Does Ignoring An Ex Really Work?

I’ve been longing to write this article given how the vast majority of feedback and contact I receive seems to revolve around the idea that ignoring an ex is a timeless and proven stratagem to get them back.

The short answer is a resounding maybe. Happily, the long answer is far more telling.

Theoretically Plausible

The premise is simple; ignoring an ex will force them to stop taking our attention for granted, and give them the chance to miss us in earnest.

So far, so good.

I am always the first to advocate the benefits of taking a calculated step towards our personal sanctuary after a breakup. A little empty air can work wonders with regards to reconciliation:

  • It gives us a chance to weather the effects of separation trauma and become more objective about our needs and wants.
  • It gives an ex the chance to see what life is really like without usĀ  (this can cut both ways, but there’s no escaping this particular judgment anyway).
  • Silence is preferable to the ego-driven mind-games that often take place after a breakup, paving an eventual road to reconciliation without having to deal with additional resentment and betrayal.
  • It re-acquaints us with everything we stand to gain outside of the relationship, and not only that which we stand to lose.

Admittedly, the problem with all this is that it only makes sense objectively.

As anyone in the midst of a painful breakup is acutely aware of, objectivity will take a backseat to trauma and the need for emotional clarity. While most would superficially agree that time alone is a good way of doing what is best for our mental health, most of the time (let’s be honest here) we’re not going cold-turkey to become emotionally self-sufficient — we’re doing so to starve them of our attention (and hope it’s enough to get them to open up).

For All The Wrong Reasons

Yes. Ignoring an ex can work to make them miss us, and therefore reach out in order to quell their insecurity. But that’s as far as it goes regarding the benefits of this particular strategy.

Let’s ask ourselves why they are back.

  • Is it desire that drove them to come back, or was it insecurity? Insecurity.
  • What relationship problems were solved by playing no contact? What changes were made to address the issues that led to the breakup? None.
  • What will happen once this insecurity has evaporated (once the prospect of reconciliation re-appears)? They will tend to disappear.

My main is a simple one: If no contact is used as a simple get them back gimmick, they may crawl back in order to appease the transitory collapse of their self-esteem, but the same reasons that led to the breakup will swiftly re-assert themselves — because no real change occurred. And worse than this, if they catch a whiff of the emotional game that was played, they may well end up resenting us for it.

However, it goes without saying that ignoring an ex will usually catalyze longing, and catalyze their missing you in the short term. But even if they do reach out, all the work is still ahead of us, and we may arguably have made reconciliation harder on ourselvesĀ  in the long term.

Two Can Play That Game

There is another risk to playing the ignoring game that is often neglected, which is the following:

What if they ignore you back for the same reasons you ignored them?

An ex may misinterpret your silence as a sign you’ve moved on, and will protect their own feelings by extending the same courtesy to you by burning their bridges. The risk here is that any kind of distance makes the connection you had a little less secure. Deprived of an open and honest flow of communication, they will be forced to jump to conclusions regarding their romantic future, without the benefit of your feedback.

While this can work for you, it can also work against you (if they call your bluff). No contact is a bet, and often, it is a bet that is lost — because the same emotion that may drive them to crawl back, is the same that may cause them to shut you out of their life. Clarity at any cost.

Is it worth it? If used as a healing tool to get us back — I would argue that it is. If, on the other hand, it’s just a gimmick that plays off of their insecurity then only if you are ready to accept the eventuality that it might fail, and needlessly jeopardize potential reconciliation.

8 Comments Does Ignoring An Ex Really Work?

  1. Sok

    I like your points here but i think that it is important to say that any rush decision can always end up in remorse, being dumper or dumpee. I suppose that the only right way to do in life is to REALLY follow your feelings, because you might be in one moment up and in another down, and usually you will mostly regret for the things you haven’t done and said.

    Therefore, i think clarity in expressing how you really feel is very important, because in the beginning we are all too proud to act and talk sincerely and maybe we shouldn’t always be too much open and sincere. But, there is limit in everything. In the end of the day, i am always for being clear and open about how you really think and under the cost that your heart will be completely broken and pride destroyed. Because after all, you are deciding between long or short death, but death will come, this or that way.

    No matter what people feel, while we are in that period of confusing communication with ex, and we receive lots of mixed signals, we are accepting that game, and somebody needs to open up and put that game to an end. If we are both confused and not sure, then it’s fine, but if one is sure and another isn’t, then why the sure person is keeping quite about his own needs? No, for me, if you speak open, you are taking control over over situation. Once you put your ex into situation to tie his/her hands with simple question “do you want to get back or not?”..then they can’t play around with hidden messages and signals, but must say YES or NO. There is no middle.

