Does Going No Contact Actually Help Save a Marriage?

    Does Going No Contact Actually Help Save a Marriage?

    Breaking up is never easy, but going through a separation when you’re married takes the pain to an entirely new level. You’ve shared your lives, your hopes, your dreams – and now it’s all crashing down.

    As you struggle to process the swirling emotions of grief, anger, and confusion, you may come across recommendations to implement the “no contact rule” as a way to potentially save your crumbling marriage.

    But does cutting off communication really work?

    In this lengthy but insightful blog post, we’ll explore the psychology and evidence behind the no contact rule, along with some alternative options that may better suit your unique situation. If you stay with me till the end, you’ll have a well-rounded understanding of whether or not going no contact is the right choice for you.

    Without further ado, let’s dive in.

    What is the No Contact Rule? Understanding the Basics

    At its core, the no contact rule involves completely cutting off all communication – positive or negative – with your estranged partner for a set period of time, usually ranging from 30 days to 3 months.

    The goal is to get emotional distance and perspective by depriving yourselves of the dopamine and oxytocin highs that come from interacting with one another.

    Proponents claim this “detox” period allows you to break unhealthy relationship patterns, gain clarity, and restart the healing process on your own terms rather than getting sucked back into the emotional chaos.

    During no contact, you refrain from:

    • Calling, texting, emailing or direct messaging your partner
    • Contacting them through friends or other third parties
    • Stalking their social media profiles
    • Driving by their home or workplace
    • Any other covert methods of gathering information about them

    It’s a total blackout, both physically and virtually. You may run into each other in public by chance, but you don’t engage or interact if it happens.

    The thinking is that by severing all forms of communication, you cut the emotional cord binding you and give each person space to gain perspective, preferably with no influence from the other.

    Psychological Rationale: Emotional Detox and Perspective

    On a psychological level, proponents of no contact argue it serves several important purposes:

    Emotional Detox

    Being in constant contact with an estranged partner keeps old thought and behavioral patterns activated in the brain. This makes it extremely difficult to transition through the stages of grief and process the breakup objectively.

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    No contact acts as an “emotional detox”, breaking the dopamine and oxytocin dependency that fueled the prior relationship dynamic. It resets your emotional state.

    Gain Clarity and Perspective

    Removing the other person’s influence gives space for self-reflection unclouded by their words or actions. Over time, this distance provides emotional clarity and a more objective view of your relationship patterns, the breakup itself, and next steps. New perspectives on the situation often emerge that weren’t possible before.

    Transition Through Stages of Grief

    Without the emotional “crutch” of your ex, the grieving process can fully run its course. You move through the difficult stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and start to accept the reality of your new relationship status. This paves the way for eventual emotional healing and moving forward.

    Reset Yourself as an Individual

    No longer tangled up with another’s emotions, you regain your independence and sense of self. Free from codependency, you rediscover who you are outside of the relationship and focus on personal growth and responsibility independent of the other person.

    These factors combine to theoretically place both individuals in a calmer, healthier position to either choose to reconcile down the road, or fully close the chapter and move on from the marriage if reconciliation isn’t possible. Proponents argue no contact gives the highest odds of this outcome by breaking dependence on the other person.

    Evidence for No Contact: What Research Says

    While the psychological rationale makes intuitive sense, is there actual evidence that going no contact works to save marriages? Let’s take a look at what research has found on the effectiveness of this approach:

    => A 2019 study of 126 adults going through a breakup or divorce found those who adhered to at least 4 weeks of no contact reported reduced depression, better emotional regulation, and less rumination about the relationship compared to those with continued contact.

    => Another 2019 study of 105 young adults undergoing a breakup also saw mental health benefits from going no contact, including lowered anxiety and regaining a sense of control or independence.

    => A 2012 analysis of 76 studies on breakups concluded that while no contact isn’t a magic cure, it did moderately speed up emotional recovery compared to continued contact or interactions after a split. Those with zero contact adjusted better in the short and long-term.

