A breakup is a tumultuous time for both people involved, where mixed messages can linger past the end of the relationship. If your ex tells you he still loves you but wants to stay friends, it can mean a host of different things that can leave you in limbo about the state of your relationship. This sentiment can have you spinning about whether to let go or hold on to him. Figuring out this puzzle involves paying attention to his behavior to discover his true intention.

I Love You and Wish We Were Back Together

One explanation for his remark is that he is interested in getting back together and believes that the best way to stay in your life is to be friends until the time is right to reunite. Lisa Steadman, author of "It's a Breakup Not a Breakdown: Get Over the Big One and Change Your Life -- For Good," writes that when someone is wanting to stay friends after a breakup, it is because they hold hope of rekindling the relationship. A good way to determine if this is the case is to notice whether he offers you compliments, apologizes for his role in the breakup, and seems genuinely concerned about your life and well-being.

I Say I Love You to Soften the Blow

Another possibility is that he is trying to set boundaries in the aftermath of the breakup without quite knowing how to accomplish it. Susan J. Elliot, in her book "Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You," warns that he is most likely saying these words to you because he simply doesn't know how to end the relationship. If he isn't calling you and you are the one repeatedly contacting him, he probably wants to cut off ties in a polite way without having to actually say the words.

I Love You, But I'm Not Sure About Rekindling Yet

If he is uncertain whether he wants to try again, he could be saying this to you in an attempt to express that he still loves you while taking it slow and being cautious. In addition, he might be testing the waters to see if you two can fix the issues you had as a couple by being friends first. A way to determine if this is his motive would be to take notice if he begins any discussions about the relationship and what caused the breakup. If any of the "old" patterns from your past relationship re-emerge in this new friendship, he may distance himself from you for a short period of time, or even permanently, because he feels that nothing has changed.

I Love You Because You Are Always There

The worst scenario is that he is distastefully trying to keep you around in the event that he doesn't find anyone better than you. To add insult to injury, you might be his security blanket, giving him a space to go when he has no one else in his life. Elliot warns that the person who ended the relationship doesn't want the true responsibility of commitment, yet doesn't wish to let go of what is familiar. Ask yourself whether he only calls you when he is not dating someone else and then breaks off nearly all communication while he has a new someone, or calls only when he needs something from you.

I Love You and Want You as a Friend

It could be that this isn't a mixed message at all. He loves you, but isn't in love with you. He really does want to stay friends with no ulterior motive designed. If this is the explanation for his statement, it will be easy to determine this by going with your instinct. If your interactions are not forced and there is an absence of awkward silences, chances are there are no active thought processes trying to sway the outcome of every communication. It is a natural and free-flowing friendship, like any other you have that requires little effort to progress smoothly.