There is evidence that some avoidants leave the door open to reconnect and come back, and that the break-up is temporary and not permanent or final.
Researchers (Tara J. Collins, Omri Gillath 2012) conducted a study on attachment, breakup strategies, and how they affect break-up outcomes. They hypothesized that break-up strategies that reflect less care for a partner would have more negative outcomes, and break-up strategies thought to reflect concern for a partner will have less negative reactions to the break-up and better outcomes.
Avoidants typically use break-up strategies that minimize a reconnection later on
The study found that avoidants in general tend to use more strategies which minimize the possibility of a reconnection at a later time and fewer strategies that allow for reconnection at a later time. These findings are consistent with avoidants’ tendency to avoid relational issues, use deactivating strategies when coping with emotions or relationships, maintain emotional distance from relationship partners by acting indifferently or unresponsively when caregiving is needed.
Furthermore, the findings shed light on the tendencies to use one strategy over another and help not just predict which strategies someone (high anxiety vs. high avoidance) is likely to use but also the outcomes following a break-up.
Seven break-up strategies used by dumpers or disengagers
Break-up strategies vary in their level of openness and in the amount of care or concern expressed toward the person being broken up with.
1) Direct strategies
Openly expressing the desire to break-up, provide (verbal) explanation of the reasons for wanting to the break-up, breaking up face-to-face etc.
2) Indirect strategies
Devoting more time to other people and activities, keeping conversations superficial, pulling away or avoiding contact etc.
3) Manipulation strategies
Dropping hints of the desire to breakup to people who know the other person, asking a third party to break the break-up news to a partner, dating someone else in the hopes that a partner learns about it and sees that you want to break-up etc.
4) Cost escalation strategies
Becoming unpleasant in the hopes that the other person will make the first move, picking arguments as an excuse to break-up, dropping ‘‘hints’’ that “things have changed between us” etc.
5) Distant or mediated communication strategies
Breaking up via text, blocking someone from seeing you on social media, changing relationship status on social media, ghosting or ending the relationship without telling someone about it, etc.
6) Positive tone strategies
Trying to prevent ‘‘hard feelings’’, focusing on the good that happened in the relationship, avoiding blaming a partner at all costs, taking responsibility for the break-up, saying one does not regret the time spent together in the relationship etc.
7) De-escalation strategies
Waiting for the right time to break-up (e.g., until after a vacation, holidays), gradually ending the relationship over time instead of suddenly changing things, “easing into break-up saying it is just a break or ‘‘temporary thing’.
Break-up strategies with the least negative reactions and best outcome for a reconnection
Direct strategies, positive tone strategies and de-escalation strategies are considered to have better reactions to the break-up and better positive outcomes following a break-up. With direct strategies, there’s an opportunity for both parties to openly talk about the reasons for the break-up; and if things don’t get too confrontational it may leads to less anger following the break-up. But when open confrontation and manipulation are used together, it leaves the person being broken up with feeling the dumper owes them a better explanation.
De-escalation strategies that indicate that the break-up may be temporary have less negative reactions but may not always have a positive outcome.
Positive tone strategies are associated with increased contact following the break-up and attempts to ‘‘get back together’’ after they had ended the relationship (Omri Gillath 2012). Indeed, ex-partners are more likely to re-enter relationship when positive tone strategies were used (Mettset al., 1989)
The use of positive tone breakup strategies is particularly significant with avoidants because positive tone strategies decrease the current level of intimacy while leaving open the door for an avoidant to reconnect and to “get back together’’ later.
Positive tone break-up strategies may be a sign the break-up is temporary and not permanent.
Avoidants (especially self-aware avoidants) have been known to use positive tone break-up strategies including trying to prevent ‘‘hard feelings’’, taking about the good things gained from the relationship, trying to convince a partner that the break-up is in both parties’ interest, showing they care about an ex’s well being (random check-ins), and stating that they want to maintain contact or stay friends. At least this was my experience as a secure dismissive avoidant leaning ex. If I liked someone, still had feelings for them or felt guilty for hurting “a good person” who tried to love me, I used positive tone strategies to keep open the option of coming back, incase I changed my mind or felt differently later.
It may seem cruel for someone breaking up with you to talk about how great a person you are, how much they appreciate your love and everything you did for them, and how much they learned from being in a relationship with you positive, but these positive tone break-up strategies may actually not be bad if they leave open the door for an avoidant re-entering a relationship later; and even increase the chances of an avoidant initiating a reconnection after they ended the relationship.
