11 signs your ex is keeping you as an option (and what to do next)

When things end between you and an ex, it can feel like your world is crashing down around you.

It’s especially hard when you two were so close to one another. There are so many mixed emotions, and you just don’t know what to do or how to move forward.

It can be difficult to know where to begin, and even harder to know where to end.

When you’re still so connected, it’s the small decisions that can feel like big ones. You don’t want to push your ex away, but you’re also not sure how to make things right again.

And while you may not realize it, there are some subtle signs that your ex is still keeping you on the back burner. Read on to learn more about what those are and how you can tell if your ex is keeping you as an option.

1) They contact you more often than you contact them

When it comes to exes that are keeping you as an option, this is the number one sign.

But why is it a problem?

It’s simply because you’re the person who is looking for closure and a reason to move on.

Unless the two of you still have a lot of unresolved issues, it would make more sense for you to reach out more frequently than them.

But if you find that your ex is calling more often than you’re calling them, then it’s safe to say things are still a bit unresolved.

It’s also worth noting that whenever things end, there are very few people who stick to their word.

So even if your ex was the one who wanted to work things out, they probably won’t be the one that sticks with their promise.

Even if your ex is the one who ended things, they’re probably still going to want you to reach out more. And if they’re not, it’s a sign they want you to reach out more than anything else, which isn’t good either.

2) They make excuses as to why they can’t hang out anymore

So you’ve been hanging out with your ex more frequently, but then suddenly they start making up excuses.

“Sorry, I can’t go out tonight. I’m babysitting my sister’s kids.”

Or maybe they say something like, “I would love to see you now that you mentioned it! But on Tuesday my boss is letting me work from home for a bit.”

They may even find an excuse to cancel plans or take a break right after meeting up with you.

While this isn’t as big of a deal as the first clue, it’s still a sign that they want you to be an option.

If your ex was really interested in moving things forward, then they would make time for you… and they wouldn’t have to make up excuses for why they can’t do that.

3) They are using you as a ‘willing back-up’ for their other things

If you want to know whether or not your ex is using you as a backup, then look at how hard they try to get you involved in their interests.

For instance, if you have a lot in common with your ex, then it would make sense for them to want to involve you in their interests.

But if all their friends are the same kind of people, then why would they bother inviting you to hang out?

It’s because they’re trying to use you as a backup.

Even if they want you involved in their lives, they still don’t want you involved too much.

If your ex is trying to get you involved in sports or shows that they like, then it probably means that they are not interested in being friends with you at all.

If your ex is trying to get you to go on vacation with them, then it probably means that your ex is trying to use you as a back-up.

They don’t really want to be with you, they just want someone else there who they can show off by taking pictures with.

This doesn’t mean that if you go on vacation with your ex, it means you’re going to get back together.

It just means that your ex is still interested in getting closer to you again.

They may be trying to figure out how they can get back into your life, and this is one way.

4) They don’t take any real steps toward moving on

You can always tell how much your ex wants to get back together by how much they’re putting in.

A lot of times, after an unsuccessful breakup, your ex will tell you all the reasons that the two of you should get back together and give you a list of things they will change.

But then, when it comes time for them to actually put those changes in motion, they don’t do any of them.

If your ex really wanted to get back together, then they would take real steps in order to make that happen.

Those steps may include counseling sessions, working on their relationship with another person, or even just going out on dating apps and giving things a real shot.

But overall, the only way to know if your ex still wants you is by listening to what they are saying and how they are acting. Other than this, there’s no way to foster love or intimacy.

Speaking of which, it might be a good time to reassess what intimacy and genuine connection mean to you.

When I faced a similar situation in the past, I found valuable insight from Rudá Iandê’s free Love and Intimacy masterclass.

I felt like my relationship was stuck in one place. I was waiting for my partner to do something. But this free masterclass was an enlightening way for me to realize that it was our mutual responsibility to take steps and move on.

Rudá is a world-renowned shaman who developed this free masterclass to help people foster true connections with their partners — and to realize when it’s time to let go.

Rather than staying trapped in a cycle of uncertainty with your ex, maybe you should also use this time to deepen your understanding of your own needs and move on.

Click here to access the free masterclass.

5) They don’t tell you when they’re dating someone else

If your ex really wants to be friends, then they would want the best for you and want you to know if they were dating someone else.

They would want you to know that in case anything happens between themselves and the new person, they want you to be open and available.

Obviously, if you wanted to be friends with a person who is dating someone else, then that’s not the problem here.

The simple truth is:

That’s where this clue gets a bit tricky because it’s easy to think that if your ex isn’t telling you they are dating someone else they still genuinely want to be friends.

But actually, they just don’t want to risk you not being an option in case things don’t work out with the new person.

One way to test this clue is to text your ex on the night of a breakup saying things like, “Hey, I just wanted to say that I hope you are dating someone special for you. You deserve that!”

This text will get a reaction out from your ex.

If they don’t respond back and seem upset, then they aren’t really interested in being an open option.

6) Your ex keeps things fake

When all signs point to your ex not being interested in you, then all signs point to “fakeness”.

If your ex keeps things fake, then they are trying to keep up appearances.

They are trying to make it seem like you are still an option for them and that there’s nothing wrong between the two of you.

