When Do Dismissive Avoidants Begin Longing For Ex?


You may have read or heard that it takes dismissive avoidants 2 – 6 months to process a break-up and begin missing you and longing for you, but how long does it really take for a dismissive avoidant to begin longing for you?

First of all, there is no credible scientific research to support the claim that dismissive avoidants process breakups at all. There are exceptions, but self-examination and relationship autopsy is not typically a dismissive avoidant trait. Secondly, the notion that if you give dismissive avoidants enough time, they’ll eventually feel nostalgia, begin “longing” for you and come back is a gross misrepresentation and a real lack of understanding about what is dismissive attachment style is and what it isn’t. Bear with me as I explain exactly how waiting for a dismissive avoidant to begin “longing” for you may be costing you more than you realize.

Let’s begin by answering the question: What does “longing” for someone mean?

  • dwell in thought of something or someone
  • persistent yearning, pining and craving
  • a strong desire especially for something unattainable
  • a feeling of wanting something or someone very much
  • sad feeling because you want something or someone very much

Dwell in thought, yearn, pine, crave, feel sad because they want someone very much, does this sound like a dismissive avoidant? Attachment theory says no.

A dismissive avoidant attachment style is about not needing or longing for anyone

A dismissive avoidant attachment style is a result of emotionally cold, distant, overbearing, strict, controlling, unreliable and/or absent caregiving where a child’s emotional needs were not prioritized; and when caregivers showed love or gave care, it didn’t feel good or safe for the child. A child with this type of caregiving learns very early on in life not to expect to be loved or cared for; and to suppress, deny and even reject their need for love and care.

A dismissive avoidant attachment style is also created when a caregiver is uncomfortable with their own emotions or expressing feelings and scolds or shames a child for having certain needs and expressing feelings that made them look like they were emotionally dependent or weak. The child learns to think of not showing emotions and feelings and not expressing a need as a strength to be cultivated.

Many dismissive avoidants also encouraged or forced to learn to be self-reliant and independent at a very early age. They may have taken on adult responsibilities as children (e.g. provider, care for siblings etc.) which further strengthened their belief that they did not need to be “taken care of”.

The dismissive avoidant attachment script reads something like: It’s safer to be alone than need people who are never going to be able to meet my needs and/or understand my feelings.

Dismissive avoidants in a relationship: I need nobody and nobody should need anyone

Because they don’t need anyone, dismissive avoidants feel that nobody should need anyone. This often comes off as a dismissive avoidant doesn’t care.

Some of my clients tell me they know their dismissive avoidant ex loved and cared about them, but most of the time, it didn’t feel like it because the dismissive avoidant:

  • Was aloof, distant and very rarely expressed or shared their feelings or emotions.
  • Often ignored, downplayed and dismissed their feelings, pulled away often and keep them at a distance.
  • Had too many boundaries, controlled when and how they shared they space and time, and were unwilling to commit to anything
  • Was unreliable and never there when they were needed or got upset/angry because they needed or acted needy with a dismissive avoidant etc.

This is what dismissive avoidant learned about relationships and how to deal with emotions and feelings. Many dismissive avoidants will tell you that showing affection, the expression emotions or talking about feelings was something that didn’t happen in their household. Love was something understood or shown through actions. When something ‘bad’ happened, it was never talked about. Everyone went on with their lives pretending it didn’t happen.

These internalized experiences provide a framework for how dismissive avoidants act in close relationships to keep you from getting close, but even more importantly, they give a dismissive avoidant a sense of control of their experience. They don’t want to give in to their need to be loved and cared for because they don’t want to feel emotionally dependent or weak, so they control how others love and care about them. They can still love and show they care about you without “needing you” or needing closeness; and they don’t want you to act like you need them because that feels unsafe.

These early internalized experiences also provide a framework for how dismissive avoidant deal with break-ups, and why some dismissive avoidants come back so quickly after a break-up and others come back years later.

