Friendzoned By An Avoidant Ex Or Starting As Friends?

Question: How do I know if I’ve been friendzoned by my avoidant ex or if they want to start as friends with the intention of getting back together down the road?

First of all I like that your site is friendly to being friends with an ex. I’ve read many of your articles and watched your videos and hope that you can help me figure out my situation with an avoidant ex. My ex is a fearful avoidant who leans dismissive avoidant. A months ago, I reached out and he responded right away. After a few exchanges I told him I wanted us to get back together. He said he wasn’t ready for a relationship but was open to seeing where things go. I was okay with that as I want to take things slow too. I’ve worked hard to be less anxious and feel that I can handle things moving at a slow pace.

We text 2-3 times a week, sometimes I reach and sometimes he reaches out. In the beginning he was fully engaged and flirtatious with me which I admit feels good. We’ve met once (I asked), there was no awkwardness or anything but there was also no touching, hugging, or kissing. I felt like he was making extra effort to avoid physical contact but there was definitely chemistry there with eye contact, smiling etc.

The last couple of weeks, he’s been reaching out less and is less flirtatious. I’ve asked a couple of times to meet but he’s says, “I’ll get back to you” but never follows up. I’m trying to not get anxious and self-sabotage. My question to you is, how do I know if my avoidant ex wants to start as friends which I’m okay with or if I’ve been friendzoned, which I’m absolutely not okay with. Thank you, Yangki.

Yangki’s Answer: It’s sometimes hard to tell if you’ve been friendzoned by an avoidant ex or if an avoidant ex wants to start as friends first and see where things go. This is because:

  • Some avoidants reach out so many months later when you expect them to have moved on and be over you. This can be confusing.
  • Most dismissive avoidants are friends with most of their exes but never get back together with any of them.
  • Many avoidants tend to be closer to their friends than romantic relationship partners. It’s hard to tell if the closeness you feel with an avoidant ex is a friend-connection or a romantic connection.
  • Avoidants flirt with an ex they have no intentions of going back to. To them it’s “harmless” because there is no real intimacy or commitment. They can flirt hard one day and disappear the next and not feel anything.

That said, there are differences that I’ve observed between an avoidant ex who wants to start as friends and see where things go, and one who only sees you as a friend. Here I’ll focus on the 4 things you say your dismissive avoidant ex does that make you question whether you’ve been friend-zoned or if this is an avoidant ex’s way of starting as friends; and see where things go.

1. Level of engagement and consistency

Because they’re avoidant, they’ll distance from time to, but an avoidant who’s only interested in staying friends will not be as consistent as an avoidant who is interested in more than friends. If they don’t hear from you after a period of time (established pattern), they’ll reach out time and time again. An avoidant who’s only interested in a friendship or has friendzoned you will always wait for you to reach out; and if you don’t reach out, they’ll let you go.

This is why I encourage my clients to look for patterns and not just isolated behaviour to predict if an avoidant will re-engage. It’s also why I’m available to my clients 24/5 to help stabilize their anxiety, so they don’t freak out and self-sabotage when an avoidant pulls away or distances.

More: Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 6 – Dismissive Avoidant Exes Reach Out

2. Meet you in person (and hang out)

An avoidant who is starting as friends, taking things slow or open to seeing where things go will:

Want to meet/see you in person – and not just text, chat on phone or video call.

Make an effort to hang out with you often – they may hangout with you alone, bring someone along or want to hang out in group settings (whatever is comfortable and feels safe for them).

This is why I gently push my clients to ask to meet up with an avoidant ex (in a safe and non-threatening way); and not waste months “safe-texting” and trying not to “put pressure” or with breadcrumb phone calls that go nowhere.

If an avoidant is not interested in meeting up, they’re likely only interested in being text-buddies or have already friendzoned you.

More: Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 5 – Avoidant Wants to Text But Not Meet

3. Depth of interest

When a friend talks about new things happening in their lives, many of us show interest and ask questions, but it’s more like “I’m happy for you” kind of interest. When an avoidant ex is interested in you as more than a friend, they’ll ask questions that make you wonder why they seem so interested. For example, they’ll ask you for more information, ask you for photos, ask to be part of whatever is new in your life or offer to help or do something for you.

Offering to help is particularly significant because avoidants in general express their affection through “acts of service” rather than verbal affection. Sometimes when you’re so focused on an avoidant distancing behaviours that you miss how they’re trying to show you they care about you.

4) Non-verbal affection

This is a tricky one because of an avoidant attachment style’s general tendency to not desire physical affection or engage in public displays of affection. This is further complicated by an avoidant’s culture or religion. Add into the mix the fact that avoidants are more likely to engage in sexting than actually be physically intimate.

