I had never heard the term "radio silence" until the day a male friend of mine was explaining how he ended an "on and off" relationship that wasn't going anywhere. He said, "I told her I needed total radio silence, and we never spoke again. It was what I needed to move on."
What's interesting about this friend's journey is that very soon afterwards, he met the woman who he is now married to, and they're both currently glad to be expecting their 2nd child. He's happy, in fact happier than I've ever known him to be. The idea that his ex was taking up space in his psyche and Mrs. Right was not able to come forward bore fruit in his life in a very big way, once he decided to take some action to change the dynamics. I know some people might consider this perspective trite or oversimplified, but hear me out.
Personally, I can relate, because I've lived all sides of this equation. My story and the stories I've heard from MANY women and men illustrate the potential usefulness and power of not communicating at all--radio silence--as a means of creating a space and time for you to heal and center yourself once you've decided to part ways with someone. Actually, that same "sacred space" radio silence gives you can also provide an opportunity to recalibrate your next steps as you move ahead with your life, including toward your "divine right partner," "The One" or whatever label suits you, if that's your intention.
A related insight came forward for me when I was working with Tracy Boyer-Matthews, a superb relationship therapist (www.TracyBoyer-Matthews.com), who suggested using this approach regarding a relationship that was no longer right for either me or the fellow I was seeing. On more than one occasion, she said "You have never really ended your relationship." Huh??? Things finally peaked when I realized: A.) we couldn't "be friends" and B.) staying in contact was really bad for both of us, as it kept a flame of hope in our hearts for something that no longer worked and had run its course.
Please note, radio silence is not the same as "ghosting." Instead of "disappearing" and not communicating (ghosting), you let your former partner know or you agree together that putting a stop to all communication is in order for creating a healthy space to part ways. Radio silence is not taken with an ugly or bitter tone--rather, it's self-care put in practice by setting boundaries and taking the time to heal in a way that maintaining contact does not give you.
So, how does it work? In my view, a closure conversation helps both people, but if the other person isn't inclined, a letter helps. Take the opportunity to thank the person for their presence in your life and their gifts, even if some of the gifts were painful. I believe in my full heart every person we have a relationship with has given us an opportunity to move further along our path in terms of personal and spiritual growth. Sometimes, it may be wise to see them as being "just what the doctor ordered" to get you to do that last bit of "work" to assist you in being ready for "The One."
I also love the Ho'ponopono prayer for this sort of transition--it can be quite powerful. (The simple "I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you" mantra is a legendary healing tool in the ancient Hawaiian Huna community.)
What does radio silence look like in this digital age? No phone calls, texts, emails or Facebook contact. No peeking at his or her info for any reason. Simply "go totally dark" about him to anyone who knows him or her and request they do the same. Don't ask about him or her, and request they (i.e., your friends, family and co-workers) not share your personal business in any way.
Here's what I've discovered from my own journey and others who have utilized this as part of their healing: you heal SO much faster. In particular, that nagging sadness and "bad feeling" heals up more readily and you begin to feel optimistic about love again. Anger, sadness and disappointment are allowed to process and leave you. I have some theories about "why" that's the case, but the most obvious is that you never get to fully heal if you are still in contact.
By the way . . . I've found practicing yoga is an amazing "support" during this time period of radio silence, too.
One of my girlfriends shared that she was trying to be compassionate in her break-up, but it kept the cycle of resentment and pain going. Only in silence was she able to begin to move on and start her healing process.
Another gal I know ended a relationship when she realized he was not "her guy," came home from traveling and rekindled an old romance from college. They are happily married with kids now, and she feels he's her "soul mate," for sure.
My senses is, in the radio silence of whatever relationship closure you're in the midst of, you are able to hear your own inner voice more readily and thereby find the wisdom to live your life more easily. In this intentional downtime, you are able to have a sort of "relationship exit" interview, take stock of what worked, what didn't, and how you would like to change going forward. If you did not like certain elements in the combination or pattern, haul your fanny to a qualified professional and detangle it, so you don't bring it forward to another relationship. I really like doing some body-based work along with talk therapy, in order to shift the whole system. I suggest considering work like EMDR, applied kinesiology, energy healing or cord cutting, as they all can be powerful tools to transform the disappointment and clear it from your body.
Whatever path you choose, I would encourage you to focus on you, on your part of what you experienced, and how your inner voice is guiding you to choose differently going forward. He or she (i.e., your "ex") has to do their own work, if they are inclined.
Staying in contact with someone or contacting them too soon--and not allowing a real breakup to occur--can rob you of a lot of peace and healing. I also think it keeps Mr./Ms. Wonderful from coming forward, since we all know, "Three's a crowd."
Try a little radio silence, Intrepid One! You never know who might show up!