Do Exes Ever Regret Leaving A Relationship?

Most dumpers will regret something about their old flames. There really is always something to miss, even if the breakup was as dramatic as it was determined.

The real question is whether whatever amorous residue is left is enough to warrant another emotional leap of faith, and if there still is a spark, what our chances really are (and what we can do about it).

Pride And Seek

Breakups usually invoke defensiveness and cause a reshuffling of egos. Confusion and distance can reign supreme, quite literally overnight.

This is the entirely natural, if unfortunate, reaction to emotional trauma. The main problem is that this shift from a “private” face to a “public” one makes communication nearly impossible to decode, and catalyzes additional insecurity on top of separation pain, because it becomes impossible to know with any degree of certainty what it actually is that the dumper is experiencing.

So, if dumpers also mourn the demise of a relationship, what can we expect?

  • Forcibly reshuffling their list of priorities in order to protect themselves from further hurt, and to ease their passage into a future of their choosing (they can become cold and distant).
  • Mixed messages and an ever-diminishing oscillation of attention and/or affection (fear of the dumpee moving on, guilt or loneliness).
  • Love and hate tendencies and a constantly fluctuating emotional spectrum (trauma and the introspective battle for emotional stability running their course).

Often dumpers can lash out in order to subconsciously convince their own minds that what they walked away from was worth leaving. But, as I will never tire of stating; hurt implies caring (unless of course you did something unforgivable). If they were genuinely “over it”, chances are you’d never hear from them again.

The point I’d like to make here is that the vast majority of breakup symptoms that dumpers are prone to manifesting have little to do with the dumpee. They are all subconscious stratagems catalyzed by the egoistic mind aimed at helping them heal and move on, and not a belated attempt at self-righteous retribution. Ironically, they are all signs that hasn’t happened quite yet.

Regret And Reconciliation

First and foremost, it bears remembering that regretting a breakup does not automatically equate a desire for reconciliation (although it obviously can). There will be aspects of the old relationship, routine and (your) personality that they are going to miss — regardless of how determined they are to move on. Because of this, it is important to curb the tendency to over-analyze signs and messages, and to stave off expectation (easier said than done).

Here are more factors that can also lead to regret, but have little to do with reconciliation:

  • They feel guilty about leaving you (and want to tie loose ends).
  • They are feeling lonely (and you remain an accessible form of instant-gratification).
  • The breakup was impulsive and traumatic (and they don’t want to move on with a bitter, guilty taste in their mouths).
  • They really do care about you, although romance and attraction might have imploded (they miss your company and friendship).
  • They regret the loss of structure in their lives and feel adrift.

Telling the difference between genuine regret and insecurity can be a painful exercise in futility. In my opinion, the best way to filter out crumbs from heartfelt desire is to slow down breakup communication and judge their action based on two main principles. How consistent they remain with their contact, and how willing they are to act on their emotions.

All of this, of course, without exiting their lives completely, or we risk terminally alienating affection. Limited no contact is fine, so long as it is not manipulative and it leaves the door to conditional communication open at all times. Time is the most precious existential commodity we have, the more consistent they are over time, the more realistic the chance at real reconciliation becomes.

7 Comments Do Exes Ever Regret Leaving A Relationship?

  1. Dawie Mostert

    Great article and I like the factors that can lead to regret, you might have added ‘They are hessitant about what the future hold for them’
    ‘They also realize the saying – the devil you know is better than the one you don’t’.
    Overall a very straight forward article thanks.

  2. Elli

    My ex and I dated for 6 months. Going into it I knew how busy his life was (hes in medical school). Things started great and over time even though our feelings for eachother grew, our ability to see eachother and his attempts at communicating with me when apart dwindled. Now I should add that when he broke it off (I almost ended it myself months earlier because it had become difficult but decided to try and work through it because he was worth it) it was right after a long in depth conversation about us and how much we mean to eachother and enjoy the relationship, so it took me by complete surprise. He said things were just too busy and stressful and even though he really cared for me, the relationship wasn’t working. (Btw I’m only the second relationship he’s ever been in, so experience is also a factor in things I assume). But of course being newly dumped basically I’m having those “will he realize it was worth it”, “was it just him being overwhelmed and bolting because he wasn’t used to feeling this way about someone” sort of dillusional thoughts. Any advice or insight? I keep hoping he’ll come around but I’ve evoked the NC rule and haven’t heard from him since the breakup (almost 2 weeks).

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hi Elli, sorry for the late reply,

      I’m going to assume Medical school is undergoing finals at the moment (unless I’m completely mistaken), so given his reasons (stress) for terminating the relationship, it does seem unlikely that he would reach out right now.

      Even if this isn’t the case, I would hedge that two weeks is really the lower limit of how long it really takes to make sense of what dumping someone truly entails. In short, it seems a little early for any kind of lasting resolution as of yet.

      I agree with NC (as long as communication hasn’t been jeopardized with guilt, resentment or other walls). But I would’nt know what the odds are that reconciliation is attainable.

  3. Ashley

    This is my story, please I need answers and I miss him so much. We met 2 years ago our friends had set us up we talked and just fell in love he was always be there for me like when my grandma went to the hospital he would come he would come and surprise me he just do anything to make me happy. I miss him dearly. He promised me one day at the park he went down on one knee he took my hand and said I promise I will be with you and I’ll always love you. One day he even cried for me saying I hope u don’t leave me. This went on for a year and 3 months, we broke up because he was saying he needs space his feelings were just trying to change him i was devastated we broke up for 3 months we started to hang out and he started calling me and telling me how much he missed me and started bringing up all the memories we eventually got back. So 4 to almost 5 we got back together it became 1 year and 10 months we are together. But 2 weeks ago. He broke up with me. Saying he’s not feeling it like he used to. Which I was surprised because every time I would see him he was showing me how much he had missed me he would show me how much he loved me. When we talked on the phone he was sweet. I’m torn apart I can’t sleep or eat I’m heart broken because I really love him. My question is will he miss me? Will he realize he made a mistake?? I’m trying the no contact rule.

  4. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

    Hi Ashley,

    It seems to me the question isn’t whether or not he will miss you, based on you history I’m sure that he will to some extent, but what it is that causes him to bounce back and forth.

    Despite missing you the last time around, reconciliation did not resolve the underlying issue, and I suspect that this might also occur this time around unless he can clarify what “not feeling it like I used to” actually means. Because as it stands, it’s a little too vague a message to make sense of.

    Running the no contact rule might make him miss you more temporarily, but again, it will make understanding what the core issue that keeps him from committing even less likely.

    P.S: I can sympathize with not eating or sleeping, I lost a good 10 kilos during the course of my breakup, and I used to fear sleeping because of the nightmares.

  5. Ashley

    Thank you for your advice, I’m trying hard to become strong I just miss him so much and I want him back but I wish for him to :(

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey again Ashley,

      Setting yourself the objective of “being strong” only means that everyday you wake up feeling weak is a failure, which adds a fresh layer of pain and insecurity that needn’t be there.

      I’d stop short of judging yourself. There’s nothing more natural than being broken by grief.

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