No matter how long it’s been, no matter how it ended, or how emotionally detached you are, an ex contacting out of the blue is a surefire way to arouse suspicion.

In this article my prime goal will be to conjure a handpicked ensemble of reasons I believe an ex would call, and how to gauge what their intention is (and obviously what I would then do about it — but hey — that’s just me).

How long has it been?

The term “out of the blue” evokes a scenario where you are contacted after a lengthy period of time. Long enough, in theory, for emotional stability to have allowed you both to have shelved the past and moved on. I say this because I feel that a mere couple of weeks (or months) of stringent no contact doesn’t qualify.

If the emotional dust from your breakup has yet to settle, the reasons for contact are virtually encyclopedic, and getting to the heart of their contact is often an exercise in false hope, resentment and over-analysis.

  • They are having trouble moving on – An ex who rekindles light-hearted contact, without apparent rhyme or reason, might be struggling with the idea of you moving on without him.
  • The grass wasn’t greener – It never really is. Look out for overly apologetic hot and cold behavior. Accepting that we have made a terrible mistake can be a hard pill to digest. Because of this, an ex might decide to scapegoat their guilt on you in an attempt to make it easier to move on.
  • They wish to genuinely reconcile – The hallmark of an ex who cares and wishes to reconcile is a guy who is willing to be consistent and take small steps towards reconciliation. Be wary of impulsive declarations of undying regret and love. Passion is borne of need, and our perceived emotional needs can change extremely rapidly in a breakup scenario.
  • They fear losing you as a friend – Consistency here is also key, although the tone will almost always be light-hearted rather than introspective and backward thinking. In these cases contact will almost always end with an open-window scenario, where you are left with the decision to reciprocate contact.
  • They need to ask you a favor – Either you are dealing with an extremely insecure individual who is terrified of declaring their vulnerability, or they simply need a favor. Most of the time it’s the latter.
  • And on…

The bottom-line is this; if a copious amount of time has not passed, it is always important to take contact with a grain of salt, as emotions are unstable and likely to fluctuate on a daily basis.

Resist the urge to over-analyze and treat mixed messages or hot and cold behavior with the attention they deserve — none. Don’t get sucked in and insist on absolute transparency.

Rise of the living dead

If you are surprised by the contact, but remain more curious than jittery, the contact really is out of the blue. The problem with deciphering contact from an long-lost ex is that time will have changed you both. He will have no idea how you feel about him, and will therefore initiate contact with a neutral sounding message in order to gauge your feelings. The result? Abject confusion.

It’s really up to you to decide where it goes from here. If you are genuinely curious regarding his attentions, talking about sweet nothings will only reinforce his confusion and communication may dwindle or cease as a result (which may not be a bad thing). In any case, there are really only a handful of reasons why an ex might reach out after such a long stretch of time.

One common reason is that they care about you very much and want to know you’re doing alright. This kind of contact is usually a one-off rather than the promise of resurrecting a contact schedule. This is particularly true if you no longer have any acquaintances in common. Of course, they may also masquerade as a long-lost platonic soul-mate in order to dig for information regarding your current relationship status. If your ex has a history of being less than transparent with his intentions, post-breakup communication can be a game of emotional Russian roulette where every answer provokes more questions.

If you know they know how you are doing, their initial “what’s up” is usually a smokescreen to gauge your reaction. Reasons may vary from the innocent to the murky. But in most cases an ex who thinks about you after such a long period of time, and has gathered the courage and will necessary to initiate contact (thus braving the prospect of rejection), still has strong feelings towards you — regardless of what those feelings are.

Images courtesy of sdmania / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

19 Comments

  • Anonymous
    Posted Jun 2, 2013 4:00 am 0Likes

    “But in most cases an ex who thinks about you after such a long period of time, and has gathered the courage and will necessary to initiate contact (thus braving the prospect of rejection), still has strong feelings towards you…”

    That gives me hope, but maybe that’s not such a great thing in this case:

    I’ve had a long-term hook-up of a friend for a number of years. We initially dated briefly 14 years ago, then were friends, then would hook-up on occasion. So 3 yrs went by, and he texted me birthday wishes. I assumed (correctly) that he was desperate. He was very upfront and said he wanted a friends-with-benefits deal. Over the next few months, we had several 3-4 hr-long phone calls in which he talked endlessly about himself. He’s very self-absorbed. Nonetheless, I finally drove down to see him. We’ve always had crazy/amazing physical chemistry, so we hooked-up that night, and continued hooking-up for the next two months. In that time, I always cooked for him, always drove to see him. I finally brought this disparity up. Initially, he said he’d make more of an effort, but a week later, he said it wasn’t working for him.

