Today I’m going to show you exactly why guys come back when you ignore them.

In fact, the things that we talk about today have been instrumental in helping me and my team understand why “playing hard to get” works so well on exes.

And I’d like to point something out.

Everything that I’m about to teach you today is based on real life psychological research and has been proven to get results when it comes to getting an ex back.

Let’s begin!

Why Men Come Back After You Ignore Them

If you’re an avid reader of this site you may have heard me talk about a concept called the no contact rule.

It’s one of the most popular strategies for getting an ex back and it’s entire premise is based on the idea of playing hard to get or ignoring your ex. Essentially you ignore your ex for a period of time and by doing so you get all kind of unconscious benefits.

Now, when I was putting this article together I was very tempted to simply talk about a few of my success stories with the no contact rule. However, I’ve written about that multiple times and figured you’d get bored of another article like that.

So, I went further and compiled a list of psychological research on ignoring an ex and what benefits that can bring you.

My research was illuminating as I found three talking points to discuss with you,

  1. How reactance plays a role
  2. Why it’s important to consider the zeigarnik effect theory
  3. The uncertainty effect plays a huge role as well in making a man interested in you

This is going to be an exciting one because I’m going to be talking about things I’ve never talked about before.

Let’s get started.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

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1. Ignoring A Man Can Trigger Reactance

This is something you’ll see me talk about a lot with the no contact rule. In fact, I’d say that reactance is why the no contact rule works.

So, what is reactance?

It basically states that human beings are born with inherent behavioral freedoms and when those behavioral freedoms become threatened they “react” in a way to get those freedoms back.

When you ignore your ex you’ll find they come back because they want to reacquire the freedom that they lost.

Now, if you are confused, don’t be.

By ignoring your ex you are taking his behavioral freedom of talking to you away.

This will drive him nuts and will put him in a position where he’ll most likely want to come back or chase you to get the freedom back.

A perfect example of reactance occurs daily in my house with my daughter.

Currently she is three years old which means that routines are very important for her. One of these routines is that she likes a hug and a kiss before she takes a nap or goes to sleep for the night.

The problem is that getting her to do it is like pulling teeth because she knows that when she has to give the hug and the kiss it’s time for her to sleep and she wants to stay up and play.

So, one thing I’ve been doing to speed the process up is actually telling her that she’ll have to go to bed without a hug and a kiss before she goes. In essence, I’m removing her behavioral freedom of getting the hug and the kiss from the equation.

Without fail she’ll come running to me screaming for her hug and kiss when I do this,

This is reactance in a nutshell.

However, it’s not the only reason “ignoring him only to have him come running back” works.

2. The Zeigarnik Effect Comes Into Play

The Zeigarnik Effect is something that is relatively new to Ex Boyfriend Recovery but it’s something that does a brilliant job of explaining why ignoring men can be effective.

If you don’t know, the zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted tasks better than completed ones.

For our visual learners,

I always like to explain it like this,

Lets pretend you have an uncompleted circle,

You look at this circle and something just annoys you about it.

It’s incomplete and you want nothing more than to just complete it.

Ignoring a man and having them come back is a little like that.

You see, we are drawn to people whose feelings we don’t know yet.

Generally speaking when we know how someone feels it removes mystery from the equation which is fine if enough mystery has already been built but if you tell someone how you feel immediately you aren’t going to be that attractive to them.

By utilizing the the zeigarnik effect you can make sense of why we are drawn to people who don’t tell us their feelings right away.

Uncompleted tasks (like not knowing someones feelings) create curiosity or even sometimes obsession and forces a person to invest more time to “complete the task.”

3. The Uncertainty Principle

This is really where we hit pay dirt in my opinion.


Because the uncertainty principle can directly help explain what ignoring a guy does to them.

The uncertainty principle states that people are generally more intrigued with uncertainty than certainty.

There’s a reason for why scientists have determined that men and women grew less intrigued by people who responded to their texts right away as opposed to the person who didn’t respond right away.

It all has to do with uncertainty.

Being uncertain on where you stand with someone creates an interesting dynamic and can even tie directly into what we just talked about with the zeigarnik effect above.

