A question I get asked a lot by my readers is, “If my ex really wants me back, why doesn’t he grovel? Why doesn’t he try to PROVE his love? He hurt me so much and all I really want is to know that it’s for real this time.” or “why is he doing all of this STUFF that doesn’t make sense?”
Frankly, when your ex is hanging around– sending you confusing messages about how he “sneezed and thought of you,” its easy to wonder what the heck he’s doing.
You might not be sure if what he’s doing are signs he wants you back but won’t admit it or he’s simply bored and/or looking for a quick ego boost.
The truth is, dramatic grand gestures by one’s ex are more likely to be met with shock, horror and rejection than actual reconciliation.
Like so many things in life, our expectation of what someone should do, simply doesn’t often live up to the reality.
The “grand gesture” is often not that grand. When an ex wants you back, his return is more likely to look like a whimper rather than a roar.
Your ex might have prayed day and night that you’ll call for the last 52 days.
He may have constructed a shrine in your honor.
He might be consulting his favorite tarot reader and using internet love spells.
…But… when your ex wants you back but won’t admit it, most often what he does is so different than what you expect (or deserve) that it puts your relationship into a weird, awkward limbo-zone where you aren’t sure what he’s doing but he’s doing SOMETHING (usually very, very slowly), and it’s super confusing for everyone.
The reason why this happens lies in the twin forces of ego and a concept called cognitive dissonance.
Let’s tackle cognitive dissonance first. Cognitive dissonance is defined as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”
Basically, what someone thinks or believes doesn’t line up with their actions and they feel like crap until they get it resolved. This internal struggle usually manifests as extreme self sabotage until the person gets it sorted out.
Say your ex broke up with you. For the sake of argument, say over the next few weeks or months, he slowly decides that he can’t live without you.
He will naturally try to make his actions line up with his beliefs— until the pain of NOT reversing his decision is too great.
For a while, he will stay broken up and not be ready to try to get back together since that action matches his past beliefs. He won’t want to go back on his word (“I want to breakup”), even though once the pain of missing you becomes to great, he might end up changing his mind down the road.
The situation will bother him until he does something– one way or another– but the seeds of doubt have to take root before any that can happen. Hesitation, missteps and weird behavior that doesn’t have a chance in hell of attracting you OR making sense ensues.
Rejection represents a HUGE risk to the ego. It’s a rare person who can put themselves out there and try a grand gesture because fear of rejection plus the uncertainty of how you’ll take it will naturally stifle all but one’s most feeble attempts.
If he just reached out a little bit (the one-off call or text) and didn’t swing for the fences (going whole-hog grand gesture), he can ease himself into the idea of doing more contact. If you ignore or reject him outright, then he can tell himself you, “just weren’t into getting back together,” instead of, “I never even tried to get her back.”
That’s why deciding whether your ex might want you back is a little like reading a foreign language with no translation. An ex who wants you back but won’t admit it is likely to do the opposite of what you expect. That’s probably why you’re here, reading this, right? Well, let me help you out.
Here are 4 signs he wants you back but won’t admit it (yet).
1. He stays in touch with you even though he doesn’t have to.
If you have a child or business together, it stands to reason that you and your ex would remain in contact— but this can remain very business-like.
When someone is sticking around, trying to keep the emotional connection open, often he fears that if he lets you go entirely, you’ll be gone for good and his opportunity to be with you will REALLY die forever (even though the breakup might have been his idea). So pop up and maybe suggest little activities and say cute things like “oh hey, I saw this thing that reminded me of you.”
If he’s coming toward you, he’s keeping that door propped open– even though he might be actively trying to move on and date other people.
2. He’s emotional.
Having any feelings at all toward you is a hell of a lot better sign than NO feelings toward you.
If he is still feeling hurt or angry enough to bother confronting you, that is actually a good sign if you still want him.
If not, arguing over your dead relationship is just a pain in the ass. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
One thing here– you shouldn’t put up with any abusive or angry tirades, as a SIGN that your ex loves you.
When it comes to an ex showing emotion toward you, it can be really subtle. It can be as small as you getting the sense that he’s trying to figure out if you’re dating someone new, or holding his breath as you tell him about your hot new Yoga instructor. If you know him to be a relatively non-emotional man, these things can be a sign he wants you back but won’t admit it.
3. Your ex keeps explaining the breakup and/or apologizing.
If someone can’t stand you, they aren’t going to repeatedly try to tell you what they did wrong. Instead, they will make the breakup speech and try their hardest to never see you again.
Someone who still cares will often keep returning to re-hash what went wrong. This can be a way to satisfy his guilt over dumping you, but it can also mean that he is trying to reconcile through the back door, often completely confusing you in the process.
4. He shares his self-improvement plans with you.
Has your ex started losing weight, gotten a tan, and started playing that sport you mentioned wanting to try?
Better yet, does he seem intent on sharing it ALL, in gory, vivid detail with you?
Often in an effort to right the wrongs of a failed relationship, an ex will often try to change ALL of the questionable things about themselves in an attempt to both feel better and re-attract you.
One of the most endearing conversations I ever had with a love was when he called out of the blue (9 months after our confusing breakup) and told me all about he was learning to cook. He had stubbornly maintained throughout our relationship that he was useless in the kitchen.
Self improvement serves several purposes. Breakups are powerful catalysts for change, whether you miss your ex or not.
But, sometimes, self improvement can be an attempt to show their ex that they’ve changed in ways the ex would be attracted to. When an ex is flaunting “all of the amazing changes they made” they are trying to reclaim a bit of their self esteem AND show off. Both of these mean that he still cares about what you think– which isn’t a small step from wanting to be around you.