What are the differences between the Contact Types and what does it mean to be a certain type? I’ve received a couple of questions about this and would like to go in depth a little more to help everyone understand. I’ll be answering the two questions listed below, but also going beyond just those questions. The second question is one I’m asked and I see regularly in posts, so rather than addressing the specifics of the questioner, I’ve edited the question to make it more universal.
- What’s the difference between a Boomerang and an Off-N-On Contact type?
- I think my MLCer would be a Vanisher if it weren’t for the kids. Why are they Boomerangs if they keep in contact because of the children?
First, let’s review the basics.
Close Contacters contact more frequently. The challenge is that it’s subjective where we say a person moves from Close to Distant as well as the types within Close and Distant.
Regular or frequent contact varying from multiple times per day to once every other month.
- Clinging Boomerang
Contacts once every 3 to 6 months.
Contact is less than once every 6 months.
It really is that simple. If they contact a lot, they’re a Boomerang (possibly Clinging), if they contact less, they’re one of the Distant types. It’s not about the type of contact at all. If they contact for business reasons—taxes, parenting reasons or because they’re missing you… The Contact Frequency Spectrum doesn’t measure the type or quality of the contact. An MLCer might contact multiple times a week to argue and complain about your bad parenting and how they hate you…along with threats. A different MLCer might contact once a week just to talk, share something, tell you how much they miss you, tell you they’ve changed their mind and want to come home (and not follow through because their mind will change again). The differences between those two are clear and wide, but the differences in contact frequency are slight.
In the past I’ve described the types as being on a general frequency spectrum, but Clinging Boomerangs stand apart because they’re also about greater Emotional Intimacy and Interactions. To help with understanding, I’m going to describe Contact Types across two spectrums instead of a single frequency spectrum.
This is not the best term, but for now it’s what I’ve got. I didn’t want to call it a connection spectrum because that would make it seem as though some spouses are or were more connected even before MLC and I didn’t want to use any terms referring to attachment and detachment because that would confuse the concept of both.
The ways an MLCer might be or show emotional intimacy vary, so these are generalizations.
- Need for reassurance
- That you’ll be available when they need you
- That you’re waiting
- That you won’t leave them
- That you won’t give up on them
- Shares feelings, fears…
- Cycles more
- Mood swings
- Personality changes
- Emotionally Dysregulated
- Cycles more
- Fears losing spouse
Detaching is a challenge
Fears when their spouse detaches
- More vulnerable with spouse
Emotional Intimacy is about being more vulnerable, sharing or showing more feelings, including fears—even when they’re unaware this is what they’re doing. There’s often a need for reassurance which results in them being needy or high-maintenance as MLCers. Their spouse is their security and an anchor to whom they need to check on frequently in order to reassure themselves that their spouse is still there—waiting, available, caring, needing… They’re afraid of losing you—yeah, I know even though they also say they don’t love you, don’t want you, they hate you…
Cycling and Clinging go together, so Clingers will cycle more and they may have more rapid cycles. Cycling is about repetitively changing mind, moods, actions, decisions, emotions… Cycling may be all or a few of these and an MLCer with a pattern of cycling may seem more confused or lost than other MLCers.
There may be a higher level of codependence either one way from the MLCer or between both partners. This means that their fear of losing you may not be due to the love they feel, but due to their dependence and engagement they get from you. An MLCer who is higher on the Emotional Intimacy Spectrum may have greater levels of attachment to their spouse. The Left Behind and Forward Moving Spouse may or may not have this problem, but Detaching is both challenging and vitally important. A Clinging MLCer may become scared as their spouse detaches. Life with a Clinging Boomerang is crazy in a way that directly involves you–it’s a soap opera of drama.
Are All Clingers Boomerangs?
Though we often think of the Close Contacters as being similar to each other and the Distant being similar to each other, that’s not always the case.
