Can A Fearful Avoidant Ex Stop Being Hot And Cold?

An avoidant who acts hot and cold most likely has a fearful avoidant attachment style, but what exactly does “hot and cold” mean, and can a fearful avoidant stop being hot and cold?

From an attachment perspective, hot describes high anxiety and cold describes high avoidance. Someone who scores high on attachment anxiety wants and needs lots of closeness to feel safe in a relationship. Someone who scores high on attachment avoidance scale needs lots of distance (space) to feel safe in a relationship. A fearful avoidant attachment style needs both (not lots of) closeness and (not lots of) distance to feel safe in relationship.

The back and forth between wanting to get close and fearing closeness at the same time is what people mean when they say fearful avoidants are hot and cold. When you give a fearful avoidant too much space, it triggers them which makes them act anxious (hot) but when you get too close, it also triggers them and makes them act avoidant (cold).

What you have is what is called a disorganized attachment and what this feels like is, “Come close… you’re suffocating me”, “I love you… I’m not sure how I feel”, “Love me… I don’t want a relationship” “Leave me alone… wait, why are you abandoning me?” “Do you miss me?…. Don’t t tell me, I don’t want to know” etc.

A fearful avoidant ex hot and cold results in frequent short-term break-ups

Unlike dismissive avoidants who from the very beginning of the relationships are reserved, distant and even cold almost like they’re not interested or into you, and are consistently the same almost throughout the relationship, when you first start dating a fearful avoidant, they are openly interested and even so into you (sometimes more than you are into them). Some fearful avoidants may play hard to get mind games, but you can tell that they’re interested, just somewhat afraid.

But once you are in a relationship or get close, you begin to see their avoidant side more and more, but they’re not consistently avoidant either. They get close then pull away and then want to get close again.

The hot and cold behaviour is different from fearful avoidant to fearful avoidant. In some fearful avoidants, hot and cold is very intense resulting in frequent short-term break-ups; a few hours or days then get back together, only to break-up shortly after getting back together. In other fearful avoidants, it’s a few days that are really great and then they pull away for a few days, then repeat. And in others, there’s no noticeable getting close or pulling away, just very conflicted and conflicted mixed signals that makes it look like a fearful avoidant doesn’t know what they want.

How a fearful avoidant attachment hot and cold develops in childhood

To understand why a fearful avoidant is hot and cold, you must first understand a fearful avoidant’s first experience of love and their complicated fear of getting close.

A fearful avoidant attachment style also known as anxious-avoidant or disorganized attachment style describes someone who is both attachment anxious and attachment avoidant. That is, they want and need a closeness in their relationships, but avoid it because they fear rejection and/or being abandoned.

A fearful avoidant attachment style develops from having a primary caregiver or attachment figure who was:

  • Unpredictable and chaotic
  • Inconsistent in responding to their feelings and needs (neglect)
  • Provided care, attention and affection with threats and manipulation
  • Was emotionally abusive and sometimes physically violent
  • Loving sometimes and terrifying other times

A fearful avoidant attachment style can also develop later in life as a result of a series of bad or toxic romantic relationships or some other trauma e.g. rape or sexual violence by someone close.

What to expect from a hot and cold fearful avoidant ex?

If you’re trying to get back together, expect a fearful avoidant ex to:

1) Be confused about their feelings for you. Your fearful avoidant ex may tell that they’re confused about how they feel, tell you that they still have feelings for you but need some time and space, or tell you that they love you but aren’t ready to get back together or don’t want a relationship.

2) Be conflicted about wanting contact. They may tell you they want to maintain contact then come back later and say they want no contact, or tell you that they want contact then immediately (pr and after a few days) reach out.

3) At some point block you, then unblock. They may even do this a few times.

4) Want to contact then pull away. Expect there to be days and even weeks when they reach out, respond right away and seem fully engaged, then they pull away and it’s like they suddenly lost interest, then they’re back again to showing interest and even chasing you.

5) Constantly test you, and even engage in mind game playing. Because of their past attachment trauma, fearful avoidants are inherently suspicious, doubting and questioning those who show them love and affection, and feel the need to text you to be sure you are for real. Even a fearful avoidant ex who wants to get back together will display hot and cold behaviours to test the waters before committing to getting back together.

6) Pull away when you tell a fearful avoidant ex that you miss them or still love them. They may respond that they miss you too and/or still have feelings for you too then pull away.

See more of a fearful avoidant’s ex’s mixed signals and what to do. The point is, expect your and cold behaviours from your fearful avoidant ex. A fearful avoidant ex will pull away or push you away, and when they think they’ve lost you, they pull you close. But when you get close, they’ll freak out and pull away or push you away again.

Can a fearful avoidant ex ever stop being hot and cold?

NO, a fearful avoidant ex will not stop being hot and cold if they are not aware of their behaviour and want to change. If a fearful avoidant is not self-aware or understands why they act hold and cold, the pulling you close and pushing you away will not stop, unfortunately. You may have to learn to ride the hot and cold wave if you want to be with a fearful avoidant. And if you can’t, hang up the gloves and call it quits.

NO, a fearful avoidant ex will not stop being hot and cold if they’re with someone with an anxious attachment who triggers their fear of getting too close or avoidant attachment who triggers their fear of abandonment. When you are loving and caring one moment and ignoring a fearful avoidant the next, you remind them of their relationship with a parent(s) or caregiver who was a source of happiness and source of fear. You confirm to them that people who love you also hurt you.

YES, a fearful avoidant ex will stop being hot and cold if they’re with someone who stabilizes their anxious attachment (fear of abandonment) as well as avoidant attachment (fear of getting too close). You find that blow hot and cold less and less until they’re not doing it anymore.