    During an hour-long, tear-filled conversation, I asked him if he thought it was possible for him to have fallen in love with me, and he replied, “too possible,” He called me that night – I guess to make sure everything was ok – and that was it. He emailed me a book he had promised to send. I wrote him two emails: the first was sappy and the second was all about this just being a break and just making this physical and suggesting we go weeks, if not months, without contact. No reply (I had said it wasn’t necessary). A week later, I texted him, and he replied immediately. Just idle chit-chat. A week after that, I asked what he was up to and if this was a “very extended break and, I don’t know, never say never type thing or if it was a I never want to see your face again type deal”. He replied, “The first one.” That was 3 weeks ago. No contact since. He’s not the type who can be rushed.

    Problem is that we’re in our early 30’s now, and who knows where we’ll be in one year, let alone a few years from now. I’m just not willing to put myself out there for anyone else, and I doubt he gets many offers. I don’t know what now. Do I have to wait on him to contact me again? Should I text him every so often just to remind him I’m still around and see what he’s up to? I deleted my FB acct many years ago, and we don’t have any mutual acquaintances. So outside of direct contact, we have no way of knowing what’s up with each other. And well, I miss him, and he still feels comfortable to me despite everything. Any advice?

    • The Unknown
      Posted Jun 2, 2013 5:01 pm 0Likes

      Hi there, sorry about the late reply!

      No reply (I had said it wasn’t necessary).

      I think this is what I find the most telling. When it comes to my own romantic hopes, I know that if I had romantic aspirations (even if they were for the future), then to a certain degree I would use any form of contact as a way of re-establishing and re-solidifying communication. At the very least I would make the other person feel comfortable about contacting me. Not necessarily developing a chat-chit routine, but I would leave no conversation stone unturned. But that is just me.

      It sounds as if he also prizes your chemistry, but is quite clearly unwilling or unable to contemplate any form of commitment. This might not be a personal issue (regarding you specifically), but might be down to his character. His romantic track record (with others) should reflect this, though.

      Regarding contact, it would depend on the context of their reply. If I am made to feel welcome — then yes — I would attempt to establish a loose communication routine. I certainly would not continue to contact if I were the only one to initiate conversations. While you are contacting in the guise of a simple head’s up, the reality is that it is a way of maintaining hope of a future relationship intact. Which can be a destructive loop to cling too if your efforts are not reciprocated.

    • Anonymous
      Posted Jun 4, 2013 1:51 am 0Likes

      Apparently, I did leave the door open for communication. I checked my outgoing mail, and sandwiched between my last email about no contact and my text asking if he was open to whatever in the future, I sent a very short email while rather inebriated. In it, I asked, “Did I really say we should go months without contact? Really? Months? Dumb move.” Then I said we should’ve just continued with the physical and apologized for making any demands of him. I closed with, “Hope all is well. Take care.”

      So I suppose the door’s open, and he knows I’m receptive. He’s just not initiating anything.

      And you’re right about his character and commitment. He’s a great and loyal friend — willing to do just about anything in that regard. Romantically, however, he’s a basket case. I think if we had continued (meaning: if I hadn’t insisted he show more effort), he would’ve eventually gotten attached. But in light of my demand, and realizing it was getting more serious, I think he took stock and panicked. He definitely would have liked the physical to continue, but when he realized this might actually be going somewhere, he did what he always does and took the path that would keep his life as he likes it: unchanged, uncomplicated, and whatever’s best for him.

      I blame myself. I should’ve known not to push.

