If a dismissive-avoidant reaches out or initiates contact, it’s usually a sign that:
- They don’t think it’s necessary to make a big deal out of what happened (“it’s no big deal, let’s move on from the past”).
- They feel responsible in part for the way things are and stepping out of their comfort zone is their way of trying to make things right again.
- They are not yet ready to let go of the relationship.
Unlike fearful-avoidants, dismissive-avoidants don’t do limited or low contact and often don’t reach out first. They don’t see the point of reaching out for reaching out’s sake. And unlike fearful-avoidants, dismissive-avoidants aren’t worried about not getting a response (just like they don’t feel obliged to respond).
Many anxious men and women are pleasantly surprised when a dismissive-avoidant reaches out because they think that because their ex is an avoidant, the natural thing for them to do is to avoid all contact. They feel good when a dismissive-avoidant reaches out but also disappointed that the dismissive-avoidant is not giving away how they feel and what they are thinking, and that the dismissive-avoidant is will not chase them.
The natural tendency for an anxious person is to apologize for the past or give reassurance that their feelings have not changed. Often this eagerness to “correct the past: or “fix a mistake”, or “set the record straight” is what makes them come across as defensive, desperate, needy, moving too fast or pushing too hard for connection and closeness.
A dismissive-avoidant may not like what happened but they are not in a hurry to talk about it or get close again. Most of the time, they see no need to talk about what has already been discussed, explained or agreed on, or make a “big deal” about it.
This dismissive-avoidant’s nonchalant attitude frustrates and infuriates many with an anxious and fearful attachment style.
- How can someone not respond to a text for hours or days, then act like it is no big deal?
- How could they have said x and y and reach out so casually?
- How can they ignore questions and continue with a conversation like it doesn’t matter?
- How can they go on acting normally like nothing happened?
It’s hard for them to understand how someone can be casually calm because for someone with an anxious and fearful attachment style, over sensitivity to what the other person thinks and feels, and how they respond is central to their attachment style.
Very often I find myself reminding an anxious and fearful client to focus on the fact that their ex responded instead of getting all worked up about their avoidant ex’s “un-affected” attitude. “This is not helping. It may mean something, and it may mean nothing, the only way you are going to find out is if you create a safe environment for your ex to open up about what they are thinking or feeling” .
One explanation for an anxious ex’s fixation on their dismissive-avoidant ex’s unmoved, detached and sometimes cold disposition is that anxious men and women respond to texts, phone calls or requests to meet up 99% of the time. They respond to texts, emails or phone calls much faster because they get excited (sometimes too excited) when their ex responds and also because they are afraid that if they don’t respond immediately, it will make their ex feel ‘unloved’ or their ex will get upset and may pull away.
They respond very quickly because they think it will make their ex ‘feel good’ that they didn’t wait too long for a response. Remember, anxious men and women do things they want their ex to do to them including respond immediately:
- When an ex responds immediately, it means that their ex still cares about them, is missing them and/or interested in what they have to say.
- A delayed response means something is “wrong” (their ex is pulling away, not interested any more, doesn’t want to get back together etc).
Sometimes they read too much into what’s not there and other times they miss what is right in front of them because they want to believe something else.
Some anxious people when they don’t get a response immediately worry, “What it means?”:
- Did they say/do something to push their ex away?
- Have they completely ruined their chances?
- What can they do to salvage the situation and make things right again? etc.
Fearful-avoidant men and women also have a knee-jack reaction when they get a text from an ex. Their initial default inclination is to respond right away but because they are more worried (way too much) that they might say something or do something that will cause contact to stop or put them in a place where they are vulnerable to rejection, the delay responding right away. Many write ten and even hundreds of “draft” responses which they keep deleting.
They also believe that ‘delaying” a response makes them come across as less needy. Between contacts they are driving themselves crazy with “Will my ex contact me? Should I reach out to my ex?”
It’s crazy what fear can do. And because fearful-avoidants can not decide whether to initiate contact or wait for their ex to initiate it, whether to respond to an ex’s text right away or delay responding, they end up feeling stuck because things are not moving forward, and they are not getting worse either.
Many fearful-avoidants end up believing that contact is the problem and cut off contact or ask their ex for ‘space”. But because a fearful attachment style wants closeness but fears it, they find themselves reaching out and as soon as they feel the fear cut off contact or ask their ex for ‘space”. This can go on for months, even years.
Securely attached individuals and dismissive-avoidants don’t feel any anxiety or fear when their ex does not respond immediately or when they don’t respond to an ex’s text right away. It’s the one of the many traits securely attached individuals and dismissive-avoidants share, and often makes dismissive-avoidants come off as securely attached (both rate low on anxiety).
It’s not that they don’t think about it or don’t care whether or not they get a response immediately (or respond right away), it’s just not something they think about all the time (all day long), or allow to dominate their thoughts and influence how they feel or act.
The difference between securely attached and dismissive-avoidants is that securely attached individuals who score low on avoidance will reach out to try and reconnect sooner than later. If for any number of reasons, they were unable to respond to a text (including that they just didn’t feel like it), most securely attached individuals will mention that they didn’t respond and/or explain why they didn’t respond because securely attached individuals care about how their actions affect their ex, and contact, communication and connection is important to them.
Anxiously-preoccupied men and women also care about how their actions affect their ex and put a high priority on contact, communication and connection, the difference is that anxious-preoccupied men and women pursue contact to feel more secure (reassurance), securely attached individuals do not have worries and concerns about security in a relationship.
They can afford to respond immediately, wait hours or days to respond or not respond at all because they are not worried about losing their partners or ex, and not constantly on the lookout for signs that their partners or ex might be pulling away from them.