This explains in detail how a fearful avoidant ex comes back after the breakup; all the break-up stages from how a fearful avoidant ex feels, no contact, when they miss you, mixed signals about reaching out, and how they process the break-up etc.
What you learn will have important implications for your chances of getting back together with a fearful avoidant ex. It will increase the chances of a fearful avoidant coming back, and come back sooner.
How fearful avoidants feel in the initial stages of a break-up
Attachment theory has gained so much attention and become more relevant over the years because the strange situation experiment that first introduced the world to “attachment styles” mirrors adult romantic break-ups and attempts to reunite with an ex. To understand how a fearful avoidant ex feels after a break-up and why they come back; we must first understand why some people are said to have a fearful avoidant attachment style or conflicted attachment style.
The purpose of the strange situation (1971, 1978) was to test how young children responded to temporary separation and reunion with their mothers. Dr Ainsworth found that anxiously attached children were inconsolable when separated from the mother, were angry with the mother for leaving but still sought comfort from her. This is similar to how exes with an anxious attachment feel and react to separation or break-up. They’ll remain preoccupied with the break-up and reconnection with their ex even in no contact.
Dismissive avoidant children showed little to no separation anxiety and didn’t seem to need any comforting when the mother left or when the mother returned. This is the same behaviour dismissive avoidant exes exhibit after a break-up. They suppress their feelings and go on with life like the break-up never happened, and often act cold and distant when an ex reaches out after no contact.
Dr Ainsworth Assistant Mary Main (Main and Solomon 1990) found that fearful avoidant children reacted to separation from the mother with anxiety and confusion. They didn’t seem to know whether they should cry or ignore the fact that the mother left the room. When the test was repeated, fearful avoidant children consistently showed confused, conflicted disorganized behaviour. When re-united with the mother, they also acted confused and conflicted; they wanted to go to the mother for comfort but were also fearful of her. This is how they came to be called conflicted or disorganized attachment or fearful avoidants.
Confused, conflicted and disorganized is how fearful avoidants react to separation or a break-up. They’re fearful of losing an ex and want contact and closeness but also don’t trust that their ex will not hurt them or leave again and keep distance.
A fearful avoidant has both traits of anxious attachment and avoidant attachment
Thinking of a fearful avoidant as just an avoidant who just wants distance is a mistake many people make and it often costs them the chance to attract back their ex. Factually, a fearful avoidant is an anxious-avoidant. This means that individuals with a fearful avoidant attachment style have a mix of an anxious attachment style and avoidant attachment style at varying degrees. Sometimes they lean anxious and sometimes they lean avoidant, and it’s hard to predict which way they’ll lean at any given time. This makes a fearful avoidant attachment style more complex than other attachment styles. They desire connection and closeness but don’t trust their instincts about what is safe and not safe.
Understanding how a fearful avoidant ex who leans anxious or leans avoidant acts in the initial stages of the break-up is very important if you want to get back together with a fearful avoidant ex.
What a fearful avoidant ex who leans anxious goes through after a break-up
A fearful avoidant ex who leans anxious may after a break-up act just like an ex with an anxious attachment style, at this stage, their need for closeness is stronger than their doubts about you and their doubts about what is safe and not safe. Slowly however, their fear of abandonment takes over and they start to deactivate and become avoidant; especially if you ignore them and they feel abandoned. This is when they go no contact. They may even completely detach from all feelings about you as a way of coping with feeling abandoned.
Just after the break-up, it felt like your fearful avoidant ex was chasing you, and suddenly they stopped and went no contact. In my experience, the chances of a fearful avoidant who leans anxious coming back are higher in the window between the break-up when they’re very anxious and before they deactivate and become more avoidant.
The mistake many people make is only focus on meeting an avoidants need for space thinking that this is what will make an avoidant feel safe. Sometimes “too much space” can feel to a fearful avoidant like abandonment.
What a fearful avoidant ex who leans avoidant goes through after a break-up
A fearful avoidant ex who leans avoidant may immediately attempt to not feel their feelings and pretend they’re absolutely fine. Most go no contact immediately after the break-up. Many of my clients who learned about attachment styles after a break-up often mistake a fearful avoidant leaning avoidant after a break-up for an ex with a dismissive avoidant attachment style.
After some time, the emotions and feelings find their way to the top and may cause a fearful avoidant to act anxious. When the emotions bubble to the surface is different for each fearful avoidant. other events happening in a fearful avoidants life e.g. job stress, unemployment, depression etc., influence when and how a fearful avoidant starts to feel anxious and how they act.
To deal with the emotional pain of the break-up and mask growing anxiety and fears of abandonment, some fearful avoidants get involved in short-lived rebound relationships. And rather than address their underlying fear of abandonment and rejection, some fearful avoidant lash out, verbally and even physically.
