How Do I Give My Avoidant Ex Space? (And How Much Space)

It’s important to give an avoidant ex space but it’s equally important not to presume an avoidant needs space (because you feel anxious) and give it to them unasked for.

A dismissive avoidant might (if they notice it) see it as protest behaviour; an emotional over-reaction to something they said or did and emotionally shutdown. A fearful avoidant, because of their high sensitivity to rejection might see you giving them space they didn’t need or ask for as you pulling away or distancing. They’ll wonder why you feel they needed space. What did they do wrong? Are you upset? Do you want to break-up? Do you want no contact?

Of course, it’d really help if avoidants communicated that they need space but most avoidants don’t openly communicate their need for space, and some avoidants aren’t even consciously aware they need space.

So before giving an avoidant space, make sure they want and need space. When, why, how and much space an avoidant takes is the one thing they feel that they can 100% control. When you begin interfering with that one thing that defines their independence, an avoidant will defensively react and may even pull further away or deactivate.

See the links below for how much space a fearful avoidant ex needs, how much space a dismissive avoidant ex needs and how to space your reach outs.

What I’ve found works best over the years is:

1) Have a conversation about an avoidant needing space 

If an avoidant needs space give them space. If they say they don’t need contact for a specified period of time; don’t reach out until they reach out. But if “space” is not specified (how long and what happens when they’re taking space); it’s okay to have a conversation about space.

The right time to have a conversation with an avoidant about them needing space is when things are good; and not when an avoidant is pulling away or deactivating. Trying to have this conversation during deactivation is like trying to have a conversation with someone running a 100M sprint. No one hears the other.

2) Communicate your relationship needs

It’s imperative that you take care of yourself when an avoidant needs space. Reach out to your social support system and refocus your time and energy on what makes you happy and fulfilled outside of the relationship etc.

But in order for the relationship to be healthy and balanced, your relationship needs need to be met too. And this can only happen if you communicate your needs and try to work as a team to find ways both of our needs can be met.

It’s important that an avoidant understands that a relationship is not just about what they need; it’s also about what you need and what you need is connection. Explain this to your avoidant in a non-intrusive (non-violent communication) way.

3) Show them you care with check ins

A check in is a short preferably one or two sentence text you send out of concern for someone’s well-being; something along the lines, “Hey, we haven’t spoken in a while, I hope everything is okay” or even “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a while. How are you?”. Check ins don’t even require the other person to respond.

You just want them to know they matter, and you care, that’s all. If they say they don’t want to be checked on, you respect that because it’s something they want and need (for their well-being).

A reasonable check-in is 4 -5 days since last contact for a dismissive avoidant and 3 – 4 days for a fearful avoidant or whatever the two of you agree feels safe for both of you.

If an avoidant ex pulls away for relatively short periods of time (1 – 3 days), there is no need for check-ins. They’ll reach out back on their own.

5) Trust that your avoidant loves you

Trusting that your avoidant loves you even when they pull away is key to not freaking out when they deactivate.

Most of the time when an avoidant pulls away, it’s something they need to do for themselves. It’s not something they’re doing against you (to hurt you). They may feel less connected and their feelings for you may slightly change; but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped loving you.

Getting to a point where you don’t feel threatened and trust that after an avoidant has processed their emotions, they will come back takes time. It helps during the time when they’ve deactivated to remind yourself of the times they’ve shown you they love and care about you.

6) Be consistent

The avoidant attachment style is a result of inconsistent, unreliable and deficient love and caregiving from primary caregivers. Because of this, consistency to an avoidant equals safety and security.

Consistency means showing you care and love them when they pull away and when they lean back in. It means being respectful of their need for space and not shaming or guilt tripping them for deactivating. It means not playing mind games to try to get a reaction from them (in a way making them feel unsafe and afraid to trust you).

When you’re consistent, reliable and supportive in a non-intrusive way; it makes an avoidant feel safe. This makes an avoidant feel less likely to get triggered and pull away.

