“Why is my ex so mean to me? What did I do?”
You may have asked yourself this before (or are still asking it, since you’re reading this article right now).
Exes can be a confusing arena to navigate, especially if they’re being complicated to deal with after the breakup when you’ve cut off most contact. It can be especially confusing when they’re being mean; things between the two of you are done, so why are they acting this way?
It’s time to stop going around in circles in your head, wondering what you did wrong; let’s go into ten reasons why your ex is mean to you.
1) They still have feelings for you
You might be thinking that that makes zero sense. But if you think about it, it’s a natural reaction to having feelings for someone you’re not allowed to express feelings towards anymore.
They’re feeling things that they don’t want to feel, so they take it out on you because they think that that’s your fault (especially if you’re the one who initiated the breakup.
They could also be angry because they still want to make it work and you don’t. In that case, you’re not giving them what they want, so they’re meant to feel some sort of resentment about that.
If anything, they might be mad at you because feeling that much passion for you (even when it’s the bad, icky kind) still gives them a connection to you (again, even if it’s the bad kind).
2) They want to get your attention
If they want you back and you’ve decided that pressing that “delete contact” button was final, they could be acting out as a way to get you to interact with them again.
They might be thinking that the more they keep themselves in your life, the more you’ll reconsider getting back into a relationship with them.
Maybe they’re testing the waters, too — stirring the pot to see if you’ll take the bait because that could send the message that you still care about them. They want to see what you’ll do or how you’ll feel if you talk to them again.
Also, they might be missing you — they’re missing the attention you gave them, so they’ll do anything to get that attention back, even if it means being mean to you.
3) They’re in the “anger” part of the stages of grief
There’s no exact order for how people should move on from things because everyone has their own pace and ways of getting through a breakup.
That being said, the concept of the five stages of grief has been used to label the different stages in recovering from something that has hurt you; maybe your ex is mean to you because they’re in the “anger” part of the cycle.
The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Although they don’t necessarily have to be experienced in order (you could ping pong and go in circles between the five if that’s what your process looks like), it’s common to experience at least one at a time. Maybe your ex is just mean because they’re stuck in that circle of breakup-hell.
In a breakup context, they might be angry because they’ve realized that they deserve more from a relationship and are now mad at themselves too — but of course, they’ll be likely to pin it on you and express that by being mean.
4) They’re still hurting over the breakup
Your ex might still be mad at you because they’re still hurt over losing you; they’re using their anger to shield themselves from their sadness.
Think of it this way. They lost the person who was supposed to love them the most. That hurts, whether they were the dumper or the dumped.
Naturally, losing that person would make them angry and mean because they might be feeling betrayed because of promises the two of you might have made to each other before.
They could also be made from old trauma or the reason for the breakup.
If you hurt each other (especially if you’re the one who hurt them), they could still be holding onto anger from what happened — explaining why they’re still mean to you even after you’ve broken up.
5) They’re jealous
If you’re dating someone new, there’s a big chance your ex is mean to you because they’re jealous.
At one point, the two of you probably thought you’d be together forever. Now that you’re showing them that it won’t happen anymore, it might be fanning the betrayal flames.
They’ll also want to one-up whoever you’re dating to show you that they’re the better choice, and if that isn’t working, it’s even more cause for them to be mad at and mean to you.
6) They’re pretending to be over you
This is a see-through tactic for the post-breakup struggle; if they’re mean to you, they might be pretending to be over you.
They’re deflecting any lingering feelings they have onto you, the subject of those feelings, who they can’t seem to stop thinking about.
To overcompensate, they now act like they’re mad— and they might even be mad at themselves because they know they’re just pretending to be over it and it might not be working.
7) They’re stressed about the breakup
Of course, you might not directly be the reason that they’re mean to you. It’s possible that they’re just stressed out about the situation as a whole and are choosing to take it out on you because, in their heads, you caused this stress.
This is especially possible in more serious relationships when the two of you have been entangled in too many things; do you have any joint accounts that you have to close? Any rent payments for your apartment that you now have to figure out?
All of these other factors might be making them anxious, so if your ex is mean to you, it might be because they’re upset about the situation.
8) They’re guilty about the breakup
In psychology, there’s a defense mechanism called reaction formation which happens when you express the opposite of what you’re feeling because you want to cover up what you’re actually feeling.
In this case, if they’re guilty about the breakup, they might be trying to pick a fight with you because they want to push away their guilt.
Maybe they were the ones who cheated, or they regretted how they immediately asked you to move out after the breakup. If there are feelings of guilt that they can’t get rid of, they might be mean to you to cover it up.
9) They feel like you’re not getting the message
If you’ve been trying to get them to come back to you, they might be mean on purpose to shake you off. This could be their way of making it clear that they really don’t want to give your relationship another shot.
They might be extra-mean to break your denial bubble if you still haven’t accepted that the relationship has ended.
If you’re still chasing after them because you still want them back, they could feel like you’re holding them back from being happy and resent that. This is probably a frustrating situation for them, so it’d explain why they’re being mean.
10) They don’t want to hurt you
Now it really doesn’t make sense at first, right?
It actually does when you think about it, because maybe they’re being mean and trying to pick a fight so that they’re not the ones who hurt you; now, the narrative is that you hurt each other.
If they want to keep their hands clean when it comes to the hurt they’ve caused, they might want to level the scales by goading you into hurting them back so that to them, it doesn’t feel like they hurt you.
If they pick a fight and you fight back, they can consider themselves to be a victim too.
There are two ways this can go, depending on what you want to do next.
Do you want to get back together with them or do you want to end things once and for all?
If you want to get back together, show them that you’ve improved and have become a better person now. Maybe they’re mean to you because they want you to think it’s over and they want it to be over because they broke up with you for a reason.
But if you’ve changed for the better since then and you want them to reconsider getting back with you, show them what they’re missing and keep your fingers crossed.
If you want to break it off for good, avoid taking the bait. Don’t fight fire with fire.
Decide that you’re done and give each other the space you need to cool off any unresolved bad feelings. Maybe this could even lead to you ceasing contact altogether; if that’s something you want, keep a safe distance from the fire and be ready with an extinguisher to put it out.
Like we said, exes are complicated — but they don’t have to be. Pay attention to their behavior and eventually, you’ll figure out once and for all why they’re being mean to you.
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