Why No Contact Isn’t a Punishment

When a toxic person withdraws from a specific person or situation, it is not usually done for healthy reasons of maintaining boundaries, but rather as a means to punish their target and to deny them affection and/or resources.

my-way-or-the-highwayIn this context, no contact is not intended to serve as a permanent or even long-term state of affairs, but instead as a means to get those around them to comply with their demands. It is the classic “my way or the highway” mentality.

Because toxic people personally use no contact in this way, they project their own thinking onto you and perceive your decision to go no contact as coming from the same negative source when in fact it has nothing to do with that.

Going no contact is certainly a consequence of their behavior, but it is not punishment.

Punishment is deliberately going out of your way to exact revenge. Punishment is retaliation that involves an offensive maneuver on your part. Punishment is trying to interfere in other unrelated aspects of their life because you are angry with them for how they treated you.

Simply removing yourself from the relationship for the sake of maintaining your self-esteem and sanity is not punishment.

How Toxic People Mentally Process No Contact

No doubt we all have had this scenario play out once in our lives, if not several times.

  1. We let someone into our social sphere.
  2. They say or do something that we find unacceptable.
  3. They offer no apology and show no remorse, indicating that the transgression may very possibly repeat itself.
  4. We acknowledge the person’s unwillingness  to adjust their behavior and remove them from our lives.

Now some people who behave badly and get cut off as a result will simply shrug their shoulders and move on to someone who might be more inclined to tolerate their shenanigans.

Others, however, may try to varying degrees to violate the boundaries that you have set for yourself. The extent to which they try to force their way back into your life is emblematic of how toxic they truly are.

The more toxic they are, the most entitled they will feel to your time and attention. In their minds, their poor treatment of you should not in any way hinder their ability to have unlimited access to you and your life.

For these types of toxic people, they consider you going no contact not only as a form of punishment, but as a form of the ultimate punishment: abandonment. They need you for whatever psychological supply your emotional subordination provides them. When you deny them that, they don’t know what to do with themselves.

emotional-vampiresThat is why I personally view toxic people as emotional vampires. They constantly need to feed so if you cut off the source (you) they begin to starve. They’re like drug addicts, desperate for their next fix.

From that starvation they may try various ploys to lure you back in to the spiderweb of toxicity. These may include promises to change, emotional blackmail, guilt-trips, financial incentives, threats, anything they can use to secure your old place back in the dysfunctional dynamic.

Again, the most severely toxic someone is, the more they will fight to force you back into the chaos before admitting defeat and seeking supply elsewhere. You must be firm in your decision of no contact and stick to it.

Example of Toxic Entitlement

One example of this phenomenon in my life was when one man and I ended our short courtship. I wanted to go completely no contact whereas he just wanted to end the romantic component of our relationship and stay friends.

I refused his offer and for months afterwards he would contact me monthly in an attempt to wear me down and give in to what he wanted, whether that was a true platonic friendship or perhaps me caving into a casual romantic relationship.

This included texting/messaging and, after blocking him digitally, showing up at my apartment unannounced at an inappropriate time in the evening.

While I do not wish to over-dramatize the event, it did get to a point to where I told myself if he showed up again I was going to complain about him to the authorities.

A couple of months later he asked a friend of mine for my phone number, which he claimed to have lost. Understanding my friend’s discomfort of being forced in the middle, I broke no contact to tell him that my friend was not going to give him my number and that if he tried to contact me again, my then current boyfriend was going to have a word with him.

That was the only reason the toxic entitlement stopped, not because he suddenly decided to respect my decision to go no contact, but because he feared an external force (my boyfriend) holding him accountable.

Without that, I do not believe he would have given up trying to get that psychological supply from me. He made it plainly clear that his supply was more important than facing the natural consequences of a failed relationship. It could have gotten ugly, but fortunately did not.

In that situation I was partly at fault because while I never instigated contact with that man, I would respond whenever he began communication, albeit briefly and concisely. That alone is supply to toxic people.

It doesn’t matter if the response you give is positive or negative. By breaking no contact, you let the toxic person know that they have your attention and that they are taking enough space in your head that you find them worth responding to. Every time you break no contact, it’s like throwing a piece of meat at a starving tiger.

Be Prepared for the Repercussions of No Contact

Everyone will agree that going no contact is endlessly better than being trapped in a toxic person’s negativity, but that does not necessarily mean no contact will be the end of the conflict.

gossipBecause toxic people view no contact as a punishment, they will feel more than justified in implementing some sort of punishment for you in return. If you are strong in maintaining no contact, that punishment will mostly likely manifest itself socially.

They may enlist friends, co-workers, or family members to question and/or criticize your decision on their behalf. Just remember that these people who try to argue the toxic person’s case know nothing of the true context of the situation and are not in a position to be offering advice or passing judgment. You can thank them for their concern, but make it clear that you won’t be badgered about this subject any longer.

If the toxic person is unable to manipulate others to do their dirty work directly, then at the very least they will bad-mouth you to anyone that will listen.

toxic-peopleThis is done because the toxic person needs to frame your decision of going no contact in a negative light in order to preserve their own image. Alienating someone to the point that all communication has been cut off is a deep stain on their reputation that, in their minds, can only be washed away by dragging your name into the mud.

Because of this, they will attempt to portray the no contact as a petty grudge on your part, a punishment that far outweighs their crime (or lack of crime). Don’t engage with them and don’t go out of your way to justify your decision to others. The toxic person knows what they did and if any third party doesn’t trust the legitimacy of your reasons for no contact, then that is not someone you should have in your life either.

A toxic person’s inability to maturely cope with the loss of their supply does not make you a cruel, vindictive person. You’re not using no contact in the hope that they will change. You’re using it because you accept that they won’t, and that is certainly better than sticking around and demanding change from someone who doesn’t want it. They are free to act as they please and you are free to decide what is and is not acceptable in  your own life.


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