YES, a fearful avoidant ex will stop being hot and cold it they are self-aware enough to go against their natural instinct to get close, freak out and run, and then want to get close again.

Can a relationship still work with a hot and cold fearful avoidant?

Yes as long a you are aware and understand that someone who learned about love from a parent(s) or caregiver who was a source of happiness and safety, and also source of fear and insecurity learned that:

  • Relationships are a source of both comfort and anxiety/stress.
  • You’re never good enough or worthy of consistent attention and affection
  • You can never know what to expect from someone who says they love you
  • It’s okay to want love but be very careful because people who say they love you will disappoint you, let you down and/or hurt you
  • People who say they love you will take advantage of you, manipulate you, use you and/or abuse you if you are not careful
  • If you show someone that you love them and need them, they’ll use that against you
  • It’s okay to lie to avoid a negative outcome (e.g. rejection or being punished)

When you understand that a fearful avoidant’s hot and cold behaviour goes much deeper, you start to see that they’re not intentionally trying to hurt you. You understand that because of their past attachment trauma, fearful avoidants are inherently suspicious, doubting and questioning those who show them love and affection. But more importantly, you understand that in order for a fearful avoidant ex to act less hot and cold, they need the stability and safety they never had. They need to be with somebody who:

  • They can trust to be there for them in a safe and none threatening manner
  • Is consistent in responding to both their need for closeness and need for space
  • Is caring and affectionate and does not try to manipulate them
  • Provides care, attention and affection with threats and manipulation
  • Is consistently loving and reassuring

This is not easy when you have not dealt with your own childhood attachment trauma.

Working towards secure attachment is particularly important because fearful avoidants are fearful avoidants because they have never known what it’s like to want love, connection and closeness and not be afraid of it. A secure partner can provide a safe and secure environment for a fearful avoidant to explore being close without self sabotaging; and to gradually over time stop self sabotaging; and for trust of your love for them.

RELATED:

Do You Feel Like Your Fearful Avoidant Ex Is Testing You?

10 Steps For Setting Boundaries An Avoidant Ex Will Respect

10 Steps For Setting Boundaries An Avoidant Ex Will Respect

How A Fearful Avoidant Ex Comes Back – A Detailed Analysis

5 Ways A Fearful Avoidant Ex Self Sabotaged The Relationship

How To Get Back An Ex Who Is Acting Hot And Cold

Why A Fearful Avoidant Keeps Coming Back (Playing Mind Games?)

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13 Comments

  1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Soso

    Thank you, this is written with empathy. I’ve always been aware that I’m hot and cold and only found out I’ve a fearful avoidant attachment style in the last couple of months. When I first meet someone I’m really into them then I start having nightmares of them never loving me the way I love them and leaving me someday. I become cold and completely shut down. But a few days I start thinking that maybe I’m wrong about them and they love me. It’s constant conflicting thoughts and feelings. Seeing that I’ve hurt too many people with something I can’t control I’ve decided not to be in a relationship until I can fix myself.

  2. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Kymmie

    I reached out to FA ex after NC and she replied 30 minutes later asking why I reached out. I told her I just wanted to connect and she said she can only give me friendship but made no effort to reach out or respond in a timely manner. It was so frustrating I stopped texting her. 2 weeks later she reached out and for 3-4 weeks was flirting and saying that she thinks of me, she thinks I’m handsome and funny. She was into me so hard but when I mentioned meeting up, she disappeared. I didn’t reach out, at this point I’m so fed up with the hot and cold. She reached out a month later with same BS and I ignored her.

  3. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Lorty

    I recently began therapy because my ex asked me to but mostly for me, and now that I’m aware of why I’m the way I’m, it’s actually making me feel worse. I have moments of connection with my ex and I feel like I am trapped but fight the urge to run. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe. But I’m committed to working hard with my therapist to change this.

  4. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Next123

    This sounds exactly like my ex. He gets close and we laugh and have a lot of fun together. But then he pulls away and when he does it ignites my anxiety.

  5. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Feliste

    I empathize with FA trauma effects and don’t mind accommodating them being hot and cold once in a while, but I’d rather not encourage FA behavior. It’s damaging the longer you accommodate it.

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

      I agree 100%. It’s important that you don’t accommodate their attachment style to a point where your own needs aren’t being met. Same goes for other insecure attachment styles. Empathy doesn’t mean putting up with unhealthy behaviour.

      It helps to try to address the behaviour even if it means risking losing them. My experience with many fearful avoidants is that it’s not that you bring their behaviour up (they probably already know it’s a problem), it’s HOW you bring it up that causes them to pull further away.

  6. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Honghbrd

    Your article is spot on. I’ve been dealing with a hot and cold FA for 3 years. Like one minute we’re enjoying the moment and next he distances himself. In the beginning it was confusing for me, and it gave me a lot of anxiety. I wanted to understand him and came across attachment styles and basically what you say in this article. With time, I’ve learned not to take it personally, and let things play out. I’m incredibly understanding, patient and careful to not pressure him. He’s become more open, honest, and affectionate. He’s still uncomfortable getting deeper into things but we’re working on it.

  7. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Shane C

    I am a fearful avoidant and when someone hurts or rejects me it hurt and I want their approval, then I decide to not care. I guess you could call that hot and cold.

  8. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Meryl

    My ex used to complain that I was emotionally unavailable and pushed him away, and he gave up on us. Since learning about attachment theory, I’ve become more aware of how and when I go from anxious to avoidant and anxious again. It’s frustrating for me that I have this conflicting feelings. I didn’t even notice when I was doing it. I suddenly swing into being cold and closed as a reaction from my childhood trauma of sexual abuse. This is not an excuse because I’m now aware how destructive this is and how it hurts others. But what I’d want from my partner is to understand that these sudden shifts are not intentional and to allow me space to deal with my emotions and wounding.

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