Going no contact with a fearful avoidant ex is a big gamble
A fearful avoidant’s mixed reaction to break-ups makes it’s hard to predict how they’ll respond to you. They may get anxious and chase you, pull away and go no contact or get involved in a short-term rebound relationship.
And because they’re fearful avoidants, anxious (hot) and avoidant (cold) behaviours may swing from one extreme to the other several times over a short period of time.
A fearful avoidant ex’s self-awareness plays an important role in their behaviour after the break-up. A more self-ware fearful avoidant will try to mitigate the negative effects of both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance. They’re also more forgiving, take responsibility for their role in the break-up and are more willing to change.
Fearful avoidants and nostalgia after the break-up
Whether or not a fearful avoidant ex comes back after a breakup depends a lot on how they remember the relationship; and the break-up. Specifically the memories that dominate their thoughts.
According to a study on the effects of nostalgia and avoidant attachment on relationship satisfaction, nostalgia appears to steer individuals with anxious and secure attachment styles towards relationships; but turn avoidants away from relationships.
In his latest research, Rutgers University–Camden researcher and assistant professor of psychology Andrew Abeyta found that nostalgia does not have the same positive psychological benefits for avoidants.
The findings, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, showed that, nostalgia did not change avoidants’ general reluctance to trust others; and their reduced desire to build intimacy and closeness in their relationships. “Nostalgia may actually make things worse” says Andrew Abeyta.
When a fearful avoidant blames you for the break-up
Individuals with a fearful avoidant attachment are especially known to become consumed with thoughts of regret for their actions. For example, “If I hadn’t pushed him away, we would still be together”. They also regret not acting when they should have. For example, “If only I had been more open, she wouldn’t have broken up with me”. But less self-aware fearful avoidants blame an ex for the break-up and take little to no responsibility.
Inducing romantic nostalgia in someone who is consumed with thoughts of regret or blames you for the break-up may not be the best approach for attracting back an avoidant.
“It might be necessary to work on these avoidant tendencies first; before throwing nostalgia into the mix or find a different approach altogether” says Andrew Abeyta researcher and assistant professor of psychology Rutgers University–Camden. See: Why An Avoidant Ex Posts About Good Memories
Why and when a fearful avoidant ex misses you after the break-up
How a fearful avoidant ex feels about you after the break-up is a good indicator of if they will miss you or come back.
If a fearful avoidant ex continues to blame you for the break-up, it’s unlikely they’ll miss you at all. But if they blame themselves or feel that they self-sabotaged, they’ll miss you because they realize they made a mistake breaking up or pushing you away.
Fearful avoidants miss you sooner if:
- The relationship was relatively good.
- They felt that you were good to them and treated them well.
- The relationship has more positive memories than negative ones.
- They felt safe because you respected their need to distance once in a while.
- There were not too many arguments and fights.
- You made a strong connection whether the relationship was short or long.
- Your friends and family liked them – they will miss you and miss them.
It’ll take a fearful avoidant ex longer to miss you if they feel you that you didn’t treat them well. If they think it wasn’t a good relationship in general a fearful avoidant ex will not miss you or come back.
Fearful avoidant exes and no contact after the break-up
Fearful avoidants of all the attachment styles are the most likely to react to a break-up with going no contact. They see no contact as a way to cope with control or discomforting emotions. Many fearful avoidants also see no contact as a way test if you will miss them. They see how long before you contact them as a test of how much you love them. And they also want you to chase them to prove to themselves that you love them.
If a fearful avoidant leans avoidant, they’ll most likely stick to the no contact period and not contact you even if they miss you. If a fearful avoidant leans anxious, they may not be able to go through with a 30 days no contact period. The part of their attachment style that desires contact and connection (even if they fear it) will override their attempts to do ‘no contact’; and they will contact you.
Fearful avoidants are also more likely than all the other attachment styles to block you but leave one line of communication open for you to reach out, or block you and unblock you several times (see: Why Did My Fearful Avoidant Ex Block and Then Unblock Me?)
Why fearful avoidants reach out after no contact
If a fearful avoidant goes through with the no contact period and they want you back; they’ll reach out first. They may send a text or indirectly reach out by liking your photos or commenting on your Instagram stories.
If you contact an ex with a fearful avoidant attachment who’s not doing no contact; they’ll likely respond immediately. But they may also take a while to respond because fearful avoidants don’t want to seem too eager. If they lean anxious however, 90% of the time they will respond immediately.
They may respond quickly to the first text and even a few more, then pull back. It does not mean they do not want you to contact them, it is just what fearful avoidants do. They may even like photos on your Instagram but not respond to texts. Then after a while, they start responding again.
Why a fearful avoidant ex may not reach out after a break-up
Fearful avoidants are very sensitive to rejection, criticism or embarrassment; and avoid situations where they may experience rejection or discomfort.
