How to Tell If Your Ex is Playing Mind Games With You

Some people just love to play games – mind games, psychological games, emotional games – and perhaps you think your ex is one of them. But part of the problem with mind games is that you can’t always be sure someone is playing them, or even if you are playing them yourself. That’s the whole point of mind games, right? To get someone thinking and wondering about you, or to even drive them crazy.

Are you wondering if your ex is playing some sort of game with you and your feelings? Are they sending weird, mysterious, mixed signals that make you wonder about their intentions? Do you find yourself puzzled about whether they still have feelings for you and want to get back together with you? How can you tell?  

Since the best thing to do after a breakup – whether you broke off the relationship or you ex did doesn’t matter at all – is to cut off communication with the other person, then it’s safe to say any communication you get from your ex is some sort of mind game.

If they keep texting you, emailing you, or calling you after your relationship is over, then they are either hopelessly emotionally muddled or they are playing games.

The Correct Response: Nada

But you don’t have to worry about whether they are emotionally confused or are playing games, because your response is the same either way – no response at all.

Sit down and figure out why you and your ex broke up in the first place. What were the problems, the triggers of anger and frustration that led to the end of your relationship? Did you fight, or fall out of love? Who dumped whom?

If you broke up with your ex, then let me ask you a question: Why are you still communicating with them? You must have decided that the relationship wasn’t working, and that it wasn’t worth continuing. So you broke it off. Now, what are you trying to do? Start it up again? Why? Or maybe you don’t want to get back together, but you just enjoy the ego boost of knowing that this other person is still attracted to you.

That’s pretty petty and selfish. In this case, it isn’t your ex who’s playing games – it’s you! Stop toying with your ex and cut off contact for good. For at least thirty days you shouldn’t communicate with them at all – no texts, no emails, no calls, no nothing. And after that, you should barely communicate at all. 

You rocked your ex-partner’s world by breaking up with them. You may have hurt and upset them deeply. The best thing for you to do is give them time and privacy to grieve and to heal. So do them a favour, and yourself, too, and leave them alone.

The reverse situation, where your ex broke up the relationship, may seem a little more complicated, but it isn’t, really. You’ve been dumped and you still have feelings for your ex, or you think you do. You’re confused and your emotions are swirling around and you don’t know which way is up. During this time, it can be very easy to wonder if your ex is playing games with you.

They could send you a three word text message and you could spend hours reading it and re-reading it, analyzing every letter and punctuation mark (Oh! He used a period instead of an exclamation point – that means he’s indifferent to me).  

The Complications of Mind Games

Your ex might very well be playing games at this point. Both of you have been through a terrible breakup and perhaps you find yourselves wondering if you made a mistake breaking up. So you send each other messages, perhaps different messages on different days – I miss you on Monday, it’s over on Tuesday, then back to I miss you when Wednesday rolls around. You’re not only playing games with each other, you are playing them with yourself.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to figure out if your ex is playing mind games. Don’t bother wasting the effort. If they are playing games, or if they aren’t, the solution is the same. Cut off all contact and observe a period of silence for at least a month and perhaps longer.

Give your emotions time to calm down. Give yourself the gift of time to figure out what you really want. This quiet period will also give them a chance to do the same.

Once you’ve taken a long, healthy break from each other, then you can figure out what you want to do. Be honest and serious about it. Write down your ideas and your reasons. Do you really, really, really want to get back together with your ex?

If you’re the dumper and after a period of time, you meditate and reflect honestly on this question, your answer is yes, then you should tell them. Do the adult thing and ask to meet, and tell them the truth about how you feel. I still have feelings for you and I would like to get back together if that’s possible. Then comes the hard part – you have to drop the subject.

Cut off communication again and leave it up to them. You aren’t playing a game here – this is serious stuff, so act like an adult. Let them know what you want, and then drop it. Don’t beg or grovel or humiliate yourself. Don’t demand or try to bully them. Be respectful and sincere, and then drop it. If they still have feelings for you and want to rekindle your relationship, they will let you know. If they don’t, you have to accept that it’s over.

If you’ve been the one who’s dumped, however, then you still ought to cut off communication until you’ve reached a clear headed level of thinking; usually around a month or so, sometimes more.

At this point, your ex could be involved with someone new and may or may not be communicating with you. If they communicate with you and makes promises or continues to give mixed signals while being involved with someone else all this time, then you have to be very careful since more often than not, they’re likely playing games with you.

You can fight fire with fire and when it comes to using psychological tactics, read Brad Browning’s Ex Factor Guide, which often tends to end up getting your ex back, which is another journey in and of itself to give your relationship a second chance.

