Implementing a no contact boundary can feel overwhelming, impossible, and terrifying to victims of betrayal and abuse.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery advocates for the safety and health of all women. Lee joins Anne Blythe on the free BTR podcast to discuss how she was able to successfully implement a no contact boundary with her abuser, and how it has helped her begin to heal from 15 years of abuse. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
What Is “No Contact”?
A no contact boundary is simply a boundary that protects women from destructive and abusive communication with their abusive (ex) partners.
No contact boundaries can be tailored to the specific safety needs of each victim. For most victims, no contact includes:
- No phone calls from the abuser (most women have to block the abuser on their phones)
- No texts from the abuser
- No in-person visits or time with the abuser
Instead, abusers communicate with victims through a safe third-party over email, or directly with the victim over email.
Believing In Yourself: The First Step To Implementing No Contact
Abusers condition victims to lose their sense of self-esteem and their belief that they can achieve safety and protection from abuse. When women choose to break through the abusive conditioning and seize the opportunity to protect themselves by implementing no contact, they are overcoming an enormous hurdle.
Victims can get to this point by participating in a safe support group, meeting with a safe professional, and becoming educated about abuse and trauma.
Implementing No Contact: Problem Solving
The second step to implementing a no contact boundary is using education and safe, supportive people to help you problem-solve and work through obstacles that may arise.
The first step of implementing no contact is to know that it’s possible and then you start problem-solving. Once you implement a no contact boundary, you may realize that there are holes in your armor or other chinks. You may feel like, oh I didn’t realize that I needed to board up this window or I didn’t realize that I need to lock this door.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Some areas that women may need to problem-solve include:
- Navigating the no contact boundary with children
- How to maintain the no contact boundary if/when emergency situations arise
- Navigating the no contact boundary if the victim doesn’t have a safe third-party to be the communicator with the abuser
- Navigating the no contact boundary if/when the abuser withholds child support
Maintaining No Contact
The last step is maintaining the no contact boundary in a way that promotes health and peace in the victim’s life.
Abusers will not accept victims’ boundaries. They will always push back. This can become emotionally exhausting for victims if the no contact boundary isn’t properly maintained.
Sometimes victims need to tweak their original plan for no contact to protect themselves from the chaos of the abuser. This can mean:
- Implementing a third-party to receive and respond to all emails from the abuser
- Getting a restraining/protective order against the abuser
- Using the “gray rock” technique to respond in simple, repetitive ways to the abuser
It is essential that victims practice daily self-care, seek regular support from safe people, and continue to educate themselves about abuse and trauma.
I don’t have that pit in my stomach anymore when I see his name. I don’t even have to think. My phone isn’t something to fear really anymore. I’m not sitting there wondering if he’s sent me a text message on my phone. I can go to my phone and it’s not a place of worry.Lee, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Helps Victims Navigate No Contact
At BTR, we understand the complex and intense feelings that can surround a no contact boundary: grief, anger, excitement, peace, terror, worry, and more.
Victims who courageously implement no contact boundaries need support. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in multiple time zones and offers women the validation, compassion, and support that they need as they navigate no contact. Join today.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
Leave A Review For The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Podcast
I have Lee back this week to talk about implementing no contact, but before we get to that here is a 5-star review that we received on Apple Podcasts. “This is for everyone. Not only has this podcast been so healing for me, but it made my heart and mind come together to understand how this happened, why this happened, and what abuse looks like. This podcast is educational for every person in your household, though some of it may not be suitable for children, but the skills and lessons you learn will be carried on to your children. Use it to gain the skills necessary to effectively communicate with anyone. Share it with everyone.”
If you have not yet, and you’re so inclined, please take the time to rate this podcast because every single one of your ratings and your reviews helps isolated women find us.
Join The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Today
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is a live online support group for victims of emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual coercion in the form of your husband’s pornography use. The group sessions happen multiple times a day in every single time zone. Join today.
I have Lee back on today’s episode. Last week I talked to her about her situation, but these two episodes were recorded months and months apart. So, there has been a big gap in time between last week’s episode and this week. If you haven’t heard that episode please go back to last week, listen to that first, and then join us here.
Implementing No Contact
On last week’s episode, which again was months ago, Lee and I talked about her situation and her story and how she was really interested in implementing no contact. In the months between she has actually implemented no contact, which a lot of people are interested in, so we’re going to talk about how she did that, why she did that, and how she’s feeling now.
Welcome back, Lee.
Lee: Thank you.
Anne: You were really interested in implementing no contact so that you could get some peace in your life. First of all, let’s talk about what your concerns were.