7) Have some self-respect 

Giving avoidants “all the time and space they need” without asking for your need for connection to be met may sound like an act love but over time it builds resentment and may even completely end the relationship.

It’ll will feel like a one-sided relationship to you because it is. Your needs don’t matter, only the avoidant’s need for space matters. Whether you are aware of it or not, this does major damage to your self-esteem and self-view, in addition to the resentment you feel.

Some avoidants also feel the one-sidedness of the relationship. They may feel that they can get away with anything and resent you for focusing on meeting their needs and neglecting your own (a.k.a. co-dependent). Most avoidants push you away because the relationship is one-sided. I know this as someone who had a dismissive avoidant attachment. It made me angry that 1) someone was “living my life” because they had no life of their own and 2) needed “taking care of” because they weren’t taking care of themselves.

Respecting your avoidant’s need for space while at the same time getting your need for connection met will strengthen your connection; and your future relationship.

8) Be patient

Finding the right balance between space and closeness takes time; some avoidant-anxious couples never quite find that balance. Working towards becoming more secure will help you stop feeling anxious while you both work on finding the balance that works for your relationship.

COMMENTS: This is a conversation that needs to be had. If you’re an avoidant, please let us know how you feel about check-ins while you take your space. And if you have an anxious attachment style, let us know how you self-soothe when your avoidant asks for space. What works for the two of you to get both of your needs met?

RELATED:

How Much Space To Give A Fearful Avoidant

How Much Space To Give A Dismissive Avoidant

When Do You Stop Reaching Out And Let Your Ex Reach Out?

How Long Does An Avoidant Ex Stay Deactivated?

How Often To Reach Out Or Text An Avoidant Ex

 

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60 Comments

  1. says: Dejay

    How does one have meaningful interactions with an avoidant ex when most of the time they don’t want to talk, don’t respond to texts and don’t open up?

    1. Love Doctor Yangki AkitengLove Doctor Yangki Akitengsays: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      It’s hard. Most avoidants, especially dismissive avoidants are not talkers, don’t like small talk (chit-chat) and don’t like texting back and forth for hours. The best way to improve your interactions is to keep reach outs short, quick connections that create a positive feeling, and require low emotional investment.

      This will help: https://torontosnumber1datedoctor.com/blog/emotional-connection-how-to-connect-with-your-exs-emotions/

  2. says: Taylor

    I’m FA and I’m okay with an occasional check -in but it has to be a message that treats me the same as I always. I’ll respond to “hey, we haven’t spoken in a bit. How are you?” but I’ll not respond to someone making assumptions about me e.g., “If you need space, I’ll give it to you.”

  3. says: Chris

    I just found you after learning about attachment styles for a while now. I recently had a sit down with my avoidant ex and it was the first time I mentioned attachment styles to him and explained what the avoidant is. He was open to this and agrees that the dismissive avoidant very much fits how he feels. We left that evening with that he’ll reach out in his own time, knowing I’m there for him. Meanwhile I continue working on healing my anxious attachment style (which I also admitted to him). I might do a check-in with him in a few days if I don’t hear. Do you have examples of check-ins that don’t require a response?

  4. says: Ems

    I was doing this with my fearful avoidant ex even before I found this article. I’ve mainly dated avoidants and felt lonely and abandoned when they pulled away. I’ve been working on myself trying to become more secure and now I give my avoidant the space he needs but also communicate that I need to maintain a certain amount of connection with him. We had a talk about space and I let him know that if the relationship is going to work I need him to let me know he needs space for a few days and to send me at least a text every 2-3 days to let me know he is okay and we’re okay. He has been consistent with it and things seem to be going well this way for both of us.

  5. says: Zaia

    Thank you, Yangki. It took me years to learn how to give an avoidant space. Like some people positing here, I too thought giving an avoidant space meant being someone who doesn’t have needs. I let the avoidant take all the space they needed but it only made things worse. I felt invisible and my self esteem hit rock bottom. In the end, the avoidant left because I had very low self-esteem and was very insecure.

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