Breakups are hard enough, but when your ex keeps coming back but doesn’t seem to want you back it can be crushing.
It could be an ex-boyfriend or an ex-situation-whatever, either way it hurts and it messes with your mind.
Maybe he starts commenting on your social media accounts, maybe he shoots you friendly texts once in a while, maybe he wants to go out for coffee and catch up. If you give in when he wants to talk or see you, then you may be in a devastating cycle of gaining false hope and thinking he wants to get back together, only to experience to crushing blow of rejection once again when he either disappears or tells you he doesn’t want to try again.
But then why? Why does he keep coming back? Surely it has to mean something!
A lot of women will make the mistake of thinking he keeps coming back because they’re meant to be, because he really is her soulmate or twin flame and just can’t live without her (and to that I just have to say, if he was truly meant to be with you then he would actually be with you!).
This is the truth about why he keeps coming back into your life:
1. He doesn’t want to feel like the bad guy.
No guy, at least no normal, emotionally healthy guy, makes it a goal to break a woman’s heart. He doesn’t want to hurt you, he wants to believe you’re on the same page as him and everyone can move on and be happy.
A very long time ago, during my single days, I met a really hot guy who also happened to be really smart and nice, a jackpot!
And he was super into me right away. And given that things never ever seemed to work out the way I wanted, I figured the universe was finally throwing me a bone and I was getting what I deserved after so many years of heartache and rejection.
We went on a few dates and while we had fun, it was very clear this wasn’t a match. He was still very much in his “frat boy” era even though he had long since graduated, and I was in my late twenties and dating more seriously. It wasn’t just about having fun, I wanted to find someone I could get serious with.
I knew the truth, but he was just so hot I decided to ignore it and keep going, but then he not so surprisingly ghosted me. Even though I saw it coming, I was upset about it. But the show must go on.
Weeks went by and then I randomly ran into him on the streets of NYC (it’s always hard not to think of things as being meant to be when that happens, because seriously — what are the odds?!).
Now if I could go back in time and redo this moment, I would have just been cool and collected, I would have given him a friendly hello and been on my way. But that’s not what I did, I was overcome with a desperate need to win him over, to get things back on track. After some flirty and friendly banter, I invited him to a happy hour thing I was going to later that week.
He showed up, I tried to get him back, and I failed and felt like an idiot.
A few months go by and then he randomly texted me wishing me happy holidays. I immediately thought this meant he was interested in me again, that he had lingering feelings that were bubbling up to the surface.
But no, nothing came of it. But he would still shoot me friendly texts here and there. And I would usually reply enthusiastically and then the conversation would die off.
So what was his deal?
Well, I did run into him a few times at different events about a year after our “relationship” and I learned he’s just a really nice guy. I didn’t really pay attention to that part when were dating because I was so focused on getting him to like me, but he is just kind of a sweet little puppy and I think he just didn’t want to feel like the bad guy by ghosting a girl. So in his mind, he wasn’t really ghosting because he was still texting me on occasion. And I’m not giving him a total pass here. What he did was immature, but as I said, he was still in his frat boy era. And I don’t think he realized that he was giving me false hope every time he texted. I genuinely think he thought it was the kind thing to do, he didn’t want me to feel like I was just discarded.
No guy ever wants to feel like the bad guy. No guy is bragging to his friends about the girl he just ghosted.
2. He misses you.
Desire, attraction, and feelings of liking or loving someone are complex, these things don’t turn on and off like a light switch.
It’s possible he’s reaching out because he genuinely misses you and misses what you shared together… but that doesn’t mean he wants to get back together with you.
A coaching client of mine was going through a pretty amicable breakup. Basically, she was taking her guy for granted, he was fed up and broke up with her. He didn’t feel like he was what she wanted, he always felt inferior, like his true self wasn’t good enough. She realized the value of what she had as soon as he no longer had it and was desperate to get him back.
She tried her best but he wasn’t budging and it was clear he never would, his mind was set. She started to move on, but every few months he would resurface and text her something that punctured her fragile heart all over again. He would text song lyrics about lost love, and happy memories they shared, or say devastating things like: “I never loved anyone as much as you.” But it’s not because he had a change of heart, it’s because he genuinely missed her and sometimes his emotions would override his better judgment.
