Understanding How Guys Deal With Breakups

The ways guys deal with breakups is conditioned by two factors.

The first is rooted in nurture, which is the culture within which they were raised. The second is genetics, or “nature.”

Attempting to make sense of a guy’s behavior isn’t always possible or evident¬†because we don’t have access to subconscious triggers that drive emotion such as genetics, past experiences, fears, e.t.c. What we do have, is the capacity to link behavior with the outcome. What I mean by this is that after delving into the relationship affairs of thousands of people, there comes the point where specific behaviors often repeat themselves, as do the outcomes.

In this article, I’m going to share some of these behaviors, and what they usually end up meaning once all is said and done. While I am relatively confident strolling into this grey area, it does bear remembering that it is objectively impossible to deal with men as a unified category, so I urge you to use this as food for thought rather than as a post-breakup rulebook. If authoring this website has taught me anything, it’s that silver linings and rulebooks simply don’t exist when it comes to a relationship.

Hot And Cold Behavior

Men will often find that their self-esteem is inextricably linked to their relationship. If things are going well, they feel like kings (and usually take certain aspects of the relationship for granted), if things are falling apart, so is their sense of self.

While you may point out that this goes for both sexes, bear in mind that men are prone to isolate themselves, and are typically less able to construct support structures aimed at keeping a foot in reality. Not only this, but men are also statistically more likely to act impulsively in the event of trauma. This makes the advent of losing touch with self-worth devastating in the short term. The corollary of this as far as you’re concerned is that your ex is likely to act irrationally and confusingly. Enter hot and cold behavior.

Hot and cold behavior can lead to an emotional tug of war, which is exactly what is: An effort to regain control without risking rejection. Due to the fears involved, nobody wants to risk being sidelined and cast aside; manipulative behavior is the bait that allows us to gauge what our partner’s intentions are without actually asking and therefore risking bad news.

If you are on the receiving end of hot and cold behavior, chances are there are still questions that need to be answered. A man who keeps tabs on an ex, even if that connection is rooted in negativity, still has something invested, or they simply wouldn’t bother.

Examples of hot and cold behavior

  • Engaging without actually talking on social media (only if the breakup was one-sided).
  • Verbally promising to do things but then not actively following up (actions speak louder than words).
  • Engaging in complex behavior (ignoring the elephant in the room and chatting about their pet instead).
  • Praising you one moment and kicking you down the next (their emotions are a stock exchange).

The bottom line is that manipulative behavior will lead to confusion. It’ll leave you asking why. Why is he talking to me? What does he want from me? Does he hate me? And on…

No matter what is thrown at you, bear in mind this behavior has two primary goals.

  1. To keep you engaged. Dragging you down into his chaotic world prevents you from moving on. Even bad press is better than no press to an ailing ex.
  2. Reflection of the soul. Forget the eyes; his mixed messages are a reflection of his undulating emotions. If he is unable to be direct and coherent, it means that he still has something to lose.

Of course, just because he continues to be rattled by the breakup does not mean he is willing to reconcile, but it does say the embers aren’t quite cold yet.

He’s Ignoring You: Revenge, Manipulation Or Moving On?

silenceCold behavior may seem jarringly obvious, but the games certainly don’t end here.

Silence is a powerful weapon. If I had a cent for everytime someone told me that ignoring an ex or going no contact is a surefire way to get them back I’d be a millionaire by now. Regardless of what I think about that nugget of wisdom, the point is that collectively, we all inherently know that cold behavior is a powerful manipulative tool. And when the going gets tough, we’re often willing to use it (especially when we have no other choice).

So, if your ex is currently giving you the silent treatment, it may be a sign he’s attempting to level the ego playing friend by making you stew in your anxiety for a little while. He knows, if he still has feelings, that the longer you are cut out, the more you will become curious. Has he forgotten about me already?¬†

If the breakup was genuinely one-sided, however, chances are the silence is not a game. The thing is though, no matter what his intention is, we should take this silence at face value by accepting it.

