If your ex acts hot and cold and gets close and the pulls away, they’re mostly likely a fearful avoidant.
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 avoidant.
But they can also very avoidant when you start dating and as the relationship becomes more serious or they develop feelings for you, they become more anxious.
Why a fearful avoidant is hot and cold, gets close and pulls away
Fearful avoidants score high on attachment anxiety which means that they want contact (sometimes a lot of it). 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. And just like an anxious preoccupied who also has attachment anxiety, they aggressively text and seek to get close.
But fearful avoidants also score high on attachment avoidance which means that they express avoidant traits. Just like dismissive avoidants, from time to time their pull away and want space.
The hot and cold you feel from a fearful avoidant is the back and forth between attachment anxiety (hot and pulls close) and attachment avoidance (cold and pulls away).
When you are trying to get back with a fearful avoidants, 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.
Deep dive into how someone ends up a fearful avoidant
I came across an article by written by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. that I thought explains so well how disorganized attachments form. She says:
“Children are born with the instinct to seek care from adults; their survival depends on it. They are therefore highly motivated to form an adaptable strategy to get their needs met, even by a far from perfect or unsafe caretaker. A disorganized attachment results when a parents’ behavior is unpredictable, confusing or erratic. The child has no organized strategy that allows them to feel safe and get their needs met without fright and terror”.
She talks about “Stranger Situation” test conducted by attachment expert, psychologist and researcher Dr. Mary Ainsworth.
In the test, parents were told to leave the room and then come back, leave a second time then come back again. The goal of the test was to measure the reunion behaviour in the second reunion.
Dr. Ainsworth found that a child with a secure attachment will get upset when the parent leaves, but when the parent returns, the child will come to the parent for soothing, easily calms down when contact is re-established and continues to play on his or her own.
A child with a 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 fear to be in their proximity, demonstrating their disorganized adaption.
Fearful avoidants “Strange Situation” test reunion behaviour
I found the “Strange Situation” test particularly interesting because it measures reunion behaviour; and backs what I have observed with clients trying to get back together with a fearful avoidant.
First they seem really happy when you reach out. They respond to texts immediately, and even initiate contact. Then just like the child in the “Strange Situation” they pull away perhaps even going n contact. Sometimes they lash out or seem angry. You are left wondering what happened? What did I do wrong?
Chances are you did nothing wrong. A fearful avoidant is reacting to feeling abandoned by you. If you broke up with them, they may be angry that you abandoned them. Some fearful avoidants may even go to the extent of trying to hurt you as much as you hurt them.
Sometimes they try to hurt you back by unfriending and blocking you. They want you also to feel what it’s like to be rejected and abandoned.
If they broke up with you, they may be angry that you didn’t try t stop them from leaving; or chase them. You find that sometimes they reach out, and when you don’t respond, they immediately unfriend and block you. Even when you respond, they may still unfriend and block you.
No contact for most fearful avoidants is a test to see how much you miss them
I wrote this in other articles; fearful avoidants of all attachment styles are the most likely to do no contact. They use no contact to see if you will miss them. If you miss them, it’s a sign that you still care, maybe even still love them. If you chase them it’s prove of their value or worth.
When does the constant hot and cold, pull you close and push you away stop?
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.
That’s the pessimistic take on a future with a fearful avoidant. The optimistic and secure alternative is to try to do things that make a fearful avoidant less afraid of getting close, and for trusting of your love for them. See: