Why Avoidant Ex Doesn’t Want A Relationship (What to Do)

Avoidants often say they don’t want a relationship as a reason for breaking up or for not wanting to get back together. If an avoidant doesn’t want a relationship, can they want a relationship again? Yes, an avoidant ex can a relationship again even if they said before that they don’t want it. The tricky part is how to make them want a relationship again.

In my article Why Telling A Fearful Avoidant Ex You Love Often Backfires I discussed how an anxious attachment and fearful avoidant attachment internal working models and information processing bias distorts what’s really going on, limits each attachment styles’ ability to really hear what the other is saying or respond constructively. The result is miscommunication problems, unintended conflict and escalation and in some cases even makes a fearful avoidant lose interest and saying they don’t want the relationship.

Dismissive avoidants also say they don’t want a relationship when breaking up and often insist after a break-up that they don’t want a relationship with an ex or anyone. The internal working model and information processing bias that makes a fearful avoidant ex they don’t want a relationship is different from what makes dismissive avoidants not want a relationship.

It’s important to understand this subtle but very often overlooked difference between dismissive avoidants and fearful avoidants. Although dismissive avoidants and fearful avoidants share many common avoidant attachment traits, there are also clear unique traits that are distinct to each attachment style; traits that help you understand what motivates each attachment style and how to attract them back.

Why an avoidant doesn’t want a relationship (now or ever)

Both fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants go out of their way to meet someone with the intention of being in a relationship. , but they just don’t think relationship are a priority on the list of things that make them happy. Their main fear is a relationship will be too demanding and restricting that they won’t have enough “space” in the relationship to be themselves, pursue their own dreams and interests, spend time with friends and family etc.

As painful and disheartening it is to hear that someone you love and care about is prioritizing other things over a relationship with you, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t mean you are not worthy of love, time and energy, it just means that while what individuals with an anxious attachment want more then anything in a relationship is to feel loved and wanted, and fearful avoidants want to be able to completely trust someone and trust that what they feel for someone isn’t going to end up hurting them, what dismissive avoidants want from a relationship is a sense of agency. More than anything they want is to feel that they have control of their own experience – the decisions they make, the life they live, how they spend their time, who they let in and when and how, what they can and can not do in a relationship etc.

On the most part, an ideal relationship for a dismissive avoidant can be summarized as one that:

  • Allows for contact with their partners, but at a safe, emotionally comfortable distance and on terms dictated by a dismissive avoidant.
  • There is no pressure to give or receive support, to become more emotionally close, and/or to share deep personal emotions.
  • Isn’t emotionally stressful or doesn’t feel like a dismissive avoidant is constrained by a partner’s needs, expectations or emotions and feelings (especially strong expression of emotion).
  • Dismissive avoidants have lots of time and space to be alone by themselves.
  • Allows a dismissive avoidant to exists as a separate person with the ability to take action without consulting their partner.

The problem is what an avoidants consider an ideal relationship on most part doesn’t feel like a relationship or love to someone with an anxious attachment. The relationship starts to fall apart when an anxious attachment starts asking for a dismissive avoidant for attention, loving gestures, care, validation, reassurance etc., and dismissive avoidant who is sub-consciously running “I don’t want to get close, I don’t need you (or anyone), I prefer being alone” internal script feel pressured and pulls away or loses interest in the relationship.

Naturally, an anxious attachment feels rejected, and can’t understand why showing someone you love and care about them is such a bad thing.

An avoidant has feelings but doesn’t want a relationship vs. an avoidant doesn’t have any feelings

To understand what an avoidant means when they say they don’t want a relationship, it’s important to understand the difference between 1) I still have feelings for you, but I don’t want a relationship with you and 2) I don’t have feelings for you and therefore don’t want a relationship with you.

In many of the cases I’ve worked with, an avoidant ex may still have feelings for you but the thought of talking about feelings, needs and problems, consulting someone else before making decisions, constantly being asked if everything is okay and spending almost all of their time with someone is enough for an avoidant to feel that they don’t want a relationship. They end the relationship that they don’t want but because they still have feelings for an ex, they either offer to be friends, or every now and then reach out and want connection.

But as in the relationship this is often not enough for an anxiously attached ex (and even fearful avoidant ex) who wants more – and an avoidant ex is aware that the other person wants more. But an avoidant attachment internal script is so strong that when an avoidant ex gets a text from an ex what they see is: “I want to get close/a relationship.” They may even respond to texts immediately and seem engaged and interested but keep things superficial to avoid sending the message that they want to get close or want a relationship.

