When you feel that your avoidant ex still has feelings for you and even wants to get back together but for some reason is guarded, putting up resistance and emotional walls, and not letting themselves act on their feelings, it’s easy to become frustrated and impatient. Frustration and impatience quickly turn into a confrontational or aggressive attitude (both in words and actions) which then creates even more walls up – and sometimes an avoidant ex pulling further away.
To avoid getting so easily frustrated and becoming impatient, it’s good to keep in mind that avoidants have emotional walls they’ve built to protect themselves. After the break-up, avoidant exes retreat behind these walls creating distance between themselves an ex and the emotions of the break-up. Depending on the kind of relationship you had, the reasons for the break-up, how the break-up happened and how both of you reacted to the end of the relationship, avoidants also build defensive walls protect themselves from being pressured to get back together. The way you communicate or show respect for their person, their boundaries, the people or things they care about etc. determines how long an avoidant ex will keep their emotional guard up.
An avoidant ex may even still have feelings for you and wants to get back together but keep their walls up because they don’t feel safe. If your ex is a fearful avoidant, they may keep the walls up because they feel that you can’t be trusted to have their best interest at heart. If your ex is a dismissive avoidant, they may be feeling that you’re too much of a risk to let in.
Getting past an avoidant ex’s resistance and emotional walls
The mistake most people make when they’re frustrated and tired of waiting for an avoidant to let their guard down is try to breakdown the emotional walls an avoidant ex has built to protect themselves. All this does is heighten the threat level and harden an avoidant ex’s defenses.
You may even both want the same thing – more contact, more connection, or get back together – but an avoidant ex will ush back on how you are going about getting more contact, more connection, or trying to get back together. If you push hard and try to breakdown their emotional ways, an avoidant ex will push back just as hard.
The more you invest in trying to get past an avoidant ex’s resistance or breakdown their emotional walls, the harder it becomes to change the situation or make significant progress.
As mentioned about, an avoidant’s emotional walls are there for a reason. If you find yourself facing an avoidant’s emotional walls, the best approach is to not to try to breakdown their emotional walls, your job is to show your avoidant ex that it’s okay to let down their guard.
How do you show an avoidant ex that it’s okay to let down their guard?
To get an avoidant ex to let down their guard, you need first and foremost understand why they have walls up in the first place. I’m tempted to go down the road of explaining why an avoidant is an avoidant, their childhood trauma and all that stuff, but you may already know all that – and that information is all over my site and all over the internet, I’ll spare you the lecture.
The most important thing to remember is that avoidant exes have good reasons for being overly cautious, for wanting to take things slow or even putting up defensive walls. You may not agree or like that they do it, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that when people don’t feel “emotionally safe”, they become hyper vigilant, act cautious and guarded, want to take things slow and/or put walls up to protect themselves.
1. Identify the source of an avoidant ex’s resistance
You need to identify the exact cause of resistance and then address it. You may find that while you have progressed to where things are friendly and there is an emotional connection, your ex doesn’t trust you and/or thinks you have an agenda that may not be in their best interest. You may also find that while the two of you are getting along so well due to things that happened in the past, your ex doesn’t think you have changed enough for them to want to get back together.
There are so many ways variables since each relationship is different. Sometimes an avoidant ex’s walls are more about your present circumstances (financial instability, incompatibility, friends/family interference, miscommunication/misunderstandings etc) and less about the past or you not changing enough.
You find that you’re doing everything right – spacing contact right t balance connection, emotionally connecting and an avoidant ex has even acknowledged that you have changed, but there is that one thing that is still keeping their guard up. And since most avoidants are not good at communicating their needs, you may have to do a little bit of work getting to where their resistance is.
2. Try to see things from an avoidant ex’s perspective
It’s common or two people after the break-up to have different recollections of the relationship, events leading to the break-up and even break-up itself. The mistake many make is dismiss their ex’s point of view or perspective or project their own view or experience onto their ex.
I’ve spoken to many men and women who say “My ex says this is why we broke up, but I don’t believe that’s the reason. This is the reason” and they proceed to tell me reasons that are very different from what their ex says are the reasons for the break-up, to them not wanting to get back together (just yet). The same people are surprised, frustrated and angry that their ex is guarded, and want to know how they can breakdown their ex’s resistance or walls.
The more you insist on your perspective is the only perspective and correct view of things, the more resistance you will encounter. The push back will even be stronger with dismissive avoidant exes who don’t like being told what they ‘feel’ or that you know them better than they know themselves.
To get an avoidant ex to let down their guard, try to see things from their perspective. You don’t have to agree or even accept their perspective, just try to understand it. Feeling understood is one thing avoidants need but feel they don’t get it from others.
