By Chris Seiter

Updated on February 24th, 2021

A few years ago I noticed an interesting phenomenon with my clients.

It seemed as if exes would want them back after they moved on or gave up.

Until recently I was always a little confused as to why this was but I’ve recently stumbled across three scientific explanations that can not only explain why but can also help us understand why strategies like the no contact rule work so well.

Today I’m going to explain to you why exes seem to come back after you move on or ignore them.

Let’s begin.

The Three Reasons Exes Come Back After You Move On

There are three big reasons that can explain why exes are drawn to you after you’ve appeared to move on.

Those reasons are,

  1. They grow interested because of the uncertainty principle
  2. They are drawn to you because of reactance
  3. The Zeigarnik Effect creates an open loop they need to close

Like always, I’d be shocked if you knew everything I am talking about.

What I’d like to do now is take each one of these scientific concepts (because that’s really what they are) and dissect them so you can understand how they correlate to your ex growing interested in you when you ignore them or move on.

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Concept #1: Your Ex Growing Interested In You Because Of The Uncertainty Principle

The uncertainty principle is without a doubt one of the most underrated principles in ex recovery.

So, what is it?

Great question!

The Uncertainty Principle: Is a scientific theory designed to help us understand how people react to certain conditions and uncertain conditions.

Perhaps the thing that the uncertainty principle is most popular for is their “rat maze” experiment.

People loved it when I talked about it in my YouTube video above,

So, what is the rat experiment?

Well, scientists wanted to discover how rats reacted to attempting to get cheese by completing two different mazes.

One was very complicated and presented all kinds of uncertain conditions,

The other wasn’t very complicated at all and presented certain conditions,

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The results were fascinating.

As it turns out the rat that had the easy maze went over to sniff the cheese and didn’t really eat it for a long time.

On the flip side the rat that had to endure the difficult maze with all kinds of uncertainty devoured the cheese upon finding it.


Well, scientists theorized that because the rat invested time and energy into getting the cheese the rat cherished the reward more than the rat who knew it had a sure thing.

As it turns out this behavior is mirrored in human beings when it comes to breakups.

This article is all about exes showing interest after you have moved on or ignored their attempts to talk to you.

In other words, at first your ex was probably operating under the assumption that they could get you back whenever they wanted.

They thought you were a sure thing.

However, by “moving on” you indicated to them that you weren’t a sure thing.

That uncertainty raises your value.

Concept #2: They Are Drawn To You Because of Reactance

I talk a lot about the concept of reactance to my coaching clients.

And half the time I feel like it goes in one ear and out the other. I’m not saying that to upset anyone I’m just saying it to show you how undervalued I think this concept is.

If you didn’t know,

Reactance: Refers to how people respond when their behavior freedoms become threatened.

Scarcity and reactance kind of walk hand in hand.

Every year the world practically becomes capsized by the concept of “Black Friday.”

Essentially everything in stores is on sale but only for a certain amount of time.

This little “sale” results in behavioral reactions like this,

Everyone jumping over themselves to get the sale.

But what if I were to tell you that the idea of Black Friday only works because of “reactance.”

By limiting one resource human beings will react to obtain it.

Reactance teaches us that when humans have their behavior freedoms threatened they will fight, scratch and claw to get that freedom back.

This is often my big talking point when I am trying to prove to someone that the no contact rule is working but it’s also a great talking point for explaining why exes “suddenly” become interested after it appears to them that you have moved on.

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Think about it.

By moving on your ex will believe that any potential future that the two of you had together is gone forever.

The freedom of that future, even if they weren’t totally interested in it, jerks them into reacting.

Concept #3: The Zeigarnik Effect Creates An Open Loop They Need To Close

The Zeigarnik Effect is another huge talking point you’ll hear me rambling about on this website.

Put simply, the zeigarnik effect states that human beings remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones.

I’d like to put you through an interesting little thought experiment that I think will highlight this point perfectly.

Pretend for a moment that you invite me to your house,

Now, you let me into your house and as you go to close the door I prevent you from doing so by asking you all kinds of questions.

I then proceed to lead you away from the open door and continue the conversation in a different room.

While I’m talking one thought invades your mind.

I need to close that door and I need to close it as soon as possible.

Your brain keeps coming up with all kinds of scenarios that could potentially come true and they consume your every thought.