And as annoying as it is to get those random check-ins that feel like low-effort contact, random check-in texts from a dismissive avoidant ex may not always be them eating their cake and having it too. The random check-ins may be a dismissive avoidant’s way of trying not to completely emotionally detach from all feelings for you. Once they emotionally detach from all feelings, most dismissive avoidants don’t come back.
However, when a positive tone strategy is used to try to make a partner feel guilty if they didn’t want to break-up, it can potentially make things less positive. Positive tone strategies can also offer false and sometimes lead to ‘on–off’ relationships.
Will your avoidant ex initiate a reconnection after they ended the relationship?
While avoidants in general don’t often initiate a reconnection with an ex, positive tone strategies offer clues to an avoidant’s thinking at the time of the break-up and even signs an avoidant will want to come back at a later time. If an avoidant is leaving the door open to get back together later, it means in an avoidant’s mind, the break-up may be temporary and not final.
When breaking up, did your avoidant ex reflect less care for you or reflect concern for you? Did they express anger about things that happened in the relationship or talk about the positive aspects of the relationship? Did they sit down with you and break-up with you face-to-face or did they ghost you or end the relationship without telling you?
The answers to these question may not tell you exactly whether an avoidant will reach out, when they’ll reach out, if they’ll come back or initiate a reconnection, but they shed light on how you can best approach a reconnection with your avoidant ex and give yourselves the best possible outcome.
Understanding the positive tone break-up strategies an avoidant is using may even change how you see your avoidant ex’s actions and reactions, and how best to communicate with an avoidant.
Securing a backup plan for the future and the possibility to get back together
It’s not just the break-up strategies your avoidant ex is using that can potentially change the likely outcome of your break-up. Your own break-up strategies can minimize the possibility of a reconnection at a later time or allow for reconnection at a later time.
Are you reflecting less care or reflecting concern for your avoidant ex? Are you expressing anger about things that happened in the relationship or highlighting the positive aspects of the relationship? Did you block your ex from seeing you on social media or “waiting it out” until they’re ready to talk? Are you being cold and distant in the hopes that your avoidant will miss you and reach out or proactively trying to ease them back into communicating in a heathy way?
Always keep in mind that everything you do before, during and post break-up plays a very important role in how your avoidant ex reacts and the outcomes following a break-up. Strategies such as positive tone that allow for continued access to an ex-partner potentially secure a backup plan for the future and the possibility to get back together.
The study found that feeling secure and using positive tone break-up strategies can lead to an avoidant opting out of using indirect or selfish break-up strategies; and using more empathy and compassion has the potential to reduce the negative reactions common with avoidants following a break-up.
Avoidants are more likely to initiate a reconnection if they think you cared about them
Avoidants in general do not think their partners genuinely care about them. Fearful avoidants especially had a “chaotic” upbringing and never learned what to expect from people who said they love them. In relationships, fearful avoidants are often unsure if someone loves them and most don’t know how to act with someone they love. This is why their relationships are often turbulent, tumultuous and even toxic.
When the relationship ends, most avoidants aren’t sure if an ex really cared about them, if they imagined the whole thing or allowed themselves to be fooled into what was a lie or wasn’t there. They look at their ex’s words and actions to determine what is true and what is not.
Even avoidants who initially push you away after a break-up slowly start responding and even showing care (e.g. apologize, initiate texts, show some vulnerability, etc.,) once they see that an ex genuinely cares about them as a person and not just someone they want back.
In the study, participants who reported that their ex was concerned about their feelings when breaking up with them and post-break-up reported feeling that their ex cared about them, and this led to the desire to maintain a friendship or attempts to get back together.
Conversely using distant or mediated communication break-up strategies (e.g. breaking up via text, blocking someone from seeing you on social media, changing relationship status on social media, ghosting or ending the relationship without telling someone about it, etc.) lower the likelihood of remaining friends.
Use positive tone strategies when communicating with an avoidant ex
Though break-up strategies that leave an ex feeling that you genuinely cared about them alone do not guarantee that an avoidant will come back, a positive tone strategy increases the chances of an avoidant ex coming back, and even initiating a reconnection.
Your chances get even better if you use positive tone strategies when communicating with an avoidant, especially one who doesn’t feel that you genuinely cared about them or doesn’t trust your intentions.
A positive tone is not just about being nice or using positive language (positive words or phrases). A positive tone is how you affect someone positively. Sometimes it’s in the language you use but very often it’s how someone subconsciously senses care, trust and intentions.
