How To Stop Self-Abandoning And Over-Giving To Avoidant Ex

Almost everyone who gets into a relationship expects a give-and-take dynamic because that’s what people who love each other do. But in almost all anxious-avoidant relationships, the giving is mostly one-sided and goes from an anxious attachment to avoidant, and this continues even when trying to get an avoidant ex back.

The most common and accepted explanation is that anxious attachment are givers and avoidants are takers, and there is some truth to this. But if anxious-avoidant relationships are to work, we have to be willing to talk about an anxious attachment’s pattern of neglecting their own feelings and needs to focus on an avoidant and their feelings and needs in order to keep an avoidant in the relationship or get an avoidant ex back.

Prioritizing other peoples feelings and needs and neglecting your own

Over-giving, smothering caring, self-abandoning are some of the words used to describe someone who rationalizes and makes excuses for why they’re prioritizing the other person’s feelings and needs and neglects their own. Someone unaware that over-giving, self-sacrificing and over-involvement in someone’s issues, problems and life will most likely make the other person uncomfortable, and even kill attraction.

On the surface self-abandonment can look like kindness, being caring, generous and loving, and having so much empathy that you put the needs of others before your own. Underneath however, you have so much built-up resentment due to your own unmet needs that instead of communicating your needs, you act passive aggressive, make demands, start arguments, have emotional outbursts/drama, and/or engage in protest behaviours which them triggers an avoidant. They pull away or end the relationship because they felt smothered, suffocated, overwhelmed, controlled and manipulated.

Self-abandonment most likely developed in childhood and presents in adult relationships as:

  • Associating love with self-sacrifice
  • People-pleasing or fear of displeasing others
  • Associating self-worth with value to others
  • Identifying with the role of the caregiver
  • Exaggerated perception of other’s ability to cope without you
  • Exaggerated responsibility for other people’s flaws and trying o fix them
  • Fear of abandonment (fear that someone will leave)
  • Feeling guilty for prioritizing or taking care of your own needs

In fearful avoidants (and some anxiously attached), self-abandonment can present as wanting connection and closeness but avoiding situations, interactions and even relationships where the roles are turned and they (fearful avoidants) are the ones asking for help, accepting love, care or support etc.

Fearful avoidants who have this internal working model honestly believe that avoiding certain situations or by pulling away, they’re doing someone a favour; for example sparing an ex they still have strong feelings and want to be with disappointment or further hurt and pain by breaking up with them.

Self-abandonment creates a one-sided, one-way relationship

No relationships is one hundred percent 50/50 give-and-take. In most relationships, one person is always giving a little more. In others, one person gives more this time and the next time, the other gives more. And it’s healthy in a relationship and secure behaviour to sometimes put your partner or ex’s needs before yours, but when you are giving way too much of yourself to extract even a small amount of love (affection, attention, support, etc), giving has become unhealthy and even toxic.

Over-giving, smothering caring, self-abandoning creates a one-sided relationship or anxious-avoidant dynamic in which the other person is receiving things (care, help, support, space etc) they never asked for or need, which then makes them uncomfortable.

You think you are being truly loving and caring by anticipating their needs and meeting them even when unasked, but to the other person it feels intrusive and feels like an attempt to induce dependency. If they have an avoidant attachment, the dynamic makes them feel like their boundaries are being violated and their independence threatened. It’s like I’m receiving all these things that I never asked for or necessarily want, and now you’re going to expect things from me in return.

There’s also the transactional and even manipulative element in over-giving in relationships. You are giving from a place of hoping that your avoidant partner or ex will give something in return either immediately or long term. You wait and wait for them to give back to you as much as you’re giving or even a fraction of what you’re giving, but the lack of reciprocity gets to you, and over time you feel resentment.

Self-abandonment makes you question your worth and lovability

Over-giving, smothering caring, self-abandoning not only creates a one-sided relationship, it makes you feel insignificant and invisible in the relationship.