Eventually you hit the boiling point and you absolutely have to close the door no matter what.

Why did your brain go through that rigorous process of obsessing about the open door?

Because it was an interrupted task.

This is the zeigarnik effect at work.

Breakups are often left with business unfinished.

One party typically wants to break up more than the other party and as time goes by that fact just gnaws at them. This is especially true if your ex believes he or she didn’t get the proper closure after the breakup.

By moving on you indicate that, that unfinished business will never be completed.

It can drive them nuts and they can react by trying to impress you or win you back.

Recap And Comments

I want you to ask questions.

I want you to be able to get the answers that you deserve. So, please do not be afraid to comment.

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Ok, lets do a quick recap of everything that I covered in todays article.

  • Moving on and having an ex try to win you back is pretty common
  • There are three concepts that really are responsible for this.
  • The uncertainty Principle
  • The idea of reactance
  • The zeigarnik effect

Again, I want to reiterate that I expect and want you to comment and ask me your questions. I’m usually very good about responding to people within 24 hours.

So, don’t be afraid.

Also, if you haven’t already watched my video on this topic I’d make sure to do that in tandem with this article.

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64 thoughts on “Why Exes Come Back After You Move On”

  1. Bill

    September 6, 2021 at 9:01 am

    Hi there so my ex girlfriend and I broke up in January then I made a few mistakes by begging and pleading then she blocked me in march but then reached out at the end of may. Then we started sleeping together for another 6 weeks then she went cold again but would reply to my texts but would not see me that went on for another more weeks then I met another girl in the mean time that was in late July so I told her then she got jealous but we slept together again on two separate occasions in august but now I don’t no what to do i no there is something still there but I don’t no how to get her to want me back in her life permanently please help

  2. Tina

    August 1, 2021 at 9:10 am

    This website has helped me a lot. My ex broke up with me after 8 years. I brought him gifts, was super nice and to him. I called and text him all day every day. Nothing seemed to work. One day I had enough and left him alone. After 5 days my ex text me if I was OK. And for three weeks I let him instigate contact first.
    After four weeks of this, my ex told me he wanted to try again and still loved me.
    By this point, I had kind of moved on and was getting over him. In my mind, I had prepared life without him. In this time. I had done loads of things to keep me busy and stop myself from calling him and texting him endlessly.
    We didn’t talk on the phone, it was all texts.
    By this time I realised I actually didn’t want my ex and I was happier without him and that I could never trust him again. As he has broken up with me several times over 8 years and has said some really hurtful things I could never forget. I could never trust him with my vulnerability. If someone really loves you they would see your value and not take you for granted until they lose you.
    It is true, people always realise what they lost when it’s gone.
    To those struggling with the 30 day contact rule. It works! You just got to keep strong! Love yourself!
    Stay blessed everyone!

  3. Katie

    January 31, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    My ex and I split up only after 2 months of being official as he realized he wasn’t completely over his previous long term relationship last October. I was so crushed by this as we had a really good relationship that well down hill out of the blue. I handled the breakup well however and didn’t argue or cry to him. He had been the one to push for a serious/ exclusive relationship so early on which thinking back may have been a red flag. I felt that I wouldn’t have been a rebound as he had dated other girls before me and had talked seriously about a future together.

    I wanted him to come back so badly and implemented the no contact rule for months. I even started to move on. A few days ago he finally did, after seeing me around our neighborhood. He acted like he hadn’t hurt me and that he was in a better place which led to him asking me for a coffee. I agreed however noticed he was taking hours to respond to me. This really upset me as I felt that he should have tried harder as he was the one who essentially ended our relationship. I also felt like my time was being disrespected and that he was playing games again. Eventually, after 2 days of trying to make a plan work (he took his time responding) I pulled the plug and told him that meeting up isn’t a good idea and that it was nice he was doing better and I hoped it remained that way for him. He became passive aggressive and wished me all the best in a way he never messaged.

