Is your ex acting strangely?
Does it feel like they want you one minute, and the next they’re nowhere to be found?
Is it impossible to tell their true intentions?
Well then chances are your ex is playing mind games. Today I’ll cover what it looks like when your ex is playing mind games, why they do it, and what you should do next if you want them back.
How To Tell Your Ex Is Playing Mind Games
Let’s get into it. First off, what does it mean for your ex to play mind games? Well typically your ex is manipulating your emotions through subtle (or not so subtle) actions that they hope will elicit some sort of response in you. We’ll talk about WHY they do it in just a moment, but first, let’s talk about what it looks like. There are actually five different ways they may do this.
1. Trying to elicit jealousy
The most common example, or at least the easiest to spot, is trying to make you jealous by being flirty or romantic to someone else in a way that’s very clearly directed at you.
So maybe your ex is posting all about their new relationship on social media, specifically to get back at you and make you feel bad, even though you only broke up two weeks ago. Or maybe they’re talking to mutual friends all about how their new partner is so much better than you. Things like that.
This can be difficult to tell apart from an ex who is genuinely moving on with their life. But if you and your ex still talk regularly and you get a vibe that they miss you and can’t stay away, then doing things like this is probably their way of playing mind games with you.
It’s also a sign of bitterness about the breakup. So if you ended things, or did something hurtful like cheated on them or lied to them, then they may be trying to make you jealous in order to get back at you in some way.
2. Crossing boundaries
After a breakup, it’s normal and necessary for you two to put up some boundaries about how you interact. For example, you’re probably going to stop saying goodnight to one another, asking them how their day was and things like that. But a common mindgame an ex will play is to act like nothing has changed and insist that you still maintain the kind of closeness you had when you were dating.
They’ll get upset when you refuse to stay friends, when you don’t answer their texts, and when you treat them like an ex rather than something more. This is common for exes who didn’t have great boundaries to begin with, if they didn’t respect your privacy and independence while you were dating and they always insisted on closeness no matter what.
Exes like this can be extremely difficult to deal with. They’ll drop by unannounced, blow up your phone and just generally treat you like you’re still their partner when you’re clearly not.
There are even cases of exes who will “accidentally” run into you somewhere in order to get your attention. Scary stuff.
3. Contacting your friends and family
Obviously a lot of breakups include mutual friends and that can be tough to navigate. But if it seems like your ex is messaging people just to get your attention then they probably are. This can include things like flirting, or spreading rumors and lies. They might even go as far as contacting your family, asking about you or even using them to get in touch with you.
Exes who do this are seriously trying to get a reaction from you but don’t fall for it. Stay strong and continue to focus on yourself rather than getting drawn into their BS.
4. Sending cruel or manipulative messages
If your ex does this then they’re going for the direct approach. This can include things like texting you suggestively late at night, and then pulling away. It can also be straight up cruel messages like “you’ll never find someone as good as me” or “I hope you’re happy being all alone.”
Or perhaps your ex will “accidentally” send you a message that’s meant for someone else and follows it up with “oops, wrong person” just to get you wondering who they thought they were messaging.
This is truly desperate and can be truly hurtful for those of you on the receiving end. If you get a message like this, it can make you seriously reconsider whether or not you want to waste any more time on this person.
5. Playing the victim on social media
It’s pretty common for someone to post sad song lyrics or something after a breakup. But they may take it a step further and share posts about toxic or abusive relationships, to imply that you mistreated them.
It’s one thing to try to heal and move past a negative relationship but posting about it online is almost always to send a message to one particular person.
If you’re still not sure if your ex is playing mind games, look at their past behavior. If they were manipulative during your relationship then there’s a good chance that they won’t stop just because you’ve broken up.
Why Your Ex Is Playing Mind Games
Now let’s talk about WHY your ex is playing mind games with you after the breakup. The number one reason that an ex will do this, is actually a good one, if you’re hoping for a second chance that is.
They’re not sure what they want
Basically, they feel conflicted about the breakup and they’re considering taking you back.
You might wish they’d just come to you and tell you how they feel, but since they’re so conflicted, it would make sense that they’re displaying some hot and cold behavior towards you.
They miss having control
Manipulative people want to control the people around them. If you escape their grasp by moving on with your life, they won’t like that.
That’s why they’ll drag you right back into their orbit by doing stuff like this, while never fully letting you get as close to them as you’d like. Their goal isn’t to get you back but to keep you off balance, confused and to make sure that they can still dominate you even after you two have broken up.
Now I’m not a doctor but a person like this would be better off seeking the help of a psychologist. This isn’t necessarily a great sign for your chances but it’s something that you need to be aware of if you’re wondering what your next move is.
