Why Is My Fearful Avoidant Ex Acting Hot And Cold?

If your ex acts they they want to get close but is sometimes hot and cold, they’re mostly likely a fearful avoidant.

A fearful avoidant attachment style is one of the four attachment styles. Attachment styles according to attachment theory humans are born with a need to form a close emotional bonds, They pattern in which we form these bonds is what is known as attachment style.

Someone is said to have a fearful attachment style if they score high on attachment anxiety and score high on attachment avoidance as well. Someone who scores high on attachment anxiety scale wants and needs closeness to feel loved. When they don’t hear from you in a while or if they contact you and don’t get a response immediately; they become anxious. Someone who scores high on attachment avoidance scale will from time to time pull away or push you away to be alone (want space).

A fearful avoidant attachment style does both of these things.

A fearful avoidant attachment style is hot and cold, gets close and pulls away

When you first start dating a fearful avoidant, they are so into you (sometimes more than you are into them); but once you are in a relationship, they become distant and avoidant. They text less, take time to respond and sometimes don’t respond at all.

Some fearful avoidants when you first start dating play hard to get mind games then slowly allow themselves to get close. But as the relationship becomes more serious or they develop feelings for you, they become more anxious or more avoidant.

The hot and cold you feel from a fearful avoidant is the back and forth between wanting to get close and fearing closeness at the same time. When you are trying to get back with a fearful avoidant, there will 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.

How a fearful avoidant attachment style 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.

Pull and push, hot and cold is ingrained in the fearful avoidant attachment system

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 learns 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 you love
  • It’s okay to want love but you should be wary and very careful because they’ll let you down and/or you’ll get hurt.
  • 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 why they keep pushing you away and can’t let you love them. You also understand why they play mind games to test how much you love and care about them.

What to expect when trying to attract back a fearful avoidant

When trying to attract back a fearful avoidant you will encounter so many mixed signals and confusing behaviour. Most of the time you get the feeling that they love you and care about you but hold back or keep you at a distance. Some fearful avoidants even tell you they still love you but don’t want to get hurt or don’t want to hurt you.

This mixed signals and confusing behaviour have an origin. Dr. Mary Ainsworth, an American-Canadian psychoanalyst and colleague of John Bowlby, the pioneer of attachment theory conducted a test was to measure the reunion behaviour of child and caregiver. In the test, parents were told to leave the room and then come back, leave a second time then come back again.

Dr. Ainsworth found that a child with a fearful avoidant or disorganized attachment expresses odd or ambivalent behavior toward the parent, (i.e. first running up to them, then immediately pulling away, perhaps even running away from the parent, curling up in a ball or hitting the parent.) The child’s first impulse may be to seek comfort from the parent, but as they get near the parent, they feel afraid to be in their proximity, demonstrating their disorganized adaption.

When trying to attract back a fearful avoidant, you will experience the same behaviour Dr. Ainsworth found in children with a fearful avoidant attachment style. They’ll get close, pull away, chase you and test you constantly. At times they’ll do things just to see if you will still love them.

A fearful avoidant ex’s fear of rejection and abandonment is a constant battle

Because of their past attachment trauma, fearful avoidants are inherently suspicious, doubting and questioning those who show them love and affection. At the back of their mind, they’re afraid that somehow it’s going to end up with them getting disappointed or hurt.

To prepare themselves for disappointment or hurt, fearful avoidants subconsciously start finding reasons why they can’t love someone or why the relationship can’t work. And because everything is mixed between wanting closeness and avoiding it, fearful avoidants pull away or push you away, and when they think they’ve lost you, they want you back. But when you show love and affection, they freak out and pull away or push you away again.

Some fearful avoidants develop a dislike for someone who tries to get close to them. They question why you would want to get close if it’s only going to end in someone getting hurt. There must be something wrong with you.

Self-ware vs. a fearful avoidant who’s not self-aware

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.

If a fearful avoidant is self-aware, they’ll do things that go against their natural instinct to get close, freak out and run. To help a fearful avoidant who is trying to connect and stay connected instead of pulling away, you must behave in the opposite of their childhood attachment trauma. This is not easy when you have not dealt with your own childhood attachment trauma.

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.

A relationship with a fearful avoidant can still work if:

  • You’re aware of why fearful avoidants self sabotage and have educated yourself on what goes inside of a fearful avoidant when they’re self sabotaging.
  • A fearful avoidant’s self sabotage is forgivable and not self-destructive (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sexual promiscuity etc.) or abusive.
  • Your fearful avoidant ex is doing their self-work or has taken steps to seek professional.
  • You’re working or have worked on becoming more secure.

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.


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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  1. says: 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. says: 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. says: 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. says: 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. says: 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. says: 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. says: 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. says: 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. says: 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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