Perhaps the most interesting study I’ve seen on this is the rat study.

What Rats Can Teach Us About Uncertainty

Years ago scientists ran a study on rats.

Specifically trying to measure how rats responded to direct rewards.

Here’s the set up.

Two rats were used in mazes.

One maze was very complex and at the end of the maze was a bit of cheese,

The second rat was placed in a maze that wasn’t complex at all. In fact, the cheese was basically put right in front of the rat,

Traditional thinking would have you believe that the second the rat saw the cheese in the second maze it’d devour it, right?

Shockingly, they found that the opposite was true. In fact, the more certain the reward was the less likely the rat was to devour it.


Well, the hypothesis is that since the rat knew it could get the cheese at any time it became almost indifferent and uninterested.

Certainty breeds complacency even in rats.

Of course, when scientists created uncertainty by creating a complex maze they found that the rat devoured the cheese immediately upon finding it.

Uncertainty breeds action

This might also explain why “playing hard to get” works in humans.

We tend to cherish that which we have had to work for more than that which is guaranteed.

One Final Study Proving Uncertainty Works

The final study I’d like to talk about is a little closer to home as it doesn’t involve rats or cheese.

Instead, it involves “Facebook.”

Two men were tasked with rating a woman’s Facebook profile on a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.

One man was instructed to show the women what he rated her profile while the other was told not to.

Scientists wanted to study which of the men she found more attractive.

Turns out that she found the uncertain aspect of not knowing what she was rated more attractive therefore she found the second man more attractive.


Let’s talk about what we covered today.

  • Overall we learned that there are three core principles you need to look at if you ignore your ex
  • The first has to do with reactance
  • The second has to do with the zeigarnik effect which I’ve covered before
  • The final has to do with the uncertainty principle
  • Also, rats can tell us a lot about human behavior

Now, I don’t expect you to have grasped everything I’ve talked about in this article. I expect there to be questions. Luckily, I monitor the comments on this website so if you ask a question you should get an answer.

Don’t be afraid to comment below!

What to Read Next

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45 thoughts on “Why Guys Come Back When You Ignore Them”

  1. Avatar


    June 11, 2020 at 6:24 am

    I was living with a guy for 5 months at my house. Then, when I moved in with him during quarantine to his house, it ruined everything… I was doing wife stuff for him at this point (cooking, cleaning, feeding the kids, giving them baths etc) And he never asked me to be his girlfriend. I’m 24 and he’s 25.
    I up and moved out… when I left he literally didn’t say one word to me when I was packing… then started texting me here and there. A month after I moved out I asked him if he wanted to hangout and his response was “yes, but we can’t date”.
    I clearly got upset about that.. I went over there ended up drinking a little too much and started crying.. telling him I love him and how hard the last month has been for me. The next thing I know is he’s sitting there crying too. Telling me he does care about me.. and even though he’s never said those 3 words (I love you) doesn’t mean he doesn’t have those feelings. So I assume he has to care a little? He’s not the manipulating type… he actually is a guy who’s more in tune with his emotions. But sucks at expressing them. the next day I woke up and left. We exchanged a few texts but he was the one who ended up not replying. I stopped reaching out and stopped posting to my social media. I’m someone who’s always on social media so I’m sure he thinks that’s weird. He ended up calling me 5 times on Friday (5 days after our night together), 5 times on Monday, 11 times Tuesday and some texts asking if I’ll say something. BUT no texts or calls on Wednesday. Do they give up ?? Or will they continue to keep reaching out? I’m sure he’s in a “shocked state” because I just told him I loved to him and we both cried then me giving no contact, no social media, don’t answer any calls or texts. I want him to continue to reach out…. but when do they stop? Honestly I fall back into a sad pit when I don’t hear from him because I do truly love him.

