Does The No Contact Rule Work After An Affair? If So, How?

By: Katie Lersch:  I sometimes get correspondence asking me about the “no contact rule” after a spouse cheats or has an affair.  People want to know if, and how, it works.  It’s important to note that often, people are talking about two different things when they discuss no contact.

No Contact As It Relates To The Person Who Cheated: First, they could be talking about no contact as it relates to the other person in the affair.  So from a husband who cheated, you might hear: “my wife is saying that I must have absolutely no contact with the other woman.  But we have become legitimate friends.  It does not seem realistic to think that I’m expected to just act as if she never existed.  What if she calls me?  Am I supposed to just slam the door in her face.”

In this case, no contact means exactly what it says. And yes, you are expected to carry it out to the letter.  Think about it this way.  If it were your wife who had done the cheating, would you want her to cut off any and all contact with the other man?  Of course you would.  Would you want her to try to sneak in some contact or to try to justify “keeping in touch” to herself while hiding the same from you?  Of course you wouldn’t.

When your spouse cheats on you and is asking you not to divorce him, then you want to know that he is worth it.  And in order for this to be so, they have to be trustworthy.  Still sneaking around to contact the other person (even when you are not technically still cheating) is not being trustworthy.  It is not putting your spouse first.  It is not having integrity.  And you need all three things to successfully be rehabilitated.

So yes, in this case, there is really no confusion or sleight of hand.  It means just what it says – that you make a clean break, that you communicate (very clearly and quickly) that it is over, and that you avoid interaction after that.  Your priority and your focus is on your marriage now.  You owe that to yourself, to your marriage, and to your spouse.  There is no room for anyone else.

No Contact As It Relates To The Faithful Spouse: The other way that people discuss no contact is when a couple (or a faithful spouse) decides that they are not going to communicate with their spouse for a while because of the high emotions associated with the affair. The thought process is that this break gives both people a chance to calm down and allows the cheating spouse to think while he can’t reach out to the faithful spouse.

Along those lines, someone might ask: “my mother told me that I should kick my cheating husband out of the house.  I reluctantly did that because quite honestly, it was painful to have him around.  My mother also indicated that I should not let him call or come by.  She said that I should let my silence speak for me and that this will make my husband even sorrier than he already is.  I understand the thinking behind this, but I feel that this tactic is a little cruel, especially since my husband is going to want access to his children.  My kids are not going to understand why they can’t see their father.  How far do you take no contact and does it work?”

How far you take it (and whether you want to participate in it) is up to you.  Some people have some success, but many people find that there are some problems with it.  For one thing, it’s common to wonder if he is continuing to cheat when you are not interacting with him. It’s also common for both people to assume the worst about the other – since they can’t possibly know what is going on without being in touch.

“No contact” seems to breed mistrust at a time when you might be trying to rebuild the trust. A couple can also drift further and further apart this way.  But I do see the point about allowing things to calm down, which is why I think a compromise might be in order.

Considering A Compromise: If you think that this is a viable option, why not limit the contact, but not negate it all together?  Perhaps he may call the kids at set times and see them once a week.  At that time, the two of you could touch base and talk if that feels comfortable to you.

If things go well, you could very slowly increase the contact if it feels right to do so.  But I think not having any contact when you share kids might be a bit drastic and quite difficult to carry out.

As you probably can tell, when “no contact” means that the affair is truly over, I am very clear on the fact that this should happen – with no excuses. If the affair is over, then it should be totally over with no interaction.  It’s not that hard to understand.  You must completely end it and then not communicate afterward.

As far as “no contact” between the spouses goes, I think that this one has shades of grey and is harder to carry out, although perhaps a less drastic version of it may work.

My husband and I did live apart for a short time after his affair.  But because of our children and because I wanted to know what he was up to, there was definitely limited and well-defined contact. You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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