Considerations Before You Go No-Contact

When a toxic family member or friend continues to violate your boundaries, it seems increasingly acceptable to cut them off completely or go “no contact.” You may even know someone who has made such a difficult decision and understand their reasons for doing so. If you find yourself wondering if it’s something you should consider for a relationship you have, there are a few considerations that can easily be missed when looking for a solution out of desperation. 

Once Done, the Harm Cannot Be Undone

Going no contact often feels like a permanent decision once made. As for any decision in life, it is true that you are free to change your mind at any time. However, if contact has been lost for a length of time or if multiple attempts at contact are met with no response, it becomes clear to the ostracized person that contact is no longer desired. How long it takes for reality to set in will vary by person and by the norms previously set in the relationship. So while it may be true that you can choose to renew contact at any point in the future, there is no guarantee that the other person will be willing to participate in the relationship or will respond positively to an olive branch. Ultimately, going no-contact is often about centering yourself, but it is worth noting how such a decision impacts others.

Secondary Impacts

Some people may cut-off entire groups of people or families out of a need for survival, but for many others, there is a single person that is causing strife. It is unlikely that this single person has no connections to other people in your life. Most often, there are others who are connected to that person, such as mutual friends or extended family. Therefore, going no-contact with the one person is likely to have ripple effects, or even make waves, with others in your life. For example, you may want to stop contact with an uncle but realize it would make contact with your cousins difficult or impossible, especially if they are minors. It can be worth looking at all of the relationships connected to the boundary violator to weigh such secondary impacts before making a decision.

Your Resources
Completely cutting someone out of your life is never easy to do, especially when that person is a family member. The people we are closest to and who support us can sometimes be the most difficult to deal with, but not everyone has the luxury of going no-contact with important people in their lives. Do an inventory of your resources (such as time, energy, finances, other social support, etc) to determine how much is being used to maintain the relationship and how much you would need without the relationship in your life. You may find that it is not worth the energy you have been expending to continue communicating with the person, or you may find that the tangible support the person provides is worth the emotional turmoil. While this may sound transactional, it is about minimizing the overall impact of this person on your life, which is the reason you are considering no-contact in the first place. 

Personal & Cultural Considerations

In Western society, rugged individualism is often valued over collective concern for the family or group. Going no-contact may be attractive in this context, but it can be considered taboo in other contexts. So much of our relationships and their dynamics are influenced by larger values and social expectations. There is likely no right or wrong decision, only different options. You may be feeling from these larger forces to make one decision or the other. Consider the culture you grew up in and how you were raised along with what your personal values are and what you believe to be best. This is a critical decision that should reflect your values, whether that is putting your well-being first or putting others first.

There are likely other factors you would like to consider before deciding how to handle a challenging relationship. Even with the above considerations, there are strong arguments to support the use of no-contact to protect your well-being as well. In a future article, we’ll discuss alternative options to going no-contact. If you are struggling with how to handle a toxic relationship, our counselors are available to help you explore all of your options and support you in your decision-making process.

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