You feel that you have to prove your worth and love and often find yourself trying to convince (and/or force) an avoidant to want or take what you’re giving (care, help, support, space etc). You become the “relationship coach” in the relationship explaining attachment styles, how relationships work, what loving someone means etc., all in the attempt to prove your worth to them. But what ends up happening is that you make an avoidant uncomfortable being in the relationship with you and this comes out as:

  • I need space
  • I can’t give you what you want
  • You deserve more than I can give you
  • I don’t think I am good enough for you

When the relationship ends, you are left feeling empty, unworthy and unlovable. Why after all you’ve given, all the sacrifices you’ve made, someone still doesn’t want to be with you?

But instead of looking inward and trying to understand why you find it okay to self-abandon, why you get over-involved in your avoidant ex’s attachment issues or problems, and why you focus on their attachment style, and their feeling and needs more than you focus on your own, you gravitate towards “give an avoidant as much space they need”, “tell an avoidant you understand how hard it is for them to be in a relationship” etc. advice that’s telling you to do more problem-shooting an avoidant attachment and catering to an avoidants need for space all the while ignoring your own and need for connection.

I see this a lot with many of my anxious attached clients. They know more about their avoidant ex’s attachment style than they know about their own. Some even tell themselves they’re securely attached to direct attention away from us talking about their full-blown anxious attachment feelings and needs because they want the focus to be on their avoidant ex’s feelings and needs. When I point out that they’re more anxious than secure, they feel embarrassed as if their feelings and needs are something to be ashamed of instead of something to be acknowledged and given just as much attention as their avoidant ex’s feelings and needs.

Then you wonder why after going no contact, giving an avoidant “all the space they need”, telling an avoidant ex you understand how hard it is for an avoidant to be in a relationship or understand why they need space, nothing much changes. You’re still the one doing too much and working too hard to keep an avoidant in the relationship or make them want to be with you.

Can a one-sided dynamic with avoidant ex change?

Yes, YOU can change the one-sided dynamic with avoidant ex by learning to balance an avoidant’s need for space and your anxious attachment’s need for connection. Research shows that a healthy relationship requires a balance of closeness and maintaining one’s own sense of identity and independence. The question is how do you stop self-abandoning, more importantly, what do you do to bring back the balance to your relationship without driving an avoidant ex further away.

If your anxious-avoidant dynamic is to improve, you have to first and foremost be willing to accept that your self-abandoning tendencies are part of the problem.

1. It’s not easy to just stop toxic giving to a relationship if you’ve been doing it almost all your life. So be patient as you work towards your own sense of identity and independence.

2- The answer to self-abandoning tendencies is not to find someone securely attached. Even securely attached don’t want to be with someone who neglects their own feelings and needs.

3. It’s more helpful to focus on your own behaviors because this is the only thing you have control over and can change than focus on how to get an avoidant ex to give more to the relationship; something which you can’t control, and may even be another form of self-abandoning.

4. Last but more important, giving is a good thing and even every now and then giving more than you are receiving is healthy d secure behaviour. When it comes to attracting back your ex, giving more than you are receiving especially in the initial stages is normal, in fact you should expect it and accept it. So don’t stop giving, but you also need to:

1. Ask for what you need and want

Sometimes a relationship becomes a one-sided relationship because one person is either too afraid to ask or doesn’t know how to ask for what we want. When we ask it comes off as demanding, complaining or nagging.

For example: “I’ll be working a little late tonight. Do you mind picking up the laundry?” is asking. The problem for most people is when the other person says “No”. We get upset and emotional.

  • “Every time I ask you to do something you say “no”
  • “I can’t do everything”
  • “Why can’t you ever help”
  • “This is the third time…”

Now you are demanding, complaining and nagging. Good asking gives the other person the option or right to say “No” without putting up resistance.