  2. Avatar


    June 2, 2020 at 3:25 am

    Hi does this stuff work on guys you have just been seeing for a few months (not exclusive)

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      June 3, 2020 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Stephanie, it will work as long as you are working to be Ungettable and showing him what he lost by walking away. Stick to the program starting with your No Contact

  3. Avatar


    May 26, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    My Ex messaged me reaching out a week after the break up, checking to see if I was okay. Telling me to stay well and safe. Also telling me well done because I am currently getting through my degree course work and to keep it up. I did not respond but I feel so badddd for not responding. My fear is that he may not reach out again because I ignored him. I know I did the right thing but again I feel so bad

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      May 29, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      Good on you Janet! Sticking to No Contact can be difficult when they reach out! Keep up the good work

  4. Avatar


    April 26, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    This neighbor and I have some sort of strong chemistry feeling. We had this ever since July when we first moved here. There had been a few times he ignores me and ghost me. I understood why. But I am thinking great. Time to move on from this. Well when I ignore him infront of him. His emotions gets the best of him. He starts doing things to get my attention. After he does that, now he is acting neighborly and like nothing happened. My friends think I should ignore him completely. If I do that, he will try to ignore me. Not sure how long he will be like that until he cannot stand it anymore.

  5. Avatar

    Linda carpanzano

    April 17, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    Hi there so basically I dated a guy 13 years ago. We broke up and he was with someone for the past 13 years but always kept in touch. When she dumped him he was devastated and I thought I was a rebound but I thought because we always kept in touch that maybe it was meant to be? We lost it a year-and-a-half and broke up this December. Basically for that same reason that I didn’t think he was ready. I did no contact for about a month and slowly started answering when he was contacting me. He was showing up at my house, delivering food, bringing me coffees and calling me daily on video. We got intimate a few times last week. Somebody told me he was on Tinder and the other day this girl called his phone like 5 times in a row. To me that does not seem like a friend. He said it was just a friend and that they never fooled around. I was grossed out because we were intimate and I don’t think she is just a friend if she is running down his phone when he ignores the calls. Basically my point was that the amount of effort he was putting in, I thought nobody else was in the picture or maybe he was having a change of heart. I had to leave because he had to pick up his mother. The next morning he said good morning and I ignored it. Then he messaged me saying if I was going to talk to him but I ignored it. Then he sent me some funny Tik Tok video and I ignored it. I wasn’t trying to be rude I just was so annoyed and not ready to communicate or have something turn into an argument again. Did I do the right thing? Can no contact work now? Or is it just a slap in the face after an argument to not respond? I’m 38th and he is 39 by the way

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      April 21, 2020 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Linda, I would say that you did the right thing to get some space while you are mad but you are not in a relationship so he is able to be on these dating sites etc, IF you want to be exclusive you need to have that conversation where you explain where you both sit and tell each other what you want going forward. If he tells you he wants friends with benefits then you have to accept that he is going to be on tinder etc. If you want a relationship with this guy you need to stop being intimate until you are offical

  6. Avatar


    April 7, 2020 at 3:10 am

    Hi Chris

    My ex and I were together for over a year. He’s 29 I’m 27 but I was his longest relationship, the first person he brought to meet his family, I even spent Christmas there, his friends and family told me they never met or even heard of any of his girlfriends before. We also didn’t fight much. Although he never told me he loved me, so one day I was tipsy in a bar alone with him and just came out and asked him if he loved me.. He responded a cold hard no, I was devastated, I ran out the bar crying. He is a dismissive avoidant so uncomfortable + emotional conversations and him don’t mix. He never reached out, so about a week later I did, asking whats going on. He told me he went to his parents to self-isolate (a small town) And he said that he enjoyed our time together, that he really likes me and he’s sorry that he was never able to develop those feelings, and how he was shocked when they didn’t, that I can pick my things up when he’s back. I know he’s on dating apps, and he hasn’t initiated conversation since. So I sent him a message yesterday of a video stating I think he would like it. It was a mutual light hearted video we both shared a common interest in the topic ( lord of the rings). He responded a day later with “haha thats funny.” I felt it wasn’t really enough substance to respond to, I’m glad he did because I do want him back but I think it was best to ignore it? And maybe go NC for a while? Hoping that maybe he will initiate conversation eventually. Do you think this approach is effective? Or should I just let go.