    In that sense, i always suggest that we don’t do it too fast, maybe it will take some months to get the courage. Maybe we shouldn’t rush to make situation black or white instantly, but leaving it gray gives us space to sort out our own feelings and to think about relationship and why it ended. If you feel you really realized some things, matured, if you put your priorities and you came to the conclusion that your ex is what you really want in life, then you should say it.

    If you don’t receive the response you wanted (YES), it will hurt badly and probably you will touch the bottom. But after that you will start rising. I think it’s the moment when you should cut the contact, because after that nobody will be able to say “hey, i didn’t know what you were feeling or thinking, blah blah”…

    In the end, many people asked themselves, if he or she regrets, should i take him back. Let your heart decide that. I fully believe that in some moment you must show pride and dignity and prove to yourself that you can live without that person. And as Unknown says and states, what has changed in the meantime? Because new start should mean two new different people who really want a new start. Two people who learned from their mistakes.

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      You are absolutely right Sok. Most of the time it is the anxiety of living with “what-ifs” that causes far more damage than a swift, but clean emotional wound. Unfortunately, it is far easier said than done — and I am the last person who usually follows my own advice on this (until I have neither dignity or self-confidence left to burn away).

  2. Bonnie Dee

    Great articles, thank you.
    I have a question, my ex loved me but was immature to make a relationship work so eventually he wanted out, but of course didn’t want to loose me as a friend. Now i went straight NC so i could heal before a f’ship could happen, he did offer to text him anytime after the break, i decided it was not a good idea for me as we both had to move on. I haven’t heard from him, its been a few weeks, which is ok, but was thinking of sending him a hello.
    But recently i stopped by his profile online (we are not on eachother’s social sites any longer), i have noticed that my ex’s wall has now become public which is odd and he has also made a status remark that his moved on from the past, very abstract kind of status, why he had a need to make it public is now making me wonder what he is up to. I don’t know if he is burning the bridges of fship here or something else is the underlying of these tactics, but was wondering if you can give some advice, as Im not sure i want to reach out to him any longer, seems like his trying to grab my attention but in a not so positive manner.
    Thank you sincerely.

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hi there Bonnie, thanks for stopping by (and the compliment!)

      I think you’re right. I’ve always blocked (yes, I’m pretty harsh) my exes from Facebook so I don’t have to deal with this kind of mind-game. If he was over it, why would he feel the need to remind the world, he was? It really sounds like he’s trying to convince himself doesn’t it?

      Anyway, I don’t think there’s a right answer here. Every action has it’s risks. If you don’t communicate he might use his pride as a shield and plow through his regret. If you do, he might jeopardize your healing, play mind games and string you along. I would personally not reach out — but I’m aware it’s far easier said than done when you’re not going through a breakup (which I’m not).

      Best of luck!

  3. Bonnie Dee

    Thank you Unknown, you have sound advice and are so generous giving it freely!!!

    Sorry, my explanation above was shortened a tad, apparently I was blocked from his FB, but a friend was looking out for me by checking his profile as I wasn’t sure if i should connect with him, hence how i found out about the above information. Plus i have had a few fake FB profile requests during the break up which is suspicious to me.
    Can I ask, if someone is regretful, why would they continue to play games after you connect with them? it would only make sense that you remain civil and see how things go down the track once the trust is built, so its hard for me to understand why someone would continue to keep hurting you (stringing you along) if they are the ones regretting it?

    Much appreciated Unknown :)
    A million thank – you’s

    1. James NelmondoJames Nelmondo

      Hey again Bonnie,

      I think the answer to your question is fear. If he does regret the breakup he might still fear rejection from you. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, bad press is still good press (because it baits a reaction out of you, even if it isn’t a positive one).

      Perhaps he didn’t intend for you to see it, but if you have mutual friends he must have known it was a possibility (and it was). I don’t think this new information really changes the premise of my opinion.

      One thing to consider is that his battle with regret may not be about you, or reconciliation. His emotional shenanigans might also be a way of shoring up his fragile self esteem (the best defensive is offence after all), and introspectively diminishing your value (it makes it easier for him to move on).

      Unless one to one communication does happen, there’s really no way of knowing whether it is a battle with his own ego, or a thinly veiled mind game.

  4. Carol

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only going through online games and stalking!! Would like to know what this means too since they did the dumping!!

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