This tactic is used a lot when people want to get back together with someone else . . . and then try to sabotage those attempts in order to keep their ex around.

For example, your ex will continue to tell you that they love you and that they want to be with you.

But then once the two of you start moving back in together, or if they start dating someone else, they’ll pull the “I don’t love you anymore” card and try to move on.

This is a common tactic used by people who want to keep their options open when they aren’t really interested in their current relationship.

7) They don’t respond or text back to you for days at a time

You can tell a lot about your ex just by looking at their phone messages or texts — if they even bother to reply to your messages at all.

If your ex doesn’t even bother to text or call you back anymore, then that’s a very good sign that they are using you as a backburner option.

If they genuinely wanted to be friends with you, they would try to keep things as open as possible so that they could have that option available.

But if your ex isn’t even bothering to text you back, then this is a dead giveaway that the only thing they’re trying to “save” is their own pride.

As an open option, if your ex doesn’t respond to you for a few days, then take it as a hint and go do something fun with friends. Don’t text them and try to make plans to meet up.

Think about it this way:

Instead of trying to make it seem like you’re an option for them, they just keep their distance and try to avoid you altogether.

If your ex keeps refusing to respond to you for days on end, then that means that you should go and do something else to let them know how you’ve been doing.

8) They rely on you for benefits, not love

When an ex is giving you the silent treatment and even going so far as to avoid you completely, then you need to take this as a warning sign that they have moved on with someone else.

The best way for your ex to move on with someone new is to find someone who can make them feel confident, safe and secure.

If your ex hasn’t found that person, then they are still using you as a backburner option . . . and not moving on at all.

In fact, they may even try to use you as a way to feel better about themselves.

For example, if your ex knows that someone else wants them and they think that they can’t get that person, then they may go to things you like or do things for you in order to feel good about themselves.

They want you to feel rejected by them so that it will make them feel less rejected by someone else… but in actuality, the only one feeling rejected is yourself.

The way to avoid this feeling of rejection is to find someone else who is willing to give you all the things that you’re looking for.

That way, even if your ex tries to make themselves feel good by using you, they won’t be able to because they know that they can’t get you in the first place.

9) You only get called for last-minute plans

Being a backup has the advantage of making it clear when you are needed as a ‘last-minute replacement.’

In other words, if you need to call your ex at the last minute and they are not really interested in being friends, then they will only want to see you one-on-one.

They might even tell you that you do not get the “friends” rules and will make things difficult for you.

Or, they might just hang out with other people without telling you or mentioning how they should have another bachelor party with their friends.

So what’s the point?

It’s not a good sign if you are only getting called in at the last minute. If your ex calls you up to hang out, then don’t be afraid to tell them that you can’t make it.

If they are only calling you in when they can’t get someone else, then chances are, that someone else is someone more willing for them to date or be with.

The fact that our ex only called us when they had an emergency made it clear that we weren’t their top choice.

Last-minute texts and phone calls may be an indication that you’re being used as an emergency backup plan in the event that their other contacts fall through.

10) They don’t give you any real reasons to hang out

Just because your ex hangs out with you, doesn’t mean that they’re not seeing other people. And as obvious as that may be, it happens all the time.

So your ex might call you up to hang out, but if they don’t give you any real reasons to spend time with them, then this is a dead giveaway that they are stringing you along while they try to find someone else.

Don’t be fooled by them telling you that you look nice or that they’re not seeing anyone else or that they are taking a vacation to go do something.

If your ex is trying to pull something with you all the time, then they’re still using you as a backup option. They just want to waste your time and string you along until someone better comes around.

If your ex has no real reason to hang out with you, just to hang out with you, then they are probably not trying to get back together with you.

11) One-way traffic during conversations

Communication in a healthy partnership will always be open and clear.

Who are they to us if we can’t openly express our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to them?

Having a one-way discussion with your ex is a solid sign that he or he is using you as a back-burner option.

Consider what it could signify if your partner or ex-partner enjoys talking and hearing themselves talk but has little time to listen to your problems.

Sharing everything with our significant other is the best part of creating a relationship.

Non-listening, according to some, is a sign that a partner is being treated as less than equal and, as a result, expects more attention than they are ready to give.

The relationship may be in trouble if you find yourself engaging in a lot of one-way communication in other areas of your life.

Final thoughts

It can be quite difficult to let go of a relationship even if your ex is keeping you as an option.

You might still love them so much that you just can’t let go yet. If that’s true, then the guidance of a professional will surely help.

When I was going through lingering feelings for my ex, I was recommended this free Love and Intimacy masterclass that I mentioned above.

It’s an insightful short course created by an experienced shaman, Rudá Iandê, that takes less than a day to go through if you’re fully focused on it.

But it’s so worth doing, to understand your habits and patterns when it comes to unhealthy relationships and completely transform them for the better. 

Thanks to small self-reflective questionnaires about your needs, wants, and love life, in general, I was able to transform the codependent habits that were keeping me in emotionally unhealthy situations with my ex and realize that I deserved better. 

And I never looked back!

So if you’re going through the same thing, I’m leaving the link to this valuable resource once again.

Click here to access the Love and Intimacy masterclass for free.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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