Individuals with different attachment styles react to things like initiating contact, an ex not responding or an ex acting hot and cold in different ways.
Securely attached (S-A): I don’t like how this feels but I can handle it.
Dismissive-Avoidant (D-A): I don’t like how this feels but I’ll deal with it only if I have to.
Fearful-Avoidant (F-A) : I don’t like how this feels but if I ignore it, I’ll be fine
Anxiously-Fearful (A-F) : I don’t like how this feels, I need to get away before it gets worse.
Anxiously-preoccupied (A-P): I don’t like how this feels, I need to do something, anything.
When things are going well in a relationship or an ex is responding immediately and showing interest and attraction, the difference between anxiously- preoccupied and anxiously- fearful is undetectable.
- Their relationships are intense; often moving too fast too soon
- They want constant interaction and reassurance, and are way too much invested in the relationship
- They are prone to codependency, neediness, clinging, over-pleasing, coercive and controlling behaviours
- They feel they must always do something to keep someone’s interest
- They are always worried that the other person will leave them
- Their emotions get in the way of effective communication and conflict resolution
- They worry too much about a partner’s or ex’s availability and responsiveness
The differences are so subtle that most people can not tell if they are anxiously- preoccupied or anxiously- fearful. But as soon as there is an indication that a partner or ex is pulling away or losing interest, the differences come to light.
Anxiously- fearful individuals avoid contact, anxiously- preoccupied individuals seek more contact demand attention (even negative attention), and sometimes use aggressive, hostile and/or manipulative behaviour to get attention.
Unlike avoidants, anxiously- fearful individuals are not trying to avoid closeness, they want closeness with their ex but avoid contact because they are scared that staying in contact puts them in a position where they could be rejected, strung along or used.
These are the people more likely to do ‘low-contact” or what some of them call “active no contact”. In their fearful thinking, if you reach out once in a while you still get to be close but not too close that you act needy or make a mistake that will push your ex further away. And if you let your ex initiate all the contact and they stop initiating contact, it’s not rejection because you were not reaching out, they were doing all the reaching out.
Someone with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style on the other hand reacts with trying to hold on to their ex even tighter and pulling all the stops to stop their ex from pulling away even further.
They blame themselves for their ex pulling away or distancing (and sometimes hostile) behaviours. They believe that because they are to blame for endangering the relationship, it’s their responsibility to make things right again. They also believe that if they keep contacting their ex, their ex will see that they want to make things right and respond.
Even angry, cold or rude responses are a sign that an ex has not completely pulled away. They are responding and not blocking or ignoring them, it must mean there is still hope, right?
The result is a complex mixture of emotions and feelings that go up and down depending on how an ex responds. Roller coaster feelings lead to frantic and often disorganized efforts to get their ex back. Once activated, people with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style can not focus their minds on anything else until they’re reassured that nothing is wrong, their partner/ex is not mad, pulling away or abandoning them.
For example, when an ex does not respond, someone with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style will send a text to apologize even when they have no idea what they are apologizing for (or have no reason to apologize). If they don’t get a response, they’ll send another text just to check if everything is okay. Then another text telling their ex how much they love and care about them. When there is still no response they’ll apologize, then ask if everything is okay…
Until they get that response that says that “everything is okay”, they’ll be on pins and needles literally. They’ll be in an important meeting, in the gym working out, out with friends or watching a movie alone at home and all they are thinking about is why their ex hasn’t responded.
Some people someone with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style will even invent an emergency to try to re-establish contact, fake an email account or use a phone number their ex will not recognize to try to reach their ex.
When all fails, they’ll go into what is called protest-behaviour.
Protest-behaviour can be aggressive e.g., incessant calling, sending angry texts, threats, harassing or stalking (showing up at an ex’s home, workplace or stalking them on social media), and in some cases physically endangering or harming someone.
Protest-behaviour can also be passive-aggressive e.g. unfriending their ex, blocking access to their social media, changing a phone number etc. just in case an ex responds or tries to make contact.
Other passive-aggressive behaviours people with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style engage in include posting how happy they are, photos of them with another guy or woman etc.