About Jessica Raymond

Jessica Raymond, BSc, RCC, is LoveLearnings senior editor. As a relationship counselor, Jessica has helped hundreds of men and women achieve their relationship dreams. Whether it’s finding your one true love or simply charming someone on a date, Jessica's got your back! In her articles, she reveals little-known, psychological tips that will make even the coldest person chase you around like a little puppy.
22 replies
  1. Greg
    Greg says:

    Me and my ex broke up 11 months ago approximately last year December then she tried communicating with me early march this year but i ignored her missed call. on my birthday she sent me a happy birthday which was 4th of June and then i replied “thank you appreciated”. on the 28 August it was her birthday and i sent her happy birthday text which she replied thanks then recently 2 months ago we began communicating on Facebook and we talked all about the good times we had etc. but now my issue is i ended up indirectly asking hows life and love life etc. and she said she is with someone for 3 months now but he is far away they hardly meet okay i accepted that but then she told me she likes him and not loves him yet and then said we have been together a long time she still loves me it not easy to forget 5 years relationship we had i agreed its not easy. last month towards i was out with friends and she was back home (she works 400km from where i’m situated which is also her home town) so she saw me and called me and then i went over to see her then things got emotional and intimate she told me she was sorry for everything and how she ended things and the we kissed but it ended there i had to leave. the next day she came over and we ended up having sex and i think the current boyfriend called and she ignored it. recently this past weekend we agreed to take things slow start of as friends and take things slow and never mention the dramatic past conflicts we had and start afresh and see where it leads us but then we got intimate again this weekend and this time it was really intimate had sex over and over and over again and cuddled and told each other we still love each other. my problem is this boyfriend that’s in the picture that stays far away i want her all to myself and also don’t want to get hurt and reveal everything like how i want to spend the rest of my life with her…. i really love her and she stuck it out with me when i was still confused and didn’t know what i wanted in life through stress i caused her and we never had any guy problems when i was with her. Yesterday we communicated multiple times over the phone and she tells really opens up when with me even her problems. help a brother out i don’t know what to do

    Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Hey bro! One thing that most people don’t realize is that they hold the key. Have you been actively trying to get your ex back? Don’t wait for this person to have an epiphany. If you want your ex back, then keep track of what you’ve been doing to see if it’s productive or not. Have you checked out my guide yet? It may be time to revamp your techniques. Before anything else though, take the free quiz on my website to gauge your chances of getting your ex back. Answer as honestly as possible Good luck!

      Reply
  2. Kassie
    Kassie says:

    Hi There,

    I’m crazy confused. My ex and I went through a rough month last month.
    A couple bad fights led to him wanting space, and us not communicating much for several weeks. Finally him breaking it off, only to come back a week later saying he wanted to start over completely (after i was preparing myself to move on). Wanting this second chance so badly, of course i said yes. We spent one night together, everything was great, he was loving, affectionate, sweet, caring. After that he seemed to SLOWLY be making an effort, texting me a bit each day.

    Then he took me out for drinks several nights later, again we had a great time. However, he made a couple of comments about how his feelings for me were not what they were after all we had been through. That hurt, and left me confused, especially since he was still being so affectionate towards me that night. In fact, I spent the night at his house that night, the next morning, we laid in bed until early afternoon just holding each other, cuddling.

    I left his place that afternoon, didn’t hear from him until the following evening. To which he said we should hang out later this week. That was last night, and overall he’s been extremely distant, and short with his very few texts. I don’t get it.

    He said he wanted to start over, he started to make more of an effort and then we just started pulling away completely. Meanwhile, when we are together, his actions tell me he’s still very much into me.

    I’m planning on bringing this up to him next time we see each other. I’m afraid it may be the end of it completely, but maybe it is for the best at this point. Just curious what you think of this situation, is he stringing me along? Confused? Being cautious? I should mention that part of the issues we had in the last month were with him finding me to be clingy and not giving him space. Could he be testing me? But again, i don’t think a man who truly wants to be with me would play these games.

    Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Hello, Kassie! Sorry to hear about the breakup. What’s the timeframe in all of these events? Things seemed to have happened too quickly, him wanting space then wanting to get closer again then asking for space again. I say go a full 30 days without interacting with him unless you really NEED to. A wide array of different emotions coming from an ex is somewhat expected when a breakup is still fresh and this is why I tell people to cut off contact for at least a month first and NOT deal with this ex. You both need to clear your minds first, all right? A breakup hurts both people in it regardless of who has done the breaking up. This is something I’ve discussed here, watch it to learn a few tips to understand your situation better: Why Your Ex Gives You The ‘Hot & Cold’ Treatment (Mixed Messages Explained!). Good luck!

