Understanding Mixed Signals After a Breakup

You’ve recently gone through a breakup. You’re beginning to accept the situation, but your ex is still keeping in touch; checking up on you every other day, being nice and kind. You’re feeling confused, only a few weeks ago they were telling you to move on because they didn't want to be with you.

Broken up

Their words don't match their actions: late-night texts, spontaneous chats about each other’s day, intermittent hook-ups, or an inexplicable "like" on one of your old Facebook posts.

Understandably, this leads you to believe that they must want to be with you still. It makes you want to continue holding on to hope and discourages you from taking steps to let go of your ex. If anything, it makes you want to hold on twice as hard.

After all, don’t "actions speak louder than words"?

Then it happens, the contact begins to dwindle, then completely stops. You find out they’ve started talking to someone else or a friend stumbles across their profile on Tinder. It's as if you've time-traveled to the darkest days of the breakup and your heart shatters all over again.

The more you think about it, the more confused you get.


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# Confusion

Being in a state of limbo leaves you feeling insecure and anxious, making you do what you shouldn't. Your confidence takes a hit as you realize how easily influenced you are by your ex's actions.

Your mind is going over the same questions over and over again, but the answers seem impossible to find.

  • What happened?
  • Why were the signals so confusing?
  • Were they just stringing you along?
  • Did they intentionally want to hurt you all over again?
  • Does this mean there’s no hope of ever getting back together?

You want to regain control by minimizing uncertainty as soon as possible. Otherwise, you'll begin obsessing over the most insignificant details in hopes it will yield some answers, which it usually won't. Your emotions work against you in viewing your situation objectively and will cloud your judgment when choosing the best path forward.

Avoid the "Hope Trap"

Many anxiety-driven people get caught up in how hopeful they should feel. They need to know for sure if they should cling on to any glimmers of hope or completely let go. The answer is that you shouldn’t feel hopeful or hopeless, doing so won’t help bring clarity to your confusion. You'll feel some relief from being sure of yourself, but those labels are just slapping a bandaid over the wound. That temporary relief will soon turn into a panic the next time your ex unexpectedly throws you another mixed signal. Accept that you can’t always know where you stand and don't focus on how much hope you should have. The best you can hope for is that eventually, you’ll find out, even if it's not as soon as you'd like.

Avoid the all-or-nothing mindset

In our desperate struggle for answers, sometimes we resort to fabricating or completely making them up. You might conclude your ex is a horrible person and you should block them on Snapchat and throw out the old photos… or that your ex still loves you, regrets ever breaking up with you, and it's only matter of time before you'll find your way back to each other. You may feel temporarily confident and empowered with your answer, but at a high price. You'll end up a lot more confused when you get overwhelming evidence you were wrong the whole time.

Even if you think you can avoid letting your emotions cloud your thinking, you may have a hard time wrapping your head around the conflicting information.


Mixed signals

At Relationship Hero, we've worked with thousands of clients dealing with mixed signals to dealing with finding out their real outcome. Based on our findings, here's what mixed signals generally mean:

Possibility 1 - Second thoughts

Maybe the person was having second thoughts during this time. We all make mistakes and decisions that we regret later on. A break up is a big life change, and it's very common to agonize over whether or not it was the right decision. A person might think breaking up is the only way to resolve an issue in a relationship. Now, they want to keep you close, give themselves time to work out if it was the right move without losing you completely by you moving on. This allows your ex to reduce any feelings of being overwhelmed by their decision.

Supporting Evidence: blocking you on some social media but not all, text messages or contact that seems like they're "keeping tabs" on you.

Possibility 2 – Comfort in familiarity

You’ve been together for a while at least a year. You understand what makes them tick and know each other’s daily rhythms, what they look like first thing in the morning, how they like their coffee, what makes them laugh or cry. You know them and they know you. You had a life routine together and even if things might not have been perfect in the relationship, familiarity and a certain amount of dependability is comforting. The unknown, not so much. So as much as the person might not want to be in a committed relationship with you, having you there during a stressful time is comforting for them and ultimately for you too.

Supporting Evidence: asking questions about family members or pets, texts checking in about current work issues for you or them, suggesting that you continue to do past hobbies together.

Possibility 3 – Trying not to hurt you.

The truth is not many people set out to intentionally hurt another person (unless you’re dealing with someone with underlying psychopathic tendencies). So it can be hard for a person to see someone (you) that they once cared about deeply in pain, especially while they carry the guilt of knowing they are directly responsible for that pain. They think that keeping a connection with you will help ease the pain of the situation. They do not understand that they are unintentionally hurting you more, by giving you the hope of a reconciliation.

Supporting Evidence: frequent communication through the phone and social media, asking how you are feeling, offering their help and services.