You were shocked and devastated when your ex broke up with you. It came out of nowhere, it seemed. You did your share of pleading, attempting to make him or her reconsider. But after a while you realized that it wasn't going to happen.
Despite all that, the two of you maintain contact and continue seeing each other as acquaintances or as part of a common social circle. And then, at some point your ex suddenly indicates—perhaps somewhat vaguely—that he or she might consider getting back together. But are they really seriously considering this? Or do they merely regard you as a backup, someone to have on the sidelines if nothing else works out?
Here are 8 signs that your ex isn't truly considering reuniting but is just stringing you along:
1. Even if your ex indicates that he or she is considering getting back together, they are not especially forthcoming about the details; the plans seem rather indefinite.
2. Your ex is still on dating apps or sites like Tinder, Bumble, or OkCupid. Or he is still going out alone or with the guys to places where hookups are possible or even likely.
3. Despite indicating in words or (perhaps) actions that he or she is considering reuniting, you learn that they are sleeping with others, and not just having meaningless sex but very intimate exchanges with other romantic interests; they are seeing certain parties on more than one occasion in intimate ways.
4. When your ex contacts you, the content of the messages are typically the type you would send to a friend. They are also few and far between, just frequent enough to string you along but not frequent enough to really mean anything more.
5. If you make plans to do something together with your ex, such as having a drink after work or go to a happy hour, he or she frequently cancels or changes plans on you. If you suggest doing something together, their typical reply is that they'd prefer to play it by ear (likely so they can see whether better options come along).
6. When you finally are in touch with your ex in person, via phone or social media, he or she doesn't take a real interest in your life. They don't ask a lot of genuine questions about how you or your family are doing, or what you have been up to, because they don't really care. What they care about is keeping you on the sidelines.
7. Should your ex agree to a get-together, the event will be on their terms. They will not make any serious sacrifices to see you. They are more likely to tell you that you are welcome to come along to an event they have already decided they are going to.
8. Even if you have had sex when you've met up, they don't act especially affectionate, seductive, or flirtatious toward you—in fact, the affection they direct toward you is rather sparse (or nonexistent) compared to the affection they show others they are seeing or are interested in. From the outside, it might look like you are just old pals.
If only a few of these behaviors fit you and your ex, or if these behaviors do not happen very frequently, they may not be a sign of anything other than miscommunication. But if these signs are pretty typical of your "relationship," it may be time to cut the connection altogether. Alternatively, consider acting just like them, and remove them from the center of your life.
Berit "Brit" Brogaard is a co-author of The Superhuman Mind and the author of On Romantic Love.