How Avoidants Feel About An Ex Sharing A Memory

Revisiting a good memory of an amazing time, specific activity or place with an ex can remind them of the good times, stir nostalgia and create an instant emotional connection. But does nostalgia and reminiscing have the same effect on an avoidant ex?

The few published studies on avoidant attachment and nostalgia say reminiscing has the opposite effect on both fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants.

A memory of being close triggers avoidants’ fear of intimacy and closeness

Avoidants in general don’t respond well to reminiscing and nostalgic memories of the two of you together or being close. Somehow a memory of being close seems to trigger avoidants’ fear of intimacy and closeness.

Well-known and respected Abeyta, Nelson and Routledge who studied the effects of attachment-related avoidance and nostalgia found that nostalgia decreases avoidants intentions to connect with others. The study went further to say, “It can drive people with a history of avoidance further from relationships”.

So if your ex is a dismissive avoidant or fearful avoidant (leaning avoidant or dismissive), you might want to think twice before texting “I saw x… y and it reminded me of you/what you said/were talking about”. Constantly revisiting the past and sharing “good memories” may eve be the reason your avoidant ex is keeping you at a distance and treats you with suspicion.

It doesn’t matter if the memory is positive, avoidants find little comfort in revisiting the past because of what they feel are negative experiences with relationships in general.

“It really does matter whether [an event is] positive or negative in that most of the time, if not all of the time, negative events tend to be remembered in a more accurate fashion than positive events,” says review author Elizabeth Kensinger of Boston College.

Sharing a memory of the relationship makes fearful avoidants feel more lonely

Fearful avoidants because of their anxious-avoidant attachment have such an intense fear of abandonment and/or being alone that even before the relationship ends, they start worrying and feeling anxious about being alone and can even start missing and longing for an ex before the relationship ends.

When you share a memory about an amazing time, specific activity or place, it amplifies a fearful avoidant loneliness and makes them feel even more lonely. Most fearful avoidants either lash out in anger, or don’t respond and/or dissociate because they don’t want to be reminded that the times you’re talking about no longer exist.

And because fearful avoidants tend to have their memories of the relationship and the break-up clouded by past traumas, they sometimes have an incoherent and disorganized recollection of the sequence of events or difficult conversations. And attempt to “remind them of the good times” may be met with confusion and incoherency. And this creates a whole set of issues. You remember things one way and they remember things another way. You’re texting about the good times; they’re thinking about all the bad things that happened during the relationship.

The lonelier a fearful avoidant ex feels the higher the risk of sharing a memory and trying to elicit nostalgia. Things can even be going fairly well, but a reminder of the past or constant mentions of the good times start upsetting a fearful avoidant. You get triggered because they’re not responding positively to your attempts to remind them of how great the relationship was when things were good, they get triggered by you trying to make it seem like everything was great, amazing and beautiful.

In my work, I’ve also found that rather than address their feelings of loss, abandonment and rejection, some fearful avoidant use social media to mess with an ex’s feelings and emotions especially on Instagram. While most fearful avoidants just want an ex’s attention (and or trigger an ex to reach out), some fearful avoidants post songs, stories, quotes or memes that only mean something to the two of you, but when you respond they ignore you, stop watching your stories or use this as an opportunity to start an argument or fight. This passive aggressive behaviour in fearful avoidants is not just mind game playing to mess with your emotions and feelings, it’s also intended to hurt you back for making them feel abandoned and rejected.

Sharing a memory of the relationship stresses dismissive fearful avoidants

Most dismissive avoidants don’t remember the things that happened in a relationship because most of the time they’re emotionally disconnected from the experience. So when a dismissive avoidant and says to you “I don’t remember” specific relationship or breakup memories, they actually don’t  remember. You will be surprised to find that your dismissive avoidant ex doesn’t even remember who broke up with who. You think they broke up with you and they think you broke up with them.

And even when they remember some things, dismissive avoidants don’t want to revisit let alone talk about anything “emotional”, especially if it’s emotionally painful.