A fearful avoidant ex will more than likely contact you first if they believe that:
- You will respond
- It will be a pleasant experience for them
- You might still be attracted to them
- There is a chance you will get back together
A fearful avoidant ex will not reach out if they think the risk of rejection is high. They may also not reach out first because they don’t want to look needy and clingy. They will miss you and hope and pray that you miss them enough to contact them first.
A fearful avoidant will also not reach out if after the break-up you made them feel they can’t trust you. More: This Is How An Avoidant Ex Reacts To You After No Contact
Should you reach out or wait for a fearful avoidant to contact you?
You have two options when dealing with a fearful avoidant ex. The first option is to wait for a fearful avoidant to reach out. Most fearful avoidants especially if they lean anxious will at some point reach out. The problem with waiting for a fearful avoidant to reach out is that it could be anywhere from weeks to months, or even after they’ve moved on.
The second option is to reach out. Reaching out may create anxiety in some fearful avoidants who lean avoidant, but in general, reaching out first indicates to a fearful avoidant that they’re worthy of love, time and energy. They may respond right away or take time to respond, and they may even get it into their heads that you’re chasing them – which to a fearful avoidant is a good thing.
If you’re reaching out and initiating most of the contacts, it’s important to keep in mind that it’ll take longer than usual (compared to other attachment styles) for a fearful avoidant who leans avoidant to feel safe enough to be comfortable with regular contact and to start reaching out. If the break-up was because you did not show them enough that you love them, reach out at least three times and they do not respond, don’t reach out again. Wait for them to reach out to you.
Expect a fearful avoidant ex to pull and push you away (repeatedly)
Once the lines of communication are open, expect your fearful avoidant ex’s disorganized attachment style to go on full mode. If you thought your fearful avoidant was hot and cold during the relationship, this is whole other level.
The break-up was a fearful avoidant’s worst fear about relationships, and they’re not going to casually take the risk again. From time to time, you’ll see glimpses of their anxious attachment style (e.g. double and even triple texting and acting anxious when you don’t respond quick enough etc.), but most of the time, they’ll keep switching from anxious to avoidant. For example: A fearful avoidant ex will agree on plans to meet but then cancels last minute because they felt so anxious about seeing you and deactivated. This can happen time and time again.
Throughout the process it’ll feel like your fearful avoidant ex is sending mixed signals because they’re. It’s important to remember that most avoidants feel as confused by they’re behaviour just as you are. The mind games, manipulation, pull-push, blaming and overreacting to things most people let slide is all part of a fearful avoidant ex’s disorganized attachment style. At the end of the day, you can’t control someone else’s reality: what they think, feel or do; you can only control how you respond to it. This is the framework from which securely attached approach relationships. They focus more on their own words and action because it’s the only thing they can control.
What are the signs a fearful avoidant will come back?
If you’ve read this far, I’m sure the questions you want answers the most are: Do a fearful avoidant’s feelings come back and what are the signs a fearful avoidant will come back?
Yes, a fearful avoidant’s feelings can come back although with some fearful avoidant exes, things sometimes drag on for too long, and it begins to feel like there is no hope a fearful avoidant ex’s feelings will come back.
The truth is, many fearful avoidants themselves don’t even know if they want to come back or will come back. Even fearful avoidants who still have feelings for an ex fear putting themselves out there because to a fearful avoidant ex, every little thing is some potential threat to defend against or run away from.
Over the years, I’ve identified some consistent signs a fearful avoidant wants to come back.
1.They are consistent – Consistency for a fearful avoidant is not reaching out every day or even every other day, though this may happen with an anxious fearful avoidant ex. Consistency for a fearful avoidant is their words and actions consistently match.
2. They’re putting in the effort – and want you to know they’re trying. This includes opening up here and there and allowing themselves to be vulnerable in both their words and actions.
3. They’re doing self-work – Seeing a therapist or working on their issues on their own. Even acknowledging their role in the break-up, and showing an awareness of their attachment style is a step in the right direction.
4. They want to meet – An avoidant ex avoiding meeting you is expected, but fearful avoidants take it to another level. They won’t say they don’t want to meet, but instead avoid conversations about meeting, promise to meet but never follow up and cancel dates last minute. If they want to meet and follow through with it, that’s a very good sign.
5. They deactivate less – They pull away less and for shorter periods of time; and when they lean back in, they’re more engaged and taking more risks (e.g. talking about their feelings, and even a future with you in it).
There are other signs a fearful avoidant will come back, but these are pretty consistent signs and very good indicators a fearful avoidant ex will come back – eventually.
COMMENTS: I encourage comments from fearful avoidants on why, how and what makes you come back to an ex. Let’s learn from each other. Thank you!