      Reply
  3. Andrew Tripp
    Andrew Tripp says:

    My girlfriend and I have been dating for a little over a year now. We live about 50 miles apart from each other but we have always found ways to spend time together regularly. (we are both 50 so transportation, etc, is not an issue. About 6 weeks ago my girlfriend completely stopped communicating with me. Wont answer her phone, her email, and shes only texted me 3 or 4 times with very short somewhat rude responses to my questions. All the other texts I have sent her have been completely ignored. I will admit I did my 3 weeks or so of begging but have since stopped that behavior. However, she and I both have i-message. If I send her a text or two she’ll accept it read it. but then she blocks me for hours or sometimes days if I try and keep the conversation over text going. If I try again its the same pattern – blocking me and unblocking me on text. She suffers from depression but she wont tell me the relationship is over, or never contact her again just silence. My girlfriend has done this before and then comes back to the relationship like nothing ever happened. What kind of game is she playing? Is she getting an ego stroke by controlling my texting ability. I dont really think she is done with the relationship because then she would just block me for good. Due to her depression, I dont believe there is another guy involved – maybe Im kidding myself? What should I do besides combat silence with silence? Any ideas?

    Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Hello, Andrew! Sorry to hear about what happened. What triggered this kind of behaviour from her, though? Did you two get into a fight/disagreement? How was your most recent interaction with her? If she indeed has (clinical) depression, then the most loving thing you can do in return is to give each other space while he/she gets help. Encourage your ex to seek treatment because clinical depression is something only a therapist specializing on this can handle, even this is outside of my scope. But I can help you how to handle things on YOUR end as you go through this difficult ordeal. I know it can be incredibly tough knowing you’ve given it your best shot, yet your partner still fails to appreciate it or is breaking up despite it being a good relationship. Anyway it’s a bad idea to be friends. Consider signing up for my coaching program so I can help assess your situation clearly, look at all the other factors at play and see things you might have missed, then guide you accordingly on a regular, ongoing basis. Talk soon?

      Reply
  4. Carli
    Carli says:

    Hi Brad,
    My bf decided to end the relationship bc of something i did he thought that I was interested in finding someone else, i dont know if he found this excuse to break up or it was real, but before that happened evrth was perfect. I tried for 3,4 days convicing him that I wont do such things anymore to make him jealous etc.. he said that he wants to forgive me but he cant do it, it will take him time bc i hurted him a lot. Then i stopped talking to him for about 17 days and i thought that he will talk to me but he didnt, he was checking my snapchats and evrth i did. After 17 days i texted him and i asked him about his decision. He said that he’s not interested to continue, he doesnt want any relationship in his life now, he has time for this. So i told him ok evrth its clear and i said that we cannot be friends. I unfriended him everywhere. Now, i activated my instagram and i still have him there. Should I unfollow him or should I leave him?. I really want him back but I did everything :/ can you suggest me anything

    Reply
  5. Derek
    Derek says:

    Hello Brad!
    My ex I belive played games with me from day one.met her online and she gave me her phone #within the first 5 mins of chatting.we both where attracted to each other but chemistry was lacking. I slept with her on the second date and sex was very passionate for two half months.sometimes I never seen her for 8 days because of work and her work as well and she was a very independent woman.sometimes I feel we where not dating just friends with benefits she never reconize me as her boyfriend to her parents or friends when I was with her.I put 120%into the relationship and I cared deeply about her.but at times a I feared she was cheating on me and I told my friends that I had a bad vibe about this situation but I was falling for her.there was a high in the relationship then it just dropped away on her part I seen it in her text messages no more flirting on her part when I would send it first.but she would still be affection towards me holding hands, hugging,kissing .etc
    All this is confusing to me thought I found the one I’m not sure what went wrong or she didt know what she wanted.she would not comunicate with me on the subject she just got mad at me she pretty much ended it and said it just was not there for her anymore.pretty much said can’t force something that is it there.and that’s 2 half months of seeing her im just baffled.plus I think she was my back up plan I belive she was in contact with someone in the last 2 weeks I seen her.myself I’m having a difficult time on this and understanding this whole thing.I have givin her th NC rule and has been a month now.her birthday is November 18 do you ithink it’s worth texting her happy birthday because I still have deep feelings for her she has not contacted me as well.I could go on with more on this she screwed my mind up pretty good with this.hope this all makes sense.

    Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Hi, Derek! I hope I’m mistaken, but it looks like there was only superficial attraction from her end. I suggest you consider moving on from this as she may not be that into you, all right? The first six months is supposed to be the honeymoon phase and if she’s acting out for no reason (which seems to be the case here) then her feelings may not have been as strong to begin with. Good luck and I hope you find the right girl for you soon!

      Reply
  6. Jasmine
    Jasmine says:

    Hi my ex cheated on me and we broke up. She said she never ment to cheat and she wants me but kno that we cant be togther right now but she said that she wasnt happy and that she wants to focus on herself and her edcaution. We go to the same college and we have a class togther. I tried the no connect rule but thats so hard for me. Me and her still talk everyday we are still friends too. But i want her back she sends me mix singals one min she says we will never get back together then another day she says its a possibility that we might get back together. Like idk what to do she sometimes say she misses me but i dont know what to do please help.