    • The Unknown
      Posted Jun 4, 2013 6:09 am 0Likes

      I don’t believe in blame here. If, as you are saying, he is truly a free spirit (or a thoroughly confused one), by pushing for a token of commitment you freed yourself from compromising now and having this very same situation hit you a lot further down the road. You didn’t let the hope of what might be distract you from what is.

      You need what you need, and so does he.

      I would only blame myself if I projected my own insecurity onto my partner (suffocating them, jealousy, possessiveness e.t.c) in order to control my panic. And frankly, it really doesn’t seem the case. Even drunk, you were able to contain spite and wish him well.

      At any rate, your intentions are clear. If at any point he begins to re-assess his romantic future, he won’t have forgotten your willingness to fight for him. It’s a small world — and you have a history. Chemistry is a very difficult thing to build. I wouldn’t burn your bridges just yet. Unless of course you feel that you have to for your own peace of mind.

    • Anonymous
      Posted Jun 5, 2013 10:10 pm 0Likes

      That’s very thoughtful, sage advice. Thanks so much!

    • Anonymous
      Posted Jun 6, 2013 1:21 am 0Likes

      So should I text him periodically just to keep in touch? His bday is in about 6 weeks, and I can’t imagine not texting him well wishes. Or should I just totally let this go and wait on him since he’s the one who dumped me? I don’t want to seem desperate, but I’m pretty sure he won’t initiate anytime soon. He rarely initiates contact, and it’s been almost 4 weeks now since I last texted him. He hates constant texting or feeling obligated to do anything or answer to anyone. I just don’t want another 3 years to go by because we’re both stubborn – me with my pride and him with his commitment to solitude. We’re not really friends, and we have no mutual friends, but it’s not just physical. On one hand, I want to lighten things up so he doesn’t feel as though just talking to me, staying in touch, is coupled with any expectations. On the other hand, I don’t want to push, as it will only harden his resolve.

    • The Unknown
      Posted Jun 6, 2013 7:56 am 0Likes

      I don’t think there’s a right way to go about it. I would wish him a happy Birthday, at the end of the day it is a harmless sign of conveying care and thoughtfulness, and gives him the chance to open up should he want to. Particularly if you structure the text without necessitating any reply. Consider also it’s affect on you. How would you feel if you didn’t? Regardless of intent, it’s a nice thing to do.

      On one hand, I want to lighten things up so he doesn’t feel as though just talking to me, staying in touch, is coupled with any expectations.

      I understand. However if your contact is conditional, in the sense that it is only erected as a way of potentially reconciling down the road, what happens if your light-heartedness is misinterpreted as friendship?

  • l
    linkworshiper
    Posted Aug 24, 2013 2:51 am 0Likes

    Hi again!

    Ahhh, I always find myself on your site when things happen with my ex because I think it is the most useful one I’ve found! You have the most useful advice that is hopeful and also realistic. So as things develop with me, I have another instance that begs your council…

    So my ex, who I STILL love very dearly, despite all our ups and downs since the break up (it’s been about eight months now), started contacting me after I put my foot down and initiated space because he confessed he’d met someone he was thinking of pursuing (though that admission came with a bag of reasons why it might not work out!). About four weeks after that, he sent me a letter. A real letter, not an email, tucked into a bag of stuff he gave his roommate to give to me when I went to hang out with the roommate (who is also my friend). Went on about his emotional pain right now (read: he is crazy depressed) and how he’s trying to deal with it, and also that he was empathetic to a lot of things about me he suddenly realized, that he wasn’t happy being casual acquaintances and he hoped in the future he could be forgiven. He also talked about how he thought I was so wonderful and I should go and grow for myself and all that kind of talk. I replied to him with another real letter, said I understood, I forgave him, and I was around if he needed me.

    Flash forward a bit, through some misunderstandings, I sent him a text of good luck for a thing that wasn’t happening. He ended up barfing more depression at me, and I was like, wow, this is serious. Then he texted me a day later to let me know he had unblocked me on FB because he realized it was petty to do so. He didn’t send me a friend request, and I only did after a week of thinking about it, and also texting him like, ‘Listen, I’ve been thinking about this and I only want to go down this road if I know it’s going to be different and better.’ He didn’t answer.