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      April 10, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Chelsea so to follow this process you need to start with a NC of 30 days, work your Holy Trinity and then start your texting phase (day 31) where you have short positive conversations with your ex, that you end first. While the text about LOTR was good and he responded positively, it is important that you complete a NC first and then reach out with something that is going to get him talking to you.

  7. Avatar


    February 11, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I met this guy last year and basically we were close for a whole year, throughout that year he would occasionally state that he didn’t want a relationship so we kept it as friends but he would always make it seem like more than what it was since the beginning I cannot lie, I was treating everything like a relationship ,well since last month I’ve noticed that he’s been messing with his ex. She’s cheated on him and broke up with him plenty of times. Anyway I’ve decided to back away and distance myself without ever stating that I was, I could tell he notices it but isn’t saying anything. I’m trying the no contact the best I know how but sometimes feel like I’m about to give in to texting him. What should I do? Help please

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      February 12, 2020 at 9:49 pm

      Hi Blair, if you want your guy to invest in you then backing off is the best option. But if he is fooling around with his ex again I would NC him until that is over with again and work on becoming Ungettable so that you look like the better option when she starts to go back to her old ways.

  8. Avatar

    Sharon Walker

    January 13, 2020 at 1:15 am

    Will this work on a guy you wore or are talking to. Even if you pushed them away, and they said they lost a little interested

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      January 13, 2020 at 10:59 pm

      Hey Sharon, if you follow this process focusing on what it takes to become Ungettable then, yes there is a chance you can re-attract the guy you were talking to, but you need to take some time in No Contact!

  9. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

    EBR Team Member: Shaunna

    December 22, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Michaela, so it sounds like you need to do a bit more work on yourself as you made it clear you were still interested in him and making a lot of effort to see him too soon, you need to build up your connection gradually as to not scare him into thinking you are trying to get him back, we know thats what you are doing, but it will just make him run for the hills. Start the process again with no contact and read as much as you can on this website making sure you understand what it is you need to eb doing at each stage

  10. Avatar


    September 15, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    What you say is true! One guy stated repeatedly he wanted a life with me and then when I finally started to say I’d accept his proposal he became an ass…

  11. Avatar


    August 16, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    This is an add on from my last post. I forgot to say that he said things like “I’m yours for life” and “there are no comparisons, and you’re the companion of my life”.

  12. Avatar


    August 6, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Hi Chris,
    Recently I had been back in contact with an ex I had dated a few years ago. We were meeting up – on casual terms and I kind of got the idea he was just after fun but had said a few things that confused me. The other night we spent the night together and slept with each other a lot, he fell asleep and I couldn’t sleep with the thought of how much I wanted to cuddle up to him and if I was being used. When he woke up that morning, me being an idiot, hit him with stupid questions of ‘what’s going on with us?’ And ‘I hope he isn’t using me’ all that rubbish. He didn’t really respond well but we didn’t argue, I later dropped him home and then later that day I sent him a text, he ignored this. I later found that he was just ignoring me completely, then he finally text back explaining that he just wanted fun and he couldn’t be bothered with people being argumentative with him ( I guess relating to what I’d brought up that morning) I apologised and agreed that I wasn’t sure I wanted more either, he said it was ok and then I asked if he still wanted to meet – silence again. I feel like I’ve been such an idiot asking him so soon and In a stupid way! Have a completely messed all chances up with him now, even to just be a fwb because I was enjoying it to a degree. What can I do to get him interested in me again?
    Please help!

  13. Avatar


    July 29, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I have visited your pages probably too much. So, here it goes. 1st off, coworkers, now long distance, 4 year mutual crush, becomes bf/gf. Never had any intimacy, but a few close calls when we worked together. My thing is things went to sexting too fast and I got cold feet. Then he tried to make me jealous, which backfired, because I lost my cool. And he blocked me for 3 months.

    We try again, but now he’s reserved, but says he’s in love and he knows I’m his ‘one’. We decide to take things slower, but he’s being very guarded now, and so I lost my patience with him and his suddenly slower responses, like the excitement is gone. So, I cut back on my lovey dovey stuff, because I feel like it’s one sided. We then decide we are forcing it, and the distance is making us crazy.