  • If the silence is manipulative, we are calling his bluff and teaching him that manipulation won’t work. If he is unable to bait intent out of you, he will be forced to reach out directly.
  • If the silence is genuine, we can rid ourselves of false hope and mixed messages and move on cleanly.

Men are particularly prone to silent games because, culturally speaking, we are often taught that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. Thus exposing our feelings and fears is something that comes at a cost concerning self-esteem. Despite how superficial this sounds, it has become apparent to me that this continues to remain true. Not in all cases, but in many. For instance, men will often preface their messages to me by saying something like:

It’s not that I need her back, but….

Women, on the other hand, seem to be more accepting of the emotional turbulence that comes at the tail end of a relationship. You’ll notice, for example, that most of the comments that are visible on the blog are from women. However, most of the private Emails I receive are from men! Telling.

How Guys Deal With Breakups

When it comes to raw emotion, both men and women share the same fallout spectrum. What changes is how we deal with it.

While I run the risk of stepping into a generalization, it appears nevertheless accurate that men are more likely to:

About the author

James Nelmondo

James "the Unknown" Nelmondo is a self-styled relationship enthusiast, former infant, part-time dumper and full-time dumpee.


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  • Hi James,
    I stumbled upon your site and I am really glad I did. Your articles are very informative without sounding preachy or giving empty promises of success like other websites do. I am reading because I got out of a relationship about a year ago, but surprisingly it’s my ex of 5 years giving me issues.
    We were co-workers who became friends before dating. We had a good relationship, lots of talking, we traveled together, liked the same things, etc. He broke up with me suddenly a little after two years together and looking back I think he did it out of panic, as we usually talked everyday but one day I had gotten sick and once I got home from work I fell asleep due to the medicine and didn’t answer his calls or texts for over 24 hours. I really think he didn’t like feeling like he was dependent on and needed me and wanted to make sure he got out before he got hurt first. Now he texts me a lot or a little. There is no in-between. He will text me everyday for a week and then up and disappear, even if I try to reach out first. He recently made plans with me to meet up, then the day before wouldn’t answer any texts, etc. So I didn’t go. He then texted me 3 days later saying that he couldn’t get a hold of me, which in this day and age I just had a hard time believing. I know no contact can be a bad thing, and I don’t want to be a game player, but as you say actions speak louder than words and at this point I feel like he is the one playing games and the best I should do is just go about my own ways and leave him in dust. Thoughts?

  • Hey there Elissa,

    I don’t think no contact is always a bad thing if the primary goal is finding clarity for yourself. I just have a problem with it being used as a manipulative tool, which obviously isn’t the case on your end here.

    If all he’s doing is throwing bait at you to make sure you’re still there if he needs you, then no contact is a way to slice through the nonsense.

    It really depends on what your aim is. If you’ve reached a point where potentially painful truth outweighs the faint hope that mixed signals drip-feed us then limiting contact is your best bet. Because otherwise you risk giving too much of your own peace of mind away to consolidate his.

    I’m not going to assume the worst of the intentions behind his hold and cold behavior, but clearly, you would both benefit from his asking himself what he wants from you. It’s likely he doesn’t know himself, and the result is this rollercoaster.

    Beyond the pain of being in limbo, the risk is that if he isn’t seriously considering reconciling, and all he’s doing is keeping his options open out of fear or insecurity. And your push for clarity will push him away. At which point it’s worth remembering that the ensuing silence is also an answer, and that all we are doing is revealing the fact that he was already gone.

    In a sense, cutting off regular contact means that no matter what happens it’s up to us to make sense of what happens next. Which, if you ask me, beats that constant anxiety and confusion that make breakup scenarios a hundred times worse than they need to be.

    All this sounds a lot easier than it is, but I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying.

    Thanks for the feedback and stopping by!