Why Implement No Contact?
Lee: A lot of the women in the group experience some alterations of their reality because of the situations that their husbands have put them in. They like to kind of twist your thoughts a little bit. I lived in that false reality. Any time I thought I had concerns for where I knew something was real, he would alter my reality and confuse me and just convince me that what I was thinking was completely illogical or not accurate. I now have a difficult time understanding my own reality now, but as I went through my divorce he continued to do this and he continued to manipulate things and continue to tell me things that I said that I never said or things that I did say that he would say I never said.
No Contact Can Help Victims Regain Trust In Themselves
That was very difficult to live like that and live in that and always questioning my own reality and not knowing if what I was thinking or if what I was doing was actually real. It was very confusing, so why I wanted to go into this was because I needed documentation of what I was saying and what he was saying so I could trust myself almost more and trust that what I knew to be true was truth and I had that evidence in writing.
Anne: Okay, so you have this evidence that he is gaslighting you. You have this evidence that he is emotionally and psychologically abusing you. You have this evidence that he is trying to alter your reality, and you figure that no contact is going to be the best option, after you’ve gathered this evidence because you’re thinking I can’t communicate with him in anyway shape or form without him lying to me, without him twisting the truth, without things going sideways.
No Contact Helps Protect Victims From Crazy-Making
Lee: Yeah, without crazy-making, because that is what it was. It was crazy-making.
Anne: So, you decide I need to do no contact. What were your concerns about no contact? Like at the beginning when you’re thinking oh, that would be amazing if I could do no contact if I could stop interacting with him, but I’m scared because or it won’t work because... What were the things at the beginning before you decided hey, I’m going to try this out; that kind of holding you back from even considering it at first?
Abusive Men Push Against Boundaries, Including No Contact
Lee: The first reason was that he wouldn’t want to participate. I knew he always used the excuse when I tried to implement a little bit of this in the past, he would try to tell me that he was computer illiterate or he didn’t really know how to use technology, which was not founded at all, I later realized. The second was that he would use it to not communicate certain things with me about the children while they were with him. Again, it would fall back onto him saying he was computer illiterate, so I forgot to tell you that. Whether that be that he was going to drop them off later, or maybe not telling me the kids were uncomfortable and wanted to come home. He would use it as an excuse to say oh sorry, I couldn’t communicate with you because you have it set up through email.
Navigation No Contact When Children Are Involved
I think that was my biggest fear was with the children. That if there was an emergency how would we contact each other? Not just him but myself because he still is their father and would need to know if some sort of emergency happened. So, that was another one of my concerns and why I kind of kept that verbal communication going.
Anne: So, when we first talked about it you were like I really want to do this but it just seems impossible, and I remember talking to you on the phone and I said the first step is believing that it’s possible. To know that you can, and then you just have to figure out the how. How did that change in mindset from I can’t do this, it’s impossible, we have kids together, to okay, I can do this, now I just need to figure out how. How did that change of mindset help you to start actually looking for solutions?
Choosing Safety Helps Victims Begin Implementing No Contact
Lee: How that helped me is I took away the impossibility of it and thought I need to do this. It wasn’t even that I can or can’t do it. It was that I needed to do it. For my own sanity, I had to start implementing this otherwise I just knew that this was going to be a constant cycle and a constant battle, and I was going to constantly be questioning my own reality. I would just stay stuck in that cycle of his manipulation and abuse. So, it just came to the point where there was no option. There was no choice. I had to do it.
Anne: So, when you decided okay, now I’m in the how phase, now I know I’m doing these and I’m in the problem-solving how do I do it phase. What were the first things that you needed to consider before implementing it?
Navigating Emergencies With A No Contact Boundary
Lee: So, one of the first things that I needed to consider was in case of an emergency. If something happened while the kids were in his care or my care how would we communicate with each other? I thought of a plan immediately. It wasn’t even that hard. I decided that we would use emergency contacts in the case of an emergency, and all of a sudden it was fixed. I think that was my biggest hurdle.
No Contact Can Be Emotionally Painful For Victims
I think, if I were to be honest with myself, it was losing that connection with him. Even though I was going through this divorce process, even though I was so badly hurt for so many years by him, there was still a connection that I had to him. Whether that be healthy or unhealthy it was still there, and losing that was somewhat painful for me and I think people don’t realize that even though women make these decisions to move on or leave or whatever your decisions may be, there are still a lot of painful consequences that come with that decision. A lot of emotional consequences that we don’t realize, and I think that was the biggest thing for me. I was realizing I was losing this connection with him and I would learn through this process that that would always happen. There are always these little things that I was losing each and every time detaching from him. Even selling my car.
