Is Going No Contact a Good Way to Get My Spouse to Come Back?
why You won’t Be Able to reconcile Your marriage through No Contact, AND How You Really Can
In today’s podcast, Coach Jack talks about the pros and cons of using a no contact approach to end a separation. He also provides alternatives to the no contact approach that will work to positively begin to reconcile with a separated spouse.
After listening to this podcast, you may want to:
Is Going No Contact a Good Way to Get My Spouse to Come Back?
[Introduction to the podcast]
Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
[Coach Jack’s presentation begins]
Jack Ito PhD: The title of today’s podcast is, “Is Going No Contact a Good Way to Get My Spouse to Come Back?” If you are recently separated and you don’t want to be, you really want to get back together with your spouse, then you’ve probably looked around to find out what is the best way to handle your separation in order to maximize your chances of your spouse wanting to return to you. And one of the things that you are likely concerned about is how much you should be contacting your spouse, and how often you should be contacting your spouse. You will find, just like with information on anything else, there is a lot of conflicting information on the Internet if that is where you are primarily looking. Today, I want to help you to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for anything in relationships and that is also true for whether you contact your spouse or not, and how much you contact your spouse, and most importantly, what you do when you contact your spouse.
So let’s take a look at these things today in today’s podcast. Hopefully you’ll come away from this with a better understanding of what you can do to make your relationship better with your separated spouse. A common piece of advice you will find is that you should not contact a spouse who has moved out. That strategy is supposed to make the abandoning spouse feel lonely and miss you so much that they will want to come back to you. The idea is that if you continue to contact your spouse, your spouse will not miss you and so will not come back. It makes sense on the surface, but is this really a good strategy or are there better alternatives? Unless we use good critical thinking skills and experience to teach us what is true and what is misinformation, then we’re going to be led astray anytime something seems to make sense. That’s true regarding having no contact in order to make a spouse miss you. That’s true in regards to other things as well.
I want to take an example to illustrate how we can be misled by what seems to make sense and then bring it back to the topic of whether or not a separated spouse will actually miss you. One very common piece of advice for building relationships, which happens to also be a very bad piece of advice, is that if you don’t like something that your spouse is doing, then you need to tell your spouse—otherwise your spouse won’t know and the problem will continue. This makes so much sense that practically everybody believes it and it is commonly taught. But, if you use your critical thinking skills and your experience, you will find out that it is not actually true. The fact is that your spouse will know whether or not you like something by other ways than just you saying you don’t like it. There’s another fact. It’s that when you tell your spouse you don’t like something about what he or she is doing, you are not going to get a wonderful response. Your spouse is not likely to say, “Thank you so much for telling me you don’t like that. I had no idea, but now that I know, of course I’m going to work on it so our relationship can be better than ever.” That seems to be a fantasy that is commonly held by therapists, but you know that doesn’t even work with therapists and their own personal lives. They teach that. That is what they have been taught to teach, but it does not work. Think about your own experience with your spouse. If you never told your spouse that you don’t like something that he or she does, then you can go try this just to see what happens, but my guess is you’ve already done that before and found that it’s not really a good way to improve your relationship. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do things about what our spouse is doing that we don’t like, but telling our spouse we don’t like something is not going to get us the results that we are really after.
So another way that we could say that, is that if you tell your spouse things that you don’t like about him or her, then your spouse won’t enjoy talking with you so much and your relationship will gradually get worse. And, the more that you tell your spouse things that you don’t like about him or her, the faster your relationship is going to get worse. That also makes sense, doesn’t it? You have to try it out to find out which one is true in order to know which one to follow. And, by the way, if you’re interested in what to do instead of telling your spouse what you don’t like about what they’re doing, I recommend that you look at information on promoting healthy relationships and on using good boundaries skills. A combination of those two things will take care of whatever your spouse is doing, while also making your relationship better—something that won’t happen if you simply tell your spouse what you don’t like about what he or she is doing.
So, let’s come back to this idea that if you don’t contact your spouse who has moved out, that he or she is going to miss you; that if you do contact your spouse, then he or she is not going to miss you. And so the best thing to do is to have no contact. That idea makes sense, but let’s think about this a little bit more critically. If your spouse loves you and wants to be with you in the future, and your spouse moves out and you don’t have contact, in that situation I would say that your spouse is going to miss you. Your spouse loves you and wants to be with you and that lack of contact is going to make things more difficult. It’s likely that your spouse will start to contact you. But, let’s consider the situation where your spouse is not in love with you, hasn’t been in love with you for a good long time, (most of the clients that I work with, their spouse is not been in love with them for at least two years) they’ve moved out because they no longer want to be with you, and in fact, they are looking forward to having a better future without you, or they have moved out because it’s too stressful to be with you on a daily basis, how much, in that situation, do you think your spouse is going to miss you when he or she moves out?
