Question: How do I get my dismissive avoidant ex to forgive me? I admit I wasn’t the best boyfriend. I now realize I was way too clingy and controlling; and when I was angry I put her down.
I am an anxious-preoccupied who is becoming securely attached. Three weeks ago I contacted my ex about some important documents that I needed her help with; and she agreed to help. We haven’t had much contact after the breakup but we keep each other updated on family and mutual friends. My family adores her, and her family loves me. I then asked her if I can buy her dinner as a thank you; and to my surprise she said yes. A month ago she wouldn’t even return any of my calls.
Since the dinner, we have had many phone conversation mostly about business, family, and friends. When we talk I’m cheerful, confident and relaxed. I want her to see that I am not the emotional wreck she knew a few weeks ago. Some days she’s really warm, friendly and even flirtatious and other days she’s cold and answers with one word. Yesterday, I asked her if being in contact made her uncomfortable and she said yes. I’ve come a long way thanks to therapy. She says I hurt her deeply and she is having a hard forgiving me. What should I say to get my dismissive avoidant ex to forgive me?
Yangki’s Answer: There is obviously still a connection there; I can’t say with 100% certainty that it’s love, only she can. And whether that connection is sufficient to get the two of you back together or not depends on A dismissive avoidant ex can forgive you can trust you again.
Studies on attachment styles show that dismissive avoidants in general tend to hold grudges and be vengeful. It also depends on other things going on in her life, and if getting back with you is top on her priority list.
I assume that you’ve already apologized to her for the hurt you caused her. Not “I am sorry. I was going through some stuff” or “I am sorry, I have changed” sort of apology. That is the same as justifying you action. It is not the same as taking responsibility for the hurt you caused her.
She needs to know you really, really understand how you hurt her and that you’re genuinely sorry. Do not expect her to forgive you right away, give her time to process her hurt in her own time and way.
Next time she says she’s having a hard time forgiving you (and she will); acknowledge it with something like, “I can understand why you feel that way. I’m really sorry I hurt you. What can I do to make it up to you?” She will likely say there is nothing you can do, and she’s right.
You can’t talk someone out of feeling hurt. You can temporarily calm the feeling of hurt with an apology but when she is on her own, it’ll come back up again because feelings MUST be and have to be processed by the person feeling them, not by someone else.
The point asking what you can do is:
- If there is something you can do, give her the opportunity to tell you. Sometimes when people are hurting they hold on to the pain; but when given a “safe space” to express their emotions, the healing process begins.
- Move you beyond taking responsibility for your actions to accountability and making amends. Whatever she says will help her heal faster, do it for her but also for yourself. It will help with the ‘guilt’ you feel about who you were then and what you did then.
The next step is for you to show her that it won’t happen again. This means making sure you don’t do things that remind her of why she’s hurting and why you’re not together. This all comes down to how much changing you have done.
Don’t be surprised if after a few “great moments” she says she thinks she needs to pull back. I’ve seen it so many times before with so many of my clients trying to attract back a dismissive avoidant ex.
Do not panic and get all clingy (again) or completely pull back and stop all communication. Simply tell her it’s not what you want but you understand; and hope that she knows that she can reach out to you any time she wants to. Then ask her if you can text/email/call her once in a while just to see how she’s doing. Tell her you expect nothing, you just want to know she’s okay.
The goal is to make sure the door is still open for when she’s processed her emotions; and is ready to put the past behind her, and also to show to her that you indeed have changed.