Just because it didn’t work out does not mean that caring, love and sympathy won’t endure. Even after a traumatic, impulsive breakup, the salve known as time can strip resentment and anger from our emotional equation, rekindling all kinds of emotions — from the platonic, to the romantic, and back again.
In this article I will outline what I feel are three of the most common reasons an ex stays in touch. However, it bears remembering that these differences are not always easy to distinguish, and intentions are not always transparent (sometimes an ex might not even know how they feel). Emotions such as pride, fear and insecurity can muddy communication and lead to misinterpretation.
1. They care about you
The thin line between caring and loving, or that also described as loving and being “in love”, is one of the most confusing distinctions to deal with for most of us. The bottom-line is that while a relationship may or may not work, and passion may ebb and flow, the foundational undercurrent of caring tends to survive.
While reconciliation may not be desired, your ex may want to check-in from time-to-time to find out how you’re doing. Typical signs of an ex who cares (rather than an ex who wishes to reconcile or use you) are:
- They will not delve into the past.
- They will not seek to tie loose ends.
- They are direct, transparent and supportive (no crumbs or mind-games).
- They may contact you out of the blue (but consistently) rather than seek a platonic relationship.
- Communication tends to be minimal and straight-forward, rather than enduring and inquisitive in nature.
[alert-note]If your relationship with your ex was founded on a tangible foundation of love, even if it simply didn’t work, they most probably still care for you deeply. While it is possible to fall out of “love”, there is no off-switch for missing and caring.[/alert-note]
2. They want you back
There will always be exs who will wonder whether their ex was the one that got away. Perhaps time catalysed clarity, or they discovered the grass isn’t always greener. As the saying goes:
Familiarity breeds contempt
Whatever their reasoning for seeking reconciliation is, I would also add the disclaimer that this is the rarest of all three reasons an ex stays in touch mentioned in this article. Most of the time (more on this later), an ex may flirt with the idea of reconciliation, but not fully commit to the idea. Leading to crumbs, mixed messages and other confusing signals. Signs an ex truly wishes to win you back may be both direct and subtle:
- They will bring up the good and bad times in your old relationship.
- They will apologize or seek apology.
- They will subtly seek to unite you somehow down the road (this can be as subtle as asking for help with a project).
- Their emotions may fluctuate from anger to joy impulsively.
- They will seek action and not words.
[alert-warning]Be wary of exs who seek words and not actions. Insecurity, and wavering self-esteem can lead us to seek comfort-zones of the past for a quick emotional “upper”. But these phases don’t last, and right when things begin to look rosy, they may disappear once again, leading to further pain and grief.[/alert-warning]
3. They’re using you
Reconciliation takes time, and is not impulsive in nature. An ex who occasionally appears out of the blue and begins to confuse you with mixed signals, tentative flirting, or other mind-games may be seeking to use you in order to augment their own wavering self-esteem.
Of course, they may simply be fearful of rejection or being seen as needy instead. However, never let ideals and hopes cloud your judgement. Some red flags that you might be being used typically include:
- They waltz in and out of your life haphazardly.
- They are inconsistent with their contact and messages.
- They seek words and not actions.
- They romanticize the past or future.
- They backtrack out of promises.
- They seek validation.
There are two ways we can protect ourselves from a manipulative ex. Firstly, by slowing down the entire process and insisting on slow recovery. If they sincerely seek reconciliation, they will hang around. And secondly, by limiting our innate pattern-seeking natures. In short, by keeping our emotional distance and by staying as objective as possible.
Reasons an ex stays in touch
As with all things related to the heart, they are subject to change. Time, of course, being the greatest catalyst of them all. A manipulative ex can end up wishing for genuine reconciliation, and an ex who sincerely wanted you back may end up realizing why it didn’t work in the first place.
If you ex stays in touch (especially if they initiate contact) — you can be sure of only one thing. That they still think of you.
Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net