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Over the years, I’ve consulted hundreds of people who wanted their ex back. Some of them achieved this goal rather quickly, and some of them stagnated, month after month, rarely making any tangible progress in reuniting with their former lover.
What gives? Why do some people get back with their ex in just a matter of months (or even weeks) while others struggle and fight yet never make any progress? Why do some people break up again right after getting back together, and others keep their relationship intact permanently?
Well, after talking with enough people who were dead-set on getting their ex back, I’ve noticed something intriguing.
In time, I’ve noticed a fundamental difference between the first group of people — those who make little progress in re-attracting their ex — and the second group — those who improve steadily, genuinely, and actually do get back with their ex at the end.
The first group focuses on performance; The second group focuses on self-improvement.
The Performance-Oriented Person
A person who opts for a performance-based approach largely relies on tricks, tactics, techniques, and fake behaviors.
They play hard to get, use reverse psychology, rely on reusable texting templates and jealousy tactics, and fake their confidence. They memorize the right things to say, how to handle each situation, all the body language cues, all possible contingencies of their ex’s reactions, and then they respond accordingly. Overall, they see re-attraction as a skill set full of pieces that need to be memorized and acted out on, similar to a chess game.
When such a person arrives at a problem — for example, their ex calls them out for their controlling behavior — they usually get hyper-analytical afterward. They curse the material they’re studying and buy another dodgy ex-back product, where they focus on learning and memorizing even more tricks, tactics, techniques, and fake behaviors. Maybe these will work, they muse.
You’d be surprised, but the vast majority of ex-back advice is performance-based.
Because it sells better. A product dunking you in a murky void of performance makes an average person feel as though they’re making way more progress than if they’d start consuming healthy self-improvement advice.
Also, most people just don’t want to hear that they have emotional problems that they’d need to address and resolve. Fuck no! They want to hear how learning games and gimmicks and 1-2-3 formulas alone is enough to mend their relationship.
The funny thing about performance is that it’s a way for people to cope with their underlying emotional and self-esteem issues. For example, a person doesn’t know how to get their ex to like them, so they read a book telling them that one way of accomplishing that is by saying some pre-prepared set of phrases. Let’s call them “lines,” for short. So this person then uses a line outlined in their book, gets their ex to respond positively, and, as a result, becomes convinced it’s the line that’s working, not them.
But here’s the kicker: their line, whatever it is, is a placebo — like all performance behaviors.
Whereas the person was scared of engaging in a conversation with their ex prior, being given the line and being told that it will make their ex like them more gives them the false confidence to engage in a conversion ably. With this same confidence, this same person could successfully engage in a good conversation with just about any line. Funny how this stuff works…
At its core, a performance-based approach to re-attraction shows your ex a false representation of you. In a way, therefore, it’s the equivalent of emotional manipulation. Worse, it’s self-objectification. Because in the eyes of performance, you’re nothing but a robot putting in the correct inputs and getting out the correct outputs.
The Self-Improvement-Oriented Person
The self-improvement-oriented person tends to tackle getting back with their ex not through trying to perfect what they say or do but through working on and perfecting themselves. Not for their ex, of course, but for, again, themselves — because they genuinely want to improve.
They also let their ex returning be nothing more than an added benefit to their already fun and meaningful life. In fact, they consider it an unneeded yet welcome side-effect of leading such a life.
Now, I’m not making an argument about how this sort of person doesn’t care about their ex. They do; they want them back and, like anyone, shed tears if they don’t return.
I’m simply saying that their world won’t suddenly collapse if their ex decides not to give them another chance. For they know their ex isn’t special. And they realize that labeling them as such is an insult to literally millions of other people that they’d find attractive and who, unlike their ex, are able and ready and willing to create a future with them.
When a self-improvement-oriented person comes across a problem (e.g., their ex doesn’t return their call), they don’t begin to overthink, they don’t start criticizing their ex or labeling the material they absorbed as “not working.”
On the contrary, they find out where they went wrong and try better next time. And if there is no next time, there’s not much fussing since they understand that they don’t need their ex (even if it sometimes feels like it); they have themselves and are quite happy with that catch.
Paradoxically, it’s these people who most often get back with their ex and actually cultivate a healthy and lasting relationship with them.
Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s not like the performance-based approach doesn’t work. It does. You can memorize all the right things to say. You can master all the gimmicks, tricks, and power plays. You can develop an unerring sense of when to pull back and when to push forward. You can do all of this because performance is a skill you can improve at, not much different from learning how to write or cook better.
