6 Post Breakup Protest Behaviours That Push Avoidants Away

Many avoidants who left the relationship because it was suffocating and smothering often feel that they’re being punished for doing what any person in their right mind would do when they’re being suffocated and smothered – try to free themselves and get to safety.

But most anxiously attached don’t see an avoidant leaving a relationship that they felt was suffocating, smothering, and made them feel trapped as an avoidant needing free themselves and get to safety. Instead, anxiously attached take the breakup personally mainly because an anxious attachment’s self worth is tied to someone wanting to be with them.

To someone anxiously attached “If you don’t want to be with me, then I am worth nothing to you.” Even when an avoidant reassures them that “I love you, I just feel suffocated, smothered and/or controlled” anxiously attached still think an avoidant should stay in the relationship and work things out. But how does one work things out when they literally and figuratively can’t even breathe?

As far an anxious attachment is concerned, they would stay in relationship and try to work it out even it meant they completely abandon who they are or what they need, and they expect others to do the same. So when the relationship ends, they go into post-breakup protest behaviour.

What is post-breakup protest behaviour?

For those of you new to attachment theory, protest behaviour is an adult “tantrum”. When we’re frustrated, upset or angry, instead of communicating our needs, feelings, frustration etc, like an adult, we engage in unpleasant, disruptive and explosive behaviours intended to get what we want from someone we think won’t give it to us any other way or things we do to fix what we think, or feel is going wrong in the relationship but in an unhealthy way.

Protest behaviours can be aggressive or passive aggressive, but the driving motivation is the same, “get back” at someone for how we feel or how something they’re doing is making us feel anxious, afraid, angry, unsafe, dysregulated etc.

Most of the time high attachment anxiety protest behaviour can look like coping or an attempt to self-regulate. For example no contact even if you’re doing it because you’re trying to self-soothe, self-regulate, heal and grow can look like protest behaviour if when you were together you used the silent treatment or ignoring an avoidant to get what you want or punish them for behaviours you didn’t approve of.

An example of anxious attachment post breakup protest behaviour

To help explain protest behaviour more vividly, I’ll use an example many of you can relate to. You’re texting back and forth for days, and a fearful avoidant or dismissive avoidant ex abruptly stops responding. There was no argument or fight, but the avoidant ex’s texting behaviour suddenly changed.

Until you get that response that reassures you that “everything is okay”, you are on pins and needles literally. You send another text just to check if everything is okay because you can not focus on anything else. You can even be in an important meeting, out with friends or home watching a movie and all you can think about is your ex hasn’t responded. You can’t take the waiting anymore, so you send a text asking why they haven’t responded. Still no response. You tell them you’re worried about them. Still not response. You tell them you care about them and love them. No response. You apologize for something you don’t even know you did. Still no response.

At this point all the “nice attempts” to get your avoidant ex to respond have failed and you are livid. Your texts become more worried, needy, clingy and angry.

You’ve reached the point of no return. You don’t care anymore if your behaviour is making you look needy or making things worse. You want them to feel how you feel. You want them to know that their behaviour is unacceptable. The texts become more aggressive or passive aggressive and even threatening. Still not response.

You keep texting hoping that somehow you will wear them out and force them to respond or you invent an emergency, use a fake profile, or a phone number to try to get your ex to somehow talk to you. Even an angry, cold or rude responses is a sign that they’re not completely gone. Some people even beg and ex to block them because it’s better than waiting and hoping. Others send the “I’m going no contact” text hoping that somehow that will an ex feel they’re losing them and respond..

Common anxious attachment and fearful avoidant protest behaviours

Protest behaviours that make avoidants shut down, push them to the breaking point and make them lose feelings include.

1. Emotional stress

Incessant texting, calling, sending angry texts, emotional drama etc. all designed to cause extreme emotional distress in someone and make them given in or give up resistance.

2. Aggression

Lashing out or emotional outburst in the hope getting reassurance, pushing their buttons, intentionally violating boundaries, starting unnecessary arguments or fights, name calling, cursing out, and behaviours intended to cause as much hurt as we think they’re inflicting on us.

3. Punitive silence

Ignoring texts, not taking calls, unfriending an ex, blocking access on social media, changing a phone number and generally withholding attention, care or affection with the hope that the other person will miss us, gives in to what we want or will chase or fight for us.

4. Emotional manipulation

Playing mind games to try to get back in touch, trying to make someone jealous in an attempt to make them realize our worth and miss us, posting photos showing you’re happy without them in an attempt to devalue their worth, gaslighting, giving ultimatums, threatening to walk away hoping they’ll beg you to not do so etc.

5. Physical threat

Showing up at an ex’s home, workplace or stalk them on social media. In some extreme cases it may lead to physically harming an ex or cause harm to someone they care about.