I sold a car and even that had a connection to him. That was painful for me to let go of in a weird way, but I think that was the hardest part. Losing that connection with him and knowing that it was final, I guess. It felt like things were becoming more final.
No Contact Can Help Women Grieve The Abuser and The “Relationship”
Anne: No hope of it getting better, for example.
Lee: No hope of it getting better and the reality sunk in. You think you know, okay this is real, but when something like this happens, and again you lose a piece of that attachment, reality sinks deeper and deeper and that can go two ways when that reality sets in. That could lead to depression, that could lead to wanting to run back to that bad situation, or it could lead to growth, and so it kind of just depends on which way you choose but that’s a difficult place to be in, again, when you’re losing that connection and coming into your reality that this is real and that you’re losing something.
Trauma Mama, Husband Drama Helps Victims Understand Abuse
Anne: I’m going to take a break here for just a second to talk about Trauma Mama, Husband Drama, my picture book for adults to help explain what is happening when it comes to abuse within the context of pornography use. It’s an amazing book to give to friends, family, clergy, therapists to help explain what is happening to you.
When you purchase Trauma Mama, Husband Drama please go back to Amazon and give it a 5-star rating. Every single one of those ratings and reviews helps isolated women find us.
Now back to my interview with Lee.
No Contact Gives Power Back To Victims
Let’s talk about some common myths with no contact. So, first of all, your first reason was that he wouldn’t participate. I had a smile on my face when you said this because when you do no contact, they can’t not participate. If you block them on your phone there is nothing that they can do about it. They can’t call you. They could call you from another, but if you have a boundary for yourself that you never answer the phone if it’s an unknown caller and you just wait for them to leave a message, then that is another boundary for you.
If you block them on your email, if you delete your social media accounts there is nothing that they can do about that. So, it put a smile on my face when you said he won’t participate because there is a way to do it where it doesn’t matter if he participates or not, you can still block contact from him.
Overcoming Obstacles of No Contact
In your particular case, you elicited some help from some family members. Let’s talk about that. You decided that you were going to contact your brother-in-law to see if you could get help. Talk about why you decided to call him and how that went down.
Lee: My brother-in-law and my sister-in-law have been huge supports for me during this whole thing. I went to them for my emergency contact, and also kind of emotional support as well, and to tell me that I can do this. Like, it’s going to be okay. They agreed to be our emergency contact and also, he was the one that actually told me to block my ex-husband, but I actually never had to do that. I never had to block him. He participated from the very beginning and he’s never actually crossed that boundary, which I’m surprised about.
Safe Support People Can Help Victims Implement No Contact
Anne: So, you went to your brother-in-law and said this is what we’re going to do and he’s participating. Now, if he started calling you all you’d have to do is block him on your phone or if he started texting you or something. You have that option. This is new to me because, in your implementation of no contact, I had never heard of someone doing it with their abuser’s knowledge or with their cooperation. So, this is really interesting to me that you actually said, hey, this is what’s going to happen, this is what we’re doing, and then he cooperated because the more common scenario is that you just don’t even tell them. You block them on your phone, you block them on your email, and then you have the 3rd party contact them and say due to the emotional pain that is causing this person we’re not letting you talk to them anymore. That would be the typical way that this would go down. So, it’s very interesting to me that you didn’t need to do that.
Were you the one that communicated to your ex? Hey, I’m not going to talk to you anymore, this is how it’s going to work, or was it your brother-in-law?
No Contact Can Help Women Find Safety From Abuse
Lee: It was me. I talked to him, and you know I’m going to step back here because actually, we had talked about the no-contact, you and I, and I had some hesitation towards it, but there was a pivotal moment too, again, when I knew that I needed to do that and it happened one catastrophic day. I had dropped the kids off in the morning; we had had a confrontation with each other that morning, and then that afternoon my son had actually had a confrontation with him and I went and picked him up, and we had an altercation outside of his families house. He did end up getting a little bit physical, and then later on that evening he had also taken my daughters and took them in a car and told them that they needed to show him where I lived and if they didn’t he was going to drop them off in the middle of nowhere.
When I had come to pick up my son, I was talking to him and I had rolled down my window just a little bit. He was able to reach into the car and take my phone. During our marriage, he was really obsessed with my phone too. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to go through my phone and keep me up all hours. He was just really obsessive about it, and so it doesn’t surprise me that he went for my phone again, and when I got out of the car to grab it from him, he started smacking me telling me to get away. Eventually, I gave up and thought you know, what this isn’t worth it and I’m going to walk away, and he threw the phone after that.