My experience over the years is that an avoidant who see a relationship in the future will not push for sex – or introduce sex into the mix. They want to make sure their feelings don’t get mixed up; or send you the ‘wrong’ message.

If an avoidant is just having fun and not emotionally invested, they’ll draw you towards conversations that are “sexual” in nature because they don’t want to emotionally expose themselves.

I hope this helps somehow answer how do you know if you’ve been friendzoned by an avoidant or if an avoidant wants to start as friends and see what happens.


Why Is My Avoidant Ex Happy We Are Friends?

Should You Be Friends With Benefits With An Avoidant Ex?

3 Ways Being Friends With Your Ex Leads To Getting Back Together

What Makes A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Miss You And Come Back?

When Do Dismissive Avoidant Exes Begin “Longing” For You?

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  1. says: Rina

    FA reached out after 3 months of no contact and now I wish I’d ignored him. After weeks of flirting and him telling me he misses me and thinks of sex with me all the time, he hits me with “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time, I’ve a girlfriend,” and told me he really hoped we can be friends. I’m hurt and sad at the same time. We were getting on really well, and I was optimistic.

  2. says: Fancy

    I’m trying to understand if him acting busy/distant/uncaring but saying we’re friends is part of the pull-push dynamics, and if so, is it better to pull back and make him think I’m not interested? I hear avoidants start pursuing you when you pull back and ignore them?

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      Know this, dismissive avoidants very rarely pursue anyone. It messes with their independent, self-reliant, relationships are overrated persona. Fearful avoidants are a different story. If you pull back or ignore them, some fearful avoidants may well pursue you, but they will also be more afraid to trust you. In their fearful avoidant thinking, they can’t trust you not to hurt them. They become more vigilant, guarded and deactivate more often.

      The way I see it, if someone only wants you because you pulled back or ignored them, they’re not consciously making a choice to be with you. They only want you because you triggered their fear of abandonment. This may be reassuring to an anxious person “Look! They’re chasing me, it means they want me”, but it’s also sets a foundations for a pull-push relationship. This is a game an anxious person can’t win.

  3. says: Demi

    Thank you for helping me understand. My ex has consistently insisted we’re just friends but I wonder if he even knows what that means. He says we’re just friends but continues to flirt with me, calls me babe and makes reference to our sex life when we were together. He knows these things pull me in – hello! I never talk like that to my friends. But he’s also kept me at a distance. Sometimes I wonder if he’s being manipulative.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      People with a fearful avoidant attachment style are manipulative, that’s not a secret. Some of it is conscious and some of it is subconscious. Whether intentional or not. he’s getting off on pull-push because he’s getting his need for connection and need for distance met without any risk of abandonment.

      As mentioned in the article, an avoidant may sometimes communicated clearly that he does not want to get back together but leave the interpretation of “friends” vague to allow them to change their mind later if they decide they want to get back together or like your ex, flirt and make sex references. If you go along with it, they think you’re okay with that kind of “friends”. And unfortunately, many anxious people are too desperate to hold onto an avoidant that they allow the things that “friends never talk about” hoping that it’ll make them more attractive to an avoidant.

  4. says: Janis

    I am trying to be friends first with my DA ex. He suggested it when we first broke up but I pushed it away because it wasn’t what I wanted. I read many of your articles and watched your videos and decided that I would use this opportunity to understand myself better, so I reached out to my ex. He replied right away and said he was happy we could be friends but wanted me to know he cares about me but doesn’t want a relationship. I believe him because we’ve broken up for 6 months and he’s not seeing anyone or been out on a date. He’s told me he’s not interested in sex as he associates sex with expectations of a relationship. I made the choice to be friends with the awareness that we’re in different places in terms of what we want but instead of rejecting his care because it’s not what I want, I accept it without questioning it. This is new territory for me but one I know will move me towards secure attachment. Thank you, you’ve helped me so much!

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      It’s not going to be easy, but you’ve chosen the path that right for you, and obviously have the self-awareness to grow from it, and hopefully eventually get back together.

      Sending love energy your way! I appreciate you.

  5. says: DiamondM

    This is reassuring. My FA and I text daily. The longest we’ve gone with no texts is 4 days when he asked for space due to his work schedule. We hangout every two weeks and sleep overs once a month. He’s been affectionate since starting therapy.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      You are obviously doing something that’s creating signs of progress, but you can only do so much to provide security for an avoidant or anxious person for that matter. They have to want to change and take steps to change. Him starting therapy is encouraging!

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