And sometimes when you text an avoidant after no contact, they text back, “What do you want?” because they think you reached out because you want to get close, and they don’t.

Other times, both dismissive avoidants and fearful avoidants say say they don’t want a relationship “right now” as a reason for the break-up but what they really mean is “I don’t want a relationship with YOU.” They have real or perceived concerns and worries about the relationship, but think that by telling you that they don’t want a relationship, they’ll avoid talking about how they feel or why they’re breaking up with you. But next thing you know, the very person who said, “I don’t want a relationship right now” is in a new relationship.

If they’re out there looking to get close to someone else, it’s not that they didn’t want a relationship because they’re avoidant and got scared when you got too close as most people want to believe, it’s that they don’t want a relationship with you but want a relationship with someone else.

Can an avoidant who says they don’t want a relationship want it again?

Yes, absolutely. An avoidant who says they don’t want a relationship but still has feelings for you can want a relationship again. But let me make something clear. You can’t make anyone want anything, but you can create conditions or a safe emotional environment that can make an avoidant ex who doesn’t want a relationship want it again.

Research (Jeffry A. Simpson, W. Steven Rholes 2016) shows that avoidants are less inclined to think, feel, and behave in line with their internal working models when they’re emotionally invested in a relationship and less likely to react in “insecure” ways when their romantic partners buffer emotionally and behaviourally regulate their attachment-related concerns.

The study goes on to say “To be successful, however, these partner buffering attempts must be carefully tailored to meet the specific attachment-relevant needs, concerns, and worries” of a dismissive avoidant ex.

Simply put, an avoidant ex is more likely to want a relationship if you emotionally and behaviourally show that they don’t have to worry that being in a relationship with you for example will be too demanding and restricting that they won’t have enough “space” in the relationship to be themselves, pursue their own dreams and interests, spend time with friends and family etc.

This requires you to not only be aware of an avoidant’s needs, concerns, and worries but also accept that your avoidant ex has a different idea of what kind of relationship makes them feel loved and safe. Just because they act differently from how you would act based on your attachment style doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings or don’t want connection and closeness.

Also make sure that you separate personal concerns, and worries (things happening in dismissive avoidant’s life that have nothing to do with the relationship) from relational concerns, and worries (things happening in the relationship (e.g. emotional stress, conflict, pressure etc.). Both of these can affect how an avoidant perceives you or the relationship, how they feel and act and can cause a an avoidant to feel that they don’t want a relationship.

I know this from first had experience as a dismissive avoidant. When I was not in a relationship and things weren’t going well in my life, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone or being close to anyone, and pushed people away. But I at least I felt in control of what was happening to me. But if I was dealing with my personal stress and the person I was in a relationship with was complaining that I didn’t respond to texts, wasn’t opening up about what was going on with me, asking to to talk or spend time together when I’d rather be alone, acting out to get attention or start fights etc., I felt like my life was getting out of control and they had to go so I can deal with whatever was gong on in my life.

This is in contrast with people with an anxious attachment who depend on others to regulate personal feelings of distress. They want their partner to be closer and more caring and even act needy and dependent when they’re going through something personal; and feel unloved when someone seems unaffected by what they’re going through. They engage in protest behaviour, use emotion-focused coping, and create stress and problems in the relationship which wouldn’t be there if they self-regulated better and relied more on themselves than on others.

An avoidants saying the don’t want a relationship doesn’t mean it’s over-over

All this is to say, avoidant saying they don’t want a relationship shouldn’t discourage you from trying to get them back. When an avoidant doesn’t want a relationship because they’re going through something personal, don’t take it personally. It’s an avoidant’s way of dealing with personal stress. When things are good again, they’ll reach out or want want to be close again. It’s up to you then to decide if you still want a relationship with them knowing that this is how they act when under stress.

But when an avoidant doesn’t want a relationship because of real concerns about your behaviours and the problems in the relationship, pay attention to what is making them not want to be in  relationship. Blaming all the problems in the relationship and the break-up on your ex being an avoidant, and looking at everything through the “avoidants don’t want to get close” lens prevents you from even trying to understand why avoidants don’t want to get close or want a relationship, and how to successfully and carefully tailor your efforts to meet their specific attachment-relevant needs, concerns, and worries about being close or being in a relationship.

This is not only lack of self-awareness and failure to take responsibility for your actions but also self-sabotage. What you are basically saying is: “I didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing I need to change. It could however still work if only they fixed their avoidant attachment style”. Which is another way of saying, “I give up”.

