When Deidre's fiancé, Mac, suddenly ended their relationship by text message, she went into shock. The quintessential Southern gentleman, Mac had always been chivalrous, respectful, and loyal. Now, Mac was acting as heartless as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.
Who was Mac? Did she ever really know him?
Deidre desperately wanted to call Mac, plead for him to change his mind, and save their crumbling relationship. Failing that, she wanted answers. Was he having an affair with someone else? Did her success and stability make him feel small and unworthy? Had he been a complete phony from day one?
The sad truth is that relationships can end without providing a sound reason as to why. Any man who would end a relationship by text likely does not have the empathy or emotional insight to explain his behavior to Deidre's satisfaction. Chasing Mac with a bunch of questions would not provide the answers Deidre desperately needs.
In this moment of breakdown, I dropped the bomb on Deirdre:
Stop all contact.
It's true, going "no contact" is a bold move. But Mac was a drug in Deidre's system. It was time for her to detox—and reclaim her power.
While many dating coaches espouse "no-contact" as a form of manipulation (i.e., a bid to get your ex to miss you with the hopes that he'll come back), I believe it's an integral tool of empowerment. Strength is where your real power lies. You want to get to the place where you're able to say, "With or without you, my life is going to be amazing."
If you've been bawling your eyes out or hanging in limbo, it's time for radical change. During the first 60 days of no-contact (the minimum recommended time frame), you can expect the following:
1. It will suck.
The vast majority of people use love as a drug. They get "high" from an external source—another person's presence and approval. The withdrawal from that feeling (and the fear that they may not know how to be happy on their own) can be terrifying.
Have faith. You will feel sad. You will grieve. But you will also regain strength, self-esteem, confidence, and empowerment.
2. Your silence speaks so much louder than any words could.
Ending a long-term relationship by text is the worst. Well, maybe just as bad as finding out that your ex was cheating with one of your friends. Or that he had a mistress for a decade.
You get my drift.
Your ex knows he has behaved badly. He is waiting for you to scream, so he can label you "dramatic." If you do so, you'll confirm that his decision was the right choice.
But no-contact changes the game. It's unpredictable. Without you telling him that he's wrong, he actually has to sit in his own discomfort…and think…and then lament. Because you've demonstrated that you're a class act, he will soon realize that he's lost the best thing he's ever had.
You'll redirect the pain where it belongs—with your betrayer.
3. You will develop important emotional skills.
The loss of a relationship often results in more free time. Use this time wisely to develop emotional intelligence so you have a greater chance of success (with or without your ex) down the road.
In my work coaching women and men, 99 percent of the problems I see result from a lack of boundaries. "No" is a short word that doesn't get uttered often enough. If your choice is between being liked or respected, always choose the latter.
No contact is a good time to develop better boundaries and increase your self-esteem. Abandon dysfunctional behaviors you learned in childhood. When you assess where you misstepped—and correct those behaviors—you have a much better probability of success the next time around.
4. You will rediscover forgotten sources of happiness.
Single women often have amazingly vibrant lives—they dance salsa, write poetry, and meet girlfriends for road trips. In a relationship, many women dive into a black hole head-first. They get comfortable. They stop flirting and start nagging. They abandon their old friends—and an essential part of themselves.
No contact gives you the time and energy to pursue your goals, big and small. Get the MBA. Plan a trip to Morocco. Flirt with the cute guy in Muay Thai class.
You'll soon realize that although your life without a partner is different, it's just as sweet.
As you start smiling and laughing again, you radiate positive vibrations. In no time, you'll have a host of new suitors because the world is abundant, after all.
5. You'll be able to define your nonnegotiable values.
The vast majority of people look for a relationship the wrong way. They chase after attractiveness, money, or physique. If you want lasting love—the kind that gets better with time—you have to think differently.
What are your values? What are your must-haves? Here are some of my personal favorites:
- "I date partners who say 'I'm sorry' and own up to their mistakes."
- "I date partners who believe in mutuality—where there is equal give and take."
- "I date partners who believe in commitment and communication."
If a recent breakup has left you reeling, think about what values your partner was missing. Make those values nonnegotiable in your next relationship.
6. No contact will bring you back to reality.
In a relationship, sex loads your body with oxytocin and dopamine—the body's "feel good" chemicals. Euphoria often has you mired in fantasy.
Detox brings you back to reality. You see your ex not for what you wish him to be but for who he is. Is he selfish? Cowardly? A liar? An emotionally immature narcissist?
As your eyes open to reality, you can make a better decision about whether he's a good bet for the long haul. Marriage or long-term commitment is no joke, so you want a healthy and stable partner for the ride.
7. No contact will force some growth onto your partner as well.
When you stop pinning your happiness on your partner, you realize it's just you in the world. No one will save you from your demons. It's your job to figure out why you were born and how to make your life rich with meaning.
This work is hard. It's often painful. But, it's the place where life begins and starts getting really rich, rewarding, and fun. You feel younger and wake up excited for the tasks that lie ahead.
You also differentiate "wanting" a partner from "needing" one. Share the journey with someone who "gets" it. A strong teammate will fortify your flagging spirits when the struggle is real. A bad teammate will add to your headaches and problems.