Question: Dismissive avoidant asking how to get back a secure attachment ex
Yangki, I need your help. I’m a classic dismissive avoidant due to being raised in a very strict religious cult and trying to get back with my secure attachment ex. Your site has been such a great resource and many of your articles make more sense to me compared to other attachment experts. With regards to my childhood, I didn’t feel neglected or rejected quite the contrary, I felt controlled and had too much responsibility, and religion was definitely a major factor in our family dynamics. My dad was overbearing and my mom I think depended too much emotionally as the eldest child to the extent of disclosing things about my dad that I’m not going to get into. I felt it was my job to protect her and my siblings from my dad and it definitely created distance which still exists between he and I. I’m very close to mom and siblings though.
As for may love life, I’m 44 and have dated many women but most of my relationships last a few weeks or months before I feel suffocated and end it. I had a 2-year relationship with a dismissive avoidant which I consider the best relationship I ever had, but we both realized we were too focused on our careers and were better as friends. I then met my ex-wife who was secure but after we had our daughter, the relationship became nonsexual for 3 years. We went for counselling but by then it was too late and she filed for divorce after 6 years together. She remarried but we are good friends and even better coparents.
I’m in therapy and hopefully can get to your level of secure attachment someday. My questions to you are 1. is it normal that I’m only attracted to dismissive avoidants and secure attachments or will that change when I become more secure, and 2. any advice you can offer on how get back with a secure attachment? FY1, we broke up 4 months ago but never broke contact mostly because she reaches out but also gives me space to work on myself. I have started to match her availability which is a huge step for me. We also tell each other we care about the other, another new one for me, but therapy helps. Thank you for reading this far, and for your help.
Yangki’s Answer: I normally don’t read “this far” but you had me at “I’m a classic dismissive avoidant” as I don’t get many questions/comments from dismissive avoidants.
First of all, I respect you for wanting to change your attachment style, and secondly, I’m encouraged that there re dismissive avoidants like you who don’t just walk away because “relationships are too hard”, but see the value of being with someone who loves you and you love them back. This is why instead of a long response to your comment, I decided to post this as an article. Hopefully other dismissive avoidants looking for advice on how to attract back their securely attached ex will find the information useful.
1. Why are dismissive avoidants attracted to securely attached?
If it helps, you are not the only dismissive avoidant attracted to only dismissive avoidants and securely attached. Given that dismissive avoidants and securely attached both 1) have a positive view of self and do not need constant reassurance to feel valued, 2) have low attachment anxiety and do not worry about a partner leaving (no abandonment issues), 3) are independent and self-reliant and not triggered by a partner’s independence, and 4) are able to self-regulate and do not experience and/or express high levels of negative emotions, it makes sense that you’re attracted to the same qualities in each other.
Dismissive avoidants are also drawn to securely attached because someone with a secure attachment is consistently caring without being smothering and without the emotional intensity or drama of an anxious attachment, or the hot and cold, pull-and-push of a fearful avoidant attachment. The relationship is mostly calm and peaceful, with a balance of closeness and space to make an a dismissive avoidant feel safe.
2. Will your attraction to dismissive avoidants and secure attachments change when you become more secure?
Your attraction to securely attached will not change when you become securely attached, it may actually be solidified since securely attached are mostly attracted to other securely attached. But it’s very likely that you’ll not be as attracted to dismissive avoidants unless they too are working on becoming more secure.
This doesn’t mean a relationship between two dismissive avoidants can’t work, it just means that a relationship between two dismissive avoidant is unstainable long term because relationships need interdependence to function in a healthy way, but then again you already know that because that’s what happened with your dimisssive avoidant relationship.
3. How do you go about getting back with a secure attachment?
Securely attached don’t ask for much in a relationship. They’re comfortable giving and receiving love and maintaining closeness and also comfortable and capable of being alone because their lives are meaningful and complete even without a relationship.
The fact that you’ve been broken up 4 months and still in contact says to me that your securely attached ex believes that your efforts to be less dismissive avoidant are genuine and wants to be there for you as you work though your attachment issues. Unlike anxiously attached who don’t have boundaries and tolerate more than what is good (and even toxic) for them, securely attached have enough security to walk away from an unhealthy dynamic.
To get a securely attached ex back, they need to see genuine personal growth and self-work which you are already doing. In addition to therapy, what you need to do as a dismissive avoidant who doesn’t trust people because of your childhood experience is allow your securely attached ex to be your secure base support or attachment stabilizer; someone you can go to and ask for advice and support when the situation calls for it. Studies on adult attachment have shown evidence that securely attached individuals can help move their partners from an insecure attachment.
BUT, a securely attached partner or ex can only provide so much safety and security for you), you need to keep working on meeting your securely attached ex at their level of emotional availability, responsiveness, consistency, and reliability for the relationship to feel safe and secure for both of you.
4. Why do most dismissive avoidant attachment relationship become nonsexual?
You didn’t tell me the reason for your recent break-up but I’ve had many conversations with dismissive avoidant clients to know that at some point, dismissive avoidants lose interest in sex and the relationship becomes nonsexual; something you mentioned and experienced in your marriage.
If this played some role in your recent break-up, you need to work on it because even with the safety, security and stability that a securely attached provides, if there is no sexual intimacy, the relationship will not be sustainable long term.
I’m going to go on a limb here and say that because you were raised in a very strict religious cult background, you may have some beliefs about sex and sexuality that you acquired that are now interfering with your interest in sexual intimacy. It will help to examine some of these beliefs and change them. You might also want to explore more with your therapist the things your mom said about your dad that created distance between the two of you (some kind of mother-to-son trauma transference). You may find that you’re trying not to be like your dad which is in some ways is blocking your ability to be intimate with women you love and are attracted to. I’m not your therapist, but I’ve had many conversations with dismissive avoidants and this may be something you might want to look into.