Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 2 – How They Feel And React

When an ex doesn’t respond or is acting hot and cold, exes with attachment anxiety typically get triggered and react with worry and fear. Avoidants on the other hand when triggered feel and react with distancing behaviours.

Over the years working with different attachment styles, I have noticed that when a dismissive avoidant is emotionally invested, they get triggered when you don’t respond, and shut down. Someone dismissive avoidants also act mean, cruel and punishing when triggered.

Here is an overview of how different attachment styles feel and react when triggered.

Securely attached (Low-Anxiety/Low-Avoidance) when triggered:

  • FEEL: I don’t like how this feels, but I can handle it.
  • REACT: Calm and and centered.

Dismissive-Avoidant (Low-Anxiety/High-Avoidance) when triggered: 

  • FEEL: I don’t like how this feels, but if I ignore it, I’ll be fine
  • REACT: Emotionally shut down, cold and distant.

Anxiously-preoccupied (High-Anxiety/Low-Avoidance) when triggered:

  • FEEL: I don’t like how this feels, I need to do something, anything.
  • REACT: Panicked and frantic.

Fearful-Avoidant (High-Anxiety/High-Avoidance) Leaning anxious when triggered:

  • FEEL: I don’t like how this feels, and it’s only going to get worse.
  • REACT: Panicked, worried and afraid.

Fearful-Avoidant (High-Anxiety/High-Avoidance) Leaning avoidant when triggered:

  • FEEL: I don’t like how this feels, I need to get away before it gets worse;
  • REACT: Worried, afraid and emotionally distant.

Anxiously-preoccupied Vs. fearful-avoidant leaning anxious

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 a fearful-avoidant leaning anxious is undetectable. Their relationships are intense; often moving too fast too soon and they:

  • Want constant interaction and reassurance, and are way too much invested in the relationship.
  • Are codependent, needy, clingy, over-pleasing, coercive and passive aggressive controlling.
  • Feel they must always do something to keep someone’s interest.
  • Always worried that the other person will leave them
  • Worry too much about a partner’s or ex’s availability and responsiveness
  • Allow their emotions to get in the way of effective communication and conflict resolution

The differences are so subtle that most people can not tell if they are anxiously- preoccupied or fearful-avoidants leaning anxious. But as soon as there is an indication that a partner or ex is pulling away, losing interest, or when there is no response for long periods of time, the fearful avoidants feel and react differently.

  • Fearful-avoidants leaning anxious seeks more contact but quickly pull back, avoid contact and may not respond at all
  • Anxiously- preoccupied seeks more contact and attention (even negative attention), and sometimes use aggressive, hostile and/or manipulative behaviour to get attention.

Fearful avoidants get anxious and fearful when an ex does not respond, but do not reach out 

Unlike dismissive avoidants, fearful-avoidants 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. They are also terrified of an ex not responding.

They are more likely to do ‘low-contact” or “active no contact” because it allows them to sty connected to their ex but remain at a distance at the same time. 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.
  • You will avoid making mistakes that will push your ex further away.

And if you let your ex initiates all the contact and they stop initiating contact, it’s not rejection. You were not reaching out, they were doing all the reaching out.

An anxious-preoccupied on the other hand reacts with trying to hold on to their ex even tighter. They pull all the stops to stop their ex from pulling away even further.

  • Most blame themselves for their ex pulling away or distancing (and sometimes hostile) behaviours.
  • Believe that because they are to blame for endangering the relationship, it’s their responsibility to make things right again.
  • They keep contacting their ex hoping their ex will see that they want to make things right.

Anxiously-preoccupieds get frustrated when an ex does not respond and text even more

When an ex does not respond, an anxiously-preoccupied will keep texting, calling and trying to see their ex. Thy don’t care if their behaviour is making them look needy or making things worse, they just want their ex to 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.

Attachment anxiety and preoccupation with an ex

Once activated, people with an anxious-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 there is no response to text, 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.

When all else fails…

Some people someone with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style will even invent an emergency to try to re-establish contact. They’ll 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.

Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 3 – When They’ve No Feelings

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Are Your Chances With Your Ex Better Or Worse Than You Think?