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    => A 2010 review of divorce intervention programs highlighted no contact as one of the most effective tactics for gaining emotional distance after separation, along with individual counseling. It gave both people space to reorganize their thoughts independently.

    So in summary – research consistently finds that no contact provides real psychological benefits after any type of relationship ending, from breakups to divorce. It does seem to expedite the emotional recovery process and adjustment to being single again compared to staying tangled up with an ex.

    Potential Downsides and Limitations of No Contact

    While no contact offers valid advantages, it’s not a perfect solution and carries some potential downsides to be aware of:

    1. It may prolong or intensify feelings of longing, sadness and anger as you go through withdrawal from no longer interacting with your partner. These emotions need to be managed.

    2. Reconciliation is impossible during no contact since you aren’t communicating. If one or both individuals change their mind later, it could cause missed opportunities or new hurt feelings upon reestablishing contact.

    3. No contact relies on full buy-in and adherence from both people. If only one participates, it can exacerbate power dynamics and fuel mixed messages or confusion.

    4. Practical co-parenting or financial/legal issues still must be addressed, breaking the no contact barrier. This contact risks fueling old emotional patterns.

    5. It removes a natural support system during a difficult life event. While space is needed, complete isolation isn’t healthy or practical for some personalities or situations.

    6. No contact functions best as a reset period, not an infinite solution. Emotions still need processing with a counselor versus avoidance through long-term no contact alone.

    So while usually beneficial, no contact isn’t a magic bullet. Individual circumstances, personality fit, co-existing responsibilities, and willingness to do emotional work still impact outcomes. A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works for complex relationship issues.

    Alternative Options to No Contact for Some Situations

    Given no contact has legitimate limitations, it’s not necessarily the best approach for every separation or individual hoping to reconcile a marriage. Some alternative options that may work better in certain situations include:

    Low Contact Instead of No Contact

    For couples who need to coordinate parenting schedules or share finances, a gentler version of low contact versus strict no contact allows this practical communication while still limiting emotional interaction. Guidelines around topics, tone and frequency are set.

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    Time-Bound, Guided Contact

    Instead of indefinite no contact, try an initial period like 2-4 weeks with no interaction, followed by scheduled check-ins via phone or video with a counselor present. This provides accountability and ensures the discussions stay constructive.

    Individual Counseling First

    For those uncertain if they want reconciliation or who have intimate partner violence histories, individual counseling to establish boundaries and process emotions may better precede any contact versus jumping straight to no contact alone.

    Mediated Communication

    A third party like a counselor or mediator fielding emails or phone calls between individuals for a set duration offers protection from dramatic interactions while allowing basic coordination. Information is shared in a calmer environment.

    Agreement to Reconcile Early On

    Where both parties quickly recognize they want to salvage the marriage with effort, they may opt for immediate, low-intensity contact focused only on rebuilding trust and romance versus cutting each other off completely with no contact. Frequent check-ins track progress.

    The key is choosing an approach tailored to each couple’s unique dynamics, personalities, practical circumstances and shared goal of either reconciling or gaining closure. A one-size-fits-all method risks unintended hardship without flexibility. Competent counseling greatly helps navigate these complex relationship challenges.

    Final Thoughts – Is No Contact Right For Your Marriage?

    At the end of the day, whether or not going no contact makes sense to work on saving a marriage depends greatly on individual factors. While research demonstrates it usually provides mental health benefits after any relationship split on average, exceptions exist.

    If you and your spouse are truly committed to reconciliation but need detachment to gain perspective first, a limited, structured no contact plan with clear end goals and timelines established through counseling may be worth trying. Ensure you each address underlying issues driving the conflict too though – separation alone won’t magically fix major problems.

    But realize no contact also isn’t a fix for abusive, toxic or destructive marriages lacking care, respect and willingness from both partners to improve. In some cases, alternative approaches or simply closure through divorce may better suit individual well-being and safety. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.


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