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.
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 us (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 ourselves 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.