5 Ways A Fearful Avoidant Ex Sabotaged The Relationship

If you’re trying to get back together with a fearful avoidant ex, you will recognize these 5 ways fearful avoidants self sabotaged the relationship; and may still be self sabotaging. Some of these behaviours may be making you ask yourself, did they even love you? Should I even try to get back with a fearful avoidant ex?

While individuals with anxious-preoccupied and dismissive avoidant attachment styles self sabotage relationships in some form or another; it’s more common for fearful avoidants to self sabotage a relationship.

The self-sabotage is so gradual that you might not see it when it’s happening. Some of the worst ways fearful avoidants self sabotage include:

1)  Ambiguity

Being vague, offering few details, speaking in incomplete sentences and misrepresenting who they’re are some of the ways fearful avoidants self sabotage right from the start of a relationship.

And even though this behaviour is more of a coping mechanism than malicious intent, it feels like the same thing when you’re on the receiving end of the unclear, ambiguous and mixed signals. It makes you wonder what else they’re “lying” about.

I’ve talked to some fearful avoidants who are aware that they’re self sabotaging and harm themselves and their relationships with these behaviours. They say they keep doing it because the alternative; being vulnerable is much scarier.

2) Self-doubt

A fearful avoidant self sabotage may begin when things are going very well. A fearful avoidants sees things are getting serious and they start questioning if they truly love you, if they can meet your needs, if they’re making the right choice/decision being with you etc.

You get the feeling they don’t believe you love them, and some fearful avoidants even tell you they don’t understand what you love about them; or why you are with them/still hanging around. There are fearful avoidants who resent you for loving them because they don’t think they deserve your love and commitment.

3) Testing partners

Other times, the self sabotage begins with a fearful avoidant having doubts about you. Do you truly love them, are they with the right person, are you with them for the right reasons, are you compatible/want the same things, are things moving too fast, can they see a future with you etc.

They put you through one test after another, often playing mind games to test you. They also get annoyed over small things and minor details; and get more and more annoyed with time. One day they explode, stop responding or break-up with you. If you ever wondered what that was about; this was a fearful avoidant self sabotaging to prevent the relationship from progressing or getting serious.

4) Keeping you away from their inner circle

The show “Help! I’m In A Secret Relationship” comes to mind when I think of a fearful avoidant “hiding” someone they’re dating or in a relationship with.

They don’t introduce you to their friends or family, don’t post any pictures of you on social media; and sometimes don’t want to be seen with you in public. Yet privately they profess their “unconditional” love and commitment. You even feel truly loved, but can’t understand why they don’t want people close to them to know you’re in a relationship; or together.

As in the show, sometimes there is cheating going on, but often times, the reason a fearful avoidant is “hiding you” has less to do with you and more to do with a fearful avoidant’s inability to communicate what’s going on with them outside of the relationship (i.e job stress, financial problems/unemployment, family drama, depression etc).

5) Multiple sexual partners

Men and women cheat for various reasons but someone who cheats or has multiple sexual partner to avoid intimacy; or as away to stop themselves from falling deeply in love is self sabotaging. And fearful avoidants do this a lot.

They start to feel deep feelings for you and get scared that if they let themselves fall in love, they’ll get hurt. So they go have sex with someone else (or multiple people) to distract themselves from dealing with how they truly feel. When you call them out, they’ll in a matter-of-fact-way tell you “it means nothing”, “it was just sex” or some other reason that makes you think, “then why do it if it means nothing to you?”. They’re doing it because they don’t want to be honest with themselves.

Most fearful avoidants keep self sabotaging and pushing you away until you end the relationship; or they do the final self sabotage: breakup with you for no reason at all.

Do fearful avoidants who self sabotage really love you?

Yes, they do. But to understand how a fearful avoidant loves, you must first understand a fearful avoidant’s first experience of love; and their complicated fear of relationships.

A fearful avoidant attachment style also known as a disorganized attachment style describes someone who is both attachment anxious and attachment avoidant. That is, they want and need closeness in their relationships, but avoid it because they fear rejection and/or being abandoned.

A fearful avoidant attachment style develops from having a primary caregiver or attachment figure who was:

  • Unpredictable and chaotic
  • Inconsistent in responding to their feelings and needs (neglect)
  • Provided care, attention and affection with threats and manipulation
  • Was emotionally abusive and sometimes physically violent
  • Loving sometimes and terrifying other times

A fearful avoidant attachment style can also develop later in life as a result of a series of bad or toxic romantic relationships; or some other trauma e.g. rape or sexual violence by someone close.

Self sabotage is ingrained in the fearful avoidant attachment system

Someone who learned about love from a parent(s) or caregiver who was a source of happiness and source of fear learns that:

  • Relationships is a source of both comfort and anxiety/stress.
  • You’re never good enough or worthy of consistent attention and affection.
  • You can never know what to expect from someone you love.
  • It’s okay to want love but you should be wary and very careful because you will get hurt.
  • People who say they love you will take advantage of you; manipulate you, use you and/or abuse you if you are not careful.
  • If you show someone that you love them and need them, they’ll use that against you.
  • It’s okay to lie to avoid a negative outcome (e.g. rejection or being punished).