Reporting Physical Assaults To The Police Holds Abusers Accountable
Anne: Did you report this assault to the police department?
Lee: Again, it goes back to that attachment with him that I just feel like there are still some feelings there where I feel bad for him and I want to protect him in a way. That is still probably an unhealthy attachment that even though I can be so angry at him I can still want to protect him. So, it came down to that protection for him.
Anne: Because that was a physical assault that is reportable to the police. I would actually encourage you to still report that. The time has not passed for you to report an assault. Not that you need to. Whatever that you want to do is fine with me, but the reason why is that you will be safer the more the law holds them accountable, and for taking your phone and throwing it, that’s a physical assault.
Restraining Orders Can Help Victims Implement & Maintain No Contact
Lee: The other part of that is actually after that alteration not only did I implement the no-contact that you had encouraged me to do, but I don’t know if you remember during that conversation the other thing that you encouraged me to do was to get a restraining order and to finally get that implemented. It was these two things came together. After that day I went out the very next day that I could and went and got the restraining order done and then implemented the no-contact.
Anne: Awesome, okay, so you did hold him accountable in one way in that you actually filed a restraining order, and did you cite that event?
Lee: Yeah, that event actually did help me to get that restraining order against him as well. There were other things that he had done that I was able to include as well, but yeah that event did help.
No Contact Is Action That Women Can Take To Protect Themselves
Anne: That’s great news. Well, that’s funny to say it is great news that you got assaulted and then you got a restraining order, but that is good news and you actually did it. You actually took action to protect yourself. That is excellent.
So, that happens, and that’s part of that reporting. I mean you also could have actually reported the actual assault and he would have been charged with assault, and that wouldn’t have been a bad thing to do and you could still actually do that if you wanted to, but not that you need to. I want women to know what their options are so that they can actually start taking action to get themselves to more safety.
When you did the protective order is that when you also implemented no contact?
All Victims Can Find The Strength To Implement No Contact (Including You)
Lee: Yes. Yes, because part of all that confrontation from that day was part of, he-said/she-said. That’s what started all of the ruckuses and what ended up being a terrible, terrible day with just a bunch of he-said/she-said, and it was after that day that I thought you know what, I cannot live in this anymore. I don’t want something like this to happen again to either me or my children and so that’s when I implemented no contact.
Anne: And how did you communicate this to him with the protective order on?
No Contact Protects Victims From Abusers’ Gaslighting
Lee: How the protective order works here in Arizona is you go and apply for it. If they grant it, the abusers know, which I think is such a great idea because I have actually filed for 3 protective orders but actually never served him with it because I was afraid of his reaction and response, however, the courts now have taken that responsibility away from you and if they grant you that protective order they send it to the sheriff’s department and it just automatically goes out. So, it takes away you having to sit there and should I or shouldn’t I. It’s no, once it’s done it’s done.
Abusers Will Push Back Against Boundaries
However, that still did take a couple of days so, during that time I was able to notify him that we would no longer be communicating verbally, everything would go to email, and he did put up a fight. This was through text and he did put up a fight a little bit and say you know that’s not going to work, I don’t do good with electronics, several different things. Now, since we’ve been doing this for, oh my gosh, since June he can email just fine. He is not computer illiterate. He is perfectly capable of doing email, and I figured that out. Again, it goes back to him altering my reality or confusing me, or making me believe something that’s not true.
Abusers Will Lie to Force Victims To Avoid No Contact Boundaries
He had convinced me that we can’t do no-contact because he doesn’t understand, he’s not good with electronics, and that was part of my hesitation. He was convincing me he couldn’t do this so there was no way. Like, how was I going to be able to communicate with him when he didn’t know how to really write an email, which is what he told me, and it ended up being not true. So, again it goes back to that crazymaking and me questioning myself and is this possible based on his lies.
Anne: Now that you’ve implemented no-contact how does it work?
No Contact Boundaries Can Be Specifically Tailored To YOUR Needs
Lee: So, he cannot call me, he cannot text me, he’s not supposed to be within a certain amount of feet of me, he can only email me. That’s the only way he can contact me. If he needs to contact the kids, they have their own separate phones, so he is able to communicate with them, but if he has any specific questions for me or we are making plans it all has to go through email.
Anne: Okay, and how often does he email you now?
Lee: Depends on the week. He could email me a couple of times a day; he could not email me for a week at a time.