3. Be genuinely open and emotionally accessible
Avoidants but more so fearful avoidants have a hard time trusting someone they feel is not trustworthy. They find someone who is inconsistent, whose words don’t match their actions, hides their intentions, and constantly tries to get what they want at the expense of a fearful avoidant’s well-being untrustworthy. And it doesn’t matter how much you tell a fearful avoidant you love them, if they can’t trust you, you don’t love them.
Dismissive avoidants have a hard time respecting and/or acting ‘friendly’ towards someone who is behaving deviously or using emotional and psychological tactics to change or alter their perception of things. They take their time observing you and will not let down their guard until they are sure you are being genuine.
To get past your avoidant ex’s resistance and emotional walls you need to show up as genuinely open and emotionally accessible. When they ask questions, answer them honestly and openly. When they express a concern, address it directly. When you don’t like something they said or did, use nonviolent communication to communicate your feelings or needs etc.
The more genuinely open and emotionally accessible you are, the more trustworthy you come across. The more an avoidant ex feels like they can trust you, the more likely that they will slowly put down their guard- and you don’t have to “breakdown their walls” to get them to let you in.
4. Be willing to compromise
It takes a lot more emotional maturity and security, mental aptitude and immense self-control to work as a team with someone who dumped you, may be suspicious of your intentions and actions, might take advantage of you, is sending mixed signals, is afraid, or doesn’t want to take another chance on a relationship with you, but working as a team is the fastest and safest way to get past an avoidant’s resistance to getting back together.
To get them to put down their emotional walls you have to be willing to compromise, and sometimes compromise means foregoing your short-term goals to achieve your long-term goals.
An example of foregoing your short-term goals to achieve your long-term goals is when an avoidant ex says, “We can be friends, but I can’t promise we will get back together. Let’s just see where things go”, most insecurely attached, emotionally inflexible and uncompromising people react with, “If we are not getting back together, then we can’t be friends.” Reacting to an avoidant’s emotional walls with emotional walls of our own will get you nowhere.
A more productive response would be, “You know that I want us to get back together, but if being friends is all you are open to right now, I’m okay with that. I can’t promise that I will not at some point want us to get back together, but right now, being friends will work.”
You’re not trying to breakdown their defensive walls, you just disabled their resistance, and you did it assertively, confidently and without making them feel unsafe – and you were also genuinely open and emotionally accessible. Your ex will know you want them back, but you are not pressuring them to get back together.
5.Use nonviolence communication
Nonviolent communication helps an emotionally guarded avoidant ex feel safe enough to their deal with own emotions and safe enough to let down their emotional walls.
For those of you not familiar with nonviolent communication, it’s a nutshell it’s a communication style with the goal of 1) creating empathy in the conversation and 2) genuinely expressing an observation, feeling, need, and request in a way that is nurturing, affirming and validating. The idea is that once there is empathy between the parties in the conversation, it will be much easier to talk about solutions which satisfies all parties’ fundamental needs.
The opposite of this is violent communication or language and a communication style that’s pushy/aggressive, demanding, manipulative, confrontational, passive aggressive. It doesn’t even have to be full-on confrontation or full blown out fights; but a rude word here and a snarky comment there. Veiled criticism or accusation, even a raised voice or generally negative attitude is enough to make an avoidant ex feel that they have to defend or protect themselves.
Other things that make an avoidant ex guarded are:
- One-word answers where a longer response is more appropriate.
- Initiating contact and when you do not get the response you want/expected, following it with “never mind” or “I was sleepy/drunk” when I sent the text.
- Saying something outrageous just to get your ex to respond, then apologizing for it.
- Saying something you know is hurtful and pretending you didn’t know it would hurt.
- Intentionally ignoring your ex or not responding to a text for days.
- Contacting your ex anonymously or from a phone/email address he/she doesn’t recognize right away.
- Making yourself “unavailable” to get back at your ex …. the list goes on.
The longer an avoidant ex feels that they have to “protect” themselves the longer they stay guarded and have their emotional walls up. You find yourself in a situation where you are hiding your thoughts and suppressing your feelings… and two months, two years, you are still trying to build enough emotional momentum because your avoidant ex is still guarded and putting up emotional walls.
Breaking down resistance Vs. making an avoidant feel safe
As you can see, there is a big difference between breaking down an avoidant ex’s resistance or emotional walls and making an avoidant feel safe enough to put down their guard or emotional walls.
The shift from breaking down resistance or emotional walls to getting an avoidant to put down their guard or emotional walls when you begin to see an avoidant’s resistance or emotional walls not as something bad that you have to break or destroy in order to get your way but as something they need because they don’t feel safe, something you can work with to make them feel safe.
This is one of the differences between how insecurely attached approach relationships and getting back an ex and how securely attached approach relationships and getting back with an ex.