A reader is confused about why her ex boyfriend called to apologize for the breakup and hasn’t been in touch since.
A week ago, my ex boyfriend called after 9 months of no contact to apologize for our breakup. In a nutshell, he owned up to singlehandedly messing up our once good relationship because he broke up with me to deal with some legitimate personal problems he was having at the time. As far as I know, there was no one else and I’m certain his problems were real.
After we talked for a few minutes he said he didn’t know if I would even take his call.
After he apologized, we talked about what had gone on in our lives during the time since we had been apart. He explained in detail how he had fixed his problems and sounded really good. He also wanted to know about something I had said in an email that I sent him months ago— so I explained that situation.
Our conversation went on for 2 hours. By the end I was glowing but I had to get off the phone because had to work. I told him I enjoyed catching up and talking to him. He asked if we could talk again sometime. I said I would love to, but I haven’t heard anything from him since.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him.
Does he still care about me?
Did he just call to find out what I meant in my email?
Why hasn’t my ex called me again? If I was really so important to him, why wouldn’t he just ask to see me instead of only asking to talk but not calling?
Was I overeager by staying on the phone for 2 hours and admitting I would love to talk to him again?
Is my ex trying to friendzone me? Or did I say something wrong?
What do I do now? Will he come back?
I’m so confused. I still really like him and want to see if we could make things work. Before the breakup it was the best relationship I had ever experienced.
Unfortunately my crystal ball isn’t working today (still in the shop…) but even though you’re probably afraid and feeling hopeless, I see some good signs here.
Let’s talk about the four hopeful signs your ex will call again, then I’ll answer the rest of your questions.
1. The way your ex boyfriend handled this breakup says several good things about him.
Men act super wacky (and PAINFULLY toward their women) when they are having problems that they haven’t figured out how to solve yet.
If that was the case with your ex, it’s understandable that he would want to take a step back from things with you while he got his life together.
I know how much it hurts. And, most women don’t have a clue why men go for cave time when they’re having problems, but that’s what they do. We tend to try and automatically help each other when we’re having a hard time. This generally works well in the world of women.
Unfortunately, men often are turned off by “helping” UNLESS they specifically ask for help AND the problem doesn’t involve a situation where they could lose their woman’s respect.
A boy would have strung you along while trying to get you to mother him through his problems. Your ex did not. This tells me you’re dealing with a masculine energy force who is not likely to be calling after all this time to get you to pat him on the back or stroke his ego.
Here’s the thing.
Boys love to hear how you will put up with their shit and still love them. That’s because momma’s love is unconditional. Boys naturally gravitate toward women who will love them in that all-encompassing way that a mother would.
Grown men hate the concept of you putting up with anything on their behalf because the very idea that they could be letting you down in the first place offends their standards for themselves.
From your perspective, the fact that he left you STINGS LIKE BURNING FIRE. And it’s downright insulting to feel like you were expendable to him. We all want the man in our life to be there for us no matter what.
But, in a situation where he had nothing for you, he chose to take care of himself instead of trying to get you to do it— which would have eventually killed your chemistry and made both of you miserable in the process.
Instead of choosing the nuclear option– having you mother him— he chose to solve the problem on his own.
You need to understand that as much as it hurt you for him to leave, it saved you from losing your respect for him. As far as he was concerned, he would rather set you free temporarily than risk permanently losing your respect. In a bad situation, he chose the lesser of two evils.
2. This was not an easy conversation for him to have.
Men do not generally call and initiate incredibly vulnerable conversations with their potentially angry and/or hurt ex girlfriends because it sounds like a fun way to start off their Monday morning.
If you had no shared business with him and his sole reason to call was the apology— that’s a really, really vulnerable thing for ANYONE to do.
It takes a lot of courage to pick up the phone and apologize to your ex when you know the breakup was your fault.
The fact that put himself on the line after all this time is telling and hopeful.
A coward who didn’t truly care about you would simply ghost you forever and move on with his life. Instead, your ex not only called to apologize, but he waited until he was happier and had seen real progress in fixing the things that drove you apart.
This shows that he is willing to fix problems, knows he made a mistake and as a result he’s in an emotional place where he could revisit things.
3. Your ex would not go to the trouble of calling if he only wanted to pick your brain and hear about what you have been doing over the summer.
The fact that called instead of feebly texting or emailing means he probably did not call just to pick your brain about your email or chit-chat. He has buddies, co-workers and local gas station attendants for that.
If he was really so dead-curious about your email that he had to know, he could have gotten that information out of you in a much easier way. He could have casually texted or emailed you back and then ghosted once you responded.
Sure, he may have been curious about you— but the route he took with the sincere apology first is rare for simple information gathering.
4. He asked directly if you could talk again.
If he never wanted to speak to you again or you meant nothing to him, asking to talk again would never have crossed his mind.
By asking you if he could call you again, he did two things.
First, he got reassurance that you actually want to talk to him more.
This shows he is a gentleman who cares about your feelings. If you said no or seemed uncertain about wanting to talk again, he cares about you enough not to want to cause you pain or disrespect himself by showing up somewhere he isn’t wanted.
