So what we have on the table today is the question of whether the No Contact Rule can help you in a marriage that is failing or seriously struggling. Perhaps it just seems like yesterday the two of your were cutting your wedding cake and everything seemed so blissful. But things can happen and the marriage can turn sour.
What are you to do?
If any of you have ever visited my other relationship websites that deal with the recovery of your Ex, then you are probably up to speed on the No Contact Rule and how it works and why it can be effective.
But I am going to assume that you have not. And even if you have, guess what! When it comes to the No Contact Rule or Principle (which I prefer to call it), there are a few different wrinkles we need to discuss and iron out as it applies to married couples.
You may have come here because you think you may have a failing marriage. There are essentially three directions a marriage can be heading. It is either growing and evolving with a general move in a positive direction. This is the kind of marriage you want.
This raises an interesting point. When someone comes to me and tells me that their marriage is great and is getting better and better with each and every day. I am usually pretty happy for the individual.
I like to hear those kind of words. Such marital descriptions are certainly better to hear about than when someone tells me their marriage is in ruins or it is struggling or imploding.
But a word of caution.
In my view, the natural course of a marriage is not straight up like a rocket ship.
If the couple finds themselves exhilarated with everything about their marriage and are constantly dancing in the aisles, then I usually give them kudos for their attitude.
They must be doing a lot of things right. But I also encourage them not to get too far ahead of themselves. Every relationship will encounter some bumps along the way. Looking for ways to continuously reinvent and improve the marriage is always a good track to take.
In a little while, we are going to talk about how you can employ the No Contact Rule to get through a major marriage speed bump, such as a marriage on the verge of failure.
Ok, let’s get back on our track!
Remember what I said earlier? There are generally three directions a marriage is usually heading.
The first one is one that is moving forward. That’s the kind you like. While it is not perfect (no marriage is perfect), it is progressively evolving in a mature and positive way.
Think of a climber who is going up a mountain. To progress upward you have to climb a series of switchbacks. It is hard work, but rewarding as you make your way up the mountain.
Sometimes as you climb, a switchback might take you down for a spell. It is normal to have some setbacks…to lose some marriage ground…but a solid marriage will correct for these temporary setbacks as the general direction is upward.
This is a healthy marriage in my view.
A second type of marriage is one that is failing. Possibly it is failing miserably. This marriage is headed for trouble if an intervention is not made. The struggle to just keep it together and to keep the marital commitment intact, can be overwhelming.
This is where an intervention is really necessary and for such marriages that are balanced on the tip of disaster, implementing the No Contact Rule can potentially help you and your husband or wife re calibrate.
A third type of marriage outcome is a relationship that is stuck in neutral.
It is neither growing and evolving to higher heights, nor is it descending into the depths of despair and pain. Now, all marriages will go through a period where things seem neither bad or good. It is easy to get lost in life and forget to put effort in expanding and renewing the marriage.
Just as with most things in life, if you leave it be (unattended), it will grow stale.
So what can one to do if you feel your marriage is in shambles (or headed that direction), but you are not ready to give up?
There is an abbreviated from of the No Contact Rule that may very well help shake things up and enable you and your spouse to get back on the right track of improving your marriage.
Let’s explore what that might look like.
The No Contact Rule for Failing Marriages
It would be best to start off with an explanation of what the No Contact Rule is all about.
Now, one word of warning. Before you rush to judgement to agree or disagree with what I am about to say, be sure to read my comments in full.
Ok, so let’s get back to explaining how the No Contact Rule could possibly work in certain marriage situations.
Think of it this way. There may come a time where it might be beneficial to simply shut down all communications with your spouse. That means not talking, not texting, no phone calls, essentially no communications. Obviously, this is not easy to accomplish if you are still married and living under the same roof. It is even more difficult to accomplish if you have children together.
So for a married couple, my advice as to whether you should implement and how you would go about implementing the No Contact Rule is predicated on many factors.
First and foremost is the degree in which you perceive the marriage is failing. The worst the marriage, the more inclined I am to recommend the Principle. Though I think elements of the No Contact Rule will likely have to be adapted.
Let’s peel back a few more layers because, quite frankly, this is a complex conversation when evaluating if there is benefit in adopting a No Contact Rule while you are married.
I generally don’t recommend you adopt the No Contact Rule within a marriage because after all, you are married.
You are not technically going through a break up or separation. Though, you may be suffering many of the same issues that singles experience when they break up with each other.
I have seen a lot of marriages that are failing in which the couple essentially live under the same roof, remain married, but for all practical purposes, the marriage is a bit of a mirage.
Such dysfunctional marriages are more frequent than you may realize.
Couples can walk through the motions of being married and carry on around others socially as if they are married, but when they return to the normal routines, they essentially interact with each other like brother and sister.
And the strange thing about it, one or both of them may not fully realize that is what the marriage has become. Sometimes the two individuals can just get swept along, lost in the gravity of their routines.
Sometimes one of the parties to this arrangement is mindful that they are in a loveless marriage. She (or he) suffers every day with the realization that the marriage did not even come close to living up to their expectation.
Marriages can be complicated entities.
