Should I Ignore My Ex's Texts During No Contact?

By Savva Smith
Sad woman in the bed stares at her mobile phone
An image of 5 golden stars


Is Silence the Best Response to Your Ex's Messages?


You will learn:

Which approach could better serve your healing process: the pros and cons of ignoring messages versus responding
The powerful, simple response strategy that helps you maintain control and ensures you won't make common mistakes when communicating with your ex
The hidden dynamics that trigger your ex's messages
After a breakup, it's hard to believe that your ex will ever get in touch. But if you stick to not contacting them, trust me, they will eventually reach out. And when that happens, your feeling of winning can quickly turn into worry: should you answer them? And if yes, how? To figure this out, let's look at the exact reasons why they would get in touch:

Insights into your ex's mind when you ignore their messages

Beautiful young brunette woman typing text message on phone, seated on couch
It's simple: the way your ex reacts to you ignoring their message depends on their reason for reaching out, and that reason is influenced by their current stage of no contact, whether it's Relief, Doubt, Anger, Nostalgia, and Regret:
At the stage of relief, they might feel a mix of liberation and uncertainty. They could reach out to see if they made the right choice. On rarer occasions, they might even try to soothe your hurt feelings, offering words of comfort or possibly even explaining their reasons. Yet, in most scenarios, they prefer the sanctuary of silence, processing the fresh change. Ignoring any outreach at this point is recommended since they're primarily trying to find peace with their choice, and your response might not change much.
At the stage of momentary doubt, they might wonder if they acted hastily. A casual message like "how are you" isn't just a simple inquiry - it's a probe. They're checking if you're still there, if there's any regret on your end, and if their choice still holds water. Choosing not to respond safeguards your emotions while allowing them to wrestle with their uncertainty independently.
At the stage of anger, they might unleash a barrage of blame, pointing fingers for the pain they're enduring or the love they perceive they lost. Keep in mind that this anger is less about genuine animosity and more about the struggle to regain control over you. Ignoring heated messages prevents unnecessary conflicts, avoiding the trap of getting drawn into emotionally charged disputes that don't contribute to healing.
At the stage of nostalgia, they might send messages as "I am sorry", or "remember that moment?", however, the feelings are not yet strong enough for them to try to reconcile. However, it's important to recognize that reminiscing doesn’t equate to readiness. Ignoring these messages is usually okay because, while they're revisiting past affections, they haven't yet reached a point of wanting to rebuild.
At the stage of regret, they try to get back to you. The dam of emotions breaks at this phase. It's when they genuinely feel the weight of the loss. Their outreach intensifies, spanning heartfelt messages, persistent calls, and perhaps even attempts to meet. Their regret is palpable. If there's a sliver of hope or desire on your end to rekindle the relationship, now is the moment to be vigilant and consider engaging. The conversations that ensue could well determine the future trajectory of your relationship.
As you can see, in most cases, their outreach isn't about rekindling anything but more about reaffirming their own self-worth. In more troublesome scenarios, they might be fishing for a reaction, looking to bolster their ego through your response. Maybe they had a rough day, recalling a cherished memory shared with you, and in that fleeting moment of vulnerability, they felt an urge to reconnect. Workplace challenges, where they might miss your support, or perhaps an unsatisfactory romantic endeavor post your breakup can bring old feelings rushing back. It's crucial to distinguish between these momentary lapses and the genuine regret phase.

By recognizing the underlying reasons for their outreach, you equip yourself with the insight to respond (or not respond) in a manner that best aligns with your desires and well-being. Now that we've delved into the complexities of their mindset, let's address the burning question on your mind:

Should you ignore messages from your ex?

Solitary man sitting on log, contemplating during sunset
Let's discuss the benefits of ignoring their messages:

1. You're freed from constant thoughts about how to reply. You're not obsessed with these stages and various hypothetical situations. It's straightforward: if they wish to reconcile, they will find a way to mend what's broken. That's their responsibility. As evidenced in my practice, if an ex truly wants to reconcile, they will literally show up at your doorstep. A mere ignored message won't deter them.

2. It increases their uncertainty about you and accelerates nostalgia. The lack of information breeds immense curiosity.

3. You mitigate the risk of responding in a way that signifies you're still in a weak (one-down) position, which would repel them. Here's the secret from practice: simply responding to someone who chose to leave, especially if the message isn't about reconciliation, signals dependency. Even a neutral message could be perceived as such.

