It’s every ex’s hope that telling a telling a fearful avoidant you love them will change their mind about the breakup and want to get back together, but a you may have found out (and I hope you don’t have to soon find out), telling a fearful avoidant ex that you love them won’t make them come back. In some instances, it may even make them pull further away.
Why a telling a fearful avoidant you love them will not change their mind
Many of us are surprised, frustrated and even angry when all our efforts to show a fearful or dismissive avoidant that we love and care about them is not be enough – and even backfires.
But according to attachment theory, how we experience relationships or feel love, process relationship-related information and perceive another person’s efforts to show us love and care is different for each attachment style. Each attachment style has mental representations and expectations of what love feels like based on early childhood and subsequent experiences with significant attachments.
These mental representations and expectations also known as internal working models or scripts run at a sub-conscious level and affect how we experience relationships and feel love, how we regulate attachment-related emotions, how we react to separation, how we interpret situations and events, the decisions we make and the strategies we use to justify our decisions and actions.
Because we feel love based on our attachment style, it presents several challenges especially when it comes to showing another attachment style that we still love them and want them back.
An anxious attachment needs emotional intensity and constant reassurance to feel loved
For example, because of their early childhood and subsequent experiences where there was concern for an attachment figure’s availability and responsiveness, individuals with an anxious attachment are driven by an internal working model or script that says that people don’t want to be with them.
To feel loved, someone with an anxious attachment style needs someone to constantly tell them and reassure them that they’re loved and wanted. The more intense the feelings and connection, the more an anxious attachment feels loved. When the other person stops responding or doesn’t respond with the intensity of love and care someone with an anxious attachment needs to feel loved, people with an anxious attachment feel unwanted, ignored, rejected, abandoned, and react based on the internal working model that someone doesn’t want to be with them.
They do even more to try to make someone want to be with them, including put someone on a pedestal, send them long emails or texts profession how much they love them, what a great person they are, how they made them feel loved and basically work so hard to be loved even to the point of self-abandonment. But all the “trying so hard” doesn’t get them what the need the most, feeling loved and wanted.
Most anxiously attached don’t understand why an avoidant or anyone for that would not want or reject being loved with so much intensity, put on a pedestal and constantly told how perfect/great they are, and prioritized above everything and everyone. They are confused as to why someone they love and obsess over isn’t thinking about them constantly or doesn’t want a relationship with them.
In their anxious attachment style’s way of thinking, if someone loved them the way they love their ex, they would be absolutely thrilled and love them back just as intensely. There must be something wrong with anyone who doesn’t want to be loved like that, and they need to be changed to want to be loved the way an anxious attachment wants to be loved.
But constant connection, telling them how much you love them, putting them on a pedestal and reminding them how special they are etc., is not how an avoidant feels loved or wants to be loved. Even avoidants who are initially okay with intensity in their relationships, over time become uncomfortable, overwhelmed and suffocated because they have a different internal working model or script from an anxious attachment’s internal working model.
A fearful avoidant attachment needs trust and consistency to feel loved
A fearful avoidant attachment internal working model or script is, Can I trust you? Can I trust myself? Can I trust us together? This
The mental representations of an attachment figure who was a source of love and also a source of fear, uncertainty, instability, chaos or anxiety created a strong fear in fearful avoidants of getting close to others especially in romantic relationships. Their experiences early childhood and subsequent experiences with significant attachments have taught them that:
- They can’t fully trust others because people who say they love them also hurt/disappoint/frighten them, and
- They can’t trust themselves because they’ve loved people who hurt them (and may still love someone who hurt/is hurting them).
No matter how good things are, fearful avoidants truly believe that soon or later, someone will either find reason to hurt them or information to use to hurt them, or they (fearful avoidant) will end up finding something about the person that’ll make them lose interest, attraction and/or feelings. Either way, they end up getting hurt.