    My question is, what are the chances of him coming back after that? I would love to meet up to get answers on what had happened and see where we both are at mentally. I’m questioning my decisions on pulling the plug on the date and essentially want to ask if my chances of a reconciliation is gone? What steps can I take now for him to come back?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      February 6, 2021 at 6:10 pm

      Hi Katie, you need to read the articles and work on yourself, following the steps advised in the articles on how to show your ex you are the best version of yourself and that you are doing great. Read the texting articles so that you can get your ex interested in talking to you again

  4. katie

    January 8, 2021 at 12:29 am

    Okay so I have bee in a on off again relationship with my ex for over a year and he is all way the one to end it with me it is normally to do with his kids and ex wife that live in Spain he normally all way text me saying we are dun or I am ending it cos I am moving to Spain for my kids and I have bee getting that for the past year.

    the time I get these texts will all way be when he is deployed (sorry should of said he is a soldier)

    We would not speak for weeks the longest we have not spoke to each other was two months and after that he would all way come back and would be sorry and could I for give him as he is just messed up cos he is missing his kids and he need space so I would all ways be understanding and try to help him through the tough time he was having but give it a month or two and he would end it again for the same reason the longest we ever was together was 4 moths straight

    He took me to meet his dad and sister ad wanted to move i with me as all that crap but he keeps ending it and then coming back so this time after I got the it over text and was block and then got emails saying move on I do it care about u no move I did what he said I found a lovely guy and moving on with him

    My ex found out cos he unblock me and saw me with someone els and now I have had my ex calling me been on the phone to me for over a hour telling me he wants me and then spnapping at me saying he pushed every one away so we can be together and that he never told me it was over he just need space and I should of non that and now I am the one that has messed everything up like ummm no he did not get that I was so over the Breaking up and getting back together and now all I am getting is texts and call email saying he wants me back and that he is flying back to the Uk for my birthday he is putting more time in now to get me than he was when we was together like wtf is going on

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      January 25, 2021 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Katie, I would say this is the typical reaction of a guy who does not want you, but also does not want anyone else to have you. Carry on with the new guy. This ex of yours is only panicking because you are moving on. He will promise you the world to win you back, then when he has you he will end things again because of another excuse.

  5. Twin

    August 17, 2020 at 11:10 am

    I work with my ex. I see him once a week. In a year I won’t have to see him much because my business will be more on its feet. We were on and off for a year. And it finally ended when he admitted he has been seeing a new person for the past month or so. He spends all this time with her that he didn’t spend with me. He’s afraid of abandonment and I “left him” (for a few days) after a months and months of him not prioritizing, being unrealizable etc. He did the same to his ex wife and she left.

    I don’t know what to do. I want to break all ties with him but if I do that, I won’t be able to support my new business. Like I mentioned, we work together and to leave now would be career suicide.

    At the same time…I miss him. I am still bonded to him and want to get back together. I think about how he’s spending time w this new girl the way he didn’t with me (or his ex). For all I know they are going through the same honeymoon phase that I did with him.

    Is it possible to move on/ no contact woth someone I work with/interact with?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      August 17, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Hey Twin, yes it is possible you need to follow a limited no contact where you would only speak with him for business reasons and nothing else, so avoid talking to him where and when you can while also appearing professional and civil with him. As he has now met someone new your NC needs to be 45 days not 30. Be sure that you spend this time reading the articles to help you understand the program and particularly about being Ungettable

  6. M

    June 26, 2020 at 11:24 am

    My ex and I were together for 6 months. He cheated 2.5 months into the relationship and I found out a month ago and broke it off immediately. He’s been texting and calling since apologising and saying he misses/loves me. I’ve seen him once and he kept saying he wanted to get back together. He kept texting and calling even though I said I needed space. I texted him telling him to stop contacting me and that I couldn’t be friends or get back together because there is too much hurt. He’s said he wouldn’t contact me again. However, I sent a similar message a few days before saying to not contact me and he texted and rang constantly since that one. I have blocked him now. Should I expect to hear from him? He’s leaving the country in 7/8 months and I’m wondering if he’ll reach out before then. Sorry for sounding stupid!

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      July 22, 2020 at 8:12 pm

      Hi M, I cant really answer the question for you. If he is blocked that makes it difficult for him to reach out and if he is leaving he may eventually give up trying

  7. Lara

    June 15, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    I finally told him to f*ck off (literally)
    And told him I’m sick of being played

    And told him it’s not cool to say I love you and keep me on a string….

    You think he will contact me?

    And what should I do?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      June 15, 2020 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Lara, if you want him back, but he keeps cheating or playing games. Then you need to stick to your NC for at least 45 days where you are working on living your life and showing your best self. I think if you have a back and forth relationship then yes it is a good chance he will come back, but you need to set boundaries where you will no longer be treated badly.