    I go NC, just to see if he’ll reach out to me. He finally reaches out to me a few days past a month. By this time, I’m pretty much feeling worthless and heart broken. He tells me still cares about me, but he’s tired of the emotional rollercoaster. I pour my heart out to him, and he basically says, ‘Wow, that’s a lot. I don’t have a response to that.” I replied I stopped expecting anything from him. He said I probably shouldn’t. So, I decide to tell him that I think we are hitting a point of no return, and I’d rather just part than things become ugly. Every time I go through this with him, I feel a little more broken and insecure about myself.

    Well, I know he stalks my FB bc as soon as I post something, he logs on. Recently, I went out with some friends and posted pictures. One is a guy, and he commented he had a blast with me. My ex/bf blocks me on FB. One part says to stop caring, but I can’t because I’ve felt a connection with this guy from the moment we stood face to face. No man has ever said the things he’s said to me, or sang to me over the phone! And through all of this he’s maintained being in love with me. Is there any hope?

    I feel like I’ve lost a piece of myself in all of this, and I hate not hearing his laughter on the other end of the phone. But, he never gets out of his comfort zone and actually chases me or makes me feel wanted anymore.

  14. Avatar

    S Hay

    July 5, 2019 at 7:31 am

    Hi Chris,

    Since February I’ve been working with this guy. He’s very quiet and reserved but we use to chat in the staff room and got on well. We also matched on tinder, which we joked about on the app. Following this we were invited to a mutual friends birthday night out, we got on really well and have the same sense of humour. We just laughed most of the evening (no kissing, no sex fyi).

    He added me on Facebook and at work we would make more conversation. I noticed he only really spoke to me from my department. I started to like him more. The staff party comes and again we spend the whole night together laughing and having a good time. Another guy from work actually tells him he’s got a huge crush on me and that he thinks im really beautiful etc… Nicki (my crush), I could tell was a little bit jealous and said I should tell this guy I’m not interested. I could tell it came from a place of jeaously.

    We walk home and he has work at 6 am so he asks to stay at mine. Again, he stays around but nothing happened. No kissing, no sex. He was respectful and didn’t try. I also made it clear I would rather nothing happened (despite how drunk I was). At work we still joke around and chat like normal but feel he is making even more effort with me. He also followed me on Instagram (and follows no one else from work).

    Anyways, we work together for a few more weeks and my last day at work arrives (I handed my notice in a few months prior). He said on my last day he was exhausted from going for drinks the past 2 nights, but come 5pm he comes by the water for drinks with us. As everyone leaves, he stays out with me and my friend. We have a really nice night, laughing and sharing stories. My friend leaves and we start walking home. He said he felt hungry and so did i so we stop for food. Whilst we are eating he said hes thinking of going back to school and he has been stressing about it a lot. He’s 29 and scared to start again but his mum and sister are pressuring him. I give listen and offer some support. I was sort of touched he was so open about his anxiety about it.

    He then suggests we watch a film. I was a little sceptical, as I’m aware men try and edge a film to get sex. I agree and he comes upstairs to mine to watch a film. Again, nothing happened, although I did initiate a kiss before we went to sleep. Nothing else happened and he was very respectful.

    Come the next morning when he has to work at 6am. I lay in bed and he sat down and stroked my hair and said ‘see you…soon hopefully.’ he then gets up to leave and says ‘we should go for a beer or 2 soon’. He looks at me and I’m so tired and disoriented but say yes.

    Later on that day I message just to check in with how work is and we send a few longer messages just joking about the night before etc.

    Okay, so that was on Monday/ some on tuesday. It is now Friday morning and I haven’t heard anything from him…

    This is the most shocked I’ve been about a guy ghosting me. We had such a lovely time together and we use to laugh so much. It’s really knocked me. I will not message him as I felt like I made the effort the day he left mine. He must know I like him. What do you think is going on? I’m stumped.

    Hope this message made sense. I sort of rushed it…

  15. Avatar


    June 21, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    Hi Chris,
    thanks for your dating tips.
    however, you usually talk about playing hard to get. But why is it so hard to play hard to get? And how can we do it effectively?

