The majority of exes with an anxious attachment come back within 0-3 months of the break-up, in the window of time to get them back. In this article, I discuss how to get back an ex with anxious attachment before they deactivate and become fearful avoidant and pull back, start playing mind games or go no contact.
Anxious attachment have the hardest time dealing with a break-up
In a study on attachment and break-up strategies, attachment anxiety was associated with using strategies meant to keep open the option of getting back together. This is because individuals with anxious attachment styles in general value relationships over everything; including their own best interest sometimes. They tend to fall in love too fast and too hard, get overly attached to someone they’re in a relationship with and become dependent on them, try too hard to make someone love them and put up with a lot. Most stay too long in relationship that are unhealthy and not good for them.
When the relationship ends, most anxious people become distraught, frantic and obsessed with their ex. They text and call their ex incessantly, send messages declaring their love and commitment, beg and plead with their ex to take them back, send verbal threats and unwanted gifts, and even stalk their ex on social media, in their home or work. In attachment theory, the individual in this state is said to be hyperactivated.
Hyperactivation is characterized by intense efforts to attain closeness and insistent attempts to force a partner or ex to provide satisfying and reassuring care and support.
Break-ups trigger an anxious attachment’s fear of abandonment
Break-ups hyperactivate the attachment system because they trigger feelings of rejection and abandonment experienced in childhood, or years of being ignored, abandoned, neglected by romantic partners causing the attachment system to become excessively active and emotionally reactivity.
What an ex with an anxious attachment style is looking in the hyperactivated state is validation and reassurance that they’re worthy of love and attention. Most of them had no experience of a secure and reassuring attachment figure who comforted them when they needed soothing; and as a result felt rejected, abandoned, unloved and unlovable.
But while individuals with anxious attachment have a hard time leaving a relationship, and take break-ups the hardest, people with an anxious attachment style are also more willing to give the relationship another chance. Meaning that people with an anxious attachment come back more often than other attachment styles, but there is a limited window of time in which someone with an anxious attachment is likely to come back.
Window of time to get back an anxious attachment ex
John Bowlby the pioneer of attachment theory observed that children who experienced intense separation distress or anxiety go through three progressive stages (Bowlby, Robertson 1952):
Stage 1 – Protest: Crying, screaming and protesting angrily against separation. They will try to cling to you to try to stop separation.
Stage 2 – Despair: The protesting begins to wind down and they appear to be calmer although still upset, withdrawn and uninterested in anything else.
Stage 3 – Detachment: If separation continues, they will reject you, show strong signs of moving on and may start to engage with other people again.
The crucial window of time to get back an ex with an anxious attachment is therefore 0-3 months of the break-up and before they detach and reject your attempts to get them back
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get back someone with an anxious attachment after 3 months of the break-up; it just means that you have the best chance of an ex with an anxious attachment coming back in the 0-3 months window after the break-up. After 4 months most exes with an anxious attachment start to feel like they no longer care if their ex comes back or not (protest behaviour)
If an ex hasn’t reached out or ignored all an anxious attachment’s attempts to reopen the lines of communication, they may feel that they no longer want their ex to contact them and set them back in their healing process.
I see the shift from hyperactivating to deactivating in my clients with an anxious attachment and with fearful avoidant exes. When they first sign up for coaching to get their ex back, they are so determined to get back with their ex and have “I don’t give up on love” attitude I find admirable in people with an anxious attachment. But when the process drags on too long, which is common with most avoidants, or becomes too stressful with so many highs and lows (common with fearful avoidant exes), I see my clients’ hopes and “I don’t give up on love” energy drain out of them as some of them and others slowly deactivate.
Someone who signed up for coaching swearing they didn’t want to do no contact or play mind games slowly starts to justify why they should “make their ex miss” them, why they can’t trust their ex, and why they should probably move on etc. Their mental and emotional state goes hot and cold depending on how their ex responds. Some anxious attachment exes give up trying to get back with an ex too soon because they can’t handle the emotional highs and lows that come with trying to attract back an ex.
What exes with anxious attachment need the most after a break-up
What an anxiously attached ex and a fearful avoidant leaning anxious needs after the break-up is not cutting of contact and making them feel even more abandoned and insecure. You will definitely without doubt get a hyperactivated reaction from an anxiously attached ex and a fearful avoidant leaning anxious when you go no contact and ignore them. In the short term, no contact worked, but in the long term, you set up someone with an anxious attachment pr fearful avoidant attachment style to not to trust you and to always feel insecure about a relationship with you.
Stepping up and being the attachment figure they never had and showing them that they’re worthy of love and attention when they need it the most gives you the best chance of attracting back someone with an anxious attachment style (and fearful avoidant who lean anxious).
But this needs to be handled very carefully because you run the risk coming across as manipulative and pushing your own agenda to get back together and ignoring your ex’s feelings, needs and concerns about the relationship. The validation and reassurance you provide in these early days of the break-up is not that the problems in the relationship will be resolved or that you want an anxiously attached ex back.
The reassurance you provide in this window of time where you have the best chance to get back an anxious attachment ex, is that you’re someone they can trust not to abandon them or make them feel unloved and unlovable. Someone who makes them feel safe and secure enough to want to come back on their own.