    Reply
  7. Shalene
    Shalene says:

    My ex cheated on me so I left… now he calls and txts a lot we have seen each other twice since ..one day he needs me he can’t live without me and the next get reads my Facebook status messages but doesn’t respond. So I won’t txt him and within 24 hours he’s calling and texting till I respond .. it’s ripping me apart and really messing me up . Its like he’s enjoying hurting me and stringing me along .. I don’t know what to do .. I love him and wanot to fix things and he says he does too . HELP!!

    Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Try to get off social media for a while and don’t focus too much on it, just to try to get a reaction from him, all right? I suggest to give it enough time to really let him miss you first and think things over. Mixed emotions from an ex is a common theme when a breakup is still fresh and this is why I tell people to cut off contact for at least a month first and NOT deal with this ex. You both need to clear your minds first, all right? A breakup hurts both people in it regardless of who has done the breaking up. This is something I’ve discussed here, watch it to learn a few tips to understand your situation better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN6ndJZ0J-w

      Reply
  8. Milena
    Milena says:

    Hi, i have a little bit different problem. Me and “Ex” broke up last year. Then we had a few months NO Contact. but after our break up, it turns out that i am pregnant. Now our baby has Month. Before she was born, we tried to fix evertything between us, but once he was the best guy ever, and then its not gonna work. now we are only talking on facebook. but still… he is giving me mixed signals. In one conversation he tells me that he want us to be together, then he tells that he still remember the past, then he asks me to be honest, what i really want and then that he is not interested in me, then… that i should now try harder and maybe it will be ok between us, and then… he stops texting for a few days. i told him twice that i love him, i really care and i know that this time it all will be better between us, bla bla bla… (i bet that was my mistake, but he wanted me to be honest and i’m really tired to playing games). now he didnt speak with me for two days and today “hey whats up? how are you two doing?” . i dont want to seem needy or anything like that, i wrote to him only two or three texts and then “i have to go, im busy, but if you want to see me or our kid, then let me know:)”. how should i act next? we have a baby together, so we cant have “NO Contact” time. (sorry my english)

    Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Hello, Milena. Sorry to hear about the breakup. Getting an ex back is a process, so there’s no one-action solution for everything. Okay? Since you’ve already done the “no contact” rule, then there are two more phases to go with a few other steps in between. You ought to be focusing on the second phase now. What I’m trying to say here is it’s a 3-step process, and it’s a bit complicated to explain it all on here, but I made an overview in the hopes of making people understand, so watch it here: How to Get Your Ex Back and/or read my guide for the entire process. Good luck!

      Reply
  9. Moude
    Moude says:

    Hi brad
    This is me again .. well ex talking to me daily basic sometime and then once she feel free to talk when her new girlfriend not around … now she saying plenty mix signals like over everything sad tuck the world ..going out of town cause too much going on in her life .. drinking and smoking weed .. she seems playing her mind games but I m very alert with it …
    Like you said Be Adult tell her what I want … it’s been a 3 and half months we broke up and she is with this chick but she not happy with her but not saying it openly to me or she may be playing her mind games to see I m still availing for her .. well honestly my door open for her but I don’t like to play mind games … I want your advice tell me what to do Brad ?
    Should this is the time to be adult or wait for her to break up her chick … she was in rebound relationship… but I don’t like to wait I possibly be adult and tell her the truth ..she better make the decision who she pick … I just wanted to meet her and tell her that in person …
    But before I do that tell me how I will I explain to her any tricks you know
    Please please respond me soon my dear brad .. I have been reading your ex factor last 3 months and I really wAnt to end up this in good way with her
    So please advice
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Hello, Moude. How’s your most recent interaction with this ex of yours? Be sure to follow the guide down to a tee, since it really is your best chance to get her back, okay? Keep displaying those “attractive characteristics” when you move from the second phase to the third. I don’t know the entire story but I’ll have to say that in general, it’s a bad idea to be giving out ultimatums. Making her choose will only put additional pressure on her, read up on what my take on that is. Again it’s all in the guide. Perhaps read it up again until you master it? Good luck!

      Reply
    • Brad Browning
      Brad Browning says:

      Sorry to hear that. It’s a pretty common theme, really, especially when a breakup is still fresh. So if you’re getting mixed signals from this ex, then just know that you’re not alone in this type of situation… and this is in fact often why I tell people to cut off contact for at least a month first and NOT deal with this ex. A breakup hurts both people in it regardless of who has done the breaking up. This is something I’ve discussed here, watch it to learn a few tips to understand your situation better: Why Your Ex Gives You The ‘Hot & Cold’ Treatment (Mixed Messages Explained!). Take care!

      Reply

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