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  1. says: AaronDuf

    Thank you Yangki for taking the time to explain the difference between a fearful avoidant and dismissive avoidant; and fearful avoidant leaning avoidant and a fearful avoidant leaning avoidant. I noted this in all your articles and videos. This differentiation is important because not all fearful avoidants lean towards the avoidant side of the spectrum. There are many of us who lean more anxious, and a relationship can work by equally appealing to the anxious side of an anxious-avoidant attachment style.

    1. says: Madis

      I also found it interesting that Yangki pointed this detail out. I never considered the importance of which side I lean more until I read it here. I feel I lean anxious but my actions display me as someone who is more avoidant, if that makes sense.

      1. says: Conan

        A fearful avoidant is not simply both avoidance and anxiety. In most cases you will have both of those styles show up in their behavior but the anxious side is more dominant that the avoidant side or the avoidant is more dominant than the anxious.

  2. says: Jeanette

    I can relate to feeling that things are only going to get worse. My ex and are both fearful avoidant and both conflict avoidant. We love each other deeply but we’ve been on-and-off again for nearly 5 years. All of our breakups have happened because we don’t talk about issues until they get worse and often too late. He’s more avoidant and usually the one that distances first which makes me anxious and because I don’t like how I feel I also deactivate. We’re stuck in this feedback loop.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      Would it help to establish with your ex some ways you can safely communicate how you are feeling e.g. you both agree that when you think the over is unhappy, you can ask on a scale to of 1 – 10 how bad is it. If she says a number below 6, you can talk about it later, but if the number is above 8, then you must definitely talk about it immediately. It works if both of you are honest.

      1. says: Jeanette

        Thank you. I wasn’t sure I’d get a response. We haven’t tried on a scale to of 1 – 10 how bad is it. We’ll definitely try this and I’ll update you how things go. God Bless.

  3. says: Luke Pierre

    This is good advice. I’m DA and learning to communicate to my AA ex when things get too tense. Recently I was able to say to her I needed a few hours of no texting to regulate, and after about 3 hours I texted her and we were able to talk about why I felt triggered.

  4. says: Katylyn

    I’m new to attachment styles and have been reading a lot about my anxious attachment style and my ex’s dismissive attachment. This by far is the most informative site for someone like me new to attachment styles. Your articles are easy to understand and relate to. I found the layout of how each attachment style feels and reacts really helpful. I guess my question is, when triggered, how long does an avoidant pull away?

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      I appreciate your kind words.

      How long an avoidant pulls away when they’re triggered depends on the individual avoidant. Why they’re triggered, how you react to them being triggered and the relative safety of the relationship factors into how long they’ll stay away.

      If the relationship is more unsafe than safe, they will stay away much longer. That’s why with someone securely attached, an avoidant pulls away less and for shorter periods of time.

      Securely attached people are mostly consistent and responsive in a non- overwhelming or over-bearing way; which is something most avoidants never had in childhood. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like they pulled away because they lean in back real fast. The relationship is where they feel safe.

        1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

          Yes, you give them space but for a short period of time, no more than 7 – 10 days in my experience. Most avoidant exes have sort of pull away/lean in pattern, reach put based on their pattern. Regular 2-3 days check-ins make a big difference too.

          The reason I don’t recommend no contact and letting avoidants reach out is:

          1) Avoidants more often than not don’t reach out. By not reaching out you’re basically giving up.

          2) Avoidants need space, but they also need to feel that they’re not being “punished” for expressing what they need.

          Fearful avoidants are fearful because growing up they never received consistent loving care. Dismissive avoidants are dismissive because they never felt they could express their needs and/or get their needs met. Why would you do things that confirm to an avoidant what they already think/believe about relationships?

          As someone new to attachment styles, I think you’ll find this helpful: How to Make An Avoidant Ex Feel Safe Enough To Come Back

          1. says: Ereen

            But when you express your need for closeness they pull away, but they want you to respect their need for space????

            1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

              This is what is at the core of anxious-avoidant pursuit/withdraw dynamic. Both people are trying to get their needs met and neither is trying to meet the other’s needs; and sometimes one person is getting all their needs met and the other person is left running on empty.

  5. says: Elza

    For me I’ve learned to go with the flow and let things happen naturally, and it is making a big difference in my relationship with my DA ex. Every time I feel anxious or triggered, I come here, read a few articles and I feel calm and encouraged. I still have along way to go but I feel myself becoming more secure, and it feels good not to be anxious all the time and trying to control how he feels.