By Chris Seiter

Published on February 9th, 2022

Today we’re going to talk about why guys start caring when you stop. This is something we’ve seen a lot in our coaching practice and goes as far back as one of our first recorded podcast episodes where a client noticed an ex suddenly started pursuing her.

After close to a decade of researching breakups I think I’ve come close to explaining this interesting phenomenon of why men start to care when you stop so suddenly. It really boils down to three concepts

  1. The Avoidant Nostalgic Reverie
  2. The Reprioritization Of Your Life After A Breakup
  3. The Psychology Of Playing Hard To Get

Let’s get started.

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Understanding The Avoidant Nostalgic Reverie

If you haven’t already do yourself a favor and watch this,

In it I essentially argue that one of the reasons a guy “starts to care” after a prolonged period of not caring has something to do with avoidant nostalgia.

First things first, what is an avoidant attachment style?

According to The Attachment Project,

An avoidant type would often perceive themselves as ‘lone wolves’: strong, independent, and self-sufficient; not necessarily in terms of physical contact, but rather on an emotional level.

Essentially these are men who are obsessed with their independence. One of my colleagues and friends Antia Boyd tells an amusing story that perfectly encapsulates avoidants.

She had a client that was madly in love with this guy and the guy ended up needing to go on an airplane for a trip. She asked the guy if he could just text her when he landed so she would know he was ok. He rolled is eyes but agreed.

An hour goes by…

Then two…

Then three…

Then ten…

Then twelve…

No text came. Extremely worried about him she decides to call him. He ends up picking up and yelling at her for not being independent enough. 

This story perfectly encapsulates how avoidants operate. They believe in independence and are driven by this core wound where they fear they will lose their own independence in a relationship.

Yet as we’ve studied avoidants we’ve noticed an interesting pattern develops.

  • Only after you’ve left them alone for a significant period of time
  • After they’ve moved on to someone else
  • After you’ve moved on to someone else

Does the avoidant start to have this extreme nostalgia.

Free to Attach calls this the phantom ex syndrome,

An avoidant person often has a story of a perfect ex in a relationship that wasn’t fully realized, the ‘one that got away’ to whom no one else can measure up.

Often we find that you become their phantom ex after a breakup because you’re top of mind and what’s fascinating is that this is the reason we’ve found that a lot of avoidants often end up in these on again/off again relationships.

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They start off with this nostalgic reverie and want to “relive” the good times. So, they start to become highly interested in pursuing things with you again but the reality never lives up to their unrealistic expectations.

Kind of like that reality vs expectation scene from 500 days of summer,

Let’s move on and talk a bit about another interesting thing I’ve noticed.

The Reprioritization Of Your Life After A Breakup

While I acknowledge that a lot of the people reading this are probably not pursuing an ex but rather a guy who just seems distant I still encourage you to pay attention to what I have to say here because I’ve noticed it happens a lot.

Above I mentioned that I first started noticing guys start to care when you stop as early as when I first began my Podcast. If you aren’t familiar in 2015 I started a podcast called The Ex Boyfriend Recovery Podcast (really original, right?)

The premise of the podcast was simple. I allowed people to leave voicemails and then I would answer those voicemails.

On the third episode of the podcast a woman named Natalie called in and left a voicemail where she broke her situation down for me,

  • It has been 2 years since the breakup with her ex.
  • In that 2 years she has started her own business, started dating again and feels very confident.
  • Her ex has kind of come back into the picture lately congratulating her.
  • When she was with him she kind of didn’t do a good job of having her own life/going out with friends.
  • So, now that she does “have her own life” he has started finding her attractive again.
  • Why?

For this I think I’m going to go back to attachment styles.

So, where the first big point I made was all about avoidants and how they handle breakups this is all about anxious attachment styles.

So, I’ve always considered anxious attachment styles to be extremely caring but if they have one flaw it’s that they put too much of their identity within relationships. Once their partner seems to push them away they have a hard time giving that partner space.

And this is what I think happened in Natalie’s situation. Notice how she mentioned that she “didn’t do a good job of having her own life/going out with friends.” This is a classic anxious trait. He entire identity was wrapped up in the relationship.

Yet it’s only after she “has her own life” that he ex starts to find her attractive again.


It’s because she’s exhibiting secure traits. There’s so much more to life than relationships. In fact, I think a serious case can be made that you become more attractive if you have priorities that you can about just as much as your partner.

Often this is where the core idea of the holy trinity concept stemmed from.

By dividing your life up into these three categories you can find other things that you prioritize and as a result you become more attractive in general. So, often I think the misconception people have on why men suddenly find them attractive when they stop caring isn’t so much about the fact that they stopped caring. It’s the fact that they started caring about other things to the level that they cared about their guy.

Which in turn taps into that avoidant nostalgic reverie I was talking about above.

Of course, there is still one super obvious explanation for why guys suddenly start caring when you stop.

The Psychology Of Playing Hard To Get

For years, dating coaches have told their clients,

Just play hard to get.

But does it actually work?

Well psychology says it does. In fact, a study done in 2020 called “Playing hard to get really works, here’s why” found the following things,

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  • A person who is perceived as hard to get is associated with a greater mate value
  • Study participants made greater efforts on/and found more sexually desirable those potential dates they perceived as hard to get
  • Study participants made greater efforts to see those again for whom they had made efforts in the first place

But I want to add an interesting twist to help shift your paradigm so you look at “playing hard to get” the same way I do. I think it all boils down to perceived value. If there’s one thing in life that you should value more than anything else it’s time.

After all, time is the one thing once spent that you can never get back.

So, in essence when you’re playing hard to get you are basically using your time to show your partner that you are valuable and you won’t spend it on just anyone or anything. The problem I find most women have is they are so desperate just to have a guy to “fall for them” that they forget the basic insight of putting a premium on their time.

Last night I got into watching this documentary called, The Tinder Swindler,

It was fascinating for me because the documentary started off from the point of view of this woman who got swindled by this guy. But just hearing her talk about how she wanted to find someone to fall for showed me that she made a common mistake in playing hard to get.

This guy swindled her because she was too swept up into the romantic notions of “disney love.” She also fell for the swindler because he seemed extremely hard to get.

  • He invited her to some upscale hotel where she felt out of place (wow, this guy must be valuable.)
  • He takes her to this uber expensive restaurant and pays for the meal (wow, this guy must be rich)
  • He invites her on a private jet (wow, this guy must be really rich and someone important)

Everything this swindler used to attract the women he swindled was meant to foster this manipulation that he’s hard to get.

Now, I realize I’m making a really weird comparison here but I’m doing it to show you how effective “playing hard to get” can be. Sometimes you’re better off taking a risk in being patient and not allowing whatever anxious insecurities you have deep inside taking over.

Put a premium on your time. Don’t waste it on pointless men.

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