Someone who learned about love from a parent(s) or caregiver whose love was unpredictable and chaotic, was inconsistent in responding to their feelings and needs, and provided care, attention and affection with threats, manipulation, neglect or abuse, learns that:
- Relationships is a source of both comfort and fear.
- You can never know what to expect from someone you love.
- It’s okay to want love but you should be wary and very careful because you will get hurt.
- People who say they love you will take advantage of you, manipulate you, use you and/or abuse you if you are not careful.
- If you show someone that you love them and need them, they’ll use that against you.
They learned to seek closeness but they also learned to fear it.
Unlike someone with bipolar disorder who says they don’t love you anymore, don’t feel anything for you anymore, are not attracted to you anymore and truly feel that way when they are saying it, fearful or conflicted avoidants say these things out of fear.
Fear is why your conflicted avoidant says:
- They miss you and in the same breath say they want you to leave them alone
- They don’t feel in love with you anymore but want to know if you still love them.
- They want you to move on and date someone else and in the same sentence say they’ll be devastated if you do.
- You are never getting back together but then tells you “you never know what the future holds”.
- You might get back together but they don’t want to get your hopes up.
The hot to cold and back to hot behaviours can really mess with your head and your emotions.
- Do you reach out or do you not?
- Do you respond with “I miss you too” or do you not?
- Do you date others or do you not?
- Do you believe them when they say they don’t love you anymore or do you just brush it off?
- Do you keep trying to get back together or do you leave them alone?
- Do you keep hoping or is it over-over?
The good news is that once you understand that your ex’s getting close and then pulling away is their typical reunion behaviour then you see that they are not actively trying to hurt you, and that their acting like they want to be with you but can’t make up their minds if they want to is their fear that you will hurt them if they let you get too close. You understand that their confusing words and behaviours are sometimes confusing to them too.
This is not me excusing ‘bad behaviour” or me saying you should just take it and not call them out on the confusing messages they are sending you or even me saying a relationship with someone with a disorganized attachment style can never work.
This is me saying, if you want to attract back and keep a fearful-avoidant, you need first and foremost be a consistent, reliable, stable and secure base. When you are loving and caring one moment and ignoring your ex’s texts the next, when you are inconsistent in responding to their bids for connection, or when you use threats and manipulation to get them to do what you want, you confirm to them that people who love you also hurt you.
But even more importantly, you are telling them that getting close and then pulling away is normal in relationships. Their parent(s) did it, they do it, you do it, their exes before you did it, everybody must be doing it.
I can’t count the times a client has asked me “Don’t you think that if they think that you will always be around that they will leave (not respect you?)” and I have to explain that relationships are about always being there for the one you love. Making sure that they know (and believe) that you will always have their back and will not intentionally hurt or abandon them.”
I can tell that they don’t believe me or believe me but are thinking, “I have never felt someone had my back. I have always felt that sooner or later they will leave. That’s what people do. When you show them that you love them, they leave.”
This is their experience. They have never known what it’s like to want love, connection, intimacy and not be afraid that you will not get it, or ask for what you want and not fear that you will push the other person. To them, relationships have always been walking a thin line between love and fear. That’s why they worry about whether or not to send a text, what to say, how long to wait before they respond, what’s needy and what’s not, should they say how they feel or should they wait etc.