All I’m saying here is that compared to the self-improvement approach, the performance one never works out long-term. Typically, the people who become successful through it, while they do sometimes get their ex back, always fail to keep them. It’s also not nearly as fulfilling.
Here’s a story that illustrates this.
The Performance Approach To Getting An Ex Back
Bob feels like he’s going to die.
His girlfriend, call her Sindy, of 3 years, has dumped him for being a needy nitwit. Bob was the type of boyfriend who expected his partner to report where she was on the regular. But not via text, of course. Hell no! Bob wanted a literal picture of where his girlfriend was and with whom she was hanging out. And he forbade her from going out with any other guy that’s not of her blood.
What a nutjob, right? No wonder Sindy dumped him. As you’d expect, Bob wanted his ex back after their whole shit show. He realized he made some huge mistakes and now wants another shot.
So, he quickly searches the internet for solutions and finds a handful of shoddy “get your ex back” programs that promise to get him the result he wants quickly. He buys all of them — like most other naive breakup survivors.
Then, just as his programs suggest, after 30-45 days of ignoring his ex (that is, being in what’s called a “No Contact Period”), Bob sends her a short pre-ordained text message. She responds, and he follows it up with several quirky lines to get her to send laugh emojis.
Over the next few days, he continues to talk to Sindy about pre-ordained topics he’s comfortable with — just like his programs recommend. Likewise, he only talks with his ex in the evenings and ignores her messages and calls till then.
Supposedly, this is more romantic than talking mid-day or in the mornings. He’s able to punctuate each hiatus with tried and tested jokes and lines his trusty ex-back gurus supplied him with. Sindy laughs on cue and responds as predicted.
She’s interested again. Fuck yes!
A week later, after some fun and flirty back-and-forth riffing, Sindy finally agrees to go on a date with Bob. It’s their first one since their breakup.
When they meet, Bob executes everything he’s learned: stick to light and positive topics, lean back and sit across from her, let her talk more than you do, pretend to like her less than you actually like her, use some excuse to get her back to your place, and so on.
There are hiccups along the way, but it all more or less works out. Sindy seems genuinely interested, and when Bob finally works up the nerve to kiss her, she kisses back enthusiastically.
Fast forward to the next couple of dates; everything goes well. There’s a ton of uplifting talks, fun times, and mind-blowing sex. Bob is on cloud nine. He’s drunk on validation, and there’s nothing but excitement ballooning in him. He jumps online to talk to his friends and tell them all about the clever lines, scripts, and tactics he used and how much they helped him get his ex back.
Little does Bob know that it wasn’t his lines and tricks that his ex fell for; it was because she thought he finally matured and resolved his unattractive tendencies. She felt as if her boyfriend turned into a secure, assertive, and confident badass — someone worthy of her time, love, trust, and respect.
However, it was not long until Sindy’s view of Bob changed.
Bob and Sindy saw each other a few more times over the following weeks, but something was off — something changed. Since they’ve been dating for so long, Bob wasted all of the lines and tactics he learned and slowly reverted to his usual, needy self: desperate for approval and validation, possessive, and incapable of trusting others.
This change began subtly with Bob getting more and more curious about the guy friends Sindy kept chatting with on Instagram. Soon, this curiosity turned into irritation, then into fear, and finally into anger. At that point, the whole shit show began anew.
Bob starts spying on Sindy’s phone location, goes through her texts without her knowing to see if there are any other men she’s flirting with, and even tries to slyly forbid her from seeing some of the new friends she made while single.
Nevertheless, Bob was not the only one who changed. Sindy went through a similar transformation. She not only realized that her boyfriend was putting on an act the whole time. She also realized that she didn’t have much in common. When together, they mostly just watch movies and eat junk food. There’s no continual dating and courtship, nor is there much excitement in the relationship.
One day, Bob texts Sindy about coming to her place for the weekend. She was busy studying for her finals that night and didn’t reply. In her mind, she really was busy, she tells herself. But what she doesn’t admit is that she could have made time for Bob if she wanted.
The next day, after her finals, Sindy sees her phone and notices five new texts from Bob. The first two are casual, but each one gets progressively weirder and more nonsensical. Consequently, Sindy gets turned off — it’s Bob’s neediness rearing its ugly head again. After a few more weeks of simmering in the same shit-stew, Sindy throws in the towel and dumps Bob. Again.
Bob’s story is a quintessential example of why performance is only a short-term solution for getting back with an ex. All Bob did was leverage it to trick Sindy into thinking he was far more mature, confident, and less invested in her than he actually was. And it worked, but only for a short period.
