You spent night-after-night praying by the bed, chained your cell phone to your wrist and generally couldn’t believe it wasn’t ringing with their voice on the other end (despite your gut telling you the phone was about to go off — you just knew it would didn’t you?). Then, when you’ve finally begun to come to terms with the seemingly inevitable, when the mists of pain begin to thin, and a way forward is revealed — you get the call. And what an anti-climatic call it usually is.
But hold on a minute. Most of the time it’s not what you want to hear. A favor, or a jolly chit-chat that will leave you wondering whether they realize you were once in a romantic relationship. What’s going on here? What is this? And perhaps most importantly — why now?
This article is primarily for those of us, and I estimate this to be the vast majority of humankind, who are not given the benefit of transparency from our exes when they do call. Or have a tendency to over-analyze intentions and messages. If you are stumped, here’s my take.
P.S: The article is perhaps a little more wordy and thorough than necessary, if you are merely looking for a summary signs that and what they mean, feel free to skip to the bottom section of the article.
It’s time to focus on the only intentions that matter. Before we even begin to consider what they want, it’s time for an honest self-assessment. Here’s what we know:
- If they dumped us, they were able, even if only for a second, to envision a life without us.
- If you dumped them, the relationship had become unsustainable and draining.
If they are looking for reconciliation, and you were the one that was forced to bite the bullet, are you willing to go through the pain again? It is easy to cave in to short-term relief and hope, but statistics show decisively that when reconciliation does occur again a breakup scenario soon re-occurs.
If you want them back, and you are sure it isn’t your fear, rejection or low-self esteem doing the talking, then onwards-ho. If you are merely curious, or are seeking an ego-driven guilty revenge it may be cleaner to insist on limited or no-contact.
It is almost impossible to not over-analyze every nuance of language and phrase when we care deeply and harbor hopes of re-uniting. Having said that, we simply cannot trust our gut when so much emotion is involved (our brains will find ways to believe whatever it is that we wish to believe). It is therefore in our self-interest to begin to take all contact at face-value and to have enough courage to enforce directness. Before we begin to look at how to tell what they want, consider following these rules of thumb from here-on-out.
- If you do not wish to be a friend, or to be pigeon-holed into a backseat driver relationship with your ex then let them know. Politely turn down doing small favors, and have them respect your space.
- Realize that anger or bitterness stem from caring. See through the charade and do not respond in kind.
- Put yourself first.
- In all cases, make sure you are not driven by guilt — period.
Typical Post-Breakup Signs Uncovered
In the main there are three main reasons why an ex would contact you. These are:
- They miss your friendship.
- They wish to reconcile.
- They are having trouble moving on.
Signs they miss you as a friend
It is easy to fall prey to false hope when your ex chatters with you light-heartedly — and an ex looking for their “buddy” will do just that. They will tell you how special you are (and mean it), how much they miss you, and how empty they have felt since the break up. But don’t be fooled, this does not necessarily mean they wish to reconcile.
It is only when you approach a deeper level of conversation that an ex who doesn’t wish to reconcile romantically will begin to recoil. An ex who misses you as a friend will resist talking about your past relationship in the way “that you used to”. If they make sure to steer clear of the past, particularly the bad times, then there may be little interest in repairing your romantic connection. Exes looking to reconcile will usually eagerly approach the topic of mistakes-made, and be the first to offer an armistice.
Signs your ex wishes to reconcile
The only variable that will dilute how direct an ex will approach you if they wish to reconcile is pride. The more prideful a person is (and you know them best) the more indirect the message will be. In almost all cases, they will prefer to throw a neutral sounding well-wishing message first — to gauge your feelings towards them.
Exes that feel that the break up was a mistake will usually be quick to take up the blame for the past. They do not back off from talks about the break up itself, and make sure all the lines of the communication are open (they might even suggest upgrading the quality of your communication from say, an email exchange to a chat messenger).
The main difference between a ex looking for friendship and an ex seeking reconciliation is that emphasis will be less on how your respective lives are faring, and more on the connection between you. Attempts to connect your emotional dots are an attempt at restoring intimacy.
Signs they are having trouble moving on
This is certainly the most harmful and confusing contact for the dumpee, and it clearly occurs more often than I previously believed (before I began writing about relationships and talking to visitors). The ex who isn’t sure what they want.
An ex who is having trouble moving on lacks the self-confidence necessary to steer their lives away from you, and at the same time does not wish to reconcile. Instead, they are using the dumpee in order to give themselves strength by leeching affection and confidence from them. This is confusing because they will exhibit a plethora of romantic-like signals; affection, attachment, maybe even the desire for sexual intimacy.
In my opinion the only real indicator that you’re being used is the lack of consistency of their contact and level of involvement. They are only sporadically supportive (then they back off without a trace, only to re-appear once again) and be painfully hot and cold with their attention. Be advised that an ex playing emotional peek-a-boo is doing so without any regard for your feelings. I do not wish this to sound as if I feel they are horrible, because by and large they are not, the lack of empathy stems from pain which leaves little room for empathy.
My sole advice would be to slice through the shades of gray and insist on actions, and not words. If they can’t play by your rules, then close the curtain on their insecurity permanently.