If you are asking, “How long does it take a fearful avoidant ex to come back?”, “Why does it taking so long for a fearful avoidant ex to come back?” and “How much longer is this going to take”, you are not alone.
As discussed in my article, What’s The Window Of Time To Get Back A Fearful Avoidant? , fearful avoidants can lean anxious or avoidant after a break-up. If they lean anxious (more open to contact and connection), they’ll likely come back in 1- 3 months. After 3 months, you’re looking at least 5 months and more from the time of the break-up. After 3 months, fearful avoidants who initially leaned anxious start to distance and some fearful avoidant exes completely detach from an ex.
Missing the crucial time to get back a fearful avoidant ex doesn’t mean you can’t get them back, it just means it’s more work and will take longer. They’ll most likely be guarded, want to take things slow and even just be friends for a start. This is a fearful avoidant ex’s way of making sure that they’re safe and not taking a risk that’ll lead to hurt down the road.
If a fearful avoidant is responding, engaged, reaching out first, showing interest in you and your life, communicating the changes they’re making and interested in the changes you’ve made, there are several reasons why it may take them 5 months or even a year to come back. Some of the reasons why it may take a fearful avoidant longer to come back are unique to a relationship or situation. In this article, I discuss the 5 common reasons why fearful avoidant take long to come back.
Here are five reasons why it’s taking a fearful avoidant ex too long to come back
1. Feeling conflicted
One of the main reasons and probably the most likely reason a fearful avoidant ex is taking long to come back is because they’re constantly battling two conflicting forces inside of them – should they respond, should they reach out, should they trust you to not hurt them again, should they just move on and risk losing you forever etc. I’ve spent hours and hours with many fearful avoidant exes working together to draft two sets of texts or emails to an ex. One text is a closure text saying they’re moving on and the other is saying they still have feelings and want to give the relationship another chance. We go back and forth for several days, weeks and even months perfecting these two sets of texts. When I ask why they never send the texts, the answer is always “I’m confused”, which perfectly sums a fearful avoidant attachment.
If you are doing everything to make a fearful avoidant feel safe, and they’re equally sharing the work of keeping the lines of communication, you’re spending a significant amount of time together, they say they still have feelings for you/love you, appreciate the changes you’ve made, and feel safe with you but still can’t make up their mind whether they want to get back together or not, it’s not about what you are saying or doing anymore. It’s most likely that a fearful avoidant is conflicted and confused, doesn’t trust their own feelings and/or decision-making, or doesn’t trust the relationship can really work better.
If this is your fearful avoidant ex and you’re at that point where you’re asking, “how much longer is this going to take”, 1) be patient and let your fearful avoidant ex resolve their internal battle without you making them even more confused and conflicted and 2) see why they don’t trust you and/or trust the relationship can work better and work on regaining their trust.
2. They’re still hang up on what happened
Research on a fearful avoidant attachment shows that they have an excessive and maladaptive focus on negative feelings and their causes and consequences. After the break-up, a fearful avoidant ex will repetitively and passively focus on the negative things that happened before the break-up and the negative experience after the break-up.
Many of my fearful avoidant clients say that they feel like they’re stuck in a loop of repeated negative thoughts about the past and can’t seem to stop themselves even if they want to. They replay their exes words and actions over and over especially things that hurt them deeply and they also replay their own mistakes and ways they could have done things differently.
Because they can’t move past the past, they find it hard to forgive their ex or emotionally connect with an ex, and sometimes just don’t want to make any effort to emotionally connect let alone get back together. They still want contact and enjoy talking to their ex but fear that the past will repeat itself. And sometimes it doesn’t help when an ex in an attempt to emotionally connect brings up something from the past and trigger the repetitive negative thoughts they have about the past.
Ruminating on the negatives things that happened often send a fearful avoidant into depression and affects how long it’ll take a fearful avoidant ex to come back. You may even find that a fearful avoidant ex is more focused on coping with the damaging effects of rumination thoughts and feelings, and this may be the only thing holding them from getting back together.
3. You haven’t changed enough
Some exes rush to wanting more contact, to meet and even get back together without giving a fearful avoidant ex reason to wan these things. If a fearful avoidant ex wants to keep the lines of communication open and is even engaged but and doesn’t think there’s been enough in your dynamics to warrant more contact, connection, meet-ups or dates or getting back together, they’ll politely respond, engage here and there and even meet once in a while but take longer to come back because they want to see if time will show that your dynamics has truly changed enough to get back together.
A fearful avoidant ex may even ask you direct questions e.g. “What do you think of x or y” to see if you respond honestly and true to yourself or just say what you think they want to hear. If a fearful avoidant ex felt unheard, unappreciated or controlled they may try to test you to see how you respond. If it feels like nothing has changed, it doesn’t matter how much you tell a fearful avoidant that you’re working on yourself or have changed, they’ll be hesitant to come back. If they’re leaning very heavily towards coming back but still not sure if things have changed enough, they’ll take their time coming back.
But if you consistently show up as changed for the better and a fearful avoidant see that they can trust the change in your dynamic will last, a fearful avoidant e will come back sooner than later. They may not say “I want to come back” but as is characteristic of a fearful avoidant, they’ll hint here and there that things are so much better and they’re thinking about getting back together.
4. They’re feeling pressured or overwhelmed
It takes a fearful avoidant longer to come back if you make them more confused or conflicted, or they feel pressured, overwhelmed and unsafe. This includes doing things to make them even more anxious (e.g. going no contact, making them jealous, unnecessary arguments, brining up the past/break-up) etc.
Getting back with an ex is an overwhelming process whether you are the one trying to get back an ex or if an ex is trying to get you back. Fearful avoidants are unique in that they get easily overwhelmed and when they’re overwhelmed almost everything can feel like pressure (See what makes a fearful avoidant feel overwhelmed).
But what probably makes a fearful avoidant ex feel more pressured and overwhelmed is pushing for a definite answers on where they stand getting back together or how long it’ll take them to be ready to make a decision about getting back together. Chances are that your fearful avoidant ex doesn’t know how long or even if they want to get back together.
If you give a fearful avoidant ex to choose option A or B, in terms of how long before their ready to make a decision, they’ll either choose “all of the above” or choose the option they think gets them out of the situation with little risk of feeling rejected or getting hurt – and it may not be what they think/feel/want.
Pushing for answers or timelines increases pressure, makes an avoidant feel overwhelmed with the whole process and a fearful avoidant ex will either procrastinate or avoid making a decision all together or make a “convenient” decision which being anxious-avoidant, they’re unlikely to follow through on.
5. They’re keeping their options open
If a fearful avoidant is still in contact, still communicating with you but taking too long to come back they may already be in a relationship, seeing someone new or just keeping their options open.
Most fearful avoidants don’t feel conflicted about contact with an ex or even being sexually intimate with an ex while exploring other relationships or keeping their options open. If when the break-up happened they were already leaning towards ‘”seeing other people” or “exploring other options” they may want to keep an ex as one of their options (see: what do avoidants get out of keeping exes around?)
Anytime an ex’s relational, emotional or sexual needs are being met elsewhere it’s reasonable to expect that it’s going to take them longer to come back, and they may not even come back at all.