Question: Yangki in your Dating Ex eBook, you say to wait to ask your ex to meet until you’ve worked on your emotions and have had some positive text, email or phone call interactions before spending time together. But I’ve also read in some of your articles and others that face to face conversations are better than texting.
Yangki’s answer: First of all, you’re absolutely right. Nothing compares to spending time with your ex face-to-face in the same space. The kind of connection you have in person is often stronger than texting, email, phone calls or even facetime or video calls, and often helps things progress faster.
The advice to delay face-to-face meetings with an ex and to limit how often you see each other in the initial stages of trying to get back together is mostly for exes with an avoidant attachment style and people who have a tendency to move fast and not take time to build up momentum. Besides an ex feeling pressured if you ask to meet too soon or keep asking to meet, spending too much time together too soon brings up the good a well as the bad memories; and because the human brain remembers negative memories more often than positive and negative memories last a lot longer than positive ones, there’s a huge risk of an argument or conflict when you spend time with an ex too soon.
If you have an anxious attachment there is even more reason not to rush having face-to-face conversations or meet with an avoidant ex after a break-up. Pushing to meet or spend more time together with an avoidant ex may actually hurt your chances.
Anxious attachment get the facts and an ex’s emotional state wrong in face-to-face
According to a study published in the November 2022 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, individuals with an anxious attachment in general tend to remember details incorrectly more often than people with an avoidant attachment. The authors, SMU’s Nathan Hudson and Michigan State University’s William J. Chopik found that individuals with an anxious attachment are more likely to get the facts wrong in face-to-face interactions but not when they read or hear the same information. This happens because highly anxious attachment people tend to be hypervigilant in monitoring facial expressions. They also tend to misjudge the perceived emotional states of others.
“We believe that highly attachment-anxious individuals are likely intensively analyzing what is being said in the videos we showed them,” Hudson said. “Their own thoughts and feelings about the video may have gotten ‘mixed up’ with the actual video contents in their minds. Thus, they experienced false memories when we gave them a test regarding the video’s contents.”
These findings, Hudson said, illustrate how our attachment style can potentially affect our memory abilities.
“It’s important to understand that our brains don’t store verbatim audio or video clips of events that happen to us,” he said. “Instead, our brain stores snippets of information about our experiences, and when we attempt to recall a memory, it combines stored bits of related information and makes its best guess about what happened.”
Risk of an argument or conflict when you spend time with an avoidant ex too soon
One of the main benefits of spending face-to-face time with an ex is that it brings up memories of the good times you spent together, and this accelerates feelings of attraction. But spending time together can be frustrating when your ex remembers things differently from how you remember them; and sometimes this can lead to arguments and heated discussions.
The realty is that neither party is trying to be intentionally difficult or argumentative. Individuals with an anxious attachment and avoidant attachment remember (and forget) certain details differently after an argument, a heated discussion or break-up. Avoidants tend to remember events and details based on their need to limit intimacy and maintain control and autonomy in their relationships, and individuals with an anxious attachment remember events and certain details based on their need for support, reassurance and closeness.
This means that an anxious individuals and what an avoidant responds to after an argument, heated discussion or break-up is not what was actually said or done during the argument, heated discussion or break-up. Instead, what they’re reacting or responding to may be the memories of the interaction as interpreted by their attachment needs and goals.
Individuals with attachment anxiety who tend to seek and rely on relationships for attachment needs and goals may want to meet an ex soon after the meeting and find spending time with an ex and reminiscing about past good memories a beneficial experience. Avoidants who tend to rely on themselves for attachment needs and goals may not want to meet soon after a break-up, and may not see spending time with an ex as a positive experience. Dismissive avoidants in particular are known for not wanting to nostalgize about relationships even loving relationships. In fact, nostalgia can drive people with a history of avoidance further from relationships (Abeyta, Nelson and Routledgeb 2019)
How to avoid the risks of meeting and spending time with an avoidant ex
Hudson and Chopik in three separate studies of also found out that highly attachment-anxious people were the most susceptible to having false memories when viewing a video of a person — regardless of whether the subject was about a relationship breakup or something completely impersonal. But they were more accurate in their memories when reading or hearing the same details than people who scored lower in attachment anxiety.
Hudson said that individuals who recognize themselves as being attachment-anxious can help themselves by supplementing information received during face-to-face encounters with reading and listening activities. He also suggests moving toward a more secure attachment style.
In addition to supplementing information received during face-to-face encounters and moving toward a more secure attachment style, My advice is to put more effort towards building a stronger emotional connection and creating positive memories through positive texts, email and phone conversations and interactions and less effort asking or pressuring an avoidant ex to meet or spend more time together.
An avoidant ex will avoid meeting you and will not want to spend more time together if they think you’re going to have an argument, things will get heated and “emotional” or if an avoidant ex feels that they’re being pressured to do something that does not meet their needs and goals.
This doesn’t mean you should not meet your avoidant ex or spend time together until you have built a stronger emotional connection and created positive memories, it just means that limit the risk of pushing an avoidant ex away by asking to meet or spend more time together too soon.