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Why The Hell Do Men Always Come Crawling Back?

As someone who’s been dating for 15 years now (sheesh), I’m still figuring this shit out. I realize something new about relationships literally daily, and my thoughts on what I want out of a partner change constantly. But no matter how much I grow and learn about the ever-confusing world of dating, there’s one thing I have grasped that has never changed: men will always come back.

It doesn’t matter how long ago you dated, how short your interactions were, or how badly a man has broken your heart — they will spin the block at some point. And if it hasn’t happened already, I would bet money that it’s going to happen at some point in the future. Just last week, a man who I went on ONE date with nine years ago DMed me on Instagram.

A younger, more naive version of myself used to think this was flattering. If someone tries to message me again after the relationship ends, it’s clearly because I’m so fabulous and irresistible, right?

“It caters to our egos when someone finds us emotionally and physically compatible,” Jamie Evan Bichelman, clinical psychologist and mental health researcher tells Betches. “Depending on where you’re at in your own journey to find love, I completely understand how a still-grieving ex would find it reassuring that their ex still finds them attractive to try and rekindle things.” He says this is especially true if it’s been a while since you have felt attractive or had someone you’re into show interest in you.

But is it really because they think we’re lovely and impossible to stay away from? Well, not exactly.

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If you’ve set a boundary with a man regarding them contacting you and they decide to break it, it has less to do with how great you are (which you are, obvi!) and more to do with how they view you. Jamie says, “If the man considers his ex-partner a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ fallback who will consistently allow him to weasel his way back in for sexual pleasure, it’s likely that he will continue to cross that boundary in perpetuity.”

I know, I know. That’s a super tough pill to swallow. It’s also been one of the realizations that’s helped me try and work on my relationship with myself.

Of course, sometimes, the reason a man comes back can be genuine. Jamie explains that in some situations, it can be that the relationship ended because of external factors and that the guy genuinely feels like they didn’t get the closure they needed in terms of the relationship. And also, we’re human. Sometimes, we just don’t know when to let go.

But when this inevitably happens, it’s up to you to do some self-reflection and figure out a way to respond (or not respond) that honors you first and foremost.

“If you wholeheartedly believe that an ex-partner, someone from a past situationship, or an old crush poses no threat to your physical and emotional safety, then it may very well be worth exploring if now is a more suitable time to reconnect,” Jaime says. “Perhaps there were other factors influencing why you and your former crush didn’t work out, and you’ve both reached a stable, healthier place in life with the benefit of time and experience.”

But if most of the men from your past have been absolutely awful (like my ghosts of lovers past), I’ve learned that it’s best to just delete the message, block them, and move forward with the rest of your day. People make mistakes, but I’d rather focus my attention on someone who didn’t fuck it up the first time.

Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad is a sex & dating writer at Betches despite not remembering the last time she was in a relationship. Just take her word for it.