Typically what is going to happen in that situation is your spouse is actually going to enjoy the separation, is going to feel freer and more relaxed to be away from you. You not contacting your spouse is not going to make your spouse miss you. On the contrary, it will be part of your spouse enjoying that life without you and also not having to deal with your contact. So in a way it actually helps to promote staying separated and the relationship becoming gradually weaker. I don’t recommend it to any of my clients to use this kind of tactic of going no contact with their spouse in order to get their spouses to miss them. The fact is, the people that I work with, their spouses typically want to be with someone else or they want to divorce. Sometimes they want to divorce and be friends, sometimes they simply want to divorce, but they are not going to be missing their spouse when they move out. So what is it that I do recommend to my clients? Well, it depends on their situation. If their spouse does in fact love them and is only moving out in order to do some kind of intervention, yes, with this kind of situation you could go no contact in order to make your spouse fearful of losing your relationship and to give up on that intervention and to come back to you.
That is actually going to fit the recommendation of some people on the Internet because it’s going to work with a needy spouse. But I don’t think that’s really a good approach if your spouse is doing an intervention by separating in order to get you to change some behavior that you have. then it seems to me the best thing to do is to actually work on changing those behaviors that your spouse is putting so much effort into getting you to take seriously and to start making progress on them. Going no contact, mentally getting your spouse to the point where he or she just has to come back with you and live with the problem, is kind of a short-term solution for keeping your relationship together, but it actually is a long-term recipe for disaster. In the future your spouse might not separate until he or she has someone else, if you don’t make the changes that your spouse is trying to initiate now. So even in this situation where going no contact would work to get a spouse to come back, it just doesn’t make sense to me when there’s a better approach—improving yourself so that your spouse will want to come back to you. Now, that is not going to work in most of the situations that I work with where the spouse is not in love anymore and wants to get out.
My clients have often thought, before working with me, that what they need to do is to change themselves, to prove that they are new and improved, and that their spouses make a mistake by leaving. At this point though, all it really does is anger the spouse who sees that that person could have made these changes much sooner but did not do it until, in fact their love was gone, they no longer cared anymore, and wanted to leave the relationship. What typically results in this situation is the spouse who has left will say “Great. Good for you for making those changes. I’m sure it will benefit your future husband or wife, but as for me, it’s too late.” And any person who is taking this approach to improve themselves in order to get back a spouse who really is not in love with them is going to become frustrated, because they will work harder and harder to get their spouse to change their mind and their spouse simply won’t be doing it. And that is going to make them give up on their relationship. You will read many people say that well, once you get separated your relationship is over. That is far from the truth!
Your relationship is only over if you do things that make the other person no longer want to be in a relationship with you. There are some good things you can do to build a relationship, even with a spouse who has moved out, and I have helped thousands of people to reconcile their relationships even though their spouse has moved out. So am I saying that going no contact is not the thing to do, and so you should contact your spouse a lot? No, that would be the other extreme. That would also be a bad thing to do. In fact, continuing to chase someone who does not want to be with you would just make them shut down all contact with you and you won’t be able to get further along.
Let me help you to see this in a different way. This is usually the correct mindset for reconciling with your spouse, so it’s a very good thing to learn. Reconciling a relationship with a spouse is very much like creating a new relationship for a single person. So, let’s consider the situation where, if you were single, there is this person you are really interested in having a relationship with, but that person is not interested in having a relationship with you. Well, obviously if you just keep contacting that person trying to convince them to have a relationship with you, they are just going to tell you to go away. They’re going to block your number, block you on social media, whatever. You’re going to drive them away if you continually contact them in order to try to get them to be with you. On the other hand, if you are really interested in a person who is not interested in you, and you’re single, and you just decided that you’re going to go no contact, is that really going to get that person contacting you? Well, I don’t think so.
So what is the answer then? Well, the answer is you don’t chase after the person, but you do become the kind of person that person would actually like to have a relationship with. We don’t try to convince people to have a relationship with someone they don’t like. We actually work on becoming the kind of person that person would like to have a relationship with. And then, we need to use a gradual approach. If you are single and you’re interested in someone and they’re not already into you, your first steps—just working on becoming the kind of person they’re attracted to. Approaching them in a relaxed and friendly way, and validating whatever they have to say, even if they’re saying “Hey, I don’t want to be with you, I’m not interested in you.” Then if you are single a good approach to that would be something like “Yeah, I really don’t think that we would be a good match for each other—you’re so right.” And that may sound like you’re just telling them buzz off, you’re not interested in them, but that’s not true at all. Actually you are agreeing with them. You’re validating them. You are helping them to feel relaxed with you, they don’t feel like you are pursuing them or pressuring them, and that gives you more opportunities for connecting, if you know how to keep the relationship going after that.