  16. Avatar


    June 8, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Hi my name is Peculiar from Nigeria, and I just got played basically, it hurts, because I felt the guy and I had a connection of some sort, a friendship not just about the sex, we met three months ago and while he was away we spoke everyday for three weeks, when he got back we saw and had a great evening, told me he had a girlfriend while he was away on his trip who he feels slept with his friend, and repeated it to me again that last evening (unknown to me) , but he still totally loves her, that he likes me so much, that in fact he loves me but he puts a stop to any form of emotions because of how much he loves her and moreover nothing serious can go on between us because of my tribe, but I’m his best friend, he kisses me on my forehead a lot, and I won’t lie I felt even though he loves his girlfriend, he probably likes me and I’m not like some random girl he has sexually conquered and well we sort of agreed to be friends, told me he would come see me the next day, well the next day arrived and I found out he had blocked me, o called him with a friends phone and he confirmed it, since then which is 5 days ago I haven’t, reached out and I’m still blocked everywhere we ever made contact. Well my reason for texting is because I’d really want closure, I’d like to understand if there was a possibility all wasn’t a lie, I mean if he came for sex he got it months ago, why stick around or maintain connection when he was away, I’d like to know if there is a chance he might reach out soon, I’m not looking to date him, I just feel like I’ve lost a friend.

  17. Avatar


    June 5, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    My ex of 14yrs just ghosts me every time I raise an issue. He has left and come back so many times that I have forgotten. I have now gone 9 days with NC and believe I need time out. He never shows his feelings and now he withholds affection, I have tried so hard to make this work and now I just feel like I need to do something different. By the way he is 66 and I am 59, I just want a nice quiet life.

    1. Chris Seiter

      Chris Seiter

      June 5, 2019 at 9:53 pm

      Hi Jean….so I think NC is the right medicine for this situation. He is so wrong for ghosting you just because he gets sideways with an issue.

  18. Avatar


    May 28, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    I’ve been ignoring my ex for a week now and when he texts me I give him close ended responses at my own sweet time to prevent any further texting.We had a fight and he also hasn’t been showing me that he values me… I’ve been feeling uncomfortable and disrespected in various ways. I have spoken to him countless times about this however nothing seems to change… I love him but will not go back to him before he actually gets that he has to respect me as his girlfriend. Thing is what do I do next? Look hot when the times comes for us to meet up and talk again? What do I say? How do I change how he treats me when he is too comfortable? Do I call it quits?am I doing something wrong? How do I fix things to work in my favor?

    1. Chris Seiter

      Chris Seiter

      May 29, 2019 at 2:39 am

      It looks like you would benefit by taking a deeper dive into my Program that lays out a sensible strategy. If you are feeling disrespected, then you should consider taking time and space or implementing no contact. I discuss all of this and much more in my Program (EBR PRO Bundle).

  19. Avatar


    May 6, 2019 at 11:06 am

    I became very close to my boss(GP)who kissed me on the head a few times when I told him I was leaving. He’s begged me to stay.
    He said he always has my back and will always care for me.
    He has always been there for me.
    My husband was cheating on me.
    I’ve hit a tough time with my eyesight and now he seems distant and doesn’t answer my emails.
    Has he fallen out of love with me.

  20. Avatar

    Dani Dobson

    May 6, 2019 at 2:13 am

    So I was dating a guy and we got close very fast moved in together and then he started lying and would be spending time with other women. He said he was scared and he didn’t want to be with one person. He said every day that he cares for me and he would do nice things to help me but would always have a wandering eye when we would go out. Finally I asked him to be completely honest with me about his feelings and he said he loves me and regrets his choices and wants to be with me. Then a few hours later said he moved into a lease and can’t get out of it and can’t be with me. I blocked him after that because he has been doing the hot cold thing for over a year now and I can’t keep waiting for him. I went farther then no contact because he always manipulated me with his words and I know he would talk me into staying around while he went with other women convincing me he didn’t love them he just needed variety and loved me. He was the most confusing man I ever met. Should I unblock him to see where it leads or remain blocking him?

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