Many of us have unexpectedly heard from an ex, sometimes a long time after the relationship has ended. It can be confusing to receive a message from a man you haven’t spoken to for a long time. In this article, we’ll talk about the reasons why men come back after months of silence.
Reasons why men come back
A man might come back for one specific reason. For example, he may want to apologize for his part in a breakup. But other situations are more complicated. For example, he might want to be friends, but it’s possible that he also misses the physical side of your relationship.
Here are some of the most common reasons why men return after long periods of no communication:
1. He still has feelings for you
Research shows that it’s not unusual for couples to get back together. For example, a 2017 study by Monk tracked 298 couples over an 8-month period. During that time, 32% broke up and then reconciled. Some of these couples reported that they had split up and reunited more than once since they first started dating. If a man comes back, he might be hoping to restart your relationship.
2. He feels lonely
If he doesn’t have many friends and isn’t close to his family, a man might come back to you simply because he’s lonely and wants to talk or hang out with someone he knows.
According to a survey conducted by mental health charity Mind, men are more likely than women to rely on a romantic partner for emotional support. If a man is single, feeling lonely, and needs someone to listen and empathize, he might try to get support from a kind, sympathetic ex.
3. He feels nostalgic
It’s normal to feel nostalgic for past relationships. A song, a film, a food, or a scent can trigger fond memories of an ex. When a man comes back after a long period of silence, he might just be feeling nostalgic and wants to make contact for old times’ sake. Some people tend to feel especially nostalgic around anniversaries or holidays.
4. He’s afraid to be single
Some people are afraid to be single. They might worry that other people will judge them for being alone, or they may feel anxious at the thought of growing older alone. Research published in the Journal of Personality found a positive association between a fear of being single and feelings of longing for an ex.
If a man is scared to be alone, he might decide that getting back together with you is a good idea, even if the relationship wasn’t healthy.
5. He happens to be in your area
Your ex may get in touch if he happens to be nearby for a while, especially if he doesn’t know many people in the local area. For example, he might reach out for some company when he’s visiting relatives or friends for a few weeks or living in your town while he’s working on a professional project.
6. His new relationship isn’t working out
If your ex has started a new relationship since you broke up, he might try to get back together with you if things aren’t going very well with his new partner. He may realize that he feels happier with you than he does with his new partner and start to wonder what it would be like to date you again.
7. He hasn’t found anyone new to date
Your ex may have tried to meet new people but quickly discovered that dating isn’t as fun as he hoped. Dating can be time-consuming, and it can be difficult to find a new, compatible girlfriend or boyfriend. After a while, he might realize that it was more enjoyable to spend time with you.
8. He was following a “no contact” rule
There are lots of websites and books that recommend following a “no contact rule” after a breakup. Some people decide that they will never get in touch with their ex again, but others aim for a shorter period—for example, three or six months—without contact.
If your ex has chosen to go no contact with you for a specific amount of time, he might give himself permission to reach out when that period comes to an end. So although it might feel as though he’s contacted you suddenly, for him, it makes sense to message or call you on a particular date.
9. He has more time and space for a relationship
Sometimes, a man might start a relationship even though he doesn’t have enough time to be a good partner. For example, he may start dating someone while juggling work and a college course.
If your relationship ended because your ex’s circumstances meant he couldn’t give you enough time or attention, he might want to get back together with you if his lifestyle has changed.
10. He’s curious about what you’ve been doing
If you’ve made positive changes in your life since you last spoke to your ex, and he’s heard that you’ve moved forwards in your life, he may feel curious about what you’re doing.
For example, if your mutual friends have told him that you’ve started a new career or seem happier than you have been in years, he might want to check in to learn more about your progress. If he’s heard that you’re in a new relationship, he might be curious to learn more about your new partner.
11. He wants a favor
Some men get back in contact because they need help of some kind. For example, he might need a place to stay for a few nights, he might need someone to help him move into a new apartment, or he might want to borrow money from you.
12. He just wants to hook up
Hooking up with an ex can be easier than finding a new sexual partner. If your ex is texting you late at night, or his messages have a flirty tone, he may just want to hook up.
Before you sleep with an ex, think about how you might feel afterward. Many people think that having sex with an ex-partner can make it more difficult to move on from the relationship. On the other hand, research suggests that sleeping with an ex-partner doesn’t always slow down breakup recovery.
13. He wants to keep you as a backburner
Psychologists have defined backburners as “potential romantic and/or sexual partners who are kept ‘simmering on a backburner’’’ while one maintains a primary relationship or remains single.”
A 2021 study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking reported that 40% of college students preferred to have backburner relationships with ex-partners rather than friends or people they didn’t know very well. Two people who have been in a relationship together may still feel attracted to one another after a breakup, and ex-partners seem like a safe, familiar option.