2. Learn to say “no” sometimes

Most people will take what they’re given, and nothing wrong with that. But there  people who’ll take far more than they deserve. People who take and take from you and give nothing back in return. People who like and love you only for what you give. People who ignore you until they want something. People who have no problem taking the last breathe off your mouth just in case they will need it later on.

Saying “No” sometimes doesn’t make you less loving. Saying “No” sometimes is being someone who respects themselves enough to have boundaries. (See my article: It’s Okay in a Relationship to Say No Or Enough)

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

In most cases, a give-and-take- imbalance in a relationship is due to lack of communication, misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Negotiating the give-and-take dynamics of your relationship should start from the very beginning of the relationship and continue thought the relationship.

4. Recognize when you are with someone who is incapable of giving

Some relationships are a one-sided relationship because an avoidant is incapable of giving what you need. This is not the same as does not want to give because they don’t want “pressure” from you, this is about an avoidant who just can’t give, period. Believe it or not, there are grown up men and women who’ll burst into tears because you asked to share their sandwich. You can’t teach someone like that to give.

You either accept that that’s the person you love and stop trying to squeeze “consideration” out of them, or cut your losses and choose better next time.

But before you walk away, make sure you’ve done a good job at 1, 2, and 3. Sometimes it’s easier to blame all the problems in a relationship on that selfish, narcissistic ex, when the problem is that we are no better at being good partners ourselves.


How To Avoid Triggering A Highly Independent Avoidant

How To Support A Fearful Avoidant Ex And Earn Their Trust

How Do You Tell A Fearful Avoidant You Still Love Them?

What To Say To A Fearful Avoidant Ex When They Pull Away

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  1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Katia

    FA ex in the beginning was definitely the over-giver, too affectionate and caring and I was the one holding back because I’d been hurt in my previous relationship where I was the over-giver. Six months into the relationship he started to pull back, and it triggered my anxiety, and I started to complain then chase. He told me he put too much effort in us and there was no reciprocity from my end which made him lose feelings and can not get them back. I beat myself every day for not appreciating all he did for me and making him feel like he was not enough.

    It’s clear we are over, but I’m still sad about it. He was the love of my life and I feel disgusted with myself. I know I need to work on myself and not have this happen again.

  2. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Cameron

    I’m FA leaning anxious and I don’t notice how much I’m over-giving in relationships until I start to feel like they don’t care and don’t love me and I pull back. Once I pull back, it’s hard for me to go to feeling the same way about them. I get so anxious that I’ll fall back into the pattern of over-giving and looking needy and clingy. I let the other person give more than I previously gave but then I come across as very avoidant.

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

      If it helps, hear the same thing from many fearful avoidants. You over-give then you get scared that you’re over-giving, you pull back to self-regulate and feel safe then lean back in, but pulling back made you afraid of getting close again.

      The only way out of the no-winning whichever way you lean anxious-avoidant attachment is to work on becoming more secure.

  3. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Lara

    I’m an over-giver and feel really good investing a lot of my time and energy because I genuinely care for someone, but I can see how that makes some people uncomfortable, especially avoidants who have trauma of neglect and abandonment. It must feel weird for them for someone to love and care for them unconditionally.

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

      Makes sense from an over-giver’s point of view, but maybe sometimes it’s not about an avoidant’s trauma of neglect and abandonment but you giving them what they don’t need or necessarily want. Your intentions seem good and pure, but you can’t keep giving someone something they don’t need or want, then blame them for not wanting it.

      It’s hard for many anxiously attached people to accept that their way of loving and wanting to be loved is not any more secure or safer than an avoidants. Both are insecure attachment, two sides of the same coin.

      Understanding and accepting that you have different needs and what makes you feel loved and safe, and not imposing on your own way of loving and feeling loved on the other is how you can make an anxious-avoidant relationship work. Otherwise, the seemingly opposing needs and ways of loving and feeling loved and safe will always get in the way.

      As the article says, it’s not just about giving, it’s balancing giving and receiving.

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