I never had the best childhood. Materially I was well off, but emotionally though, err… not so much. My father was always a workaholic and rarely paid any attention to me and thus made me often feel neglected and rejected most of the time. I still feel this way sometimes.
Maybe that sounds pretty bleak, but then again, some have it way worse. I’m talking, sexual abuse, poverty, domestic violence, emotional manipulation… those kinds of things. I’m grateful abandonment issues are the only emotional problem I had to overcome.
Looking back at my childhood, I can count a bazillion instances where I tried to get my fathers attention, either via a snarky comment or two, a text message or by asking him a simple question. He rarely responded, and if he did, his responses were short and without much thought.
At that time, I believed he was blatantly ignoring me (or at least semi-ignoring me). What a fucking asshole, I thought. But when I got older, I could see that wasn’t really the case. My father didn’t ignore me — at least not most of the time; he was more often than not just busy. The real problem was me: I was anxious and needy and craved external validation. My father’s validation. Everyone’s validation.
And because I was so focused on getting my father to like and appreciate me, I often mistook the instances where he didn’t get back to me at a reasonable time as his attempts at ignoring me. Again, sometimes that was the case. But other times, it wasn’t. Other times, I just felt ignored.
I’ve seen the same pattern play out amid countless breakup survivors. They send their ex a text, and they hear back from them. Suddenly, life is good. Then they send another text, and they get no response — at least not immediately. So they feel ignored.
Here’s the thing: your ex may not be ignoring you at all. Perhaps reality is different. You may have just fallen prey to negative emotions and fear, which made you only feel as if you’re being ignored.
Maybe your ex doesn’t want to engage because it would re-open their breakup wounds. Maybe they changed their number. Maybe they’re still writing their response — or haven’t yet formed a coherent one. Maybe they’re doing the whole no-contact thing. Maybe they’re a manipulative dipshit and are playing hard-to-get. Maybe they’re just pissed off. Hell, It may also be possible that they’re busy and don’t have their phone with them. The options are endless.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying your ex is not ignoring you. I’m just saying it’s not always the case that they are. Chances are, your mind is playing tricks on you since you’re hurt and fear losing them forever.
Nonetheless, feeling ignored hurts just as much as actually being ignored. There’s no doubt about that. The hurt demoralizes, causes physical pain, and makes you go batshit crazy at times. Ever wondered why?
Why it hurts when your ex ignores you
The reason you feel hurt when your ex ignores you (or when you break up in general) is because through their effort to ignore you, they’re tapping into the internal wiring of your ancient need to connect and feel connected to others and scrambling the shit out of it.
Humans are social animals. The closer we stay to our loved ones, the safer we feel. Staying connected was how we survived throughout the ages. Feeling connected is our inherent need and curse. (1)
Now, think about this. What happens when we lose a relationship? Well, we lose connection with someone important. Thus, we subconsciously begin to feel unsafe in the world. And as a result, we consciously grow scared and anxious, usually even needy and insecure.
From a biological perspective, this disturbing reaction occurs due to our brain releasing certain chemicals that tell us, “Yo, fuckface. You need to reconnect with your loved ones, or you’re going to die.” Think of it as our ancient survival alarm.
Expanding on this phenomenon, think about relationships in general. The reason we form societies is to stay and feel safe. And when one rejects the norms of society, they get rejected and isolated by everybody else.
Thankfully this is not as common today as it was back in our caveman days. At that time, if you were part of a tribe and you did something that went against the rules of the tribe, the other tribesmen and women would probably reject, shun and ignore you. You’d be labeled as a renegade. They’d have all the power. And you’d probably die.
Knowing this, your ancient survival alarm would light up just as it lights up when your ex ignores you presently and makes you feel like you’re dying.
