By Chris Seiter

Published on June 10th, 2023

We’re going to have an honest (and hopefully all encompassing discussion) about exactly what happens when an ex sees you successful.

Well, specifically after researching and compiling real success data I’ve found that typically four things typically will happen.

  1. They’ll fall victim to an opportunity cost feeling
  2. They’ll fall victim to the prevailing hypothesis scientists have about success
  3. They’ll probably be shell shocked
  4. They’ll start fantasizing about you again

But like I said, I want this to be an all encompassing discussion so I’d also like to talk about,

  • Why I believe success makes your ex want you back
  • The role phantom exes play into this

There’s quite a bit to talk about today so let’s dive in.

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Thing #1: The Opportunity Cost Feeling

The first potential outcome is that they may fall victim to what I’ve coined as the “opportunity cost feeling.”

I created this concept specifically for our discussion today, drawing parallels to the stock market.

We’ve all heard stories of people who missed out on investing in stocks that later skyrocketed.

The common lament is, “If only I had invested in Apple back in 1990.”

The regret stems from the knowledge that Apple was a massive success, and they missed the chance to benefit from that by holding onto their position.

Success in relationships, or after breakups, shares similarities with this phenomenon. There’s always an opportunity cost.

A breakup is essentially your ex believing they can find someone better.

There’s always a hint of the ‘grass being greener on the other side’ in nearly every breakup, even though it’s often not explicitly stated.

But is the grass truly greener?

The opportunity cost they’re risking depends on that.

Sometimes, betting on a different “stock” pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Your individual success can influence how their decision ultimately pans out. Regret often kicks in severely when they see you thriving, as they realize the opportunity cost of moving on to someone else or breaking up with you may not have been worth it.

Thing #2: I Believe Most Exes Are Hardwired To Be Drawn To Success

This might sound odd, but I’ve just spent the last hour searching for a study that confirms a hypothesis I have.

This hypothesis won’t necessarily blow your mind – it’s something you’ll likely agree with once you hear it.

I believe that we, as human beings, are instinctively drawn to success.

Yet, here’s the thing – I can’t find a single credible study to back this.

No peer-reviewed papers, no scientific research, no psychologists.

It’s not that I think the study hasn’t been done, I just don’t believe it’s been framed the way I envision it in my mind.

Most studies I find posit that attractive people enjoy more success in life and are granted more opportunities.

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But that’s not my question. I’m asking, are people drawn to success?

Does success make us more attractive?

I believe it does, but I can’t provide scientific evidence. I can however, provide an argument rooted in experience.

Have you ever heard of the “herd effect?”

A couple of weeks ago, my wife gave me a birthday gift of visiting my parents in Texas. She also got me tickets to my favorite baseball team, the Astros. Despite the Astros’ recent scandals, my lifelong fandom, rooted in my Houston upbringing, remains.

I apologize if that offends you.

What intrigued me most was the crowd’s size at the last game, something I hadn’t witnessed since attending my last game back in 2005.

Following a rough patch for the Astros around 2012-14, where attendance was so poor that free tickets were given out just to fill the stands,

(It didn’t help)

A turnaround occurred.

As the team started winning and championships started coming, every game became a sellout, epitomizing the attraction to success.

This realization became clearer than ever during the game I attended a few weeks ago.

I’d never seen the Astros’ games as crowded in my entire life. After one of our players hit a game-winning home run, I remember walking back to the car with my parents, engulfed by the surrounding euphoria.

I thought to myself, ‘It was never like this back when I was a kid attending the baseball games.’ The Astros weren’t particularly good then, but they are now, and it’s evident that people are drawn to the success of that.

On a smaller scale, at least, I bet your ex will be drawn to your success as well.

Thing #3: They’ll Be Shocked

For this, I actually conducted some research. I ventured into our private community to find a success story involving an ex’s reaction to success.

This particular individual ran into their ex about seven or eight months post-breakup.

By then, they had done a lot of work refocusing their priorities on their family and new job instead of their ex. They had also started seeing someone new, a person who was incredibly supportive, brought them happiness, and helped distract them from their ex.

During their unexpected encounter with the ex, this individual mentioned they were seeing someone new. Their exact words were,

I told him I am seeing someone too. At first I don’t think he believed me, but then as he proved more, I could see his reaction was shocked. As you can see, I was actually happy and certain it was going somewhere positive with the new guy. This was an interesting catch up and I regarded him as a friend and was honest. I think he was shocked I’ve moved on.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

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I see a couple of things happening here, tied to the pedestal effect and the concept of a paradigm shift.