  8. Joe

    May 19, 2020 at 2:38 am

    So I was hoping you’d have some kind of insight on this. Now I was depressed and self destructive for my entire life. My ex, cheated on me every time she got a chance. Finally left me for her boss. I hit the wall and idk how but I found strength, I now want to be alive. We have children so there’s a line of communication for that. I’ve been getting a lot of female attention. Idk why, but I like it. She’s been acting strange, she’s actually been respectful to me. I will always love her but I don’t trust her. I want to start a life with someone else. Is this wrong? I’ve tried to let her know that I only want to be friends(for the kids sake). Is there anyway to soften the blow when she finds out that I am not willing to let her have my heart anymore?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      May 20, 2020 at 9:32 pm

      Hi Joe, I don’t think there is a way to soften the “blow” but you need to remain consistent with your message you are wanting to be civil for the sake of the children. Stop all conversations about relationships or getting back together. You have the right to be with who you want to be with and if you feel that you will never trust her that is the affects of her cheating on you multiple times. I think the best explanation you can give her is that you want to keep things as they are because of the children and how you are now getting along.

  9. Steph

    February 9, 2020 at 7:58 am

    I have been dating my boyfriend for 9 months . Things are great we have fun we communicate very well. He is the most honest guy I have ever met. This GS moved slow for us. But that was ok with both of us. We have both told each other how much we loved each other and how deep our connection is for each other. His ex of 2.5 years wife had recently found out about me . I am the first girl he has been serious with ß there breakup found out he was in love and serious with me. She 3 weeks ago approached him that she would like to try again. After brushing it off for 3 weeks she still continued but made several promises that she has “changed ” and made mistakes in there marriage. Even though his feels are strong and he loves me a lot . He feels though he has to see if she means what she says. He is having a hard time letting me go but also has to see if she’s the person she said she has changed I to. He said for hhim Tobe able to sleep at night he has to see. He doesn’t want to let me go and this isn’t goodbye but be patient. If she has not changed he will close the door forever and be with me… she’s excited but he’s very skeptical about this . The stakes are high on what she is claiming to have changed. Do you thinks she’s doing this because of m being in the picture or could she really be wanting to try again for different reasons??? I want to keep fighting for him because I know what we have is real and great and he loves me as he keeps telling me .

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      February 17, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Hi Steph, so I am going to be honest here. Are you happy to be second best to his ex wife? I would focus on yourself and make it clear that he is not going to come back to you if things do not work out with his ex wife. If he loved you then he would not go back to her after two and a half years of being apart! He either chooses you or loses you!

  10. Trasa

    October 1, 2019 at 3:53 am

    My ex is insanely stubborn and he is a very confident person. Once his mind is set he doesn’t change it. Together a year and a half, he was looking at engagement rings and almost bought us a house but he broke up with me a month ago for the second time. The first breakup in May was hard on us both emotionally. He broke up with me bc he didn’t want to waste his time on something that wasn’t forever. We loved each other, but I was just scared to commit. After I realized I didn’t want to live without him. i initiated contact too soon as neither of us had a chance to be apart before we tried working it out.The second breakup he said he fell out of love with me. We left on good terms. I messaged him a week after the breakup and his responses were short. But we haven’t made contact since. I think he is pulling the flight response bc he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. My problem was I tried fixing where we left off. I should have tried starting a fresh relationship. I’m disappointed. I’m not sure he’ll even give me a third chance to show him I’ve changed. I wish I had found this advice after the first breakup.

  11. Abi

    September 19, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Hey! How do i get my ec back if i work with them. How should i be around them? He would always smile at me if we caught eye contact but wont speak to me unless i initiate

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      September 21, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Abi, when working with an ex you need to do a limited no contact and then you need to gradually build up the texting phase and jsut try to limit the amount of time you spend around him and talking too him.

  12. Jim

    September 17, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    My ex broke up with me she’s blocked me everywhere and I have no way of contacting her. I belive she’s trying to move on which I have come to terms with. She’s gone a bit self destructive she’s drinking alot and she even propositioned one of my married mates which is really upset me for a number of reasons. I guess I’m asking if the principal’s that if I move on she might come back still apply if it’s not me that has applied no contact and I was broken up with. The day before our breakup she said she couldn’t wait to have my children etc which to me seems rather odd. We have broken up about 4 times and gotten back together after she realised that she would push me away when she would get overwhelmed by our relationship. Is there any advice you could provide me in knowing what to do next does this apply to ex girlfriends or is it focused on men?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      September 19, 2019 at 4:54 pm

      Hey Jim, sure go check out

  13. KB

    September 10, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    My ex thought I moved on (I made it seem I was living life and happy enough without him), so he convinced himself he too had to move on. How do I deal with that?