When do dismissive avoidants begin “longing” for an ex?

Once you truly understand the internal working model of a dismissive avoidant attachment, the answer is never.

How dismissive avoidants deal with break-ups is consistent with how they’re in relationships. They’re not going to suddenly change after a break-up and begin “longing” for an ex – unless they go to therapy or do serious work on themselves.

Unlike someone with an anxious attachment who pines, longs for and obsesses about their ex, most dismissive avoidants feel that once they give in to the human need for connection and closeness and the emotions and feelings that come with it, everything will unravel. It’ll expose their vulnerability and unacknowledged loneliness and they’ll become the person they’ve worked so hard not to be – dependent, needy, weak, and easy to manipulate or control.

Longing for an ex after a break-up will require a dismissive avoidant to admit to themselves that they need love and care, and to allow themselves to feel the emotions and feelings of wanting or needing someone else. This requires a level of vulnerability that most dismissive avoidants will not subject themselves to.

Dismissive avoidants develop “Who needs you?” attitude after the break-up

Most dismissive avoidant relationships are either been “casual” or don’t last long and many dismissive avoidants at some point or another in the relationship ask themselves “Am I In love?” . They don’t have many experiences of “falling in love” or “being in love” and sometimes they think they are but aren’t sure. When the relationship ends, they really don’t know if they love you or if it was just lust or the familiarity of being in a relationship. So while you’re “giving them time to begin longing for you”, your dismissive avoidant ex may have concluded that because they don’t miss you the way other people miss or long for their exes, they may not have been in love after all.

And even when they miss you, instead of feeling longing for an ex (like people with an anxious attachment do), dismissive avoidants develop “Who needs you?” attitude after the break-up.

Dismissive avoidants reach out and come back when they’re ready

I read comments saying, “I’m giving my DA ex time to process the break-up, then I’ll reach out/they’ll reach out”. The reality is that why or when dismissive avoidants reach out or come back has little to with processing the break-up. Your dismissive avoidant ex may never process the break-up at all. Many dismissive avoidants haven’t even processed their childhood issues and/or trauma or death of someone they cared about. They don’t want to think about it or even talk about it with anyone, not even with a therapist or coach. They just want to move on from those unwanted emotions and go on with their lives.

There are also studies that show that dismissive avoidants don’t “remember” details of their childhood. Somehow a dismissive avoidant’s brain (conveniently) lets them forget a time in their life when they were distressed and needed love and care and either no one was there for them; or someone was there but was cold and distant.

If a dismissive avoidant can conveniently ‘forget” this traumatic part of their life, what are the chances that a dismissive avoidant ex is sitting with their feelings trying to understand why the break-up happened, let alone drowning in nostalgia?

The point I’m making here is that dismissive avoidants reach out when they’re ready to, and come back because they want to, and not because they’ve processed the break-up or because you gave them enough time to eventually feel nostalgia, begin “longing” for you. Feeling that they control their experience is very important to a dismissive avoidant’s sense of independence and security and longing for anyone undermines a dismissive avoidants sense of independence.

RELATED:

What Are A Dismissive Avoidant Break Up Stages?

What To Do When A Dismissive Avoidant Breaks Up With You

Why Dismissive Avoidants Push You Away (What to Do)

No Contact Works Differently With A Dismissive Avoidant Ex

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

How Avoidants Leave Open The Option To Reconnect With Exes

How to Make An Avoidant Ex Feel Safe Enough To Come Back

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

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26 Comments

  1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Tim

    I’m DA and don’t really miss someone when the relationship is over because without the relationship I feel safer. I’m not saying every ex has necessarily been an unsafe person, they may be safe for others but for me when someone is very aggressive and causes so much emotional stress in my life (I’ve dated mainly APs), I’m pretty convinced I don’t want a relationship by the time I breakup with them.

