Question: I’m looking for advice on how to get an anxious attachment ex back. She reached out to me two weeks ago after only 18 days of no contact.
I initiated the break-up 4 months ago and she asked for no contact 2 days after the break up. I respected her wish and didn’t reach out but she reached out after only 18 days of no contact. This was the longest we’ve gone without any contact and it felt awful. She told me she missed me and I told her I missed her too. Since we’ve been texting back and forth every day. Some days we exchange up to 10 texts each. I’m a fearful avoidant leaning anxious myself and at first it was nice having that much contact but it’s started to feel too much making me want space.
I’m working on becoming secure and not deactivate when I feel overwhelmed but don’t know what to do when she gets anxious. If I don’t respond right away, she assumes I’m pulling away and she get very anxious. One time she sent me 8 text messages asking why I was leaving her messages on read and ignoring her. She also said she’s over me and to forget about her. When I replied and said I was with a client (I’m a lawyer), she apologized and said she loved me and said she was over me because she thought I was ignoring her.
I read in your articles that people with an anxious attachment style need lots of reassurance and validation to feel safe. Frequent reassurance and validation makes them feel that you love them and are committed to making the relationship work but I don’t know what to say to her to reassure her and make her less anxious when I don’t respond quick enough. I feel like if I don’t make her feel safe, she’s going to get over me. She’s said it a few times.
Everyone tells me she’s crazy and that I should run and not look back, but I know her, she only like this when she feels unloved. I want to try to make this work and need your advice, please!
Yangki’s Answer: My advice, run and don’t look back! Kidding.
I appreciate your question. I don’t get many questions asking how to get an anxious attachment ex back, most questions are about how to get back an avoidant. Questions about how to get an anxious attachment ex back, are often about “how to make my ex miss me?”.
I am sure there is more to this story and situation; but I’ll try my best to respond to how to reassure and validate an ex with anxious attachment style and make them feel loved and safe.
One of the biggest fears of an ex with an anxious attachment style is that their ex doesn’t want them back. Even when an ex is responding, they’re afraid that they’re being led on, have been friendzoned or an ex is just being polite. And because men and women with an anxious attachment style (this includes fearful avoidants) tend to overanalyze every text from their ex and second guess their own responses, most get into their heads and self-sabotage.
When you don’t text back quick enough or don’t respond at all, they assume their worst fear that someone doesn’t love them is being confirmed. This is why it’s important to frequently reassure an ex with an anxious attachment that you want them back and have not lost interest.
The best way to approach an anxious attachment style is to ask what they need to feel safe. You can say, “What can I do to make you feel secure or loved?”, then try to do it. I say “try” because most of the time you will feel that what they need to feel loved is way more than you can do without feeling overwhelmed and want space. Even individuals with a secure attachment sometimes find an anxious attachment’s need for closeness “too much” and their emotional reactions difficult to deal with. So be patient with yourself if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and needing space.
Try as much as you can not to deactivate and make an anxious attachment insecure and anxious, but if you need to, communicate what’s going on and let them you need some space (specify), but that doesn’t mean you stopped loving them or are pulling away. You just feel overwhelmed and need x number of days alone to self-regulate. Reassure them that you will reach out after the specified period of time.
The goal is to genuinely try to be reassuring and validating and make an anxious attachment feel secure and loved; but without giving up too much of your independence and autonomy.
When you ask, “What can I do to make you feel secure or loved?” make sure you are clear about what they mean because individuals with an anxious attachment style have a tendency to be vague and imprecise about their needs. Most are afraid that if they’re honest about their needs, they’ll end up pushing someone away (their past experiences have proven that’s the case).
Make a habit of repeating to them what you think they meant so they can hear it the way you hear it. Once you are clear about what they want and need to feel safe, decide what you can do and what you can’t. It’s important that you have clear boundaries and communicate them clearly. Many people with an anxious attachment don’t know how to respect boundaries, and can become “creative” (manipulative) to get their way, so make sure you are firm on your boundaries for space and time.
For example you can say, “I’ll respond to your texts within 5 minutes when I am able to, and when I am not, I’ll text to let you know I received your text and will respond as soon as I can. Will this show you that I am not ignoring you or being disrespectful (or whatever they said not responding makes they feel)?”
If they say it does, add “I want a healthy relationship where we both respect each other’s boundaries. So if you send me several texts before I have had the chance to respond, I’ll not respond at all.”
This way you give an anxious attachment ex the reassurance you’re always there for them; but also communicate clear boundaries and the consequences of violating those boundaries.
It’s important that you come from a place of love and genuinely trying to provide safety and security and not anger or resentment. The good news is that exes with an anxious attachment are the most likely to come back if they’re made to feel loved and wanted. See: Do Anxious Attachment Come Back – Crucial Window Of Time.