only go up if your ex truly sees some changes in you as a person. You can try to “play hard to get” all you want but if it’s not backed by any changes it will come across as ingenuine and transparent.
Your ex knows you and can clearly tell the difference between you “playing” hard to get and you actually becoming an Ungettable person.
Interviewing several success stories has given me great insight into the ex recovery process and the number one thing they all say is that the no contact rule is actually a catalyst for this essential metamorphosis or mindset change that they go through.
This mindset change stems from focusing on yourself to the point that you become so secure you don’t particularly care if your ex comes back to you.
This is not the same thing as playing hard to get. Playing hard to get is still “playing” and putting on an act to show off. This is a lot deeper than that.
The no contact rule truly shines when you use that time to gain confidence and become a secure attachment style that does not define their self-worth by their partner. A lot of our success stories were getting to this point where they didn’t want their ex’s back anymore or didn’t feel strongly about it either way.
They outgrew their ex because the place their ex held before was now occupied by self-love and acceptance.
That’s why I reframed the definition of the no contact rule at the beginning of this article and said it is about outgrowing your ex.
The power of the no contact rule revolves around attachment styles and moving closer to a secure attachment. A secure attachment style doesn’t overcrowd the person they’re dating. They don’t necessarily play hard to get either.
They’re just mature enough to give their partners individual time and independence instead of freaking out and trying to “fix” things if their partner pulls back.
Most people might see this as playing hard to get but they’re just thinking and doing what any secure person would – “my girlfriend/boyfriend probably needs time to work on their emotions so I’ll step away and focus on other things because my life does not revolve around them.”
That’s the key to success in the no contact rule – truly focusing on yourself till you don’t care if your ex comes back instead of making superficial changes and playing hard to get to re-attract your ex.
If your ex broke up with you then they probably know that you want them back if you’re talking to them. The no contact rule kind of shifts that perception, but it doesn’t fully work unless you feel secure.
You must feel and act confidently in your skin, so you don’t need your ex anymore and it’d be cool if they came back but also cool if they didn’t.
Another crucial aspect of success in the no contact rule is not to fail it.
Why It’s So Important to NOT Fail A No Contact Rule
Around 80 percent of people who try the no contact rule through our program fail it. This means they give in and respond back whenever their ex sends them a sob story.
Here’s the thing to remember: Every time you break a no contact rule, you HAVE to start over again. And the more times you start over, the less leverage you have.
Think of it like watching a movie over and over again:
First time watching a movie: “WOW, Best movie ever! I’m totally going to watch it again.”
Second time: “What a great movie, can’t believe I missed a couple of things the first time around.”
Third time: “I know all the words and what’s going to happen next. Still pretty cool!”
Fourth time (or more): “Ok it’s getting repetitive and boring now.”
That’s exactly how the no contact rule works too! If you’re failing the no contact rule consistently, you set up this pattern of anxious behavior.
You seem like an undisciplined person who can’t stick to something and your ex picks up on that. Even if you don’t verbally communicate to your ex, they’ll see what you’re trying to do and know they can make you break no contact whenever they want so it’s not that serious.
There goes any mystery or leverage you had.
The no contact rule is super effective, regardless of the kind of breakup you had.
However, the two most important things are:
- Your intent behind the no contact rule matters the most – don’t go into no contact aiming to make your ex miss you, go into it to become the best possible version of yourself so that your ex missing you is just a pleasant side effect
- Do not break no contact if you can help it– consistency is the key to a successful no-contact rule, and you don’t want your ex to see you as a flakey person who can’t go through with something.