You end a conversation with your ex-boyfriend and are left wondering, “where the hell did that come from?”.
You might be thinking, the relationship’s over…? What’s he being so mean for? What did you do?
It’s a confusing situation. Since you’re exes, you might not be talking as much anymore, but when you do, you notice that he’s being weirdly hostile and mean. What’s worse is you just don’t get why.
In this article, we’re putting the puzzle pieces together to help you figure out why your ex-boyfriend is mean after the breakup.
Reasons why your ex-boyfriend is mean after the breakup
1) He’s stuck at the anger stage
If you’re wondering why he’s being mean, his meanness might be coming from a place of lingering anger over the breakup.
People deal with breakups in different ways and one way is through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
While the concept of the five stages of grief is a common one, another common belief about it is that they don’t necessarily have to go through that particular order. There’s no set start and middle and end — although hopefully, the end is acceptance — for moving on from something.
One reason why your ex-boyfriend is mean after the breakup could be that he’s in the anger stage; he’s taking his feelings out on someone who hurt him.
He could be the dumper or the dumpee but either way, this is a change for him and change doesn’t always feel like a good thing.
If he feels hurt over the breakup, it’s cause for him to be angry because he might have accepted it at first and then gotten angry later on (proof that the stages really aren’t linear).
This is especially true if he’s the one who initiated the breakup. He may have accepted it at the time when he was breaking up with you, but now that everything has come sinking in he might be angry for lots of reasons.
He could be angry at himself for making the decision, angry at you for the reason behind the breakup or for accepting the breakup, angry at the world just because, and countless other reasons he could come up with that come crashing back to you in the form of his meanness.
2) He’s working out his feelings
Not knowing how he feels about you can be confusing and it could cause him to lash out at you.
Like having to go through the stages of grief, emotions are complicated to deal with (to say the least).
They don’t go away or change into what you want them to be with a snap of your fingers; they’re uncontrollable and unpredictable and, especially with something as turbulent as a breakup, can shape strong behaviors for the person who’s feeling the emotions.
Now can be a conflicting and confusing time for him.
A change has been made in his life and his routine and now he has to reconcile his new life with how he feels about his old one. This experience can be described as cognitive dissonance, a psychological concept that describes the discomfort you feel if you hold two conflicting beliefs at the same time.
If he’s building his new life and still has unresolved issues from his old life with you, there’s a war going on in his head, and chances are you’ll get hit by a stray spear.
If he still has lingering feelings for you, he might not be at the acceptance stage yet and may be trying to talk himself into reasons why he shouldn’t be with you, too.
Maybe he’s going around and around in his head thinking up ways to validate the breakup. Maybe he’s even jealous if you’ve started dating somebody else; if he’s not over you, he could be trying to stay on top of your dating life.
Pairing this with the fact that you’re already broken up, the negative emotions pile up on top of each other until he’s left with a mess that he needs to pass onto someone else — that someone else being you.
Like all of the reasons here, in several cases, it isn’t necessarily something you directly did that’s causing him to be mean. While you may have had your faults in the relationship, some behaviors are just spillovers from things he’s feeling on his own.
3) He wants to be the victim
If your ex-boyfriend is mean after the breakup, it could be because he’s decided to play the victim.
He’s hurting too. The breakup could’ve hurt his pride, and if it did, he could be frantically finding a way to spin it in a way that it doesn’t look like he failed at something.
So instead of handling it like an adult, he can decide to become the victim and act hostile because he doesn’t know how else to deal with the situation. It’s the victim mentality.
This is especially true if his meanness rears its ugly head when he badmouths you behind your back, saying everything was your fault so that it’ll look like he never did anything wrong. Is he telling your mutual friends that you’re psycho? Is he downplaying his faults and magnifying yours?
If he justifies his actions thinking he’s the victim, he could be acting out and being mean because he thinks he has the right to.
4) He’s playing off his true feelings
Do you know that common belief that men don’t know how to express their emotions? It’s probably because of society’s expectations of them that they still feel like they aren’t allowed to shake.
A study has shown that 58% of men still feel like they’re expected to “[be] emotionally strong and show no weakness”. They still feel as though they aren’t allowed to show vulnerability.
That being said, your ex-boyfriend might be mean to you after your breakup because, as Barbara Markway, Ph.D. says, he’s converting one feeling into another.