6. Bribery

Gift-giving usually to try to an ex convince them to stay, take you back or remind them of how much you love them (kind of like “buying love”), sexual favours, sexting, sending nudes or engaging in sex for attention or reassurance.

How protest behaviour affects a dismissive avoidant attachment

Most dismissive avoidants grew up with caregivers who used behaviours similar to protest behaviours to manipulate, control and make them comply. They are therefore sensitive to a romantic partner or ex doing the same and react to protest behaviours with anger.

Most dismissive avoidants emotionally shut down and don’t respond at all, act cold and distant as if they don’t care, or lash out act. Their reaction to protest behaviour can be insensitive and downright hurtful when they reach their breaking point.

The more you engage in protest behaviours the faster a dismissive avoidant loses feelings because dismissive avoidants see protest behaviours as a sign of emotional weakness or immaturity, lack of self control and/or an attempt to control what they do, how they want to engage or get close, and feel completely justified for their angry reaction to a romantic partner or ex’s protest behaviour.

Some dismissive avoidant exes can even still have feelings for you that are just as strong and when you were together but resist their feelings for you to avoid the drama that comes with relationships in general and getting back together with an ex in particular. They convince themselves that they don’t have feelings for you so they can move on.

How protest behaviour affects a fearful avoidant attachment

Most fearful avoidants react to an anxious ex’s protest behaviour with mixed signals. Protest behaviours feel familiar to their childhood experiences with caregivers who made them feel loved but also frightened them.
Some fearful avoidants even find protest behaviours reassuring (and even exciting) because if you didn’t love them or care about them, you would be so bothered enough to engage in protest behaviour.

But protest behaviours also often trigger a fearful avoidant’s fear and a belief that people eventually get disappointed, lose interest and leave them, and/or that they (fearful avoidant) will eventually be disappointed, lose interest or lose feelings and leave.

Protest behaviour becomes a cat-and-mouse game or even eat-or-be-eaten game. For example in reaction to protest behaviour, a fearful avoidant ex will post things on social media that they know you will see and reach out to them, or block and unblock you several times to try to get you to reach out first. A fearful avoidant ex can even respond to protest behaviour with cutting off contact because they know from personal experience how being cut off feels to someone with high attachment anxiety; play the player kind of thing.

Most fearful avoidants will go back and forth between aggressive and passive aggressive reactions to protest behaviour. If they still have feelings for you or are on the fence about getting back together, they’ll respond reassuringly one moment and cold and distant the next.

After a while a fearful avoidant ex will stop responding, block you or even tell you that they have no feelings for you because the protest behaviour started to feel threatening and too hard to deal with. They pull away and start acting like they lost feelings for you or actually loses feelings.

If you’re still protesting the break-up or engaged in protest behaviour, the first thing you need to do is send a test accepting the break-up. Make sure you’re accepting the break-up not agreeing with it.

RELATED:

What Happens When You Ignore A Fearful Avoidant Ex?

What Happens When You Ignore A Dismissive Avoidant Ex?

Why Dismissive Avoidants Push You Away (What to Do)

Did A Fearful Avoidant Develop Feelings And Pull Away?

What An Avoidant Ex Is Thinking When They Are Pulling Away

Avoidant Ex Says “I Don’t Want A Relationship” (What to Do)

How to Get An Ex Who Lost Feelings For You To Fall Back In Love

How to Work On Being Secure While Trying To Get Back An Ex

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7 Comments

  1. says: Daz

    Is my ex sending me articles and videos on attachment styles and telling me how I can change counted as protest behavior? The armchair diagnosing and therapizing is what has killed any and all lingering feelings I had. I’m DA and not one to block someone, but this one will not stop, she thinks she knows what’s best for me.

  2. says: Aemornion

    What about cases where a dismissive-avoidant ex breaks up with someone due to them saying they have lost feelings like “a switch goes off,” but they were hoping it would be different this time + they still want to try being friends?

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

      There are articles that discuss different dismissive avoidant ex scenarios. Enter “dismissive avoidant” in the search tool and it’ll pull up all articles about dismissive avoidants who lost feelings, want to be friends etc.

  3. says: Baebear

    Mine reached out after 54 days of no contact by texting little cute videos and pointless low investment chats that felt like feeling blank space, not an actual attempt to communicate. This went on for 4 months then he finally told me he loved me but didn’t feel romantic love for me. So, I basically wasted 6 months of my life on someone who wasn’t interested in me.

  4. says: Meghan

    I’ve engaged in protest behavior and pushed my ex so hard to the point that he’s blocked me and told mutual friends I’m crazy. I had no knowledge of attachment styles until after the breakup. I can’t change the past, but I can use this opportunity as a learning opportunity.

  5. says: Annelane

    We broke up end of April and my FA lean anxious reached out 2 weeks into NC. I didn’t respond so last week I reached out and got a text back, “Please don’t contact me. Thank you and goodbye”. Should I leave her alone and let her contact me?

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