The irony here is that what attracted Sindy the most was not Bob’s tricks, tactics, techniques, or fake behaviors; it was the mature persona he put on. She genuinely thought he changed for the better. She was so attracted to this faux character of his that she, for a time, even overlooked their glaring incompatibility.
But as Bob’s performance ran out, the true level of his emotional investment and maturity became more and more apparent. Bob’s behavior became needy again and disgusted Sindy, causing her to eventually dump him for the second time.
Here’s the kicker, though. Bob was lucky. A lot of people don’t even come close to getting this far with performance. They may conjure the impression of confidence and maturity for only the first date or even just for the span of a few text conversations before they falter and fail.
Alas, such are the stresses of performance.
The Self-improvement Approach To Getting An Ex Back
As you can deduce by now, getting back with your ex is not about learning what to say, or what to do. Getting back with your ex is about making a change in your mindset, your self-perception, and your self-respect. And it’s as simple as changing your mind about a few things. So, take a moment to consider…
… that instead of trying to prove yourself to your ex, you could realize you don’t need to nor shouldn’t try to prove yourself to anyone. … that instead of trying to impress them, you could wonder if they’ll work on impressing you.
… that instead of clawing for your ex’s validation, you could settle to just validate yourself more.
…that before you send them that fourth text or call them up for the second time in a row, you could ask yourself if they texted or called you anytime beforehand.
… that instead of obsessing about how you come across when you talk to them, you could focus on how they come across when they talk to you — are they invested, semi-invested, or turned off?
… that instead of getting upset and pissed off when they don’t want to get back together with you, you could decide that it means you probably wouldn’t want to get back together with someone like that anyway.
This may all sound a bit selfish. But, in fact, it’s called having firm boundaries, noteworthy self-respect, and high self-esteem. It’s the equivalent of being a mature and healthy individual with standards and a spine.
Only make time for your ex if they make time for you. Only put effort into meeting your ex’s needs if they put in the effort to meet your needs. Only work on getting your ex back if they work on getting you back.
Maybe you think you’re not strong or experienced enough to do these things. Maybe you think you’re too needy or attached to your ex. Maybe you think you’re too weak. And perhaps you’re right about all of that.
But being right doesn’t change the point. If you want a better chance at mending your relationship, you’ll have to work on changing your mind. There’s no other way around it.
You’ll have a much better shot of re-attracting your ex if you can be someone who they can respect, someone who they can trust, someone actually worth coming back to.
If you’re constantly the only one fighting for their love, chasing after them, seeking approval, blowing up their phone, fussing about how they perceive you, and so forth — how can they ever respect, trust and love you?
Newsflash: they can’t.
No one is attracted to or truly loves someone who they can’t respect or trust. That’s why you can have all the best tricks, tactics, techniques, and fake behaviours, and in the long run, still fail to rekindle your relationship.
For the mindset those methods produce only lead to unattractive behavior. They promote anxiety, jealousy, insecurity, and obsession. They encourage the need to impress, try too hard, and say things that are not genuine, sincere, or ethical. They nurture relational dysfunction and misery.
You are what attracts or repels your ex, not the performance you put on. Put differently; it’s not about what you say or what you do that gets your ex back. It’s who you become that gets them back — what you stand for, represent, and embody. What you say or do should only be an extension of what you embody. In and of themselves, the words and actions mean nothing.
Basically: don’t act attractive, actually become fucking attractive.
It’s this mentality that leads to all attractive behavior. It helps you freely express yourself instead of saying or doing what you think your ex wants you to say or do. It lessens your irrational fears and insecurities instead of expanding them. It erodes feelings of unworthiness instead of hardening them even further.
I don’t care if your ex has a supermodel bod, a bursting social circle traversing all seven continents, or a bazillion dollars in their bank account. Are they worth your time, energy, and effort? Do you enjoy being around them? Do they treat you well?
These are the questions you should be asking yourself. And the only way you’ll start asking them and actually get helpful answers and, in turn, empowering responses is if you improve yourself.
Besides, the only real ex-back advice is self-improvement. Eat well. Work out. Get quality sleep. Date around. Invest in your lifestyle. Overcome your insecurities. Conquer your anxieties. Resolve your shame. Build up some confidence. Love yourself. Otherwise, no one else will.
This article is based on a chapter from one of my favorite books: Models: Attract Women Through Honesty, by Mark Manson. If you like it, consider buying the book. I deem it the ultimate guide to emotional maturity, whether you’re a man or woman.
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