Many people get back their avoidant ex, so you have to ask yourself: if avoidants are afraid of getting close, if avoidants break up when people get close, and if avoidants don’t want relationships, what do people who get back with their avoidant ex do that I don’t? Obviously being an avoidant and fear of getting close didn’t stop them from coming back.

RELATED:

Did An Avoidant Ex Get Attached – Still Attached?

Why Dismissive Avoidants Push You Away (What to Do)

Do Dismissive Avoidant Exes Test You? (And How?)

Does Your Dismissive Avoidant Ex Even Care About You?

Do Avoidants Want A Healthy Relationship? (Ideal Vs. Realty)

18 Attractive Qualities Of Avoidants You Don’t Know About

Why Dismissive Avoidant Exes Don’t Say “I Miss You”

Why A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Keeps Coming Back

What Makes A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Miss You And Come Back?

Can An Avoidant Ex Ever Learn To Communicate?

20 Signs Your Ex A Narcissist Vs. Dismissive Avoidant Or Selfish

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6 Comments

  1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Hannah

    Fearful avoidant says he doesn’t want a relationship but still loves me but what you’re saying is he still loves me but does not want us being together in a relationship, which makes sense. Towards the end, I was very anxious and he was very avoidant and one day he said he just couldn’t do it anymore. He also said he still loves me, but we were so unhappy together that it was best to not be together and find happiness with someone else. Two days later he reached out, I didn’t respond for 5 days because I didn’t understand why he said he loves me but is done with us. I asked if he wants to get back together, he didn’t reply. I haven’t reached out and neither has he. I’m now wondering if I pushed him away by asking if he wants to get back together when he had said he doesn’t want a relationship, and also, if I should reach out. Our last contact was 4 months ago.

  2. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Tay

    Yangki, appreciate you educating us about internal working models and information processing bias. I’m a dismissive avoidant and have a lot of issues with communicating with anxious types and end up not wanting a relationship because we don’t see eye to eye on almost anything. I find that there are so many unspoken expectations or some type of secret relationships code that a lot of anxious people have that many of us avoidants are not privy to, and we can’t even try to meet their needs because they are not communicated to us as a request. We are just told our actions did this and that and we don’t even care. We just kind of do what we feel like and when we feel like because you’re going to find fault with us regardless.

  3. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Pfikey

    DA 49 here, this is the best site I’ve come across. Until I came across lovedoc’s YouTube videos which ultimately led me to this site, I had no idea why me needing space from time to time was a problem to someone else. I had partners become needy and clingy and I broke up with them, but since becoming more aware of how I put my needs before my ex’s needs and really examining my own actions, I try to meet my needs while also meeting her needs. I tell her when I need space, but also let her know she can contact me if she does not hear from me in 3 days. She’s happy with this arrangement and we’ve grown closer. And the feeling that she needs something from me that I can’t give her is almost gone because I know I can meet her needs.

  4. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: millie

    Yangki, sometimes I read your articles and feel like my ex is a DA and other times I feel like he’s FA.

    He possibly could be FA with DA lean. It causes confusion and probably am making some mistakes in my approach…. So my question is. What distinctive behaviours or things he is saying should I look out for to distinguish if i should be following the advice for an FA or DA?

    Thanks.

    1. Love Doctor Yangki AkitengLove Doctor Yangki Akitengsays: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      You’re asking me to write a book… 🙂

      I think that it’s a mistake (that many people make) to just look at behaviours or things someone says to determine if they’re DA or FA. 1) attachment styles is on a continuum scale and don’t fit perfectly in neat boxes and 2) attachment styles is about core wounds and trauma, and as the article says the internal working models that drive thinking, feeling and behaviour. This is what I “listen” to when discussing an ex’s attachment style, in addition to their behaviours and words.

      In my opinion, and I think many attachment theory “scholars” will agree, the most scientifically researched and proven difference between DAs and FAs is how they react to separation and reunion with an attachment figure (strange situation experiment). This is the basis of attachment styles; without which there would be no attachment styles.

      The other scientifically researched differences that I find significant and inform my articles (I try to minimize opinion and focus on science/research) are:

      1) Low anxiety (DA), Hight anxiety (FA)
      2) Positive self-concept (DA), Negative self-concept (FA)
      3) Internal locus of control (DA), External locus of control (FA)
      4) Fear of being controlled (DA), Fear of rejection/abandonment (FA)
      5) Consistently distant/aloof (DA), Disorganized/hot and cold (FA)

      List is long….

      1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Freemey

        I only recently learned that FAs are highly anxious, and DAs are not. I knew my ex was an avoidant because of her avoidance of intimacy but she was also very anxious, probably the most anxious person I’ve ever dated.

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