I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a pessimist. I tend to not trust that people have the best intentions. This is especially true when the person has burned me or been cruel in the past.
After a relationship ends, there is usually a lot of tension and sadness between the two people who were once involved in it. I remember that both my exboyfriend and I were really sad when we broke up, but there was also a lot of anger there, too. Which is why I was so suspicious when he started being so sweet to me. I mean, I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t leap to assuming the best, either.
After you’ve been broken up with, your self-confidence takes a hit. I found that as a result of me mourning my relationship, missing my ex, and having zero self-esteem, I began to look for signs of my ex’s feelings for me in everything. I told myself, “If he puts his hand on my shoulder as he walks past, that means he still loves me.” Or: “If he cuddles up with me on the couch, that means that he is regretting his decision.” (our breakup was painful and very messy and complicated).
I tried to make each glance that I received from him mean something. And he almost always did do those things, because even though he was breaking up with me, he still cared about me, loved me still, even.
It is natural when we are broken up with to try to seek out meaning in our exboyfriend’s actions. But that can be very dangerous and lead to a lot of assumptions. So if your boyfriend is being nice and sweet to you, it may be tempting to jump to the conclusion that he misses you, loves you, and wants to get back together (and sure, maybe that is the case – we’ll get there). But it could also mean a number of other things as well.
In my research/polling/brainstorming, I’ve found that there are three main categories that most of the reasons fall into:
- He feels guilty
- He wants something from you
- He misses you/loves you/wants to get back together.
Almost every reason that I came up with or that was mentioned to me in my research (yes, I do research) fell into one of these three categories.
Your boyfriend being nice is a good first step. You can easily build upon that foundation to create more out of your interactions and work to tip the scale in your favor.
I know a number of girls who have been blocked by their ex’s or who have had their ex’s say mean things to them, or ask them to leave them alone. If your ex is being nice to you, it means that he is talking to you and doesn’t hate you, which is an automatic point in your column.
Nice is good. Nice is a good way to begin building rapport. We can work with Nice.
Theme 1: He Feels Guilty
As much as we want to believe the reason that our exboyfriends are nice to us after a breakup is because they are having regrets, I find that this reason is the more likely culprit. At least at first – remember, men and women grieve breakups on vastly different timelines.
If you had a good relationship and no big hurtful even happened to bring on the breakup (i.e. cheating), it’s likely that your ex still likes you as a person, and hated hurting you. After all, no one likes to be a villain, and the person who does the dumping is almost always the cast in the role of the villain.
Your ex may be being nice to you simply because he feels guilty that he hurt you and still wants you to perceive him as a good guy. My ex did a lot of this, and I remember telling him “it would almost have been easier if you had been a jerk.” (Don’t worry – he did a lot of jerky things later). It came from a place of him wanting me to reassure him that he was a good person and that I didn’t hate him. – even though HE had just broken up with ME.
If could also be that your ex is seeing someone new and that is where the guilt stems from. Perhaps it is someone he was eyeing before the breakup, but maybe not. Regardless, if he’s seeing someone, he probably knows that it hurts you, and if he is a good guy who understands anything about emotions, he’ll feel empathy for you, and want to try to make you feel better.
What you have to understand, though, is that this nice behavior is not for your benefit. Your ex feels guilty, and by being nice to you, it is a small way to alleviate his guilt.
During my messy breakup, I went back and forth between playing into alleviating my ex’s guilt by reassuring him that I didn’t hate him, and then being a stone cold bitch and making him face the consequences of his actions. I cared about my ex, so I’m glad I could take some of his pain away – even as he was breaking my heart – but the program says to jump into No Contact as soon as possible.
No contact forces your ex to begin living life without you – and without you to make his guilt disappear. No Contact forces your ex to begin facing the consequences of the decision he made – if that means he starts wondering if you hate him or not, good. You are not his girlfriend anymore. It is no longer your job to make him feel better when he’s down. He broke up with you – an incredible lady – he absolutely should feel down.
Theme 2: He Wants Something From You
Cordelia: Buffy! Did you lose weight? And your hair… Alright, I respect you too much to be dishonest. The hair’s a little…Well, that really isn’t the point here, is it? The Zeta Kappas have to have a certain balance at their party, and Richard explained it all to me, but I was so busy really listening that I didn’t hear much. Anyway, the deal is they need you to go. And if you don’t go, I can’t. And I’m talking about Richard Anderson, okay? As in Anderson Farms, Anderson Aeronautics and Anderson Cosmetics. Well, you see why I have to go. Buffy, these men are rich. And I am not being shallow. Think of all the poor people I could help with all my money!