Can you have a Clinging Off-N-On? Sure, but it is not as common as a Clinging Boomerang. Think about it logically, someone who feels and acts on their emotional connection to you will have greater difficulty staying away for long periods. Someone who is geographically distant may be away physically, but contact has many forms. But I’ve seen situations where an Off-N-On has clinging behaviors—when they communicate. Why does would someone who is a Clinging also be an Off-N-On?
- Controlling alienator
- Personal Boundary due to an alienator—the MLCer may avoid the alienator needing to control by setting and maintaining a boundary of distant contact on their own.
- Respect for your need for space and healing.
This may be due to something you or someone else has said, or because they are aware that you need space and they don’t want to string you along.
- Some introverts may be able to stay away due to their own need for solitude.
- They come to you when they fail to get narcissistic supply from other sources.
Those are guesses, we don’t know why this type of Clinger has less frequent contact. Most Clingers contact frequently—they’re typically Boomerangs.
- We can always get married (to each other) again.
- I see us together in the end.
- Please, I just need you to be strong for me.
- I don’t know what I want.
- I love you but…
- I’m not being fair to you…
- I just need to figure myself out.
- I’m so sorry, I know this isn’t fair to you.
Not all Clinging Boomerangs will use those phrases—it may be more common that such things are communicated non-verbally and so you’re left to interpret their actions which leads to varied assumptions and then to over-focusing on them and the situation which may sending you into analysis paralysis.
Clingers try to engage their spouse—either positively or negatively. What this means is that if positive engagement, charms or manipulations fail to elicit their desired response, they will often switch to Monstering and negatives methods to get their spouse to concede.
They have fewer boundaries or more fluid boundaries. Ex. Though they may have moved out, they still consider your house their home and may walk in unannounced, they may stay for meals—inviting themselves over or asking.
Emotional Intimacy + Contact Frequency
Boomerang Vs. Off-N-On Vs. Vanisher
Is the difference really only about frequency of contact?
Yes, if all you’re looking at is the Contact Frequency Spectrum. The names of the type (Vanisher, Off-N-On…) are based on the contact frequency, but in general Vanishers are the lowest on the Emotional Intimacy Spectrum, with Off-N-Ons being next and Boomerangs showing the highest levels of Emotional Intimacy. The differences in the types are on the Emotional Intimacy Spectrum; to better understand the differences as they are for most MLCers, you need to consider how their Emotional Intimacy manifests in your relationship—present MLC situation, not your pre-MLC relationship.
We can make some assumptions about a Distant Contacter based on their infrequent contact. But the problem is we might be completely wrong. The more frequent (Closer) the contact, the more observation and interaction we have to back up our assumptions.
Common Assumptions About Distant Contacters
- They are more decisive about leaving.
- They are happy in their new life.
- They aren’t looking back.
- They aren’t feeling guilt or shame?
- They really don’t love their spouse anymore.
- They are truly in-love with the alienator.
- They have no remorse.
- They don’t care.
- It was an Exit Affair—not MLC.
- They are indifferent.
- They have greater willpower.
Compare that list to the common clinger attributes and phrases. The differences are (hopefully)clear, but we also know more. When it comes to Distant Contacters, less flow of communication means we’re left to make greater assumptions based on what may seem logical to us rather than basing them on observations and experience.
Changing Contact Types
Changing contact types isn’t common, but it does happen and it may be what eventually happens if you don’t reconcile and move forward separately. A contact type change in the height of a midlife crisis typically signals some sort of significant shift.
- A new alienator may be in the picture or an original alienator may begin pressuring and controlling tactics to keep your MLCer away from you.
- You may have set a boundary, requesting less contact in order to heal.
- An additional triggering event may send an MLCer spiraling further into trauma and toxicity.
- An MLCer who has been a recovering addict may fall back into their addictions.
- Their psychological problems may become worse—psychotic break.
If your once Clinging Boomerang suddenly stops contacting, this doesn’t mean they’re no longer a Clinging type. Of course, since the contact is less, it’s harder to tell, but they may continue to display emotional connections to you when you have contact. It’s in circumstances such as this that we see Clingers cross over to the more distant contact types.