When you understand that a fearful avoidant’s self sabotage goes much deeper, you start to see that they’re not intentionally trying to hurt you; and understand why they keep pushing you away and can’t let you love them.

Fearful avoidants want to make relationships work, and most of them try

When you are on the receiving end of a fearful avoidant’s self sabotage, it’s inevitable to think they must know they’re self sabotaging: that they must be intentionally pushing you away. But when you understand that a fearful avoidant’s self sabotage goes much deeper, you also understand that a fearful avoidant’s confusing signals are sometimes confusing to them too. They love you and care about the relationship; but they always end up self sabotaging and messing it up.

This is not me excusing ‘bad behaviour” or me saying you should just take it and not call out a fearful avoidant; or that you should handle them as if they were delicate souls. Not saying that. This is me saying, if you want to attract back and keep a fearful avoidant, you must fully understand what you are dealing with.

Unless a fearful avoidant ex takes steps to heal their attachment issues, not just be aware of them or hide behind “no contact” but really do the work; relationships for a fearful avoidant will always be walking a thin line between wanting closeness and avoiding it. Sometimes the need for connection and closeness overpowers the fear of getting hurt; and sometimes the fear of getting hurt overpowers the need for connection and closeness.

Should you have to put up with someone who keeps self sabotaging?

Many fearful avoidants I know want to make relationships work, and some of them try. Sometimes there is no contact for weeks even months, they reach out or you reach out; things are good for a while, then the pushing you away and pulling you back in begins all over.

I tell my clients trying to attract back an a fearful avoidant that “No one should have to go through something like this, even for the sake of love. And if being with a fearful avoidant is messing you up emotionally and mentally, walk away. There is no shame is saying “I deserve better”, because you do”.

And as mentioned earlier, it’s not just fearful avoidants who self sabotage. Anxious-preoccupied protest behaviour is just as bad as a fearful avoidants self sabotage. The difference is that anxious-preoccupied like to play the victim of an avoidant. They honestly believe that fixing an avoidant fixes the relationship; or finding a secure partner is the solution. Your anxious attachment issues will follow you into a secure relationship; and you may end up the one self sabotaging a good relationship.

How do you deal with a fearful avoidant self-sabotaging?

The best way to deal with a fearful avoidant’s self-sabotaging behaviours is to let them know you still want to try to make it work but if they’re not feeling it, that’s okay too. You can’t force them to be with you. After you make this clear, space out how often you reach out. Not cut off contact, just reach out less (regular check-ins) to allow them space to process how they feel.

According to Harvard brain scientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

Always that remember that avoidants in general don’t process feelings as fast as anxious-preoccupied or securely attached. Many don’t even start fully processing a break-up for months (or process it at all) because they’re busy avoiding their emotions. It’s another way they self sabotage post break-up.

Not yet ready to walk away from your fearful avoidant ex?

Attachment styles is meant to help you heal your own attachment trauma, not focus on an ex’s attachment style or try to fix them; which is what most people trying to attract back an avoidant do.

Anytime a client is so focused on their ex’s attachment style, and is all they think and talk about, I know they’re most likely not going to attract back their ex. The clients who end up attracting back their ex are those who focus inward and work hard to change their own attachment style.

Working towards secure attachment is particularly important because fearful avoidants are fearful avoidants because they have never known what it’s like to want love, connection and closeness and not be afraid of it.

When you say or do things that make them feel that they will end up getting abandoned or rejected, you confirm their worst fears. So make sure that if you’re trying to attract back an avoidant, you have dealt with anything that could make them feel that they can’t trust you; or that one day you’re going to hurt them or abandon them.


How Do I Give My Avoidant Ex Space? (And How Much Space)

How A Fearful Avoidant Ex Comes Back – A Detailed Analysis

Fearful Avoidant Ex Left The Door Open Should I Reach Out?

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  1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Clarity

    I’m FA leaning anxious and broke up with FA leaning DA because he couldn’t commit. I reached out 10 days after the breakup and we reconnected instantly. I told him I didn’t want to start from where we left off and he said he also wanted a fresh start. We’re in contact daily and he seems eager to tell and show me he’s changed. But now I’m not sure of what I want. I’m happy that he’s made all these changes and doing the things I always wanted him to but I wonder if his motivations were to change for me and not for himself. I’m doing my own self-work but my fear is if it’s enough since we’re both FA.

    1. Love Doctor Yangki AkitengLove Doctor Yangki Akitengsays: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      I understand being FA that it’s hard to trust others’ motivations and hard to trust your own instincts and feelings. If it helps, all attachment styles including secure attachment from time to time question an ex’s motivations for changing.

      My personal view is whether his motivations for changing are for you of for himself, if the change is real and genuine, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you both are “better people” and the relationship is healthier and more secure.

      See if you can push past your FA attachment internal working model or better yet, change it and try to give yourselves an honest chance.