Could ignoring their messages push them away? While I haven't seen such cases, I believe there's a small possibility. However, an improper response can and will push them away. If they send you a message and you perceive it as a step towards reconciliation, then you reciprocate by moving a step or two towards them (instead of, for example, allowing them space to progress by making a tactical step back), they will pull away. They may even regress to Stage 1 of no contact, where they experience relief from the end of the relationship.

So, in my experience, ignoring any message except those from Stage 5 is the most efficient recovery strategy.

The top 5 examples of messages that can typically be ignored (consider carefully before responding):

A man engaging with his smartphone, actively tapping on the touchscreen display
Often, the initial texts your ex sends may not hold significant emotional value or express clear intent, but may instead be intended to provoke a response from you. These can range from seemingly innocuous greetings to subtle inquiries about your well-being, all designed to re-establish contact or satisfy their curiosity. Below are some typical examples:

1. "Hi" or "Hello": These are basic, non-committal texts, typically aimed at gauging your response.
2. "How are you?": Doesn't imply they want to reconcile. It could be a casual check-in or an attempt to ease their guilt.
3. "I found this (photo/object/book) and thought of you": A tactful way to initiate contact without expressing direct emotions.
4. "Remember when we (shared experience)": Again, they're not direct because they want you to make the first step.
5. "I just passed by (a place you used to go together)": This text, again, is a subtle way to initiate contact, embedded in shared experiences, without expressing clear intent.

Remember, these texts are not inherently "bad", but understanding the context and intent behind them can help guide your response, especially if you're committed to maintaining no contact. However, let's delve into the topic of responding to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding:

What if they ask "why are you ignoring me?" during no contact?

Stunning brunette woman sitting on a park bench, looking away and seemingly ignoring the man attempting to converse with her
If your ex reaches out with a message asking why you're ignoring them during the no contact period, it's a valid choice to maintain your stance and not respond. However, unexpected face-to-face encounters can be trickier. If posed with the question in person, consider a measured response like, "Is there something specific you wanted to address?" Then, regardless of their comeback, gently steer the conversation by saying, "I don't believe now's the right time for that discussion." At stage 5, they typically refrain from bringing this up, recognizing the pain and wrongs they've inflicted upon you. They understand that you are entirely justified in prioritizing your emotional well-being, health, and overall life by distancing yourself from those who overlooked your intrinsic value.

Whenever you're grappling with self-doubt, wondering if it's impolite to ignore your ex, remind yourself of a fundamental truth: you always possess the right to choose who you interact with. Every individual, including you, holds this prerogative. In today's digital age, imagine receiving messages from an unknown person on social media who consistently sends negative or unsolicited comments. Most people would not hesitate to block or ignore such a user. Why? Because there's an inherent understanding that no one is obliged to entertain negativity or hostility, even in the virtual space. This is a clear boundary set for one's own peace of mind. Similarly, when it comes to past relationships, the emotional stakes are even higher. It's entirely valid and sometimes necessary to establish boundaries, even if it means ignoring certain interactions for the sake of one's own emotional health. Given your shared history and the hurt they've inflicted, it's not just about politeness. It's about prioritizing your emotional well-being. Always remember, particularly in the aftermath of what they've done, you owe it to yourself to prioritize your feelings and needs above all else.

If you still want to respond to your ex: what is the safest way to do so?

Playful and thoughtful red-haired woman with hand near chin in contemplative pose
Here's what to keep in mind:
Try to determine the stage of no contact based on the message. Adjust your responses based on this knowledge.
Let them have the initiative: they initiated the breakup, and they should be the ones initiating the reunion.
Avoid discussing the relationship (unless they want to discuss reconciliation). This is where many individuals consistently err. They become emotional. They feel hurt. It's extremely challenging to control oneself when your ex brings up your past. The simplest advice I can offer without knowing your specific situation is to respond with the traditional line: "I don't think it's a good idea to discuss this now."
Do not be surprised if they stop the conversation at any point of time. Do not chase.
With this approach, the likelihood of making a mistake is greatly reduced.

I hope this analysis has brought some clarity to your current situation. Typically, gaining a better understanding of your circumstances provides some much-needed mental peace, even if just for a moment...


Key Points

Understanding the shift in power balance and your ex's curiosity about your lack of outreach are crucial to comprehending why they might contact you during the no contact phase.
Choosing to ignore your ex's messages can bring clarity and peace, and reduces the chances of making mistakes that could complicate your healing process.
While responding to your ex can be tricky, with a careful approach such as avoiding discussions about the past relationship, it's possible to navigate the conversation safely.

Not knowing this astonishing secret practically guarantees the negative experience during no contact:
Not feeling any better
Having relentless thoughts of an ex
Battling those near-impossible-to-resist urges to reach out