Do Exes Really Ever Come Back? (ATTACHMENT STYLES)

Do exes really ever come back? More specifically, do avoidant exes ever come back?

Yes, exes do come back and yes, both fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants can come back after a break-up.

Most break-ups are not mutual in that one person want to break-up while the other does not. The person initiating the break-up thinks it’s over for them. They are not thinking of getting back together or that they will come back.

They are not thinking… “I am breaking up with you, but we’ll get back together”. They are thinking…

  • I am not happy/I am miserable and I don’t like it
  • I don’t feel this relationship is working for me
  • I can’t do what I want to do with you around, I need my space
  • We’re hurting each other and I need to get away from you
  • I don’t like you the way I used to
  • I don’t see a future with you, etc.

They are not thinking of getting back together at this point because they are thinking of themselves, how they feel and what they want– and rightly so.

Even exes that say “may be we’ll get back together in the future” or “we’ll see what happens in two months” or “if it’s meant to be it’ll be” etc., are not promising that you’ll get back together. Rather, they are leaving the door open for all possibilities — including the possibility that you’ll go your separate ways.

Attachment theory provides powerful insights as to how different attachment styles will likely act after a break-up, why and how they come back.

Individuals high in attachment avoidance use deactivating emotion-regulatory suppression strategies that create emotional distance with an ex. Deactivating strategies have been linked to a greater tendency to breakup, weaker emotional reactions to breakups, and self-destructive coping strategies (T.J. Collins, O. Gillath / Journal of Research in Personality 46 (2012).

Individuals high in attachment anxiety have more trouble adapting to a relationship breakup and acting independently, and they experience greater emotional distress, anger, anxiety, depression, and loss of emotional control (Fagundes, 2012; Gilbert & Sifers, 2011).

Their use hyper-activating emotion regulatory strategies that include trying to immediately reengage with their ex and repeated attempts to get back together leads to unwanted pursuit behaviour which leads to a vicious cycle of repeatedly breaking up and getting back together. (Davis et al., 2003; Dutton & Winstead, 2006).

Secure individuals tend to face relationship breakups with greater resilience, acceptance, and emotional recovery than do insecure individuals (Madey & Jilek, 2012). They recognize both their attachment needs and their ex’s attachment needs and act accordingly using strategies characterized by open, empathetic communication, and negotiation about someone’s needs and desires.

They generally tend to experience fewer break-ups, use more social and less self-destructive coping strategies, and greater willingness to reunite (Madey & Jilek, 2012).

What does this mean for you asking, “do exes ever come back?”

1) Dismissive Avoidant Ex/Fearful Avoidant Leaning More Avoidant

It means that if your ex is a dismissive avoidant or fearful avoidant leaning more avoidant, the chances that your ex will come back is less than some with an ex high on attachment anxiety or with a secure attachment style. This doesn’t mean the chances of your ex coming back are zero, it just means the probability of them not coming back is higher than them coming back.

One reason for this is that avoidants in general, dismissive avoidants in particular tend to be involved in short-term dating relationships characterized by lower interdependence, commitment, trust, and satisfaction. When the relationship ends, they are ready to move on.

Over the years however, I have found that when the relationship is over 3 years, dismissive avoidants tend to be more open to getting back together and may even actively pursue a reconciliation. This is important to note, because it goes against all the information out there that dismissive avoidant exes never come back. They do and it depends on how emotionally invested they were before the break-up happened.

2) Anxious-Preoccupied Ex/Fearful Avoidant Leaning More Anxious

If your ex is anxious-preoccupied or fearful avoidant leaning more anxious, there is a very high chance that they will come back. Studies have shown that people high on attachment anxiety are more willing to stay friends with an ex to potentially maintain close ties allowing for later reconnection and getting back together. But their motive especially in times of distress is more self-focused and not necessarily in the best interest of an ex or even the relationship. So yes, your ex will come back but you may also break up soon after.

The good news is that more recent studies have found that attachment-anxious individuals experience greater personal growth following romantic break-ups compared to attachment-avoidant individuals. This may help reduce the chances of breaking up soon after your ex comes back.

In addition to an ex’s attachment style, there are other general and individual factors unique to your ex that may affect whether or not they will come back.

