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

Question: Yangki, your site has kept me sane these past few weeks. I’ve learned so much about my attachment style and my fearful avoidant ex’s attachment style reading your articles. I have one question that I hope you can answer for me: How do I give my avoidant ex space?

You wrote in your article “How to make an avoidant ex feel safe” that giving them space makes them feel safe. How many days of space should I give a fearful avoidant ex to make them feel safe? I give my avoidant ex 5-7 days of space if he hasn’t reached out. Sometimes he responds right away like he’s been waiting for me to reach out. Other times he does not respond until I reach out again, which makes me think he needs more space. How much space does an avoidant ex need without creating more disconnection and more distance? I’m looking forward to your response.

Yangki’s Answer: It’s true that giving an avoidant ex space makes them feel safe. But giving an avoidant space is not about forcing space on an avoidant as determined by an anxious person. An avoidant has an internal trigger that determines when they need space; and the amount of time they need.

Giving an avoidant space should be when they need it and in the amount they need to feel safe again. When you ‘force” space on an avoidant ex because you want to control how and when they distance; or as an attempt to calm your anxiety, you create an unsafe relationship for an avoidant.

As I discuss in the short video below, a fearful avoidant will see it as you distancing yourself. When you explain that you are giving them space, they’ll wonder why you felt they needed space. What did they do wrong? Are you upset? Do you want to break-up? Do you want no contact?

Some fearful avoidants will pre-emptively break-up with you. They’d rather break-up with you than feel rejection or have you break-up with them.

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 heathy 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

Non-intrusive check-in is one way to work as a team to make sure that both of your needs are met. A reasonable check-in is after 3 – 4 days of no contact; or what the two of you agree feels safe for both of you. If they pull away for relatively short periods of time (1 – 2 days), there is no need for check-ins. Wait for them to reach out and if they don’t reach out; you reach out on the 3rd or 4th day.

An fearful avoidant ex who leans more anxious may need less space than a fearful avoidant who leans avoidant or a dismissive avoidant. A reasonable check-in for a fearful avoidant ex who leans more anxious is 2 – 3 days (preferably 2 days).

Don’t wait too long to reach out as longer periods of disconnection create more emotional distance between two people; and can hurt the relationship long term. 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.

It’s important to note that while non- intrusive check-ins are game changers, not all avoidants are receptive to them. This is probably the first clue that an avoidant’s needs will always come before yours.

4) 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.

5) 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.

Understandably 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 Often To Contact Your Ex Based On Their Attachment Style

WARNING: Read Before Giving Your Ex Space

How To Reach Out But Not Chase A Dismissive Avoidant Ex

How A Fearful Avoidant Ex Comes Back – A Detailed Analysis

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52 Comments

  1. says: Bayur

    Thank you. The conversation about regular checkin went really well. He texted “I’d love that” which surprised me. He tends to withdraw and isolate when stressed and I just assumed he needed space and didn’t reach out. I’m trying to show I care about him but can also give him space because he said during the breakup that he didn’t I think I loved him because I never showed it.

  2. says: Heyman

    Best advice I’ve read anywhere on giving avoidant space. Most advice tells people with an anxious attachment to bend backwards to accommodate an avoidant attachment style. However, both parties have to learn to accommodate each other for the relationship to be balanced.

    1. says: Jill Doyle

      I agree. I’m tired of learning tricks and tips to cater to avoidants and in the process invalidating my own feelings and needs. It makes me feel like I’m only there for an avoidant’s convenience.

    2. says: Kalini

      I give my DA the space he needs and reach out every 2 weeks. He responds but I feel it’s unfair that things have to always be his way. It’s always me trying to give him what he needs and never the other way. How do we make a relationship work if I’m the only one to try?

      1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

        I hear you. Dismissive avoidants are known for wanting love and connection but (when and how) on their terms, and in a way that’s safe for them. This is why they’re said to be selfish and care only about themselves. In my experience, however, most dismissive avoidants appreciate it when you give them space, but they also don’t want to feel like someone is “waiting” for them to come out of their deactivation and reach out.

        The article explains how to deal with the imbalance you mention, and in the comments others have shared what they do to give an avoidant space but make sure one’s own need for closeness is also met. I think my answers in the comments will also help you with how to go about giving an avoidant space – and not too much space to make you feel it’s unfair.

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