    1. Shaunna

      September 12, 2019 at 8:43 pm

      Hi KB, if you’ve completed a NC then you need to read up on texting your ex and how to do the being there method. There is plenty of articles on the website 🙂

  14. Ushi

    August 26, 2019 at 12:16 am

    It has been two weeks after our breakup. I am following no contact rule these days. He kept sending messages regarding our studies. But I didn’t reply. Now he is sending me texts saying i am disturbing his earlier ex and so on. Something what I didn’t do! ‍♀️

  15. Kay

    August 21, 2019 at 6:51 am

    My ex and I only split up a few weeks ago, he was adamant he didn’t want a relationship and told me to ‘accept it’
    A couple of days ago he ‘liked’ me on a dating app that I downloaded. I only downloaded the app just to speak to new people to be honest. I find it strange he hasn’t contacted me in a weeks and ignored my last contact to him a couple of weeks ago. So why would be like me on a dating app? I was unsure whether to like back, but I ended up doing so. He hasn’t reached out to me though. Will this have ruined my chances of reconciliation if he saw me on a dating app so soon after the split? And was he just acknowledging that he saw me on the app or to see if I would like back to get some kind of ego boost? It’s really confusing.

  16. Dutchess

    August 19, 2019 at 3:23 am

    I have had 3 ex-boyfriends contact me this year. These men go back over the last 10yrs. I did the ‘no contact’ very well since I did the breaking up. Two cheated (one got a baby out if it), the other became a drug addict behind my back. Very serious reasons I broke up over.

    Are some exes that stupid that they think I’d take them back?! Why would they send me text messages like “I miss you” years later?

    Is there a control personality trait that makes certain people unable to move on if they were the one broken up on? No offense to your article here, but I’m shocked as to why I’m getting these messages sooo much later after the break up. I don’t want them. I don’t even have the phone numbers in my phone anymore. And the relationships I’m talking about here were about 2 years long.

    Any insight would be appreciated.

  17. Jazmine

    February 18, 2019 at 1:51 am

    My ex & I haven’t talked in 3 weeks since the break up. I’ve been doing better… (finally) I did pretty much everything wrong at first.. begged.. made myself look like an idiot but then I gave up. He hasn’t texted me and I CERTAINLY wont text him & don’t plan on it. So proud of myself for being strong and taking your advice to leave it be.. I thought he forgot about me honestly.. but then my friend called me today.. she ran into him and he rambled on about me for a while.. good things and bad things (to a best friend?).. even said exactly how many days we haven’t talked… like he’s counting? what? Could no contact be getting to him or am I just being too hopeful? The break up was all him & I didn’t want it at all!

  18. Sean

    February 13, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    I broke up with my ex gf because she cheated on me. I cought her with someonelse…after 3 months of breakup, i met my highschool sweetheart and we started dating. When i thought i’m ok with my ex, i became confused because my ex text me and she said she misses me. She want me back really bad and willing fix things. I don’t know what to do because my highschool sweetheart has a feelings for me…i i really need your opinion on this one…btw my highschool sweetheart is a single mom. She’s so wonderful…it’s just that i wanted to give my ex a shot but i’m scared and i don’t want to hurt my highschool sweetheart because she told me that she loved me.

  19. Katelyn

    February 3, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Chris,
    I broke up with my bf of 1 1/2 years about a month ago, we met up 2 weeks ago so I could get some closure and explain myself which ended up with him telling me various other reasons why our relationship won’t work, in his opinion. He told me to date other people, which really hurt. We haven’t contacted each other since (2 weeks) I’m lost as to what to do now. And when I should reach out, if at all.

    1. Chris Seiter

      February 4, 2019 at 3:49 am

      Hi Katelyn!

      I know it hurts when a guy says something as insensitive as “go date other people”. I do think you should look at implementing No Contact. Feel free to tap into my Program to learn more about how to best do it!

  20. OLGA

    January 18, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Forgot to mention that we have been together for 4 years

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