RELATED: 10 Factors That Influence Getting Back Together With Your Ex

My point is: Don’t be discouraged from trying to attract back your ex simply because right now your ex is saying it’s over and they’re not changing their mind.

It takes work and it takes time, but it’s possible.

When you feel discouraged and want to give up, these Incredible Success Stories of readers like you who got back their ex might help!

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  1. says: Siya

    I broke it off and he was deeply hurt. I apologised and at first he was hot and cold. Things are a lot better now. He says he still loves me and can see us getting back together but wants to be friends and decide in 6 mos if he wants to get back together. He wants us to date other people but says he is just dating and not looking to get in a relationship. He is open to hanging out and we text once a day sometimes more. I know I messed up and want him to be free to date, and he also said I can date others if I want. I don’t want to be friendzoned and need to set some boundaries for how we move forward. I have your book dating your ex, my question is which other book would you recommend for my situation ‘It’s just a break-up’ or ‘dating your ex boundaries’?

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      Both books apply to your situation. It’s Just A Break-Up will help with the emotions of trying to get back someone who is dating other people. But I’d go with Dating Your Ex Boundaries 1 & 2 because as you rightly put it, you need to set some boundaries.

      1. Boundaries help you avoid being friendzoned
      2. Boundaries keep both of you from making things worse and ruining whatever chance you might have had.

  2. says: Lauren

    He said I love you but I’m not in love with you anymore, you deserve someone that will put in the effort, you’re a great person, I still want you in my life. I did 1 week no contact, made plans to meet up & say my piece. I cancelled & wrote him an email- I felt seeing him would cause me more pain- no response. I feel I pushed him away in wanting to see him more & move in. Is it possible he’ll come back or is he scare to commit & needs space? Do exes come back in this case?

  3. says: Nelli

    The breakup happened because we were both focused on our careers and it was getting harder to make time for each other. It was an amicable breakup and tough on both of us as we didn’t want it to end but recognized that no matter what we wanted the relationship wasn’t working for either of us. We stayed in touch for a year in which I spent a lot of time on this site practically every night. I realized that I hadn’t been willing to compromise and make sacrifices and told him. He said he was guilty too and we decided to give us another chance. In a way I am thankful for the breakup because I now appreciate him better than I ever did, and I have you Yangki to thank for teaching me that I needed to give love a chance. Thank you.

  4. says: Angie

    OMG! I know I had asked for advice! Mea culpa! But if anybody anyway reads these comments I want to tell you that 1 hour after I posted my last comment (on how freakingly frightened I was about a possibly upcoming phonecall with him) my ex wanted to call me!!!

    So I swallowed again as fast as possible some of your book‘s lessons and – well – it was a kind, warm and friendly talk for about 2 hours! Amazing, I admire every little bit how you offer solutions that work. And I learned so much about my selfish past and how love first and foremost addresses the other person. Not oneself! I listened REALLY, understood and acknowledged his reservations and doubts and kept the line to him. He is still frightened that things could turn out the same nasty way as they did already and wants to keep friends – and wants to call again tomorrow !!! Many, many thanks for your work! LoL

      1. says: Angie

        Dear Yangkie,
        he is back. 3 weeks from “the end of the world” to “better than ever”!! Thank you so much for all your wisdome, humour and good down-to-earth sense!!!
        Much love

      2. says: Yangki Akiteng


        You are easy to love, Angie. It makes sense he’s back so soon.

        Don’t thank me, thank YOU. Okay, me a little… 🙂

        Much love back at you!

  5. says: Angie

    Dear Yangki, just some days after having read your book I am in contact with my ex again. Your approach is amazing! He writes very long messages (he obviously has still a lot to say to me) full of accusations but also leaves tiny bits of hope for the future. Suddenly I find myself scared to death when it might come to our first phonecall. We broke up – both in stressful personal situations – neglecting one another‘s needs. I realized that, but he is still fully convinced that his actions were completely right and honourable. I am afraid he would start again by forcing me to prove that I am serious with him. Meaning he expects sacrifices that I – as a Single Mom cannot make. And that would probably mean the end again. Good advice is very welcome!
    Kind regards