Anne: Okay, and how have those emails been? Have they been gaslighting stuff?
Abusers Can Still Abuse Victims Through Email
Lee: This is something interesting. It’s been a progression and I’ve had to learn how to better communicate with him even through email. Most people think if you go through email it takes away all of that complicated communication or the manipulative communication, but it actually doesn’t. You have to still be very aware of what you say to them and be very careful. In the beginning, we still had a lot of back and forth and we still had pages of emails back and forth to each other, and I do feel like they were very emotionally filled.
Anne: When you say emotionally filled do you mean like emotional abuse?
Lee: Yeah, I think that, and also both of us trying to express our hurt and our pain.
Anne: He wasn’t trying to express his hurt and his pain. He was trying to manipulate you.
Lee: Oh, of course. Yes, and I was trying to express hurt and pain and it just didn’t work.
Abusers Will Use Manipulation To Harm Victims Through Email
Anne: Yeah. What I do want to say here though is that you were interpreting those emails as sincere when they were just emotional manipulation. An abuser sees emotions as a way to manipulate someone.
Lee: Going down the road to where I’m at now, now I try to answer everything with one to two sentences. That’s it. No more than that. I have been doing that for a while now. There have been two times recently where I have gone out of my way to email him and to address things that are not appropriate to address anymore. After that, I knew I had made a mistake and then I’d get back on the course of one to two sentences. I do not need to go into these pages of explanations or reasoning or even comforting him. I just need to respond very simply.
Victims Can Use “Grey Rock” In No Contact Situations
Another thing that I was taught that I love trying to teach to other people is the broken record. One of the things is right now he is on supervised visitations and he keeps asking me to pick up the kids, and I have one line that I say to that. I’m sorry you can’t do that right now, and then he’ll say something like well it would just be easier and no one else has time to pick them up today, and I just say I’m sorry but you can’t do that right now. Then he might come back with something else and I just keep repeating it until finally he’s exhausted and doesn’t even ask. It’s just that you pick a line, you stick with that line, and every single time they come at you use that same line over and over again until finally, they run out of questions, they run out of things to say, and they’re exhausted.
An Abuser’s Manipulation Looks Like Pain
Anne: Have you ever hear of Tina Swithin of One Mom’s Battle? I recommend that you go to her website for this custody stuff because she is really helpful. I am not the custody expert, nor will I ever become one, but she has been through this. I would really recommend that you start looking at that because he’s never asking for actual comfort in those emails. You interpret it that way sometimes, but what he’s actually trying to do is manipulate you. When you fall into those traps it makes it harder for you to maintain your sanity and safety.
Lee: There still is a big part of me that hopes that he is a good person and sometimes he shows that he can communicate as a good person, but like what you’re saying there is trickery to it.
No Contact Protects Victims From Grooming
Anne: Uh-huh, anything that you see now that “shows” that he can communicate as a good person is only grooming and manipulation. It’s not him actually being a good person.
Lee: Yeah, I always tell people I can’t really give him anything because he is a give an inch take a mile kind of a guy.
Anne: How has it felt to be free of his phone calls? Now, he could start calling again and you can just block them if that happens, but for the time being where you don’t have the fear of him calling. How does that feel?
Victims Can Thrive When No Contact Is Established
Lee: So good. I don’t have that pit in my stomach anymore when I see his name. I don’t even have to think. My phone isn’t something to fear really anymore. I’m not sitting there wondering if he’s sent me a text message on my phone. I can go to my phone and it’s not a place of worry. There is so much comfort in knowing that the things that I say and the things that he says and being able to go back and know that my reality and what I know is true.I have that evidence now and that is such a gift for me because I really do struggle with that still. With just knowing my own truth. I really do struggle with confidence in myself and confidence with trusting myself still because of 15 years of somebody questioning my truth or making me question my truth. Now, again, it’s that rebuild. I am rebuilding and I’m rebuilding that trust in myself and knowing that what I’m saying is true because I have the truth.
Anne: That’s awesome.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal And Abuse
So, if you’re interested in implementing no-contact the first thing is to know that it’s possible and then to start problem-solving. There are lots of options. We’ll talk more about this on the podcast later, but that once you start doing it then you realize the other holes in your armor or the other chinks that you have that you’re like oh I didn’t realize that I needed to board up this window or I didn’t realize that I need to lock this door, and so we’re going to have Lee back on the podcast in about 6 months to discuss what she learned through implementing no contact and where she is now. So, thank you so much for coming today, Lee.
Lee: Thank you again for having me.
Anne: I can’t wait to touch base with her again in a few months.