  2. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Ramsey

    Reading this honestly made me thinker deeper of my ex and our relationship. And it now makes me think of ways I have been, not truly understanding the situation and felt like love and being there in way I thought you should was right way. This makes me really mad and reflective of myself wishing I was more willing to self reflect on myself but also pay attention to certain things in that person’s perspective. I truly regret not seeking help earlier before we had broken up to understand these different attachment styles and way of communicating as well as some of these signs.

  3. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Rehman

    Reading this it makes me wonder if I’ve been a fearful avoidant all along and not anxious preoccupied. I have intense pull push urges and do things that often end up in me self sabotaging. I’m in therapy and the urges have become less, but they’re still there.

  4. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Boutthebase

    Recently got dumped by FA leaning dismissive who I think self sabotaged to avoid commitment. We dated 4 months and up until the breakup things were really great. Started when I asked to be exclusive and for him to take down his profile from the dating app we met on. Said he needed time to see where things with us lead, and I flat out told him 4 months is enough time to figure out whether he wants to be with me or keep looking. Next day he broke up with me. Profile is still up on the dating app LOL!

    1. Love Doctor Yangki AkitengLove Doctor Yangki Akitengsays: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      Not sure if this was straight up fearful avoidant self sabotage or just not ready to be exclusive.

      4 months is a short time for some avoidants to figure out exactly how they feel about someone. Remember, they take longer to process their feelings and emotions.

      But if you felt 4 months was long enough, you did right by you. You know what you want and maybe this wasn’t it.

  5. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: NoFAs

    No I do not recommend dating FAs. Fearful avoidants don’t want to change, don’t waste anymore time with them. It’s going to hurt but it’ll be better than being with someone who makes you feel like crap. It’s so exhausting trying to have a relationship with someone who puts up so many roadblocks and gets triggered by things normal people say and do in relationships. Just stay away from these people because they aren’t willing to grow and mature.

    1. Love Doctor Yangki AkitengLove Doctor Yangki Akitengsays: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      I hear you, and so sorry you went through a painful and confusing experience with a fearful avoidant. It’s hard and nothing anyone says, not even myself can take away from how you feel and what you went through. Sometimes however much you try, an anxious-avoidant relationship will not work because the two attachment styles need a lot of work and adjusting to make the dynamic work.

      I don’t agree though with the “Fearful avoidants don’t want to change” narrative. I see it on so many other sites, and I don’t think it helps in any way.

      Many fearful avoidants are not aware of their attachment style, some are, but don’t believe in “labels” and/or fight them. But almost all fearful avoidants know that something is not right because their relationship always fail. Some of them want to change their bad experiences, but change takes effort and time. Fearful avoidants in general tend to be procrastinators and that’s why they seem not to want to change.

      These two articles address this topic in more detail.

      Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 10 – Avoidants Can’t Change, Can They?

      Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 12 – Can A Relationship Work?

  6. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Newt

    FA and I can relate. I have this voice inside of me that says “everyone leaves” and it gets louder to a point where it becomes “this is not real/too good to be true”. And its usually when the relationship is great and then we have one small disagreement over something so minor. Im working on becoming secure, but its hard when you know however hard you try, you end up in the same place, alone.

    1. Love Doctor Yangki AkitengLove Doctor Yangki Akitengsays: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      Right now, it feels like however hard you try, you’ll always end up alone because that has been your experience. But when you get to the other side of secure, you will feel differently.

      Keep pushing forward because turning back means ending up alone.

  7. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Scarlett

    Thank you for such positive advice. Everything I read says walk away, do no contact. I don’t want to confirm to my FA that they’re not worth the time and effort. I want to prove him wrong. I want to show him that I actually love him and he matters to me. I think this is important for a fearful avoidant to know that I will not just walk away as he expects me to.

    1. Love Doctor Yangki AkitengLove Doctor Yangki Akitengsays: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      It’s important for a fearful avoidant to know that you’ll not just walk away, and that someone thinks they’re worth the time and effort. But it’s equally important to be honest with yourself if you can’t “be there” for a fearful avoidant.

      Some people walk away too easily, and some people stay on too long.

  8. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: lrona

    My FA ex convinced himself that I would eventually breakup with him. Even knowing he self-sabotaged, it still hurts.

  9. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Mike k

    If I’m being honest I’ve done every one of this. My last relationship, she broke up with me after seeing texts of me flirting with several IG models. I loved my ex and honestly don’t care for the women and have no feelings whatsoever. So why did I do it? I had no idea I was self-sabotaging until I started reading about attachment styles, took the test and I’m FA.

  10. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: EagleEye

    Good advice. My FA apologized for self-sabotaging and breaking up suddenly. Said she acted impulsively and thanked me for not letting her push me away. We’re trying to work things out and I’m learning as an AP to be calm, take things slow and be consistent.

  11. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: LP

    Hi, I found this article through your many Youtube videos and wanted to thank you for all our explanations and efforts. I only wish I had seen them 2 months ago. Now that I see that there’s a way to handle myself when he’s distancing himself. I hope you much success in your career because your advice and insight are easy to understand, and so many people could benefit from them. I’ve been sending your videos to friends whom I believe can benefit from it. Once again, thank you again and many blessings!

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