Does making your ex jealous on social media, at a party or at work to get them back work? Is it healthy and should you even want to make your ex jealous?
Once in a while someone asks me, “How do I make my ex jealous?”
I always answer them with “Why do you want to make your ex jealous?”
“Because it’ll make them think I have moved on, and happy without them.”
“Are you sure that’s what you want your ex to think?” I press on.
“Do you then suggest I act miserable and beg him to come back. Will that not push him away?”
“No. that’s not what I am suggesting.”
“Making your ex jealous” is popular advice and some people claim it ‘worked’ for them, and maybe it did. Some people feel more attracted to someone when they think they’re losing them. This is their attachment imprint.
Because they have mixed emotions about what’s like to be loved and made to feel safe and protected, losing someone especially to another man or woman triggers a physical reaction that often mimics attraction and/or sexual arousal – such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, dilation of pupils, butterflies in the stomach etc, and in some people euphoria.
Most people with this attachment imprint have intense/passionate relationships where when it’s good it’s really good, and when it’s bad, it’s really bad. They are also the same people (on most part) who take their partners and exes for granted when they have them. They “don’t care” about you until they think they are losing you, then all of a sudden, they “love you” so much and don’t want to lose you.
People with a secure attachment style, which is the majority of people, respond to an ex trying to make them jealous with a “… And what do you think you are doing?” attitude. They see right through it because they are not ‘triggered’ or reacting to the fear of losing you.
If they think your antics are over the top, they will tell you they know what you are trying to do or cut you off because they don’t want to deal with the ‘drama’. Of course, if you are broken up, you can flirt and even sleep with whoever you want. But flirting and sleeping with someone else because you are broken up is different from posting pictures of yourself with other men or women, or having sex with another man or woman as a tactic for getting back an ex.
From a relationship safety and security standpoint, what you are saying in trying to make your ex jealous is, “You can’t trust me not to hurt you because I can, and I will”.
When someone plays on our emotions, vulnerability, insecurities or weaknesses, it’s not just a betrayal of trust, they’re also taking away our sense of safety.
A sense of safety is one of the first needs we have when we are born right there next to food. You could even say it’s a primal need because we’re born vulnerable and unable to protect ourselves from danger. We rely on our parents and care givers to keep us safe and when we don’t feel safe, we develop all kinds of complex ways to make ourselves feel emotionally safe.
If you know anything about attachment styles, you know that it is basically another way of talking about a sense of safety (in Psychology terms).
Our attachment style is a blue print of our sense of safety, internally within ourselves and externally in the way we interact with others, especially the people we love and care about.
When we meet someone new, we consciously or sub-consciously try to get a feel of how ‘safe’ we are with them. Intuitively we know that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is a risk, and we may get hurt when we put our emotional safety into their hands.
When they hurt us, it’s no longer a question of if they will hurt us, they already have. Our sense of safety is shaken and sometimes completely destroyed.
Some couples can rebuild a sense of safety in the relationship when the person who took away the sense of safety from the relationship works hard at helping their partner experience safety and truly believe they are safe.
Other couples make a trade-off for the well-being of the kids, for financial security or because they do not want to be alone. Basically, what they are saying is “I know that you do not have my back, but I can live with it if you meet this other need of mine”. That bargain is well within their right to make.
Most of the time, a sense of safety or security can never be restored. It’s imprinted in memory that “you are not safe” because your partner or ex does not have your back. When given the chance, they will hurt you (again).
When you are hurting because you were dumped or cheated on, making your ex feel jealous to get back at them seems justified. But step back from your own hurt, and ask yourself:
- Am I meeting my ex’s need for emotional safety or threatening it?
- Do my actions say that I will always have my ex’s back no matter what?
- Would I feel safe and secure in the relationship if my ex was making me feel I can’t trust them to make me feel safe?
Just like a loving parent’s job is to make an infant feel safe, someone who loves us wants to make sure we feel safe and secure, not make us feel threatened and fearful.
Next time you are posting pictures of yourself with other men or women, flirting or having sex with someone else as a tactic to get back your ex, think about the message about emotional safety that you are sending your ex.
- How do you think they feel?
- Are you triggering a childhood memory of when their sense of safety was threatened?
- Are you planting another memory into their sub-conscious that will affect the way they treat future partners and/or approach relationships in general?
Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
The person telling you to make your ex jealous may not care how your ex feels, but you should if you care about your ex, and about having a healthy, happy and lasting relationship with him or her.
Better to trigger happy and positive feelings and create attraction than trigger the fear of loss and create the feeling that you can’t be trusted because you are capable of hurting your ex and will, given the opportunity.