Buffy: I’ll go.
Cordelia: You’ll go? Great! I’ll drive. Oh, Buffy, it’s like we’re sisters! With really different hair.
In the above exchange from season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Reptile Boy), Cordelia tries to butter Buffy up by starting to be super nice (if you’ve watched the show, you know this is very out of character), and attempting to compliment her.
This illustrates another reason why your ex may be being nice to you post-breakup: You have something that he wants.
Maybe you still have some of his things and he wants them back before you go all crazy and destroy them. He could be trying to stay on good terms with you long enough for him to get all of his stuff back in one piece (PSA: Do not destroy his belongings. You are not doing yourself any favors if you lose your emotional cool).
It could be that he wants to keep you as a friend and is continuing to be nice because he wants to start a friendship off on the right foot. It’s likely he doesn’t know how confusing this is for you. He may be trying to be a good guy, but he doesn’t realize that every smile, every joke gives you hope that maybe he is regretting his decision to end things.
And, of course, I couldn’t finish this theme without discussing a common thing that guys want: Maybe he’s lonely and horny and is being nice to see if he can get you to sleep with him. This is unfair because it takes advantage of your vulnerable emotional state. Guys don’t think about sex the same way girls do, but if he broke up with you, he really should know better than to try to get sex from you or want to begin a friends-with-benefits situation. But if there is one thing that I have learned in my short life so far, it is that men have a lot of nerve as soon as they stop thinking with their heads.
Ladies. Do. Not. Sleep. With. Him. Don’t do it. It will set you back in the process, and I can almost guarantee that it doesn’t mean the same thing to him as it does to you. Unfortunately, I find this is a huge reason why men turn on the sweetness. Be wary.
If your ex hurt you, it is more than likely they know they’ll have to play the long game to get whatever it is that they want from you, whether it be physical items, friendship, or sex. Be aware of this. Don’t trust him – he’s already proved you can’t.
Theme 3: He Misses You/Loves You/Wants to Get Back Together
Of course, this is what we all hope is the reason for our ex’s being nice.
We ache to hear those words:
“I miss you. I love you. I made a mistake, and I want you back.”
This is definitely a possibility of why your ex may be being nice. But even if it is – don’t press. Feel it out and remain aloof. You can’t know for sure, so let things play out and don’t make assumptions.
A good way that you can begin to tell if maybe this is the reason he’s being so nice is to test his investment. Is he investing lots of time in you? What about money? Emotional effort? If he’s being nice AND he’s investing a lot in you, then I would say it is safe to assume that this third reason may be at play and the motivating factor behind his sweetness.
I tested the waters for months and kept track of my ex’s investment for a long time, not saying anything, before he finally admitted to maybe being interested in trying again. I knew that was the reason by that point. He had steadily been showing investment on all fronts.
Investment is absolutely key in getting your ex back. Until you have that, don’t assume.
Protect Your Heart
Your ex may be being nice because he misses you and is testing the waters to get back together, but you absolutely can’t just make that leap. Until you see signs of investment as cited above, it is actually safer if you assume his reasons is one of the others mentioned in this article – guilt or wanting something from you.
Protect your heart. Try not to focus too much on his actions and why he may be acting the way he is. Instead, focus on you, because that is what he is going to find the most attractive of all.
Even if you’re not trying to gauge what his intentions are I know it’s hard, but try not to), you should definitely be taking stock of the signs that he is invested. Focus on his actions and the thing that he does, not pretty nice words that he says.
…a difficult task, I know…
you should definitely be taking stock of the signs that he is invested. Focus on his actions and the thing that he does, not pretty nice words that he says.
Your ex hurt you. You don’t owe him trust or nice words back. Not now. The ExBoyfriend Recovery process is a long journey and is filled with a lot of twists and turns, with a bunch of anxiety to go along with it. Protect yourself. Protect your heart as best you can as you maneuver your way through this tricky process. It takes a lot of time and emotional energy – and that emotional energy is best spent on yourself. I know it’s hard to not obsess over every little thing your ex does, but try to put your energy where it belongs – on yourself.
(Written by Rachel)