    A week later, I felt compelled to text him again, and he responded with a phone call. We had a pretty deep talk… he told me about some family stuff he was dealing with, and when I started to talk to him about things I was doing, he said, ‘Oh, I’ve been looking at your Tumblr.’ TURNS OUT… according to the IP tracker I stuck on there, he checks it every day… multiple times.

    He recently accepted my friendship request on FB. I saw there were a few posts from a girl I wonder might be the girl that had been the catalyst in me taking space at all. I can’t tell if they’re friends or what, but within the day, he’s already FB messaging me, asking me lots of questions. He initially contacted me because of my status which simply said, ‘I’m anxious.’ (I was anxious because I saw those posts from that girl, and when he asked about it, I lied and told him it was work.) Then he wanted to play an online game with me and I ended up falling asleep before the patch finished downloading but….

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? SO CONFUSED.

    • The Unknown
      Posted Aug 25, 2013 3:51 pm 0Likes

      Hey again LW!

      He’s clearly interested, but whether his attention for you is driven by his depression or out of genuine love isn’t immediately clear. What worries me more than this potential “flirt” of his is; what happens once his self-esteem normalizes?

      Your support and attention is something that he seems to crave right now, but trauma only lasts so long, what happens when he no longer needs your support?.

      I wouldn’t throw myself into this completely quite yet, at least until his emotions seem to normalize. Only then will his long-term intent become apparent. I don’t think he is really able to make any objective and enduring romantic decisions quite yet.

      P.S: Falling asleep during a patch is pretty epic :)

  • g
    gina
    Posted Mar 10, 2014 2:46 am 0Likes

    Do you still answer questions regarding relationships?

  • l
    leesia
    Posted May 22, 2014 3:20 am 0Likes

    So my ex of 2yrs broke-up with me 2 months ago. He told me he had been seeing someone for a few months without me knowing and that she knew about me. Anyway, I hadn’t contacted since that day, I felt like I should just respect his wishes. Anyway, out of the blue he texted me on mother’s day -stating “Happy Mother’s Day beautiful”. He never called me beautiful before.. pretty, smart, sexy but never beautiful. I waited hours to respond not knowing if he texted me by mistake or not. So I finally texted back Thank You. He didn’t text so I just felt like why text me? I was wondering why he would text me at all since he is seeing someone else. Just want some insight..

  • j
    jennifer
    Posted Sep 11, 2014 6:04 pm 0Likes

    To cut a long story short it’s been 6 months since I broke up with my ex boyfriend because I wasn’t happy. I suffered from low selfestime Inwhich seems to have gone now that I have been on my own for the past 6 months. However I have to admit I am still. 100% fully Inlove with my ex still. We’ve been in contact on and off however more recently it has become alot more frequent. Since he has seen that I am actually going travelling for 5 months in 2 months time he has actually been a lot nicer and more interested in my life. During a casual text conversation we had I asked him ‘so what’s new’ and he started by saying how he’s good ect and then through out there that he has ‘no such thing as a love life’. Fine. Cool. Not the kind of conversation I particularly feel comfortable talking about with the person I love but still good news none the less. I am aware that he has dated a few people since we split, I however have only dated 1 person who in which I am still dating. He Is also a good friend of mine Which is what makes this situation so much more difficult as I would not ever want to hurt him. Following on from my ex telling me how he has no such thing as a love life he asked me what about mine? In which i responded ‘complicated ‘ as the person I am currently seeing is away for 2 months then when he is back I go away for 5. I didn’t want to go into too much detail with my ex as I felt uncomfortable however he still asked ‘why is it complicated’ which is when I informed him of both mine and my new partners situation. He responded with ‘ yeah I understand i remember us having the same issue’ which by that he means. When we first met I was due to go and work abroad when I was left with a decision of to go and risk not being with him or to stay and see how things go. Which I stayed and now obviously we didn’t work out. With that text he also said ‘maybe someone will be willing to wait for you for when you come home’. Now. I’ve tried my best to not over think this because he could just be being friendly. But I’m confused. Does this mean he still has feelings for me? When I invited him over for the first time since we split he said ‘I would have but I already have plans to see my friend’ which I fair enough as I didn’t give him much notice with the invitation. So we left it at that. Now when I went out the weekend follow this conversation he also came up out of nowhere to give me a hug and say hi. Which was nice. But then went on the rest of his night acting like I didn’t exist. Am I going crazy? Please help. Jennifer xx

  • S
    Samantha
    Posted Apr 12, 2016 3:56 am 0Likes

    Thank you so much for this. After 2 years of no contact My ex emailed me asking me to change my address on some of my mail as he’s sick if receiving it. I have no interest in getting back with him and the email actually left me feeling kind of nervous. It was an abusive relationship but I’m no longer afraid of him. The nervous reaction was surprising to me and your article really helped me. Thank you.

