Not everyone goes NC in their lives, but when you have to…you just have to. Below, we walk through the NC process and ways to beat the guilt that comes with it.
For those of us who need to go the no-contact route, it often feels like an unpaved path that many can’t sympathize with or relate to. Even though many don’t get it, many do — and it may help to talk it out with one of those people.
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely decided that going no-contact with someone in your life is necessary. Whether you’re estranging yourself from a family member, ex-partner, or someone else in your life, guilt often overwhelms the sense of overwhelming pride you deserve.
To make the choice to go no-contact takes a lot of bravery; it’s no easy task, regardless of how toxic someone is or was in your life.
You deserve to be proud of yourself for the action you’ve considered or already taken; the kinds of relationships that require going NC usually make it hard to do what’s the healthiest for you.
What does it mean to go no-contact?
Going no-contact or “NC” is exactly what it sounds like. To go no-contact means to cut off contact with someone completely, usually due to the abusive or toxic nature of the relationship. Most people choose NC as a last resort, after repeated requests for respect have gone ignored.
When you go no contact, you stop speaking to someone both in person and online. This typically inflames the person who has been cut off, so you may choose to preemptively block their social media accounts, their number, and any other means they have of contacting you.
Why do people need to go no contact sometimes?
People might decide to go no contact for a variety of reasons. Often, by the time someone decides to go no contact, they’ve tried to work through or talk things out peacefully many times and may have tried to drift apart or distance by other means. Here are some of the reasons a person might need to go entirely no-contact:
- Abuse, whether that’s emotional, physical, or financial abuse
- A toxic family environment or interpersonal relationship
- Previous attempts to distance were met by manipulation, gaslighting, or other abuse tactics to keep you close, making it difficult to leave
- The person is unwilling to reason with you, or meets such attempts with violence
In essence, most NC decisions boil down to: you have experienced trauma or have had negative experiences with this individual and need distance indefinitely, in order to heal.
Many people also go no contact after a romantic break up or dating a narcissist. In fact, many people who go no contact are actually children of a narcissistic parent.
Note that narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a real condition and that people with NPD aren’t fundamentally “bad.” It takes substantial time and care for someone with NPD to recover, but it is possible if an individual is self-aware enough to seek help and put in the work.
In the interim (or indefinitely), the onus isn’t on you to stick around if you’re harmed by the relationship. One aspect of healing from depression, anxiety, and trauma is learning to remove yourself from any harmful situation — even if it means cutting off a blood relative.
Your choice is about your own well-being, and the other person’s inability to work with you.
How do I go no contact?
Here are some tips for going no contact.
- Block them from all social media accounts
- Block the person’s number
- Block the social media accounts of anyone who’s in this person’s inner circle to avoid any instances where the person might try to gain information about you or send someone else to speak to you
- Beware well-intentioned family members who may share what they believe is innocent information about you; any type of reminder may spur an abusive person to reach out again.
- Take precautions such as adding security and two-step authentication on your online accounts or apps if there are concerns related to hacking or attempts to access the accounts to get close to you
- Let trusted people in your life know what’s going on in case you need support or a person to step in
Not everyone will have to block friends of friends, or worry about hacking, harassment, or stalking. But if it is something you’re concerned about? Take all of the precautions you can.
What do I do if someone tries to reach out to me after going no contact?
In some cases, you may unfortunately deal with slander or continued harassment when you go no contact. A person may decide to call you or text you from a number that is not theirs, ask other people to talk to you, or share your information online, whether it’s true or false. They may harass you on the internet or by other means to provoke you, retaliate, or to get a response. It’s hard to get peace of mind when this is happening to you. First, take every step necessary to keep yourself safe. In extreme situations, a person might engage in stalking behaviors and go as far as to show up at your home or workplace. If that’s true for you, the most important thing is to maintain your own safety. Put in a no-contact order, and if you have to move (with financial privilege in mind) or stay with family and friends, do that.
How do I avoid feeling guilty?
When you decide to go no contact, it’s normal for a voice of doubt to ring in your ear.
The person you’re going no contact from may have set you up to fear cutting ties — whether it was through enmeshment, an attempt to make you dependent on them, or words that led you to doubt you could make it on your own. They may have told you that they need you, that you need them, or made you feel guilty at the idea of leaving by other means.
In the case that you’re dealing with family members, lifelong guilt may have built up surrounding familial issues, making the process emotionally difficult. So, how do you go no contact without guilt? Here are three things that can help.
