A lot of chumps falter when it comes to no contact (NC). It’s the most maddening thing — your brain will be very clear on the “dump the cheater” message, but the heart is emotionally sloppy and dimwitted. Much like my Australian Shepherd who flings herself daily at the mailman in a love/hate frenzy. Every noon she flails against the glass door, barking crucial missives that the mailman tragically ignores. How dare you step on my porch! Open this door and pet me! Can’t you see how PRETTY I am? Watch me do my pretty dance! I have a frisbee! Do you like frisbees? I LOVE frisbees! Wait! Do not walk away from me! (I am, however, pleased that you have stepped off my porch.) COME BACK!!! GO AWAY!!!
And then as the mailman retreats, she pees on the carpet, heartbroken. Unlike the schnauzer who is just full of contempt for mail carriers. And cats. And the dog next door. If someone has a treat for him, however, he’ll shelf his withering disdain for a moment. Schnauzers are mercenaries. The shepherd is a chump. She never learns that mail carriers are just there to deliver mail and really don’t give a flip about her pathos.
“Come back!”, “go away”, and also “explain yourself!” comprise the mental tape loop of limbo — that state where you’re not really in, and not really out, because you’re still engaging with the idiot. Like my shepherd, you can’t decide if this person is your enemy or your love object. Why is it so hard to go no contact? Why the flailing? Why the drama? Chump Lady has some thoughts on this:
1. This shit is addictive. Very few people just walk away and quit someone cold turkey. Even someone they know is very, very bad for them. Humans are wired to bond with each other, and un-bonding is extremely painful. Science says so — romantic love lights up the same centers of the brain as addiction. And loss of romantic love makes us temporarily deranged. They say there is an evolutionary basis to this — loss of a mate has bad consequences for reproduction of the species.
Now, combine your hard wiring to bond, with your hard-wiring to feel great distress at losing a mate, and throw in the addictive nature of unpredictable rewards on your brain. (Lots of science on that too.) What do you get? A real biological disincentive to go no contact. Kicking a cheater to the curb can feel like kicking a drug. You’ll have to sweat it out and suffer withdrawal. You’ll feel distress that is at odds with your rational brain, much like an addict who is trying to quit a bad substance. “Shit. I know cigarettes are bad for me… I just want one last smoke! Arrgh!”
2. Cheaters hoover. Just as you may have to fight off strong urges to stay no contact, the cheater often knows how to play your weakened state for ego kibbles. As mentioned above, the irregular rewards of an inconsistent love can keep you hooked. You will give those kibbles greater importance (she called! he texted to wish me happy birthday!) because they are so infrequent and unpredictable. It’s classic that just as you’re 30 days clean on the no contact, the cheater will come fishing. They’ll flatter, or cajole, act like nothing ever happened. Or they’ll do the fake remorse-ishness.Beware. You’re of use to them. They want something. (Kibbles probably, or for you to screw yourself over in the divorce). Cheaters suffer withdrawal too — withdrawal of kibbles. NOT YOU. Pay attention to the distinction. You were a good source, then you went away! Maybe they can mine that vein again…
Chumps confuse kibbles sourcing for love all the time. You don’t have to scratch very deep to realize that it’s still all about them.
3. There’s something in you that needs to keep hope alive. This goes beyond not trusting that they suck. You may have abandonment issues. Something about this drama may feel familiar to some old family or relationship drama from your past that you feel is unresolved. Okay! I’ll just try harder THIS time with THIS person and I’ll get a different outcome! (i.e., they won’t leave me.) You’re consciously, or unconsciously reliving that hurt. Fuckedup and unrequited feels normal for you at some level. You’re used to trying really, really hard for very little reward.
I’ll save you the shrinkage costs on your FOO issues. You’re not that kid anymore. You don’t have to put up with shit. You have choices. You are not powerless. You can be choosey about the people you have in your life. Learn to draw boundaries. Learn to holler NO! Learn to prioritize people who treat you right, give them your time and energy — yeah, even if it feels weird and unnatural at first. Step away from the jerk with sparkles.
4. Flubbing NC is a re-enforcing cycle. The more you stay in contact, the harder it is to go no contact. On the flip side — the longer you go no contact, the easier it gets, bit by bit, day by day. Have faith that it’s going to get easier. I promise you, you are going to get to MEH (on a Tuesday, of course). You just need to stay consistent.
So that’s four reasons why it’s so hard. Now then, why is NC so important?
Because the only way you can heal from the mindfuck is to get away from the mindfuck. The single most important thing you can do to heal from infidelity is free yourself from mental slavery. (Thank you, Bob Marley.) It’s very hard to clear your head when your abuser is right in front of you pretending to be normal for entire minutes at a time. Or worse, arguing with you about how this is All Your Fault. The cognitive dissonance between the person you love, the mindfuck, and your common sense can make your head explode. No contact mutes the mindfuck radio and lets you think for yourself again. You will start to feel like yourself again (remember that person?)
Manipulative people cannot manipulate you if you shut them down. They need something to work with, so if you deny them access to the inside of your head, it makes it much harder for them to manipulate you. No contact is your best defense against mindfuckers and it makes you stronger. Chumps, you need every ounce of fight you’ve got. Don’t give cheaters your head and your heart.
This column ran previously. I’m rerunning some columns while I’m busy toiling away updating the Chump Lady site. Feel free to post new comments!