How Long Does It Take An Avoidant To Come Back? (FA vs. DA)
Should An Anxious Attachment Go Back To An Avoidant Ex?
How Avoidants Leave Open The Option To Reconnect With Exes
Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 5 – Avoidant Wants to Text But Not Meet
How to Make An Avoidant Ex Feel Safe Enough To Come Back
Why Is My Fearful Avoidant Ex Acting Hot And Cold?
5 Strong Signs An Avoidant Ex Regrets The Break-Up
Just go no contact, completely cut them off and block them everywhere and let them see what life is without you. They’ll come crawling back because they can see that you are doing great without them and they’re missing out.
I understand where you’re coming from, but I think it’s presumptuous, delusional and even egotistic to think that your ex is missing out because they’re not in your life or that you’re so important that your ex’s life is missing something because you’re not in it. This is the kind of thinking that makes most avoidants want out.
Also keep in mind that by the time most avoidants break-up with you, they’ve been thinking about it for a while and most likely have adjusted to the possibility of a life without you in it. They may even miss you, but not want you back in their lives because of all the baggage you bring with you from the old relationship.
Almost every sensible ex wants to know that they’re not coming back to the same problems, same old relationship, and if you’re like most people, you may have worked on you and changed, but your ex doesn’t know/can’t know that because you’ve completely cut them off and blocked them everywhere.
So your advice is what? Keep contacting them and annoy them and they block you instead? That’s ridiculous and bad advice.
No, that’s not my advice. You’re only seeing the black and white of contact with an ex – keep contacting them and annoy them or go no contact. Healthy and secure relationships focus on balancing the need for connection and need for space – this is my approach and the consistent theme in all my advice.
I think this will help you see things differently: How Much Space To Give A Fearful Avoidant Ex
I found out about attachment styles after 18 days of no contact and after reading all the stuff about a fearful avoidant attachment style I broke no contact. She’s responding which is a positive sign but I’m also slowly finding out that she is guarded with me. Before I went no contact she responded when I asked, “how are you?” or “how was your day?” but now she completely ignores when I ask. She also doesn’t text back after 6 pm until the next day. I feel like missed the critical window of time to get her back and now I’m having to work harder to fix the damage from 18 days of no contact. I just hope I can get another chance with her and it’s not too late.
Yangki, thanks to your site and a session I had with you, my FA ex and I are now texting daily from zero response a couple of months ago. My worry is that I may be friendzoned, and my question is how do I know the difference between us taking it slow and being friendzoned?
This answers your question in detail: Avoidant Friend Zone Or Starting As Friends Then Come Back?
I’m FA and due to my fear of rejection, I don’t initiate contact often. I wait to see if someone is genuinely interested in me or just meeting their own attachment needs before I put myself out there. If they’re texting me once every week or two weeks, it comes to the point where I just friend zone them. I understand that they may be giving me space but it’s just too much risk for me, I get anxious waiting for them to text me and it gets to a point where I don’t care if they text me or not, and that’s the friend zone.
That absurd and sad at the same time. How is someone supposed to know you’re waiting for them to text you when don’t tell them? Were not mind readers.
I understand that you’re looking for answers, but I don’t think you’ll get a response from a fearful avoidant or any avoidant calling their fears absurd. Tatasp shared his fears which many FAs have expressed to me and I think it’s helpful that he provided insight into understanding FAs a little better.
How is someone supposed to know FA ex is waiting for them to text? Look at the level of engagement – how quickly they respond when you reach out, the length of their responses and interest. If they seem “eager” to communicate, they were waiting for you to reach out.
I think my ex went full dismissive avoidant too. I’m initiating all contact and all I get is one-word answers after 3 -4 days for the last 2 weeks. I’m not going to waste anymore of my time.
I thought I was with a dismissive avoidant but was confused when he acted very anxious when I didn’t respond to text messages. He’d call me because he thought I was mad at him. After reading many of your articles, it makes more sense that he’s a fearful avoidant leaning dismissive. I wish I understood him better, I’d probably have responded to his anxious side. He always said I didn’t care about him and in hindsight he was seeking validation.
Mine is FA but I’m convinced he went full DA after the breakup. I’m FA myself and thought I knew all about FAs, but after reading many of Yangkee’s articles on DAs, they accurately describe this new person I’m dealing with. Is it even possible to shift to full DA?
Temporally yes. Attachment styles (unless clinically diagnosed as a disorder) are not fixed like a “personality”. Instead, they exist on a spectrum of high/low anxiety and high/low avoidance. Certain experiences can push us further to one end of the spectrum, but we eventually return to our primary attachment style. The exception is when one does the work to permanently change their attachment style to secure attachment, but even then it’s only “earned security”. The triggers may still be present but one learns to manage them better.
My ex is an anxious fearful avoidant. I was about to go no contact and this might have just changed my life! Thank you, thank you Yangki.