Matters of the heart are rarely black and white. It’s not as simple as, “I don’t want to be with you and so I no longer want anything to do with you.” You can recognize that someone isn’t the right person but still miss a lot of things about that person.
3. He wants to hook up…
People have needs… sometimes selfish needs. And if you hear from him from time to time and end up hooking up but then don’t hear from him again until he calls you one day and wants to hook up… well then you have your answer as to why he keeps coming back!
This is an easy trap to fall into when it’s a relationship with explosive chemistry but not much else to stand on. Chemistry is important, but it can never compensate for fundamental compatibility.
4. Ego fuel.
It feels good to be wanted and desired, very good. And sometimes our egos need that fuel of knowing we can still have something.
I’m sure he has lingering feelings as well, but if he’s reaching out to you mostly to gauge how you feel about him, then he’s most likely just looking for a nice ego-stroking.
5. It’s comfortable.
There is comfort in the familiar even if we know the familiar isn’t right for us. Our hearts and minds will always pull us toward the familiar. Most people do the same things every morning, think the same thoughts throughout the day, ascribe the same meanings to events, and feel drawn to the same types of people, usually those who feel familiar and mirror qualities of important figures in our past. We’re creatures of habit.
It’s especially likely he’s coming back out of comfort or familiarity if it was a long-term relationship or if he doesn’t have much else going on in his life and he feels the gaping hole of the space you left behind.
6. He has an avoidant attachment style.
Now here’s the tricky thing with people who are avoidantly attached … when you’re there and available, they may feel the need to run or pull away. But as soon as you’re not there, he feels a pull toward you.
If you’re in an on-again-off-again cycle with someone who has an avoidant attachment style, it’s possible that he doesn’t really know what he wants or how to manage his needs.
Attachment styles can be managed but it requires emotional maturity to do so. If he breaks up with you when he feels smothered, and comes crawling back when he craves closeness again, then his attachment style is running the show and he needs to get a better grip on it.
It is possible to have a relationship with someone who is avoidantly attached but they need to learn to express what they need instead of shutting you out. He needs to learn to say, “I need some space” instead of ghosting you or breaking up with you when it feels like too much.
7. He still likes you… he just doesn’t like you enough.
This is usually the most confusing of all. He has feelings for you, they just aren’t strong enough.
Usually, this happens after a “situationship.” He either ends things or ghosts… you’re devastated, but then he keeps coming back and giving you false hope.
The reason is he does like you… he does find you cool and attractive and fun and interesting… he just doesn’t like you enough to want to be in a relationship with you.
Now let’s talk about what to do if you’re in a situation with a guy who just won’t let you go.
First, instead of being mad that he keeps coming back, ask yourself why you keep allowing it. It’s easy to cut someone out of your life, you can just ignore him or block him. But you’re not doing that. So ask yourself why.
Why are you allowing him to toy with your emotions like this? Why do you still have hope that things can be salvaged?
If you’re allowing him back into your life, he’s most likely scratching an itch or meeting some sort of need, be it a conscious or unconscious one. Get to the root of it.
The fact is, we teach the world how to treat us. If you’re allowing him to treat you as a backup option or as some girl he texts when he’s bored, then you can’t really blame him. He’s only living up to a standard that you’ve set.
Next, ask yourself: do I really want to be with this man?
Sometimes we get caught up in the ego fuel, in the attention, in the drama of it all. That was the case for me with the sweet puppy boy… he was a nice distraction. I was so caught up in trying to get him to like me that I wasn’t really asking whether I wanted to be with him. And deep down I knew it wasn’t going to work with him, I just didn’t want to think about that.
Now if you’ve decided that he is the right man for you, and that you do want to give this another chance… that’s fine, but you need to realize that he also has to be on board in order for that to happen.
And to find out where his head is at, you’re going to have to be a little vulnerable and put yourself out there and say. Say something along the lines of, “Look, I like you and I want to give this a chance” and see what he says.
If you get vague, non-answers, then that’s your answer. Don’t be seduced by the “maybes,” if it’s not a sure thing, then you have to let go and move on… or continue to torture yourself, it’s your life!
You get one life, and if someone is ruining your ability to enjoy that life and they aren’t treating you the way you know you deserve to be treated, then you have to love yourself enough to let them go fully.