They want to get back at you
If you cheated on them, lied to them, or otherwise mistreated them then they see this as a way of getting back at you without doing any real harm. They may do things like string you along for weeks and then disappear completely or act interested, only to make fun of you behind your back.
They wan you back
Then there are exes that will play mind games with you because they genuinely want you to take notice and try to win them back. This is an immature approach but it’s also a common one. Exes like this want you to “fight for them” so rather than just admitting that they made a mistake, they’ll need you to take action and win them back so that they don’t lose face.
What To Do If Your Ex Is Playing Mind Games
And the worst thing about manipulative exes is that they may be in any or all of these categories AND their motivations may change from day to day without you even knowing. There are a lot of complicated feelings that come after a breakup.
There’s a good chance that they still love you, hate you, resent you, and feel an overwhelming need for your approval all at the same time.
So what should you do next if you want your ex back and you want the mind games to stop? Well first, since this situation is so volatile, you’ll need to proceed with caution.
Whatever you do, don’t engage with their manipulative behaviour. While it may allow you to get closer to them, giving into their mind games will not make it any easier to get them back. In fact, it will actually make you less desirable to them in the long run.
Because, while they may want you to get jealous, angry or upset at their behaviour, doing so will change the balance of power in the relationship.
If they know they can easily get a rise out of you through these mind games then they’ll subconsciously lose respect for you and see you as less valuable.
And above all else, you want to be in control of the situation rather than reacting to what they’re doing. Getting an ex back is about being in control and staying proactive.
Go No Contact
With that in mind, I recommend avoiding this mess by getting a clean break from your ex. It may be a difficult step to take but it’s a necessary one. You see, if you stay in regular contact with your ex, neither of you really have time to grieve the relationship and process what went wrong.
And this is especially true in situations where your ex is playing mind games with you. Since you and your ex are, essentially, still playing out the old conflicts in your relationship even now, without any of the benefits of closeness and intimacy that you once had.
That’s why I recommend No Contact to everyone in your situation. This means taking a full, 30 day break from interacting with your ex IN ANY WAY. In fact, if your ex is really playing mind games then I might extend this to 40 or 50 days. This may seem extreme but it’s completely necessary for just about anyone after a breakup–even more so if your ex is manipulating your emotions–because it allows you both time and space to miss one another.
RELATED: “Why Does My Ex Keep Contacting Me?”
The thing about No Contact is that it’s like going cold turkey for your relationship. While this will be hard for you, it will be even more difficult for your ex since they’ll realize that they did this to themselves.
This time apart will maximize their sadness and make them wonder if they may have missed their one chance at happiness. And beyond that, this time away from the negative cycle will allow any bad feelings they had surrounding the breakup to fade away.
So that’s why you need to start No Contact right now. Stop texting your ex back, watching their instagram stories, talking on the phone or communicating in any way.
Stick To The Plan
Given that your ex is trying to manipulate you, this could be a bit more difficult than a normal case where your ex respects your boundaries. They may go to extreme lengths to avoid No Contact like pretending to be in serious trouble, or reaching out to your friends and family to try to get in contact with you.
So I’m going to be very direct here: resist the urge to talk to your ex unless it’s a life or death situation. And, unless you’re a paramedic, there are very few situations where your ex will need that kind of help, right?
I know, it’s flattering to have someone who is so invested in you that they’re willing to act crazy to get your attention but this isn’t love, it’s manipulation. And remember, by giving into them, you’re actually making it more difficult to get back together, not easier.
And if you’re here, I’m guessing your ex won’t respond well to you suddenly breaking all contact. If your ex won’t leave you alone, and you feel it would help, don’t be afraid to make it clear to your ex that you’re trying to move on and that, while you care about them, you don’t think being in contact right now is going to be good for you. Don’t get drawn into a fight about this. Simply be clear and firm with your intention to cut off contact.
Focus on Self Improvement
Now that you’ve ripped off the bandaid, spend this 30 days focusing on yourself and not on your ex. I always recommend that my clients set goals during this time and take tangible steps towards achieving them. You’ll be surprised how big an effect this can have on your outlook following a breakup.
You see, it’s easy to get stuck in your head following a breakup, wondering what went wrong and what you could have done differently. By shifting your focus off the past and onto the future, you’ll feel better faster than you thought possible.
And you don’t have to climb Everest or anything. Your goal can be as simple as starting to learn an instrument, or experimenting with French cooking.
This little change will allow you to blow off steam, and when you can’t get your mind off your ex, it will give you a place to put your energy so that you don’t get drawn back into your ex’s mind games.
After the 30 days have passed, you can begin the process of re-attracting your ex. Hopefully this time apart will allow him or her to calm down and stop all the mind games so that you’re able to connect with them on a more honest level.