The first step with rebuilding your relationship is always to help the other person to relax. And that means you stop pursuit. You become more the kind of person that person would like to be with, and you also validate that person’s beliefs or feelings. People want to be with others who validate them, not with people who tell them they are wrong, they’ve made thea wrong decision, they don’t care about the children, they need to live up to their marriage contract, they have a religious obligation, or anything like that. Those approaches simply are not going to work either to make people your friends, to reconcile family relationships, or to get your spouse to really want to be with you again. So I think the most important question about contact is not whether or not you should contact. Definitely you should. The question is what should you do when you contact your spouse, and how often.
The more damaged your relationship is, the less you are going to contact your spouse, And the more you’re going to validate your spouse. That is, you are going to help your spouse feel that it was a good decision to separate, rather than trying to convince your spouse that it was the wrong decision to separate, because taking that approach just causes more distance. One thing you need to understand with separation is that sometimes separation is actually a good way to reconcile relationship which is the opposite from many things you might read which say that once you separate the relationship is over. People who believe that once you separate your relationship is over really work very, very hard to make sure the separation does not happen. And often that means pressuring the spouse or behaving in a very needy and unattractive way. When they do that, then when the separation does happen, their spouse often does not want to have any contact with them whatsoever, and then that does make it very difficult to reconcile.
What you need to understand in that situation is that it’s not the separation which has resulted in the relationship being so badly damaged, but it’s all the pressure and needy behavior that happened before the separation. the better a couple can get along before they separate, the more contact they can have after they separate, and the more they can enjoy their relationship, even after they separate. That can be really good thing for rebuilding a relationship because, think about it this way, if someone is living with you but they don’t want to be with you and so they’re avoiding you, they are being like a cold and distant roommate essentially, then your relationship is not going to build in that situation. In fact, your relationship is going to stall and become very negative, continuing to live in that situation.
My first thing that I recommend in a divided relationship like that is not separation. It’s actually helping the spouse to relax and to reconnect while still living together. But sometimes that’s not possible. When it is not possible, then separation can actually be a good thing because what you then can change the relationship to, instead of having seven days where you live together avoiding the other person’s company and having all this negative feeling, you can change that to one where you are not living with that person. You take away all the negativity, but then whatever contact you do have you can create to be positive. And that’s what’s going to build your relationship much more than whether you live together or not. It’s just having more positive interaction than negative interactions. Both therapists and coaches are going to recommend that a couple separate whenever continuing to live together will just make the relationship progressively worse. After all, you don’t want to do that until the relationship is just totally over. It’s far better to separate on good terms so that the relationship can keep growing, even when you are separated. This is another way to think about it—think about how you and your spouse had a relationship before you were married, when you did not live together. At that time I’m sure that even though you weren’t living together you still enjoy your relationship. In fact you probably looked forward with anticipation to going out with your spouse, to having contact with your spouse, to chatting with your spouse, to doing things like that. We can actually re-create this situation in a separation situation if you are not so focused on just living together and instead you focus, like a single person, on helping the other person to relax with you and to start to build the relationship just like you did initially.
Many people can reconcile by taking the emphasis off of getting their spouse to work together with them on building the relationship and instead take the approach a single person would do in re-interesting their spouse in them and the relationship without the thought about doing formal relationship work. That doesn’t mean I’m against formal relationship work. The best time for that is when you have a spouse who also wants the relationship to be better. That’s the time for collaborative relationship work. That’s much more of marriage counseling approach or even better, a marriage retreat. But if you have a spouse who is rejecting, cold, distant, wants to separate, get away from you, divorce, trying to convince them to work on the relationship or continually pestering them with contact is just going to drive them further away. You can rebuild in this situation. You will need to greatly reduce the contact and you need to be validating your spouse and helping your spouse to relax with you. That is going to start the process of rebuilding your relationship much like when you first met but at a much slower pace.
So if your spouse has recently separated from you, please don’t give up hope. So many people have reconciled in that situation. Just focus on learning how to do that, how to do that right, without pressuring, getting desperate, being needy. If you would like to read more about how to reconcile with a spouse who just doesn’t want to be with you anymore, I have a lot of material on that on my website at coachjackito.com. I hope you found this podcast to encourage you that indeed your relationship is not over just because your spouse says it is.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit coachjackito.com to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.