6 Relationship Truths to Know If You’ve Been Paperclipped!
Has an ex ever randomly started talking to you after ghosting or breaking things off? Maybe they appeared interested or asked to hang out, but always ended up flaking?
If so, you may have experienced a dating phenomenon called “paperclipping.”
Paperclipping is when someone (usually an ex) randomly pops back up into your life — not because they’re interested, but because they want to feel better about themselves. The term is based on “Clippy,” the annoying and unhelpful tool on Microsoft that always seemed to appear when you didn’t need him.
1. You deserve relationships with people who give you consistent attention and love.
I used to think I was worth however people treated me — but now I know how wrong that can be. People will mistreat and use you for whatever reason, and that reason is always on them. It never reflects poorly on you or means you deserved it.
Further, you deserve a relationship you’re totally happy in. One where your partner shows you love and attention consistently without guilting you. One where you’re not asking yourself over and over what their intentions are.
And a relationship like that is out there for you. This relationship may not be that one — and you’re allowed to let it go.
2. They’re probably thinking more about themselves than you.
When the guy who was paperclipping me first came back into my life, I thought it was because he was interested in me. I thought maybe I was special and we could rekindle what we had.
While those sentiments may have not been entirely untrue, I didn’t fully understand (or want to understand, honestly) that his intentions differed from that. His primary concern, after all, was himself, and his main goal was using me to build his self-esteem. His reason for leaving time and time again was his own, too — it had nothing to do with something being wrong with me.
It seems to me (and people I trust) that he wanted me to respond, even after he randomly broke things off and ghosted me repeatedly, just so he could feel like he was simply that amazing. He wanted to make sure I was still on the hook for him. I think he was also talking to others at the time, seeing how many people he could make interested in him.
Afterward, I felt used, naïve, and underappreciated. And that’s not something I’m after or particularly okay with.
3. Your happiness is important.
If you’re like me, you feel obligated to make sure others are happy and content all the time. You treat people the way you want to be treated. You feel bad saying “no” in any way.
And as someone who’s worked hard to learn the importance of personal happiness, I want to make sure you know this: You’re allowed to set boundaries. Know you have to take care of yourself first, and you can only control your own happiness. Respect others, but not in a way that disrespects yourself.
Like Penny Reid said:
“Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.”
That’s not selfish — that’s self-care. And it’s so important.
4. Trust your gut feelings.
You may have a gut feeling of sorts about how to respond to the person paperclipping you. It may feel like a piece of information you just know or believe but aren’t sure why. According to an expert, this intuition came come from a mix of non-conscious sensory perceptions and past experiences.
While they can be right and wrong, I encourage you to trust those gut feelings. Does something feel messed up? Lean into those thoughts. Do you think you may be happier elsewhere? Go with it.
You may not know the paperclipper’s true intentions, but your intuition can help.
5. You’re not obligated to build a relationship with them, especially if you’re not ready.
You may feel you’re “supposed” to do what they ask and rebuild your relationship since you had one before.
I hear you, believe me — but that’s not the case.
You’re allowed to address your needs and not re-enter relationships where you’ve experienced too much hurt. You’re allowed to say no if you don’t believe the relationship is a healthy one. You’re even allowed to think the breakup or ghosting turned into something good.
6. These on-again, off-again behaviors may continue.
I thought he meant it when he said he “wasn’t busy anymore” and “wanted to hang out.” Time and time again, I believed the last ghosting was, well, the last ghosting.
Spoiler: It wasn’t. It never was.
I don’t want to say this is the case for every paperclipping situation, especially if it’s handled differently. I just want to warn you because I wish someone warned me years ago.
I wish I hadn’t thrown away my self-worth and self-respect over a guy and a relationship that never came to be, especially since I’m so much happier with someone else now.
The on-again, off-again conversations and interest may not end here, so think about what decisions will lead you to where you want to be.
As if breakups and ghosting weren’t bad enough, being paperclipped afterward — sometimes right when you’re getting over the other person — can be a confusing and emotional experience.
Your self-worth and feelings may be damaged. You may not know what to think or what to do.
And that’s okay.
Let the other person work on themselves a little first, and maybe do some self-care work on your own.
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