Enthusiastically saying you would love to talk to him again is not overeager or a bad thing at all because on the off chance he chooses never to speak to you again, it will NOT be because you were TOO HAPPY with the idea of hearing from him.
Second, your ex used the foot-in-the-door technique— which is a psychology term for asking for something small in order to open the door for more future agreement.
The reasoning behind asking for something small— to talk again—is this:
If your ex asked you out again or told you directly he wanted you back right away, he faces potential, final rejection if you aren’t ready or say no.
Calling your ex after 9 months of no contact is NOT a low-stress, casual activity.
If he had gone all the way and you were to say no, there is nowhere else he could go from there. Recovering from that rejection and ending up together is really unlikely.
Instead, he asked for something small and easy for you to agree to— that you had already told him you enjoyed.
It seems like there’s not much risk there, right?
Wrong. From his perspective, you have every right to be pissed, deny all future contact and never see him again.
In fact, he probably decided that under the circumstances, you rejecting him was the most likely outcome of your conversation.
…And he called anyway.
The fact he said he wasn’t sure if you would answer the phone says he definitely thought about the high potential for your rejection and steeled himself for it.
During that call, he most likely spent a fair amount of the time preparing himself for the potential that you would say something hurtful, confess to marrying your yoga instructor and/or end your connection completely.
Instead, you had a two hour conversation that ended on a good note. That was successful by any measure.
Obviously, you’re wondering, “WHY IS MY EX WAITING TO CALL ME AGAIN? Why would he do this and then NOT stay on top of it? Doesn’t he want me?”
Sure, it’s possible that he could be truly satisfied with simply apologizing and moving on with his life.
However, given the thousand words I already wrote about why that’s unlikely, let’s explore reasons why your ex might be waiting to call you again in the event he does want to explore rekindling things with you.
- He doesn’t want to spook you and ruin his chances.
- He has no idea what he’s doing and is hesitant about what to do next.
- He has overthought something (or all the things) that you said during the two hour call and falsely decided (hopefully temporarily) he doesn’t have a chance with you.
- He’s waiting to see if you do something.
- He doesn’t know if you still want him.
- He doesn’t know for sure if he still wants you.
- He’s seriously dating someone else and/or thinks you’re doing the same.
- He wanted to tie up loose ends before joining the witness protection program.
Potential reasons why your ex (or any man) hasn’t called yet are really endless.
The point is, you are afraid he won’t— and secretly think that if you knew the “real reason” you could protect yourself. I’m sorry— I WISH it worked like this, because if it did, I could use my own relationship knowledge like an invulnerability cloak… but alas.
What Do I Do Now After My Ex Called Me? Will He Come Back?
Since your ex dumped you and hasn’t offered anything yet besides the potential to have another conversation, wait until he wants to have that conversation. Given how well you both handled this, the potential is really good he will eventually want to talk to you again.
Even though a week feels like an eternity when all you want is more, it has not been a long time in relationship-land. Give your ex boyfriend a full 8 weeks to call you again— the time it takes human beings to ruminate over a decision— before you can be certain he’s gone again.
Patience is your best friend here. Given your strong feelings for him, let him do whatever he intends on his own timeline without digging for an explanation or dealing him out pain when he finally pops up.
If you grab this turtle and shake it, he’s going to go further into the shell, not come out. Remember that even though you want him, you are broken up. You owe each other exactly nothing, so any move he makes will be because he WANTS to.
You probably WANT to reach out to him in an attempt to kill your growing anxiety that it’s really over for good, but you actually need him to reach out again on his own so you know for sure that he cares.
On the flip-side, he needs to see that you will respond to him respectfully and positively again so that he can trust you aren’t secretly planning an angry emotional ambush (you aren’t right?).
Since the trust between you has been so damaged, it can only be rebuilt with small, positive baby steps toward each other.
When we miss someone who hurt us, we automatically want them to do a grand gesture so we feel in control, but that is super unlikely— so manage your expectations down to nothing.
As far as whether you said the wrong thing, there is always the potential for that, but unless you insulted him, got into an argument, flaunted a new relationship to make him jealous or somehow disrespected him, it’s unlikely. If you were kind and respectful it was probably fine. Both of you were most likely so jittery and stressed you can’t remember the exact words anyone said.
Unless he took obvious offense to something in the moment and you noticed he was upset, try to let go of the fear you did something wrong.
Was My Ex Boyfriend Calling To Friendzone Me?
If he’s never mentioned the F word (friends, you dirty girl)— then don’t worry about getting stuck in the friend zone or dare bring it up yourself.
If any ex asks you explicitly to just be friends, tell him that you have loved hearing from him and will always be kind and friendly toward him but you just can’t be friends— unless you would genuinely be fine with him marrying Kelsey from the tennis club and are 100% certain you never, ever want to have sex with him again.
Anyhow, with your ex who called, the friend-zone is not your problem right now. Waiting patiently is your problem.
It’s hard to wait now since he woke up that long-dormant hope dragon you were trying to bury.
That’s why both of you are acting like you’re holding the nuclear codes. This is only hard because you both still care.