How To Get Your Ex To Stop Ignoring You
There’s not a lot you can do in terms of getting your ex to pay attention to you. You can’t make someone change. But what you can do is learn to better deal with the pain of Ignoredom. And, if you’re lucky, dealing better with that pain will get your ex to respond. Here’s what you can do…
1. Stop bothering them
No response is still a response. If someone is ignoring you, it must be because you’re to some degree bothering them. And I’d say the odds of you bothering your ex are pretty damn high. You’re probably chasing, begging, or pleading with them as we speak.
This imbalanced dynamic never works out. It gives all the power to your ex. It gives none to you. It sucks your ex of any respect they have left, and it pulverizes the attraction they feel towards you.
The solution, and ONLY solution, to change this unhealthy dynamic and get a chance to rekindle things in the future is to stop trying to reconnect with your ex.
Look, it’s normal to feel hurt. It’s normal to feel lonely. It’s normal to miss your ex so much you’d want to die. But seriously, let them miss you. Let them deal with their emotions. Let them come back into your orbit at their own pace. Let them go completely if you want them back.
If you keep doing the same things you’re doing, you’ll keep getting the same results as you’re getting. You’ll keep giving your ex more and more power. You’ll keep diminishing their respect for you. You’ll keep lowering their attraction. You’ll keep digging your own grave, deeper, and deeper, and deeper.
2. Stop Overthinking And Overreacting
Looking for the signs your ex will come back, the signs they won’t, and everything in between won’t help you. And while your ex’s feelings toward you may change for the better in the future, it’s best to release all hope for now.
As I’ve argued in a previous article: act like your ex is never coming back even if you still have a chance. This mindset will keep overthinking and overreacting, and thus, self-sabotage at bay. The more you can make yourself believe that your ex is never coming back, the better your chances will be at actually getting them back.
Sounds counterintuitive, I know. Let me explain.
The idea is that acting as if your ex is never coming back will make it easier for you to recover and get your emotions under control. And when you recover and get your emotions under control, you’re suddenly blessed with the ability to make better decisions. Hence, you lower the chances of sabotaging the process of re-attracting your ex if they want to rekindle things.
There are many ways you can go about cultivating this mindset. You can distract yourself. You can go out and socialize. You can start dating. You can engage in mindfulness actives like meditation, journaling, yoga, therapy, calm breathing, or qi-gong. Or you can seek professional help. Whatever floats your boat. Experiment liberally.
3. Leverage Apatheia
When your ex keeps ignoring you, it’s normal to feel emotional. However, it’s best if you keep those emotions in check to avoid falling prey to sabotaging behaviors like calling your ex ten times in a row or showing up unannounced at their doorstep.
In Stoicism, there’s a word for this mindset: apatheia. Think of it as a sort of equanimity that comes with the absence of irrational or extreme emotions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about the loss of feeling altogether, just the loss of the harmful, unhelpful kind.
In practice, apatheia would look like resisting harmful emotions by simply saying things like, “I know I feel like shit right now, but I can’t let myself panic. Or else there’s gonna be hell to pay.” Or, “I know I’m feeling sad, but this feeling, like all feelings, is fleeting and will dissipate in time. So don’t act on it. Stand your ground.”
Developing the self-awareness to stop, notice your feelings without judgment, and refraining from acting upon them, takes practice. A lot of practice. But just like any other skill, you can get better at it.
Again, don’t get me wrong: I’m not encouraging you to avoid feeling your emotions or pretend they don’t exist. All I’m saying is to avoid acting upon them.
If you have to cry and scream and punch your pillow, by all means, do it. Just don’t let yourself direct those cries and screams and punches onto your ex when interacting with them.
4. Abandon all control
Here’s some sobering advice. You can hardly control anything. You can’t control how your ex responds to you. You can’t control what they think. You can’t control what they feel. You can’t control what they do. You have no power over your ex or anyone. However, what you can control, at least partly, is yourself. That is, your behavior.
Years ago, I read an incredible book on relationships by a retired pickup artist, Neil Strauss. A lot of it detailed his life in an addiction rehab facility. A facility where people like love, sex, and drug addicts came to get a grip on their life and hopefully recover.
