All the vacillating between avoidant and anxious 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.
When a fearful-avoidant meets someone who is securely attached and the relationship is loving, secure and stable without the familiar unpredictable, conflicting and disorganized attachment issues, it scares them.
They want the security, stability, consistency and reassurance that a securely attached person provides, but it also scares them. It scares them because the experience is new to them and they don’t know how to act. So they keep sending mixed signals, “I want to be with you but I am scared”.
Unfortunately most of us have our own attachment issues and either don’t hear the message or hear it but are too wrapped up in our own attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance that we don’t know how to respond to someone who is saying, “I want to be with you but I am scared”.
How do you tell a fearful-avoidant not to be scared?
You don’t. Their fear is real and no amount of talking to the fear is going to take it away. What you do is show them.
- Be a consistent source of serenity, calm, comfort and safety. This requires you to be composed, focused and cool when they start acting up, sending mixed signals and pulling away.
- Don’t create situations that make them afraid that you will leave them. Remember, fearful avoidants want contact, connection and closeness, they just fear it. That avoidant tendency of “giving space” to someone who has not asked for it sends the message that at any time you will leave.
- Be reliable so they know what to expect from you. If you say, I’ll text you later, text. If their text requires an immediate response, respond immediately. Don’t sit there counting minutes because you don’t want to appear “needy”. Your ex may be conflicted and have a disorganized attachment style, but they are not stupid. They know when someone is playing the “wait to respond” game and they especially know you – they dated you before.
- Don’t play mind games or act in ways that confirm to them that people who say they love you will take advantage of you, manipulate you, use you and/or abuse you if you are not careful.
- Show them that you love them and need them, and if they show you that they love you and need you, don’t use that against them.
As with any attachment style advice, there are differences among fearful-avoidants that makes one fearful-avoidants different from another and may determine if the advice will work or not work in your situation. These include past relationship experiences, what other personal stuff going on your ex’s life, and mental health issues, what their friends and family are telling them about you and the relationship, cultural background etc.
The core attachment style will be the same, but how they respond to certain things will be different.
If you need help better understanding your conflicted avoidant ex and/or need help with how to respond to some of their conflicting messages and behaviour, please sign up for coaching and let’s talk.