This happens when they don’t like feeling what they’re feeling so they switch it out with something they’re more comfortable with expressing.
For example, someone who feels sad about something but doesn’t want to handle that feeling at the moment can convert their sadness into apathy.
In this case, because he feels like he’s not allowed to show feelings that are more “feminine” like vulnerability, he might be covering it up with anger and meanness.
He could also be pretending to be over you. To convince himself that he’s 100% moved on, he acts cold and mean, converting feelings of sadness into hostility. If he was truly over you, he wouldn’t feel the need to be nasty towards you.
5) He doesn’t know how else to talk to you
In the same study, 38% of men avoided talking to others about their feelings because it would look “unmanly”.
When men are faced with an emotional problem, society may have programmed them to not react to it in an emotional way.
If your ex-boyfriend doesn’t know how to communicate well, it’s because he probably wasn’t taught that that was acceptable — and if he doesn’t know how to communicate well, he can resort to being mean just because he doesn’t know how else to act.
For example, let’s say you’re chasing after him and are trying to get him back. If he’s mean to you when you interact, it could be because he’s trying to tell you to let him go but he just doesn’t want to have that open conversation.
He feels like you’re not getting the message, so he’ll deliver the message in a way that he thinks will solve everything for good — hurting your feelings.
Of course, he could be doing this unintentionally because of society’s expectations of him but that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t do it to you.
Now you’ve got all these reasons why your ex-boyfriend is mean after the breakup. What do you do next?
Should you get back with your ex-boyfriend?
Wondering if it’s time to call it quits on “calling it quits”?
If you’re still asking yourself this question even after he’s been mean to you, ask yourself why you broke up in the first place. There’s a reason (or a dozen) behind every breakup and if your reason is still there, why go back to him? What’s different this time?
Is there a way you can fix what you broke up over, and if so, would your ex-boyfriend be willing to work towards making sure your relationship doesn’t go up in flames again? Are you both willing to own up to your mistakes?
Also, assess if this is the kind of guy you want as a life partner. If he’s mean to you, he’s treating you badly and you know that. Whether he does it intentionally or not, is that something you want to come back to?
Alas, the heart wants what it wants. Here’s what to do for when you either want him back ASAP or when you truly want him gone for good.
If you want him back…
If you decide that you still want him back (maybe he’s different from all the other guys?), leave the desperate phone calls in high school where they belong. To win him back in the most mature way, you have to work on yourself first.
Be the person they fell in love with again, a version of yourself that you may have lost the longer the relationship went on. Go back to your hobbies, get a life again, and focus on growing into the best you possible.
While this is going on, don’t contact him. This is important for declaring and maintaining your independence, but also for the next part — using the element of surprise.
Once you think you’re at a more developed version of yourself and you decide that it’s time to reenter the situation with your ex-boyfriend, contact him and openly communicate to him that you want to see if things can work out again.
If he says yes, the next step is to be a positive influence in his life.
This isn’t to say that you should just pretend that he was never mean to you — do not do that or you’ll end up being the person with no self-respect who allowed their mean ex-boyfriend to treat them like a doormat. If you want to mend things between you two, tell him that he has to take accountability for how he acted with you while you were broken up.
Once the two of you clear that up, make sure that you set up expectations and make it clear that something has to change this time for your relationship to have a better outcome.
If you don’t want him back…
If you decide that you’ve had enough of this attitude and that you’re ready to move on, the first step is to firmly make that decision to move on.
Having no contact helps, especially if you have no reason to keep talking to each other (like there are no unpaid rent bills or things to be returned anymore). The faster you get rid of anything that ties you to him, the faster you can move on.
Now comes the fun part. Now is when you take back your life and write its story the way you want it to go.
Get that fresh start and find yourself and your own joys in life; cut off contact with your ex-boyfriend and remove yourself from the negative situation completely.
If he’s been especially nasty towards you, you may want to find a support system who’s willing to listen to you and help you process it. Even though you might understand his reasons, he still hurt you, and getting over that hurt is key for leaving him in the past.
And either way:
Do what’s best and healthiest for yourself.
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Whether that means trying to patch things up with your ex-boyfriend or turning to a new page in your storybook, move forward learning from what happened to make sure that the you that comes out of this situation is the you that you’ll love.
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