Here are some ways you can use a positive tone strategy to improve communication with an avoidant.
- Try as much as possible to avoid hurting each other’s feelings
- Don’t tell an avoidant you regret the time you spent together in the relationship
- Look at the break-up from an avoidant’s perspective (even though you don’t agree with the break-up or their reasons for breaking up)
- Take responsibility for the role you played in the break-up (only what you’re responsible for)
- Emphasize the good things gained from the relationship (e.g. growth, relationship skills etc.,).
If you need help with an avoidant who doesn’t believe you genuinely cared about them, is holding a grudge or doesn’t trust your intentions, I ‘m happy to work with you one-on-one to change that.
How Long Does It Take An Avoidant To Come Back? (FA vs. DA)
6 Signs A Break-Up With An Avoidant Is Not Final But Temporary
No Contact Works Differently With A Dismissive Avoidant Ex
How A Fearful Avoidant Ex Comes Back – Explained In Detail
Dismissive Avoidant Attachment And “Longing” For An Ex
Dismissive Avoidant Ex – Why I Came Back To An Ex (My Story)
I’m so angry at myself. My FA ex after the breakup constantly texted me checking on how I was and said she was there for me and had not stopped caring about me but I was too heartbroken and asked for no contact to which she agreed to. I then reached out after 5-6 weeks of no contact and she seemed angry and didn’t want to talk. I tried texting her and emotionally connection but all I got was one word responses an sometimes no response at all. Now 4 months after the breakup, she’s seeing someone else. I don’t know if it’s a rebound, but last week she went IG official with him and the photos of them together seem like she’s really happy.
After reading your articles, I know for sure that I missed the crucial window of time in which to get her back. I’m kicking myself because my gut instincts told me not to go no contact and my mother who loves my ex so much advised me not to cut off contact. My ex had reached out to her because she was worried about me and my mom said she sensed my ex still had feelings for me. Now I’m wondering if I had maintained contact she wouldn’t have gone to someone else for reassurance, and he seems pretty awesome too!
What crucial window of time? Do you care to elaborate?
What he is taking about is the crucial window of time when FAs (also known as anxious-avoidants) lean more anxious and are more open to getting back together – before they detach and become more avoidant.
You can read more about it here: How Anxious Attachment Come Back – Crucial Window Of Time.
This was super interesting, thank you. I didn’t know anything about the crucial window of time. My FA ex broke off things 3 weeks ago but continues to text me as normal, calls me babe and said she missed me. This has been so confusing because I read from other sites and videos that FAs don’t reach out when they break things off.
Yangki, in your story as a dismissive avoidant ex you said “Being needy and clingy didn’t turn me off a person, being needy and clingy turned me off the relationship”, can you explain a little more, please?
Sure. I was turned off the relationship by the behaviour but not necessarily turned off the person. I’s still have feelings for the person but no want to be in a relationship with them. My biggest problem with anxious attachment guys was it felt like everywhere I turn there they were – the constant texting, calling, wanting to talk, asking questions, sharing, wanting to meet, complaining/nagging about this or that etc. It was just too much! Even as someone secure, I find needy and clingy behaviour emotionally draining, but I handle it differently.
Thank you for your quick response. But don’t you think your being avoidant triggered them being needy and clingy?
My DA ex said “maybe we can be friends when you’re ready” when we broke up and just two weeks ago she said “it was nice to hear from you”. I take this to mean she’s leaving the door open to get back together, but she also said I was too needy and clingy, and we can never work out. I’m willing to work on myself, but also worried that she’s so damaged by her attachment style that she’ll aways trigger me to be needy and clingy.
It’s possible my avoidance triggered their neediness and clinging, it’s also possible that because they had an anxious attachment they were needy and clingy regardless of my dismissive attachment.
On a general note, I see in many comments people with an anxious attachment blame avoidants for their anxious attachment tendencies. They think it’s weird for an avoidant not to want that much attention (what anxious attachment call love and caring) and their way of loving and caring is what is normal/secure. I think they forget that their attachment stye is also insecure attachment and their way of loving and caring is just as unhealthy as an avoidant’s way.
No insecure attachment style one is better than the other, and if you work on becoming secure, you’ll not be as triggered by an avoidant as you are when are anxiously attached, and if you are, you’ll handle things differently. It doesn’t mean a relationship with an avoidant will work; it just means it has a better chance of working even if the avoidant doesn’t change.