  2. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Mitzi

    Don’t you just hate it when they say “I dont remember”? Ive been trying to get my DA ex to talk about what happened and he says “Honestly, I dont remember. Im sorry”. I thought he was avoiding talking about us but after reading that DAs dont remember details I recall that he always said his childhood was fine and his needs were taken care of but when I asked specific questions or detains he said he cant remember. I thought that was weird.

  3. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Phil

    I’m a DA and could feel the relief when it was over. But I don’t miss her or think about her until I pass by a place we went together. We were together for 8 months and broke up over 2 months ago. We argued and she blamed it all on my avoidant attachment. I don’t plan on reaching out or want her back. I prefer to be alone.

    1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Haaz

      I can relate. My last relationship ended over 6 months ago and I’ve avoided feeling any emotions from the breakup. I’m sure I’m avoiding my feelings towards myself too. Being on this site is helping me see how destructive my defense mechanism is. I’ve began working on myself but my showing my emotions vulnerably is still a struggle.

  4. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Linka

    It’s so frustrating when you want to want to talk about what went wrong in the relationship and they say “I don’t remember”.

  5. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Gulloffa

    I’m angry at myself after reading this. DA ex reached out first 3 weeks after the breakup and was responding within minutes. We chatted for 2 days straight but after I said I missed him, I never heard back from him again. It’s been over 4 months and I’m scared to reach out.

  6. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Marah

    This makes so much sense. Both of my DA exes reached out within 1 – 3 weeks of the breakup and I could never quite figure it out why. They didn’t seem so upset by the breakup, and I always thought they never cared about me. When they reached out in a fairly short amount of time, I assumed they wanted to be friends and I was not up to it. I ran into one of them at a party a few years later and he told everyone he tried to get back with me and I was rude to him. What’s interesting is, I did want to get back with him. Too late now, he’s married!!!!!!

  7. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: SurferT

    Thank you for writing this. I’m a DA in therapy to deal with my anger management and only now, at 38 years of age that I’m beginning to process my breakups. I had my first relationship at 19 and my ex said some things about me and my family and I’ve been carrying anger from that breakup all these years, and it may have worsened my dismissive avoidance. I haven’t had a relationship that lasted more than 6 months and they always end so badly. Therapy is helping me deal with feelings I didn’t even know I had.

  8. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: TonyA

    My DA ex girlfriend reached out 8 days after a huge fight in which she called it off. I didn’t reach out because I didn’t want to get into another fight with her. She asked how I was doing, and I replied I was okay and didn’t say anything else. I didn’t hear back from her and after a week, I reached out. Fast forward to 3 weeks, and we are talking every 2-3 days and she’s initiating some texts. I am taking things real slow to give her space and she seems to respond well to that. Will see where we are in a few more weeks.

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

      Please update. I’m doing my own research on dismissive avoidants initiating reconciliation and might want to talk to you at some point if that’s okay with you. It’s kind of a thing now, and maybe more DAs discovering attachment theory has something to do with it.

  9. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Pham

    I read your story and wanted to ask how you felt when not in a relationship? I’m AP so I’m really interested to know if dismissive avoidants feel lonely after they leave a relationship?

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

      That’s an interesting question that I’ve reflected on a lot. If by lonely you mean miss being in a relationship or feel sadness not having someone to be with, then no. I really, really liked my own company with no one expecting me to be this or do that or asking how I felt about this or that. No arguments, no drama, no being responsible for someone else’s feelings etc. I also had my family and friends to talk to and knew how to have fun, so no, I never felt lonely after leaving a relationship.

      I think that dismissive avoidants who feel lonely are those who isolate themselves from family, friends, everyone. Deep inside they feel lonely and alone in their experience of the world and struggle connecting to others and not just romantic partners.

      1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Ed Walker

        I find it difficult to connect with anyone. I’ve a successful career and a good relationship with all my family but we are not close. We support each other and celebrate holidays as a family but I don’t talk to them about my feelings or what I am going through at work or in a relationship. I have a couple of close friends that I talk to, but I don’t tell them everything. I only recently discovered attachment styles looking for advice on how to get back with my ex. It feels like impossible to be secure.