A recurring theme on Ex-Boyfriend Recovery is the importance of initiating this paradigm shift. Your ex may inherently believe that you always want them back, that they can return to you whenever they wish, or that you’re always an available option. Essentially they believe you’ve placed them on a pedestal.

However, when you engage in a conversation with them and they witness your success without them, it can be shell-shocking. It shifts their paradigm, overturning their previous beliefs about you.

This situation also ties back to the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response.

Here, we’re witnessing the freeze response.

They’re so shell-shocked that they’re unsure of how to react, which entirely reframes their perspective of you.

Thing #4: He’ll Start Fantasizing About You Again

Once again, I pulled from our private community a success story, specifically, one where the person ended up getting engaged. As evidenced by the shiny ring in the screenshot I’ve attached, things went well for this person.

However, a paragraph they wrote detailing their success story really struck a chord.

They stated,

“I dealt with him turning cold after the breakup. He deleted me off all social media platforms. He removed our photos from his page. He even refused to let me see the dogs we’d mutually agreed to co-parent. He shifted from rarely posting on social media to being active all day, every day. Ultimately, he was the one to reach out via email. I believe what triggered this was him seeing my revenge body progress on Facebook and my decision to delete our shared dog page on Instagram.”

It’s the “revenge body” comment that grabs my attention.

From afar, he’s seeing her success after their breakup.

She’s moving forward without him.

Moreover, she’s not just leaving him behind, she’s thriving, possibly looking better than she ever did during their relationship.

This situation not only triggers nostalgia, but also sets off a fantasizing principle where he starts reminiscing about “their time together.” If you read between the lines, he’ll start imagining what it would be like to reconcile.

If she continues to post pictures of her weight loss journey or share bikini-clad beach shots, these fantasies can become all-consuming.

Why Success Makes Your Ex Want You Back

So why is it, though, that success makes your ex want you back?

Essentially, that’s the entire argument I’m trying to make in this article.

It’s crucial to reframe it as not necessarily success that makes your ex want you back.

Yes, I do agree that happens, but I think the aspect people aren’t considering is success from AFAR.

The avoidant element here is crucial.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

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Through interviewing our own client base, we’ve found that most of our clients believe their ex has dismissive avoidant tendencies.

If you understand anything about dismissive avoidance, you’d comprehend that their core wound revolves around the idea of independence.

They crave the lone wolf persona. They want to fantasize about you from a distance.

My research on avoidance essentially indicates that individuals who move on from their exes, who find success without their exes, or who move on with other people or date other people, tend to trigger the avoidant’s latent romanticism.

This allows the avoidant to feel comfortable enough to start missing them.

I’ve discussed this in so many videos, it’s almost laughable.

However, what typically happens is it places the avoidant in a situation where they’re more likely to categorize you as a phantom ex.

Understanding How The Phantom Ex Plays A Role Into This

Now, there are some key aspects to understand about the phantom ex phenomenon—mainly five elements:

  1. idealization,
  2. comparison,
  3. emotional safety,
  4. unavailability,
  5. and the impact on relationships.


With idealization, people with avoidant attachment styles tend to idealize their ex-partner. When they idealize their ex, they’re generally only remembering the positive qualities and the good times.

Much of this bears a resemblance to the peak-end rule, which states that people remember experiences based on two distinct points—the peak moments and the end moments.

With the phantom ex, they’re only going to hyperfocus on those peak moments—the peak positive moments, if you will.

They’ll downplay the negatives or, in some cases, even completely forget the negatives. This creates an almost unrealistic image of an ex-partner and the past relationship that they had.

What triggers this is if they end up seeing you successful. This can also cause them to place you in a category of your own. They see you thriving and start thinking, “You know what, they had that positive quality when they were with me.”

It underscores their ability to slot you into the phantom ex role.


The “phantom ex” often becomes a standard against which all future partners are compared. This can make it difficult for the avoidantly attached person to form deep connections with new partners, as they may feel that no one measures up to their ex.

Emotional Safety

The idea of a “phantom ex” can serve as an emotional safety mechanism for people with avoidant attachment styles. By holding onto an idealized past relationship, they can keep new partners at a distance, avoiding the vulnerability and emotional intimacy that comes with a new relationship.


Often, the “phantom ex” is someone who is no longer available as a romantic partner, either because they’ve moved on to a new relationship, they live far away, or for some other reason. This unavailability can make the “phantom ex” feel safer to the avoidantly attached person, as there’s no risk of actual rejection or intimacy.

Impact on Relationships

The presence of a “phantom ex” can create difficulties in a person’s current relationships. New partners may feel that they’re constantly being compared to the ex and that they can never measure up. T

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