Why Giving Your Ex Time Alone Won’t Make Him Come Back

If only love were so simple. Your ex boyfriend is hellbent on breaking up, so you pull back and give them the space and time necessary to realize what they took for granted.

While this is an understandable line of thinking, even noble, if our goal is to use the time to heal and bring about objectivity, there is a problem.

The Great Equalizer

couple balancing on scales

Time is often called the great equalizer. This is especially true after a breakup. The problem is what it’s going to equalize exactly.

Ideally, if we grant an ex space and time we are hoping to equalize the discrepancy in feelings that are present. We’d like to use this break to heal up while they realize what they’re losing (or vice versa). And voila, balance!

But this isn’t always what happens. If they’re all out of feelings, then all you’re going to equalize is your own pain with their indifference. Which is great, in a sense, but if the objective for you is eventually reconciling, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot.

If you’re miscalculating there’s a chance your ex boyfriend will take that space and time and use it to construct a new reality, one that will exclude you. How much are you willing to gamble that their insecurity or loss is greater than their desire to start over? Because it is a gamble.

Why Time Can Work To Make Them Come Back

Tea is just an excuse. i am drinking this sunset, this evening. and you.

Sanober Khan

The premise is that time will wash away the emotional turbulence and bring about the objectivity needed to make the hard decisions more clearly. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.

But time often enlarges these disconnects. If you aren’t around to negotiate your feelings for each other, you won’t have a hand in directing this growth, and breakups are going to catalyze A LOT of growth.

Simply put: There’s no telling how you will misunderstand, misread and generally misinterpret each other if you aren’t in the picture.

This growing apart can have the effect of making an ex boyfriend who is on the fence come crawling back. Not because you’ve addressed any of the foundational issues that tore you apart to begin with, but because their insecurity is tearing them apart with the fury of a thousand dying suns. And now they are retreating to a comfort zone (you) where they can bask in the affection and compassion they lack.

So here they are, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking this is the pathway to reconciling. Because the moment they leech, from you, the strength and esteem they need to get back on their feet, you will be back exactly where you started. Right here.

Yes, there’s a chance that cutting them off will work to make them reach out. But I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen an attempt at “no contact” become exactly that, no more contact. For good.

Don’t Use Time Alone As A Mind Game

gambling with love

By using silence as a weapon, you’re essentially turning the gun on yourself because you are placing control of your life in someone else’s hands.

This may be alright if you’ve exhausted every other solution, and the hail Mary pass called silence is the only thing left. But if you still had a say in their life, and want to reconcile, that influence will wane quickly with enough distance.

Left to it’s own devices, the separation will mean that your ex’s brain will construct a new comfort zone, build new reference points and find new ways to draw affection and love from its surroundings.

It will do this regardless of how much it misses you. More to the point: It will sometimes do this precisely because it misses you. That’s the beauty of our brain’s ability to passively adapt.

Don’t use time as a variable in your get him back equation unless you have no choice, or have been bluntly asked for it. Otherwise the same distance that would magically fix things may doom in instead.

Space And Time Used Wisely

man holding a watch

I’m trying to surf a thin line here between advocating against using no contact as a reconciliation tool and time apart as a head-clearing, healing tool. Time and space can definitely be used to your advantage, assuming they are employed with the necessary safeguards.

Forgo cutting an ex off completely in favor of a limited contact model. If you want to your ex to communicate their feelings to you, if you want to be part of this process, you have to make doubly sure they feel welcome to contact you, because if you don’t, the insecurity bred by a breakup might make them fear the worst about your intentions. Keep the lines of communication open, but don’t abuse them.

Clear, open communication is imperative. But so is keeping these channels free of clutter. This means avoiding chit-chatting for the sake of indirectly gauging the direction of their healing. It means no mixed messages and crumbs. It means keeping a handle on our emotions and refusing to let them confuse the field of play.

Be wary of any action you take that is — at heart — an indirect way of guessing what’s going on, rather than a way of clarifying the situation. Because I guarantee it will confuse the hell out of your ex. Always work towards simplifying the situation.

I understand that being direct may be too much. Yes, it’s a way of forcing clarity and getting the answers we feel we need. But at the same time we aren’t robots and may not be prepared to stomach these truths at this point in our healing curve.

If this is the case, you will need to weigh what is more painful; the anxiety of living in an unending grey area, or the merciless hammering of the truth. If you ask me, the former is often worse than the later. And receiving bad news can be liberating if it means an end to the over-analysis that is driving us crazy.

Will He Come Back If You Give Him Time?

Time alone isn’t a magic bullet. It won’t magically erode the conflict that led to the breakup. Time alone won’t always mean that your ex will miss you.

What time alone is, is a reset button. It is a way of saying “this situation is too complex to navigate objectively”. Left to its own devices time will strengthen our objective decision making. And if breaking up is the best objective decision for our ex to make, then we can expect that to be the outcome.

Given this uncomfortable truth, I would argue that it is in our best interest to stay close to the action but not inside of it. If we can. Or at the very least be a ghostly presence that participates in our ex’s healing process, even if from afar.

Granted, if we’ve been told to back off, then space and time alone aren’t a choice. But the premise of this article is that we are at a crossroads, or you probably wouldn’t be here.

If you have access to your ex, and your communication remains open (even if somewhat damaged), you should treasure these outlets, not abandon or abuse them. After all, if you can’t talk, you can’t reconcile, even if you both fundamentally want 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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