The thing that really stuck with me from that book was a quote that the patients in the rehab facility preached. They’ve coined it the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Addicts cannot change the abuse suffered in childhood. You cannot change the trauma your breakup caused. They cannot change the choices they have made or the hurt they have caused. You cannot change the choices you’ve made or the hurt you may have caused. They can, however, change the future —through the power they have in the present moment. You have the same power, the same opportunity.
Magic happens when you focus on getting clear about the things within your control (things related to your behavior) and the things outside your control (everything related to the external world). The magic being: faster recovery, greater overall happiness, and fainter pain due to your ex ignoring you.
5. Invest in yourself
I’ve been preaching how all dating, relationship, and, of course, breakup advice is just self-improvement in disguise throughout this blog, throughout the years. By now, I can confidently say, this claim holds water. In fact, it’d say it’s a raw fact. So let me take another stab at the idea in this article.
Ex ignoring you? Fuck it. It doesn’t matter. You should be doing no contact anyway. So if you haven’t yet, cut all contact with your ex — go silent, as silent as possible in your unique breakup situation at least.
Now. Ready for this? Go work on yourself.
Fix your diet. Improve your sleep. Work out. Build resilience. Find hope for a better day. Socialize. Rebuild your self-esteem. Repair your self-respect. Overcome your neediness. Heal your broken heart. Dare to be vulnerable. Embrace the chaos. Accept the pain. Love yourself.
6. Consider moving on For Good
If days and weeks go by, and you’re still messaging your ex, and they’re still ignoring the shit out of you, it would be wise to consider moving on. No, I’m not saying recovering here. I mean, actually moving on — as in, moving on to someone new, getting over your, forgetting all about them, and so forth.
Since you’re reading this article, I doubt you’re ready to let go for good, but still, just keep the option in mind. It’s a viable way to move forward, and most of the time, it’s the best course of action a breakup survivor can take.
Just Don’t Do This
While I’ve been doing research for this article, I’ve come across a few other articles addressing the same topic — what to do when an ex ignores you.
Some were pretty useful, some were average, but a handful of them were outright horrible. And by “horrible,” I don’t mean they were badly written; I mean that they contained a shit ton of dysfunctional advice only a narcissistic dipshit would actually implement.
So for your and your ex’s mental health sake, I’ll go over the most repeated dysfunctional advice out there and explain why you should never implement it.
Make your ex jealous. There’s a surprising number of articles that encourage breakup survivors to post fun pictures (like when you’re hanging out with an attractive person) on social media with the hopes that your ex sees them and gets jealous. You probably don’t need me to say that that’s pretty lame of someone to do. But, just to be safe: don’t do this.
Make everyone else love you. This tip is manipulation 101. It goes like this: fake how great you’re doing and feeling amid your social circle with the hopes that the word crawls to your ex. Just stop. The only thing you should focus on after your breakup is yourself, even if you want your ex back. Plus, you’re seeking massive external validation when you’re trying to build a faux-life narrative for yourself, and that’s horrible for your self-worth and overall mental health.
Reach out. The frequency of this tip popping up across my research blew me away. How could some writers be such idiots to actually recommend reaching out to someone who ignores you, is beyond me. Just don’t do it. If your ex is ignoring you, don’t keep reaching out or else you’ll risk lovering their attraction.
Write a letter to your ex. Another shitty tip to throw in the bin. I’ve actually been the idiot who done this in the past. Yes, I wrote my ex a letter, a love/apology letter to be exact because they kept ignoring my texts. I figured that would spark their attention. It didn’t. It just annoyed the shit out of them. So forget about sending your ex any sort of letter.
Ultimately, when your ex is ignoring you, the most important thing to focus on is how you handle being ignored and not necessarily how to get the other person to stop ignoring you. Remember: you can’t make someone give you attention, but you can get used to and grow from the absence of their attention.
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