5 Head Games Your Ex Might Be Playing

Updated on June 13, 2019
Ashley Marie Rile profile image

With a desire to help and inspire people around the world—Ashley currently blogs about life, psychology, purpose, spirituality, and more!


What Is a Head Game?

Self-pride, resentment, and jealousy are only a few of the many reasons why someone might play head games with you after a breakup. Some people do it on purpose, while others may do it unintentionally.

First, let's talk about what a head game is.

Head games are "deliberate" actions designed to create a psychological effect on another person, mostly for one's own amusement. In other words, people that play head games manipulate you to get what they want. Both men and women are guilty of such selfish behaviors, and head games can also happen in workplaces, families, and relationships. Most often, however, people do it to their ex-significant other.

In this article, I will explain five different head games, the warning signs, reasons, solutions for when your ex is playing these emotionally draining games with you.


Hot and Cold

One of the most common head games that someone will play is "hot and cold" behavior. For example, they will tell you "I miss you" then before you know it, they are backing out. Your ex does this is because they are dishonestly trying to keep their options open.

They give just enough to keep you from moving on. It gives them both options to keep you around while not committing, practically stringing you along while they decide what they want. Detaching yourself and moving on from this person will be your best bet because it will save you from false hopes.

Fighting Fire With Fire

False hope isn't the only warning sign that your ex is playing a head game. Rejecting your ex can lead to extreme resentment, and they will do anything in their power to grab your attention, even if it means indirectly. They will try anything they can to manipulate you into staying in their lives by acting like they resent you.

If they seem cruel, or are bringing you down, look at the person for what they are. This is nothing but a desperate attempt to keep you in their lives. It is a final and last attempt to cry for attention. Anger stems from hurt, and the hurt stems from caring about you. If the person wanted absolutely nothing to do with you, they wouldn't play these games. They wouldn't try to contact you, they wouldn't be mentioning your name, they wouldn't be lashing out, and they would completely cut all ties if they truly didn't care about you.

As much as it hurts seeing or hearing your ex talk badly about you, fighting fire with fire is exactly what they want you to do. You need to put your foot down and refuse to fall for their game.

Mutual Friends

An ex that can't override their pride, guilt, or shame may have a difficult time contacting you directly, so they seek to reach out by other people such as mutual friends. It can be confusing and can lead you to second guess their intentions; it's still an indirect attempt to contact and communicate with you.

Theoretically, you have two different options; you can laugh about it and openly talk about your opinions, or let it be and don't talk about your ex because talking can lead to unnecessary complications. I personally would recommend ignoring any sort of topic that is brought up about your ex. It's better to let it be and move on. If you have to block or ignore your mutual friends until you are fully healed, it would be best to do so.

You're Missing Out

If your ex is presenting their life as joyful or exciting after the breakup, chances are they are doing it to make you feel like you are missing out. While they may be genuinely better off, an ex that remotely attempts to shove their new life without you down your throat, is more often than not, trying to prove something.

There are several different ways that this game is played whether it's starting a new hobby three days after the breakup or landing a new job. There are two huge differences between an ex that uses the breakup to focus on their own well-being, and the ex that attempts to balance the emotions with the loss and wavers their self-esteem which, in reality, is just another selfish way of trying to grab your attention.

If you feel that your ex is trying to make you feel hurt after the breakup, they more than likely are. Breakups are never easy. If they act as if the breakup is the best thing to ever happen to them, there is probably a deeper grief beneath the surface of a life change. As they always say, change doesn't happen overnight.

The One That Got Away

The most extreme and hurtful head game is when your ex flaunts their new rebound relationship in front of you.

I understand how pitiful and selfish this behavior is. It is just an attempt to bring you down and flaunt their new "upgrade." The results of this? Burning any sort of bridges they had left and trying to get over the memories that still haunt them.

Yes, exes will move on eventually. However, there is a major difference between moving on to new relationships gradually over time, and trying to "show off" in a manipulative way. Let's face it; the reason why they show off and seem to be moving on quickly is because of their own insecurities, so don't take offense towards this head game.

If you understand that your ex is attempting to retrieve a reaction from you, the best thing you can do is block them on everything. You need to avoid any form of contact with your ex in order to protect yourself, for your own healing.


Every relationship and every breakup is different. Head games are more common than you think, and if you are someone that has experienced head games before, you understand how emotionally draining they can be. If you haven't experienced head games previously but are experiencing them now, I want you to know that there is hope.

A good friend of mine gave me a piece of advice that really hit me: "Try this. Get a book and write down all the positive things that could come from you giving in." It worked for me, and I hope it works for you.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Ashley Marie Riley


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      18 months ago

      Broke up with my ex partner and he keep phone me up and control me and playing mind games with me

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      2 years ago from Chicago

      "Head games are defined as "deliberate" actions that are planned for a psychological affect on another person, mostly for amusement."

      Trust me when I tell you most people aren't nearly as "smart" and "calculating" as we give them credit for being.

      Truth be told it's not about the psychological effect it is causing (you) but rather the "ego stroke" they are getting from knowing you are still into them!

      "...they will tell you "I miss you" then before you know it, they are backing out. The reason why your ex does this is because they are dishonestly trying to keep their options open."

      Countless people will tell you they know they can get back with their ex if they wanted to. Once again this is an ego exercise for (them).

      The notion that ex-lovers can instantly become "platonic friends" is unrealistic for the most part. In order to "move on" you have "let go". This is why many people believe in the "no contact rule" whereby a person unfriends their ex from social media, block emails and phone numbers, avoids going to places their ex frequents, ignores cards & gifts, and so on.

      You can't get to second base if you keep one foot on first base!

      The real "head game" is hoping for a reconciliation instead of moving on. Too often people "romanticize" their failed relationships. Many of them don't really want to move on.

      In order for your (ex) to have been "the one" they would have had to see (you) as being "the one". At the very least a "soulmate" is someone who actually wants to be with you! (And vice versa).

      "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

      - Oscar Wilde

      In a world with over 7 Billion people rejection just means: NEXT!

      Every ending is a new beginning!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pairedlife.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)