    • James Nelmondo
      Posted Apr 14, 2016 3:59 pm 0Likes

      No problem Samantha, glad I could offer some food for thought! And yes, it’s amazing how an ex partner, no matter how cold the ashes or better off we are, can still give us a case of the jitters. I’d say it has more to do with how we associate with the memory than any real nervousness though.

  • LaTrice
    Posted Apr 21, 2016 2:28 am 0Likes

    I remember getting a phone call from my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend in December of last year. She demanded to know what was going on between the two of us. I felt that it wasn’t necessary for me to provide an explanation, and she should have confronted him regarding his actions. So, I ended the conversation by hanging up on her. Although I did the right thing, it wasn’t my fault that he was cheating on his girlfriend with me. Worse of all, I wasn’t fully aware of being the “side chick.”

    When my ex-boyfriend and I first met, I did ask him if he was in a relationship with someone else. He lied to me about his single status. It wasn’t my fault that I was being lied to. If he was honest from the beginning, I would have left him alone, so I can avoid wasting my time!! After the confrontation, I cut off all contact. Blocking his phone number was the best option. Despite the repeated text messages, I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. My ex-boyfriend has made it perfectly clear that he can’t be trusted.

    I recently saw my ex-boyfriend at my place of employment. I had to excuse myself, so I took a walk to calm down. Seeing him wasn’t a pleasant thing to deal with. He wouldn’t look me. I assume it’s because he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Forgiveness isn’t an option. My ex-boyfriend was fully aware of what he was getting himself into. He made a conscientious decision to cheat on his girlfriend.

    Thank you, James for allowing me to share my story.

    • James Nelmondo
      Posted Apr 21, 2016 11:35 am 0Likes

      Hey LaTrice, thanks for sharing.

      I agree that once trust has been conscientiously eroded you are left with no other option but to take responsibility for your own decisions and intentions. It’s a hard thing to do, but you seem to have taken the appropriate steps to force some clarity for yourself, without allowing his insecurity to weigh you down with guilt.

  • P
    P J
    Posted Apr 26, 2016 4:29 pm 0Likes

    Hi,

    I hope you still give advice!

    My ex gas recently contacted me after 6 months of no contact and he is in another relationship.

    He broke up with me after a year saying I was ready for more than him, he’d only just come out of a marriage and it was his wife’s decision when we got together. We were friends first as he is one of my best friend’s brother.

    It was over 2 years ago we split but we have had several dates over that time until about a year ago.

    He lives in the same building as my parents and for 6 months I no longer even engage in conversation when I see him I simply say hi and walk on.

    I really struggle getting over him and this was best. I thought when I heard from him he must have split with the woman but this morning I saw her leaving his flat going to work I guess. He would have already left as his car was gone.

    The contact was nothing much, just telling me a band I like were on TV later that night.

    I didn’t reply till the next day and then sent a link to a song from that bad that said I don’t care anymore. Which of course i do but I will not give him anything anymore.

    I’m just confused as to why he would contact me such inane comment, when we are no longer on speaking terms and he is with someone else?

    I just want to understand it not get back with him.

    Thanks,
    P.

    P.s. We are both in our late 40s so no spring chickens!

    • James Nelmondo
      Posted Apr 27, 2016 10:52 am 0Likes

      Hey P J,

      It was probably just a way of gauging your reaction, consciously or otherwise. It’s a relatively low-risk way of guessing what your currently feelings towards him are.

      Additionally, he may well love his new relationship, but that doesn’t preclude having feelings for you, romantically or platonically speaking, and the current distance may not sit well with him.

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