In marriage where there is clear dysfunction and a breakdown of loving behaviors, we usually have a perfect recipe for failure. So if you find yourself in such a relationship and it feels like the two of you are caught up in acting out dysfunctional marital roles, then you really need an intervention. If you wish to extract yourself from a failing relationship such as I described, seek counseling if you have not already.
It is my view, that unless emotional or physical abuse is involved, you should try everything you can think of to save the marriage, before you consider separating or divorcing.
Another intervention could take the form of the No Contact Rule.
Let me explain how the No Contact Rule typically works in a non marriage environment. Let’s take your average boyfriend and girlfriend.
Typically, when a couple breaks up, yet one of them would like to explore the prospect of re-uniting, I recommend the individual go through a No Contact Period ranging from 21 to 30 days (45 days at the longest). This time allows the individual to get over the pain and hurt of a breakup and also work on becoming the best version of themselves.
Psychology plays a role when implementing the No Contact Rule.
When the other person seeks to reach out and start communicating, they will be met with silence.
Psychological reactance then enters the picture. This happens to the person who is accustomed to communicating with their ex. Now they find that their ex will not respond. Their emotional reaction will be influenced by an unconscious desire to connect. It was a freedom they possessed before, but now it has been removed since their Ex has temporarily shut them out.
People often want that which they are told they can’t have. As a result the “value” of the non-communicative Ex rises.
In a marriage that is failing miserably, something meaningful needs to happen. So in a situation where the two of you live under the same roof and the problems of the marriage just keep rocking along without solutions or worst, any effort to improve, an intervention might be the best medicine.
So how would it work inside a marriage?
How does a person implement the No Contact principle when you can’t help but see each other every day?
Well, there are a couple of modifications you can make to the No Contact Rule in this particular circumstance that I have laid out.
So what will progress look like?
For this situation, progress is being able to sit down with your husband or wife and seriously talk about the direction of your marriage.
So what we are looking for here is an intervention that will trigger a response that leads to a serious discussion. But for the discussion to even take shape in a serious way, you have to do some priming.
And that is what the No Contact Principle can possibly do for you. It can help change your spouse’s mindset in such a way that when the two of you finally sit down to discuss the quality and future of the marriage, the necessary commitment to a solution is in place.
No Contact Rule Disclaimer!
Now, I don’t recommend you try doing this unless you have exhausted multiple attempts to talk to your spouse about the direction of the marriage.
I also want you to seek out counseling before you do anything like this. While I would not characterize this as the “nuclear option”, it is pretty darn close.
So make sure you have done everything you can think of to get your spouse to a “place” where you both can have real, actionable, and constructive conversations about improving the marriage.
Any time you shut down all communications (even temporarily) you are doing something risky. It is a meaningful event to simply choose not to communicate or see your husband for a limited period.
Could it backfire?
It sure could.
But if the marriage is already failing and you are miserable, you probably don’t have much more to lose. But the idea here is to gain something.
There is a need for to a paradigm shift. There needs to be an awakening. To accomplish that, you sometimes need an intervention.
So here is one approach.
Consider leaving temporarily and go into full No Contact for around a week.
Why did I use the word “around”.
Everybody’s situation is different. So maybe it is just for a few days. Maybe it’s longer. Before you do this, I think it would be a good idea to leave a note and briefly explain what you are doing and why.
Tell your husband or wife you are unhappy and need “some days” to reflect on the state of the marriage. Just keep the messaging simple. Don’t make it too wordy.
Ask your spouse to respect your privacy and not to contact you because it is your intention not to check or respond to such messages. Advise your spouse that after 48 hours, you will check in by text to alleviate any concern your spouse may have about your welfare.
Since you probably have never done anything like this before, it is likely this self imposed intervention will shake things up.
The reactions from spouses can range from anger and resentment to shock, disbelief, and uncertainty. They may take it very well and offer support. Possibly, you might hear nothing from you spouse. The reaction from your spouse could be some of those things or all of these things.
Usually emotions run hard and fast in the beginning, but over time, calmer, more rational reactions come to the forefront.
Your aim through all of this is to create an environment such that future marital discussions will have a solid and constructive platform.
Eventually, once your week (more or less) of No Contact is concluded, you can reach out to your spouse and suggest the two of you meet someplace you feel comfortable.
I don’t think it should be at your home. Not yet. Ideally, it should be some place quiet where you both can talk. Possibly a public location such as a park or a small, non crowded restaurant or cafe.
The point of this meeting is for you to explore your spouse’s readiness to have a serious and constructive discussion about your relationship sometime in the future.
Don’t get into all the nitty gritty relationship topics at this initial meeting. You are simply trying to feel him/her out. If your husband or wife is not ready to get serious about improving the marriage or even meet with you to explore the prospect of future discussions, then you may need to resume your No Contact Period for an indefinite period of time.
There is no certainty this approach will work. But if you arrive here with your marriage in a mess, then it is probably time to try something new to show your spouse that you are truly invested in doing something to shape the marriage in a positive way.
And by the way, don’t confuse this approach with a separation which is an even more serious intervention and a much more extended time apart.
If you seek a name for it, you can call it: “Marriage Time Out“.