14. He has changed and wants to be a better partner
A man might come back if he’s been through a period of personal growth and thinks he’s now in a position to be a better partner.
For example, if he has been working on becoming a better listener or a more empathetic person, he might think that he can give you a more balanced, respectful relationship this time around. He may or may not be right, but remember that you don’t have to get back together if you’d rather move on.
15. His family or friends told him to reach out
If you got on well with your ex’s friends and relatives and they thought the two of you were a good match, they might encourage him to give your relationship another chance. Or if they think you were a positive influence on your ex—for example, if you encouraged him to give up bad habits—and want you around to keep him on track.
16. He feels guilty for hurting you
Sometimes, people get back in touch after a long time has passed because they want to apologize for things they said or did during a relationship. Asking for forgiveness can be a sign of personal growth.
Depending on the situation, a sincere apology can be the first step towards friendship or even getting back together. However, it’s up to you to decide whether to forgive someone who has hurt you.
17. He wants closure
If your relationship ended on a confusing or messy note, a man might get back in touch because he wants to talk about what happened so that he can get closure. For example, if one of you ended the relationship suddenly without much explanation, your ex may want to talk about how and why the relationship went wrong.
18. He has an anxious attachment style
Relationships can become an important part of our identity. After a breakup, it’s common to feel as though your sense of self has changed. Many people feel that they don’t quite know who they are when a relationship ends. Psychologists describe these feelings as “identity confusion.”
Research suggests that a person’s attachment style could determine how they cope with identity confusion. According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships, people with anxious attachment styles may try to make themselves feel better and more secure in their identities after a breakup by rekindling their former relationships.
This research suggests that men with this attachment style might be more likely to get in touch with an ex. When they feel lost and uncertain about who they are after a breakup, the thought of getting back together with their ex might make them feel emotionally safer.
19. He wants to be friends
Research shows that it’s possible to be friends with an ex-partner. According to a 2016 review by Mogilski and Welling, there are several factors that determine whether someone is likely to stay friends with an ex. For example, exes are more likely to become friends if their romantic relationship started as a friendship. People are also more likely to be friends with their ex-partners if their romantic relationship was good.
If this is the case and you also enjoy the idea, you might like a few ideas on how to become friends with a guy.
20. He wants an ego boost
If a man is struggling with low self-confidence, he might get in touch when he wants someone to help boost his self-esteem.
For instance, if you used to give him lots of compliments, he might reach out to you when he’s feeling down in the hope that you’ll make him feel better. Alternatively, he might just want to know that someone finds him attractive. Even if he has no interest in dating you, he may get an ego boost from knowing that you’d be happy to see him again.
21. You are no longer single
According to counselor and researcher Suzanne Degges-White, it’s common for people to feel attracted to men or women who are “off limits.” If you’ve moved on and have started dating someone else, your ex may feel drawn to you just because you aren’t available.
Degges-White believes there are several reasons why we are often attracted to people who probably don’t return our feelings. One reason is a fear of commitment. So if a man isn’t ready to be in a committed relationship, focusing on someone who isn’t going to start a relationship with him (i.e., you) might feel safer than trying to date someone who is single.
How to work out why a guy has come back
If you aren’t sure what a man wants from you and why he has made contact after a long period of silence, try to have a direct conversation about his reasons for reaching out.
To start the conversation, you could say, “Hi, I’m surprised to hear from you. Can I ask why you messaged me?” or “Hey, I hope you’re doing well. Why have you decided to reach out to me now after so long?”
Once you have a better idea of why he’s made contact, it’s OK to take some time to think carefully about what you’d like to happen next. You don’t need to go along with what your ex wants. For example, you don’t have to talk or meet up with him, even if he has apologized for things they’ve done in the past or seems eager to restart your relationship.
Spell out what you’d like to happen next. Be honest about your feelings. For example, if you’d like to be friends at some point in the future but you want more time to get over your old relationship, it’s fine to say, “I think we could be friends one day, but at the moment, the breakup is too fresh for me. I’ll reach out when I’ve had more time to process everything.”
This article on setting boundaries with people might be helpful.
You might not get clear answers. In some cases, a man might not understand exactly why he felt the urge to get in touch with you. If he is feeling confused, he might give you mixed signals.
For example, he might be missing your company and still find you attractive, yet also want to stay single and meet new people. One day, he may be affectionate or send you lots of messages, then go quiet again for a while.
When an ex sends you mixed signals, remember that you don’t have to wait for him to decide what he wants. If you are feeling confused or hurt by his behavior, you can choose to cut contact for the sake of your mental health. In this case, you might like some tips on how to have difficult conversations.