I wrote a long article about how to attract an avoidant ex and many of you have told me you found the series a game changer in terms of how you approach contact, connection and closeness with your avoidant ex.
As always, I have been listening to the questions you ask me both here on the site and in coaching and felt the need to write a little bit more about attachment-avoidance.
Most of us know a dismissive-avoidant. You know, the one who prefers to be “alone” than spend time as a couple and thinks that asking to spend more time together is you being needy, and calling them out on their lack of affection or attention is you being demanding or controlling. The one who breaks up with you just because they don’t feel like being in a relationship (with anybody). The one who always seems to take the break-up “very well”, shows no emotions when breaking up with you and doesn’t care one way or the other whether you want no contact or want to keep the lines of communication open. As far as they are concerned, it doesn’t matter. You want to stay in contact, they’re fine with that. You want no contact, that’s fine too.
The ex who never reaches out or initiates contact and responds hours or even days later acting like it’s no big deal. And when you show anything that resembles “emotions” or ‘feelings” they pull a disappearing act. Yes, that one.
A dismissive-avoidant is only one kind of avoidant. There is another type of attachment-avoidance, known as disorganized attachment or fearful-avoidant, sometimes also called a ambivalent-avoidant.
Who is a fearful-avoidant or ambivalent-avoidant?
I write quite a bit about contact with a fearful-avoidant ex, but unlike dismissive-avoidants where you know that this person does not want you constantly reaching out or telling them how you feel, contact with someone with disorganized attachment is a bit tricky.
They are high on anxiety rating scale which means that they want contact (sometimes a lot of it) and when they don’t hear from you in a while, or contact you and don’t get a response immediately, they become anxious (what does it mean? did I say/do something wrong?). And just like someone with attachment anxiety they may start to aggressively text and seek to get close. It may even look like they are ‘chasing you”.
They are also high on avoidance rating scale which means that when they don’t get the response they expect or it seems like (even ever so slightly) you are pulling away, they will pull away and withdraw from contact. They may respond once in a while (because that high anxiety part of them wants contact) but they will be cautious and seem distant. Very often you find yourself in a cycle of intense contact followed by withdrawal.
But it get’s even more interesting. Over the years, working with men and women struggling with bipolar disorder and those who are trying to attract back an ex with bipolar disorder, I have noticed that bipolar disorder can sometimes look like disorganized attachment and disorganized attachment can often present characteristics similar to bipolar disorder. This is just my experience and observation, I am not an expert on bipolar disorder or anything like that.
A client is describing how their ex is sending mixed signals and acting in ways that are conflicted, confusing and do not make sense. One day things are really great and their ex is talking about things that indicate that they are thinking of getting back together, and out of nowhere and without warning, their ex stops responding, says they want to be single and not ready for a relationship. Next their ex is going out every night, getting drunk, dating and acting like they moved on. Then out of nowhere their ex reaches out because they miss them very much (often drunk). Some times they reach out in tears or completely wasted. They are begging for another chance, want to meet in person etc. My clients finds him or herself pulled back into a relationship. I’m thinking, “bipolar”.
If you are not familiar with bipolar disorder, it’s a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings or extreme emotional highs and lows.
While we all have our emotional ups and downs, these emotional states usually don’t last long, and usually don’t dramatically change our behaviour. When someone has bipolar disorder however, they can be extremely happy, positive, energetic, full of ideas, forward looking, wanting love, closeness, a future and all that good stuff one day and the next day (literally), they want you to leave them alone because they are feeling sad, hopeless, depressed, pessimistic and have no interest or pleasure in saying or doing anything, and no interest in you or the relationship.
They even tell you they don’t love you anymore, don’t feel anything for you anymore, are not attracted to you anymore, and at that moment when they are saying it, that’s how they truly feel. They are not playing mind games, testing you or being “difficult”. They are going through the depressive spell and are being honest about how they feel.
When the manic phase peaks, it’s like they don’t remember the things they said in their depressive state. That’s why it’s called bipolar disorder, it’s like dealing with two completely different people.
The repeated cycle of intense affection followed by withdrawal can feel like a non-stop rollercoaster ride on steroids especially if you have no idea what’s going on with them.