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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C

'Making that difficult decision to cut off contact with an ex is a wise one'

Material promoting to help get your ex back only prolongs the heartache, as those who have been dumped emotionally invest themselves in the deployment of ‘tactics’ that at their best can only work in the short-term.

“I’M GOING NO Contact. ”

My friend grips her Frappuccino with steely determination, her response to my enquiry about her ex catching me off guard.

Just as I am about to assure her that the answer to her recent heartache is not a life of celibacy she adds:

“I’m going to stop texting him. No more contact.”

Before I can tell her that this is a good move, a step forward in the healing process (it’s been four months since he dumped her, citing all too vague reasons) she interjects, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

“He won’t know what to make of me not being around anymore. 28 days of silence. He’ll freak!”

Upon seeing my confusion,  she nods knowingly before downing the remainder of her coffee. ‘Trust me. I know what I’m doing.  I’ll fill you in after work.  Talk later!”

The rules

That night, I receive an email from the friend in question. It contains a PDF attachment of an e-book entitled The Rules of No Contact – the important no – nonsense rules to follow to help you get your ex back.’

I sigh inwardly. This can’t be good. As I peruse its pages, I am greeted with a number of bullet points,  each explained in detail by the book’s author, Vin Jones. It isn’t long before rule number two catches my attention.

It reads: ‘Go into no contact ASAP after a break-up.’

The logic behind this rule is based on the following:

1: Post break – up, you are emotionally vulnerable. This leaves you open to saying or doing something mortifying/desperate, thereby increasing the likelihood that you will push your ex further away.

2: Remaining friends with an ex means that your former lover never has the chance to miss you, whereas a sudden absence will lead to a burning curiosity on your ex’s behalf, and ultimately increase the likelihood that they will desire you again.

The no contact rule

While the ‘no contact’ rule is beginning to make some sense, I can’t help but feel apprehensive about my friends decision to follow such ‘rules’. Surely for most, no such ‘strategy’ can permanently bring an ex back?

Suddenly, another email from the pal pings my inbox. It’s a link to a web page which advertises a book entitled The Magic Of Making Up.

Written by T.W Jackson, a former heartbroken dumpee, The Magic Of Making Up details a number of ‘strategies’ to be deployed in order to win back your ex. These include agreeing with the break-up, in order to transfer that sense of dumpee panic back onto your ex.

Beneath the image of a smiling couple, Jackson’s website not only claims that the book holds the secret to creating an unbreakable bond between yourself and your ex, it cleverly offers an ‘iron clad’ money back guarantee if the consumer does not get their ex back.

Promising fast solutions

As I continue to read some more of the books teaser ‘tactics’, it occurs to me that vulnerable people are being taken advantage of by products that promise them the sun, moon and stars. Having scoured the net I have since found hundreds of links directing the heartbroken to sites which promise to get their ex back.

Material like the above serves to only prolong the heartache, as those who have been dumped emotionally invest themselves in the deployment of ‘tactics’ that at their best can only work in the short-term.

However, their number and popularity reveals how globally, millions of people are obsessed with their exes.

Now while I’m not currently hung up on an ex, I do remember how hard the attachment with a former lover was to break. How easily we can place our exes on a pedestal. How their opinion of you often matters when it really shouldn’t. How the sight of them can set your heart racing.

However, my experience of break-ups has also taught me that a relationship usually ends for very valid reasons. A parting of the ways very rarely in fact comes out of the blue and having gone their separate ways, it is unusual for a couple to successfully reunite.

Personally I have also found that friendship with an ex is as treacherous as traversing a landmine.

So why then, when dumped, are many of us often determined to get our exes back – or at the very least, tenacious in our efforts to show them what they are missing? Why don’t we just, dare I say it, move on?

While most of us have the emotional intelligence to understand that not all relationships are meant to last forever, a lot of the pain we feel when romantically rejected is felt on a primitive level.

Studies undertaken at Stony Brook University compared the brains of people in love and those who had recently lost it, with the brains of drug addicts. FMRI results revealed that the cravings for love and cocaine had several neural correlates in common. In fact, the findings were consistent with the hypothesis that romantic rejection is a specific form of addiction (Fisher 2004).

While research such as the above provides an insight into why millions of people look to Google in order to obtain information about how to reunite with their ex, it does not make such behaviour healthy.

Though perhaps,  it does make us human.

Coupled with her ‘no contact’ strategy, social media has also played a vital role in my friend’s mission to get her ex back.

Case in point, in the weeks following their break-up, my friend changed her Facebook profile picture on numerous occasions, careful to ensure that each photo depicted her as carefree and happy when she was anything but.

While her photos did get the desired reaction (her ex called late one evening, suggesting they meet at his place to ‘talk’) it ultimately resulted in her having to start back at square one.

Although Facebook may seem like the ideal medium on which to display a new you to an ex, it can also be detrimental to the mental health of the dumpee.

In fact, a recent study published in the journal of cyber psychology, behaviour and social networking, discovered that participants who spent more time checking their ex’s Facebook page were more likely to report experiencing distress, negativity and a longing for their partner, and less likely to experience growth after a split.

And so while there is no doubt that the break-up of a relationship is a painful process, investing your time and energy in inauthentic ‘tactics’ to win your ex back are not only highly unlikely to pay off, but capable of backfiring.

After all, there is no way around grief but through it. As for the dream scenario in which your ex returns and declares their regret at their decision to call it quits – wouldn’t it be so much better if they came to this conclusion naturally? Would you be truly happy being with someone who had to be manipulated into wanting you?

Making that undoubtedly difficult decision to cut off contact with an ex is a wise one. However, if implemented with a hidden agenda in mind, the only person being fooled is the party that has been dumped, and not the ex that they are trying to deceive.

Christine Allen is 27 and has just completed a three-year IT course at DCU. Her writing has been published by Gay Community News and DIVA magazine.  You can follow her on Twitter here.

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