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

          It is possible. It’s takes time and lots of self-work. Be patient with yourself and keep doing the work.

  10. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Olden43

    Yangki, you’re absolutely right. I don’t think there’s one answer to how DAs deal with breakups. For me it depends on if I had an emotional connection with them, then I feel regret and anger mainly towards myself. If there was no emotional connection, I fluctuate between relief and anger towards an ex.

    I never tried to get back an ex until now. I think what changed for me is I went to therapy and worked on my attachment trauma from extremely religious household that hindered my ability to connect emotionally and sexually. It’s been a long journey of self-recovery and I’m continuously feeling more secure. Having your site to come back to again and again has helped me make progress trying to get her back. I hope you realize how much help you are to so many.

  11. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Bittersweet

    I held out hope that my DA ex was going to miss me and reach out, but after 8 months of no contact, I’ve lost all hope. I’m now picking up the pieces and trying to move on.

  12. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Mary

    Yangki, your posts have been illuminating as I heal from a break up with a lovely, charming DA. It all makes so much sense and is a relief to me to know that he’s not pining. It takes the drama away. I can heal on my end, decide if a relationship with him is what I want and continue to reach out from a more understanding and secure headspace.

    And yes, I have been reaching out every once in awhile, but I am increasingly ambivalent about wanting a reconciliation.

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

      You are doing the right/healthy thing using the time and space to decide if getting back together is the right thing to do.

      There is no guarantee that a DA will stop being a DA when you’re more secure. DAs need to do some work too. But when you’re secure you handle things better which often makes a DA feel safer and not feel like running away every time they “need to feel safe”.

      All the best!

  13. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Bri

    Yangki, your articles describe by experience with 2 DA exs to the T, and today I read that you were once a dismissive avoidant, now it all makes sense. I wish my current DA ex was as aware of his attachment issues and worked on his attachment style. I am AP and love him with all my heart, but he will not allow me to love him because of his fear of being loved. We have together for 4.5 years, and he told me I am the only person he has ever loved; he did not know love before he met me, and he does not believe he can love again. I believe him because he has tried to overcome his attachment style, but he will not commit after all these years. I am at my give up point.

  14. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Lullababe

    This has helped me better understand my situation with DA ex. It has made me want to stick around a little longer especially now that he’s in therapy. Thank you.

  15. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Robin

    My DA ex used to say “I don’t want to know” and “I don’t want to get involved” whenever I tried to talk to him about the problems I was having with my family. If insisted he’d get up and leave the room. 3 years after we broke up I met a guy who went to high school with my ex and were friends. He told me my ex’s dad cheated with his mother’s sister and went on to marry her. He’d told friends that they didn’t talk about his dad at home and my ex had said his dad was dead to him, which is what he told me when I asked about his dad. He said his dad died when he was 16. I don’t think he has processed his dad leaving. He’s married but he travels for work often weeks away from his wife and daughter.

  16. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Benjamin

    I don’t need or long for my ex, but I want her back. If she were to come back, I know I would love her differently because of the work I’ve done to heal my attachment trauma. But she has decided she does not want me back, and I understand. I’m not angry and I’m not sad, I have accepted her decision.

  17. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: JustTodd

    Thank you Yangki for your empathetic understanding of us dismissive avoidants. I’ve learned a lot about myself reading your articles and watching your videos. Sometimes it feels like learning a new language and I feel stupid for not knowing the basics of emotional connection and how to communicate my needs and feelings. My approach has always been to pull back and not feel anything and it felt normal to me. But it also brought so much hurt and sadness to people who tried to love me and believe it or not to myself as well. I’m on this journey to becoming secure and just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you.

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

      Thank you. I’m glad I’ve been able to help is some small way.

      You’ll get there… you WILL. Just keep doing the work.

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