Why Do Dumpers Act So Cold And Distant?

One minute they’re there and the next they’re not — it’s as simple as that. The person who you grew to love and know has now seemingly disappeared, replaced by something colder, resentful and distant. A frigid shadow of the person you used to know.

Perhaps the most confusing aspect of this overnight transformation is just how suddenly it occurs. Coming to terms with a breakup is one thing, but attempting to understand what sparked this change in behavior is often fertile grounds for painful over-analysis which can make the prospect moving on a nightmare. Was it something I did, or was it something I didn’t do? Come to think of it, just what in the hell is going on?

Defensive Shield or Offensive Weapon?

A dumper acting coldly is not necessarily a judgment on who we are, or what the past relationship means to them. Trauma cuts both ways, and what we may initially perceive as a cold and objective dismissal is usually — and ironically — the opposite.

Moving on is never easy, and so the ego will do what it can to protect itself from both hesitation and insecurity. The unfortunate, and common side-effect of this need to “wall off” further hurt is encapsulated by acting coldly. The greater the potential for pain, the sturdier the emotional walls need to be.

If your ex had stopped caring, there would be no need to erect barriers to save off further hurt because there would be little you could do to unsettle them. In this case, the coldness stems from the potential for hurt, and not from genuine resentment.

Indifference Versus Defensiveness

Admittedly however, there is a difference between being emotionally cagey and being emotionally indifferent. Here are a few signs it isn’t insecurity that’s causing the cold-front, and that their unavailability is genuine:

  • Your ex does not react emotionally. Spite, resentment or manipulation are the products of emotional turbulence (which are kept in check by a wavering sense of resolve). An indifferent ex’s coldness is non-responsive and calculatingly placid.
  • They do not initiate contact. If they do decide to return calls, messages or texts it is often done sporadically and hap-haphazardly. The message is usually short and to the point — with no openings for the continuance of conversation.
  • They don’t try and tie loose ends. Often, post-breakup coldness manifests itself as falsely-objective (under the seemingly plausible guise of trying to push for closure). An ex who moves on does so unconditionally. There would be no mention of closure, only the enduring silence of someone who has fully accepted the present and relegated it to their past (even if they continue to wish you well, and are generally pleasant).

Having said all this, if your ex’s coldness is characterized by impulsive behavior and a palpable undercurrent of emotion (even if it is not positive in nature), despite their valiant efforts at shielding their fragile emotional underbelly from pain — it is safe to say they aren’t over it quite yet. But does not being over it imply they are regretting their breakup decision? Not necessarily.

The Low-Hanging Fruit

Bruised egos and emotional volatility (including coldness) are natural bi-products of grief, and will be present in the vast majority of breakups — even if the dumper is convinced that it was all for the best. Sometimes it really has little to do with feelings for the dumpee. At best a breakup will mean departing from a well-oiled day-to-day routine. This, in of itself, is enough to cause the subconscious mind to panic and become uncharacteristically defensive.

Expect change. Expect them to not be over it. But avoid the false hope inherent in attempting to make sense of their current “insanity”, because there is no guarantee that once they “return to normal” it will involve crawling back. And if they don’t, it will mean that this low-hanging fruit will become another expectation that failed to out, jeopardizing our progress and hitting that big red emotional reset button.


  1. sammi
  2. Mike