Allow yourself to feel your full-fledged experience, without the hindrance of anyone else’s perception.
1. Let yourself feel the guilt
Strangely enough, one of the best things that you can do is to start by letting yourself feel the guilt. Once you acknowledge the feeling of guilt, you can work through it. Why do you feel guilty?
Maybe you have empathy this person never had for you? Maybe, it’s simply that you’ve never had to go no-contact before. You could easily believe that NC is a poor solution, if you never saw someone else deem it necessary. Both of these points validate your struggle, and your worthiness of freedom.
Let yourself feel your anger toward this person during the time you go NC, whether you intend to go no contact for a period of time or indefinitely.
Additionally, let yourself feel all of the sadness. Allow yourself to feel your full-fledged experience, without the hindrance of anyone else’s perception. After you sit with your emotions, remind yourself why you decided to go no contact in the first place. If you decide to go no contact, you may have been invalidated by this person many times or may have noticed patterns of behavior that were wrong or unethical. Remembering your reasons for going no contact is an important part of going no contact without guilt.
2. Note how much better things are
If you have decided to go no contact, it’s likely that you have recognized and acknowledged that you were abused, manipulated, or in an otherwise toxic situation. That said, the story often does not end there.
Especially in the early stages of no contact, you may feel at times like your decision to go NC was an overreaction. You might worry about the wellbeing of the person you cut off, or think you’re a bad person for finally putting your foot down.
Remember that you didn’t make that scary and isolating decision for no reason. The person you cut off contact with likely was emotionally abusive or manipulative toward you. As such, it is unfortunately normal for their words to still ring in your ears.
They may have tried to guilt you out of leaving in the past, hence why it was so hard to leave. Additionally, they may have used other abuse tactics such as gaslighting or love bombing, then proceeding to continue harmful behavior afterward.
They probably told you that their behavior would stop, and it probably didn’t. It’s crucial to continue recognizing the abuse you went through, and to notice the difference when you are out of the situation. Both of these things will prevent you from getting pulled back in.
3. Focus on yourself
When you go no contact, it’s time to focus on yourself. If you’re going no contact from a family member or multiple family members, it could be the first time that you’ve ever really gotten to embrace yourself without judgement. Even if the drama doesn’t end with going NC, the joy of freedom can be a life raft in whatever storm you’re still living in.
In the case of going no contact from a friend or partner, it might be the first time that you’ve gotten to truly focus on yourself for a while. Now is the time to look inward, make changes, and embrace your own needs.
It’s also important to spend time with friends or loved ones who lift you up during this time. Try new hobbies or go back to old activities you miss and think about what you want in your life. Maybe you enjoy writing songs, taking photos, or watching sports. These are all great outlets and ways to reconnect with what makes you feel joy.
Now that you’ve gone NC and are free of a toxic relationship, work on developing self-confidence and loving yourself unconditionally. It may seem far away, but unconditional self-love is absolutely possible, no matter how much trauma you’ve been through.
Self-love doesn’t mean that you will feel great all of the time, but it does mean that you will value and protect your emotional wellbeing in a way you couldn’t before. Treat this as a time of freedom and exploration.
Make sure that your needs are met
In addition to working through guilt, it’s important to make sure that you’re using self-care during this time, and that you have everything you need to make it through.
If you’ve ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s a good diagram to refer to during this time. You want to make sure that you have all of the components of your needs met so that you can really focus on having the happiest and healthiest life possible. If you’re in college and are struggling, your university may have resources to help.
What comes after NC?
Going no contact is absolutely vital in some situations. If you have to go no contact, you’re strong and deserving of healing and freedom. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you deserve to be extremely proud of making this step toward wellbeing.
Life after going NC can come with a bit of fear at first, but ultimately, it can make for a much lighter and brighter life, and an accelerated healing process from the traumatic relationship.
Going NC also doesn’t have to be forever. Cutting off contact is often the only way to fully heal, but once you feel stable and solid, you may want to occasionally reach back out. There are no hard and fast rules here, except to prioritize your personal wellbeing above all else.
To work through feelings of guilt or trauma you might’ve experienced with the NC’d person, some choose to see a licensed mental health professional. Other people choose to talk with peers who have been in similar situations — in some cases, only those who have also been there will understand the need to go NC.
Remember that you’re now free from the confinements of your old circumstances. After going no-contact, you’re free to embrace all life has to offer.