When you text a dismissive avoidant ex about the good times and they don’t respond at all or respond with something completely unrelated to the memory, it can feel like they changed the subject and naturally your anxious attached mind goes “It must be too painful for them or think about the good times” or “It must have made them miss me”, when the explanation is simply that a dismissive avoidant doesn’t remember the “emotional” time, activity or place you’re trying to remind them of. Chances are your dismissive avoidant ex has not processed the break-up at all and may never do –  too emotionally and mentally energy consuming,

Avoidant exes generally don’t respond to reminiscing texts or nostalgic memories 

Next time, you think of sharing a memory from the past to try to provoke avoidant nostalgia, think about the effect it will have on your avoidant ex. With all the advice about stages of nostalgia, phantom ex, begin longing for an ex after x months etc., it’s so easy to delude yourself into thinking that time has passed and all the negative memories associated with a breakup have faded leaving your nostalgic and curious about you, and start reminding them of all the good memories.

But if credible research shows that nostalgia decreases avoidants intentions to connect with others, and many others (and probably you too) have experienced avoidants not responding to nostalgic “this reminded me of…” texts, you might want to change your thinking and approach towards creating an emotional connection with your avoidant ex.

“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.

Personally, I think investing on the past to emotionally connect with an ex – especially an avoidant ex who doesn’t feel that the old relationship was a particularly positive experience, doesn’t remember much of what happened and/or just wants to move on from the past altogether – is a sign that you don’t know how to emotionally connect with an avoidant. It’s a also a sign of low emotional creativity (probably even a boring personality) because emotionally creative people don’t fall back on memories to connect with someone. They can connect with anyone on just about anything.

Leave the past in the past. You have a better chance of getting an avoidant to respond and even reach out when you put more effort on being present in the here and now and creating meaningful conversations and new memories. I’ve found that when the tow of you are in a “good place” and have created better memories both in the way you communicate and the experiences you’ve shared, avoidants are more willing talk about the past (and even bring it up themselves) because the past is in the past, the present is so much better and the future is promising.


5 Strong Signs An Avoidant Ex Regrets The Break-Up

Why Did My Fearful Avoidant Ex Block and Then Unblock Me?

Is It Okay to Watch A Fearful Avoidant Ex’s Instagram Stories?

Dismissive Avoidants And “Longing” For An Ex (Explained)

Should You Talk To Your Ex About What Went Wrong – Clear Things Up?

What Are A Dismissive Avoidant Break Up Stages?

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7 replies on “How Avoidants Feel About An Ex Sharing A Memory”
  1. says: Katt

    Hi Yangki. I want to thank you for your work as it has helped me get through some of the toughest times in my life. I have a question which I am hoping you may help me with. What is the difference between “reacting” and “responding”? Thank you in advance

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      A response is action you take from a conscious level — with emotional composure, confidence and deliberate intention. A reaction is action driven from a sub-conscious level, usually from a place of panic, fear, anger, neediness etc.

      Here is a link that might help: Are You Responding Or Reacting To Your Ex?

  2. says: David

    We have a mutual friend who keeps getting in trouble and recently got arrested, I wanted to share this with her because he called me to bail him out again. This is something he does with all his friends and my ex, and I used to laugh at him for getting in trouble over stupid things. She even commented that he attracts trouble everywhere he goes, which is true. Is this okay to share?

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      Yes. Things from the past that are NOT about the two of you together being close – friends, family, job, pet etc – are okay to share. It’s the reminiscing and nostalgic memories of the two of you together or being close that are a problem for avoidants. As the article says, memories of being close seem to trigger avoidants’ fear of intimacy and closeness.

  3. says: Escape Rose

    I learned from my dismissive ex not to share memories from the past. When we were together he told me has no positive memories from any of his relationships and the few times he opened up about his past relationship, it was all negative. I believe he only has negative memories of me too even though we had many good memories. He also said he never felt as emotionally connected to anyone as he is to me, so now I’m reaching out 1- 2 times a week and building on the emotional connection we have but not sharing any past memories. He responds the next day or afte2 days but has never reached out.

  4. says: Danielle

    What if I see something that reminds me of him and send a photo with “I was thinking of you and saw this.” I’m not reminding him of a memory just sharing something we both liked and used to share when we were together. He’s fearful avoidant and has been distant since the breakup. He responds but after 3 days and says very little. I just don’t know how to reach out to him.

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      I see your point. It’s still memory of something you both liked but you are making it present. It all depends on where things are. If things are still strained, it might be a little too “relationshipy”; like something you’d share if you were still together.

      When you are together, the other person might respond with “oh! I remember that….” Or something equally sentimental, but what is a fearful avoidant (ex btw) who is likely trying to distance from the past supposed to say?

      Maybe talk about things that are more current and get him a little engaged before you go sentimental.

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