Mail. We Get Mail on Avoiding the Void

Jan 19, 2020 | featured, Getting Past Your Breakup, NC, no contact, observation

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 

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Backstory to this post: 

This was one of the first NC posts but I’ve edited it and added to the Response over the years as I’ve edited it and rerun it. My therapist made me go “no contact” in the early 90s. I started to extol its virtues as soon as I stopped sitting on my hands, which was a short time after doing what I deemed “impossible.”  It was a JOY to not have a cell phone and one reason I encourage people to venture out without theirs.  There did exist a world before cell phones.  Anyway, I started talking about it long before I graduated from grad school and became a full-fledged therapist in January, 1995. 

Not only was this post one of the first one of the firsts on the blog, it was also one of the firsts that went viral in the 2004/2005 time frame.  The response to certain posts of mine showed me where people struggled the most and this post was no exception.

NC has been an integral part of the GPYB program from the beginning (if you don’t know how to get started with the program, go to this POST which is the short version of how it’s done) Though this is the program that popularized NC, it is rarely given that credit (Marie Claire gave us that recognition in a great review of the GPYB book, and I thought it would be solidly linked to us after they did, but it hasn’t happened).

Between 2005 and when the blog commentary section moved over to FB in 2017, I have received dozens of inquiries re NC and have answered them here on the GPYB blog. Since the FB group started and then the podcast, there have been dozens more. Yes, there are a lot of intricacies where NC is concerned when you co-parent, live in the same small town, work together etc., but even in those cases, NC is not only possible but very necessary.


Today I was looking through some long-ago posts for NC Sunday and came across this Mail. We Get Mail post from 2005. I’ve rerun it several times and edited my response to update inclusion of FB and the podcast. I think I even did a podcast on it.

Anyway, this is the letter:

Mail. We Get Mail on No Contact

I didn’t sit on my hands long enough…I tried to “watch” the need and let it pass and it felt overwhelming and I failed only to text him and ask “Why aren’t you contacting me occasionly” only to hear no reply from someone who keeps their phone always on their person. But in my addiction, I’m almost relieved, like I tried to reach out and he doesn’t want to communicate -as if t I tried and now this answers my question. And then it occurred to me that reaching out, was ME trying to GET him to talk to me. That has zero to do with answering any questions. Is this “normal”? My need to have him communicate with me makes me look at what the void is I’m trying to fill, but I can’t figure that out…. and maybe I’m not suppose to??

My Response

Maybe you need to not worry about figuring it out…everyone who leaves a relationship feels a void whether or not the relationship was a good one. It’s about starting over and going in a different direction. Right now it’s just about not doing that again.

What is the point of texting that question or even asking that question? That question doesn’t make sense because what would the answer be? THINK ABOUT IT:  Along the same lines as “I need closure!” – If you haven’t watched the Closure video, it is here.

Like that video and the topic of closure, NC requires that you ask and answer all possible questions. 

Possible answers to “Why don’t you contact me occasionally?”:

“Because I don’t want to…”

“Because we’re over…”

“Because I’m busy….”

“What would the point be?”

“Because my new girlfriend would have an issue with that.”

“Because I hate you…”

“Oh I meant to, but forgot…”

“I don’t want to bother you…”

Who are you?”

Which of those answers would bring relief? Which of those answers will make you feel good about contacting him to inquire as to WHY.

You can ask that question but to someone else….”Why isn’t he contacting me?”  

That would be the kind of question to ask someone else who would say, “Why are you asking that question? Who cares?” Someone else would have given perspective on the question. But you didn’t ask anyone else first. And you don’t want your enabling, codepedent friends to answer it…”Maybe he wants to reconcile?” “I don’t know, but he’s a nice guy!  Maybe you should try to be friends!”  You know who those usual suspects are. Don’t ask them. They will lead you down a primrose path littered with land mines. 

You need to put roadblocks in place when you feel the need to contact. Not just sitting on your hands. Journaling, posting in the FB group, taking a shower, putting the phone in the car trunk…going for (a walk/shopping other places) without the phone.

Write a list (as it says in the book and workbook) of what you will do BEFORE you you make contact. Write the list and then keep the list at hand at all times and DO EVERYTHING on the list before contact.

There is no tepid TRY in No Contact. It requires many levels of “try.” It’s not just about sitting on your hands…it’s about being committed to being no contact by having a plan before you feel like making contact.

Contacting your ex is the way to forestall healing and to avoid the feelings that may come out without the “drug”  (attention from the ex).

A problem that comes along with no-contact is a rising sense of anxiety and emergency. When we go no-contact, the anxiety of not contacting makes us think that it means we MUST be in contact with them. The breakup was a mistake, we need to go back because we can’t let go this person. 

But it is not your ex that provides the relief that contact brings. It’s the distraction provided by the problematic issues surrounding our relationship with this person.   It has nothing to do with THAT PERSON.  It has to do with the distraction that person and that unsatisfying relationship provides from our core pain and sadness.  So long as we keep the chaos going on the OUTSIDE, we don’t need to deal with the chaos going on INSIDE.

Relationships that are unsatisfying, problematic or just plain awful keep us from feeling as bad as we really feel from childhood hurts and unresolved losses we haven’t fully grieved.  We rush into dysfunctional relationships trying to recreate our unhealed drama so we can “win” over the hurts in the past.  The relationships are our distraction.

So being OUT of a relationship brings up all the things we are trying to avoid by inviting chaos and bedlam into our lives CONSTANTLY. It also involves the healthy and necessary searching part of grief. The SEARCHING mechanism usually kicks in around the same time as the void left by an absence of chaos. If you don’t know how searching and NC are related, read THIS POST.

As soon as we start to feel as bad as we really feel – well sometimes it’s just as soon as we feel bad, we want to make contact.  We are thinking that if our breakup is hitting us this hard, “Oh I must really love him/her!”  WRONG WRONG.  He or she will never give you what you want.  He or she will never be the partner you deserve.  He or she is simply a panacea to keep you from your unresolved losses and the accompanying pain. He or she is not the golden goose or brass ring.  Enough about the ex. This time is now about YOU. Your desire to touch base with the ex has NOTHING to do with the ex. It has to do with you avoiding the void.  Don’t avoid the void.  Remember bad stuff out and good stuff in. If you don’t know what that means, go to the work and workbook about it. 

If you want to heal and get into healthier relationships, the only way out is THROUGH and you cannot go THROUGH while you’re playing footsie with an ex.  You cannot do both.  Stop the contact or just throw your hands up and decide you don’t want to get better and this mess of a relationship is the best you’re ever going to do.  And good luck with that.

If you’re trying to beat an addiction, the first thing is to not engage in the addictive behavior. And it’s going to hurt and be hard. It’s not easy. It takes work. But I think you know that.  I have compared going NC to quitting smoking.  The first days are the roughest, but there is withdrawal and you can do this. And like quitting smoking, it’s not that you’ll never have the urge to make contact or return contact, but with a commitment to the process, it gets easier each time.  

No contact takes work and takes resolve and it takes a plan…most of all just do it.

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