This is the filter through which fearful avoidants processes and interpret key emotional information. While anxiously attached hyperfocus on “they don’t want to be with me” and endlessly loop a script that says, do you love me? do you feel my love? do want to be close to me? Fearful avoidants’ endlessly run the script that says “can I trust you? can I trust myself? can I trust us together?”
Even when a relationship is relatively good, at some point their inability to trust themselves and trust a relationship partner makes them conclude “I don’t know if I want a relationship right now” or “This is not going to work”. Most of the time they don’t really have an idea (or won’t say) why they think the relationship is not going to work, they say “it’ just a feeling” or “I just know it’s not going to work” because it’s what they’ve come to expect.
As I said earlier this presents several challenges when you’re an anxious attachment trying to show a fearful avoidant that you love them and how much you love them. Because you’re operating from your own internal working model (and how you feel love and want to be showed you’re loved), you don’t realize that your fearful avoidants doesn’t want long emails or texts profession how much you love them, what a great person they are, how they made you feel loved, special, safe etc. In fact putting a fearful avoidant on a pedestal even if all you are trying to do is show them you love them and accept them as they are, makes you suspicious and/or manipulative. Most fearful avoidants deep inside know that they’re are fundamentally flawed and you saying they are perfect (even if you mean well) makes it hard to trust anything you.at is consistent with their belief that they can’t trust others and can’t trust themselves to make a relationship work.
And because fearful avoidants typically assume the worst of others and often don’t seek clarification to understand the source of a misunderstanding or unintended conflict, they see “inconsistences” as a revelation of who someone really is and justification for them not trusting them – or not wanting a relationship with them.
Your proclamations of love mean nothing if you’re untrustworthy and inconsistent
The difference in internal working models and how anxiously attached and fearful avoidants experience love, process relationship-related information and perceive another person’s efforts to show love and care is even more pronounced when trying to get back together.
On one hand you have an ex with an anxious attachment believing that if their fearful avoidant ex can see how much they love them, they will change their mind and take them back, on the other hand, you have a fearful avoidant ex more concerned about people who say they love them also hurting, disappointing or overwhelming them.
This creates a bias for the kind of information each attachment style pays attention to, how they word their texts or construct sentences and the general tone and mood of their communication. It also creates a bias in how they process and interpret their ex’s words and actions or what’s actually happening.
For example, when a fearful avoidant ex doesn’t respond or takes too long to respond, an anxious attachment information processing bias tells them their ex’s unavailability and unresponsiveness means that they’re pulling away. To stop an avoidant from pulling away, they must show their avoidant ex that they love and care them. So they send a text message telling their ex how they feel and/or how much they love and care about them, but often are disappointed, hurt and even feel resentment because an avoidant didn’t reassure them they they love them back or want to be with them. To them, if someone sent them a text telling them how they feel and how much they love them, they’d feel loved and wanted, and communicate their feelings too.
When a fearful avoidant receives a text from an ex telling them how they feel and how much they love them, a fearful avoidant doesn’t necessarily feel loved or want to respond. Most are unimpressed (and sometimes annoyed) because to them telling them you love them is not what makes them feel loved or safe. People have said they love them but did things to overwhelm, disappoint and hurt them. The same people who made them feel safe also became a source of fear, uncertainty, instability, chaos or anxiety.
Your fearful avoidant ex may even know you love them, miss them and remembers all the good times and how great your connection was, but they still will not come back because they didn’t break-up with you because they forgot all the good times, they broke up with you because they don’t trust you to be safe, and don’t trust that if they came back, they’ll not be making a huge mistake. Some fearful avoidant exes even get angry that you are talking about the good memories and ignoring the fact that the relationship had many problems.
How do you show a fearful avoidant ex you still love them?
The key to showing a fearful avoidant ex that you still love them is understanding the internal working model or script that drives how fearful avoidants experience love and how they want to be loved.
What a fearful avoidant ex wants to know is not do you love me, what a fearful avoidant ex wants to know is: Am I safe?… can I trust you?… can I trust myself not to lose interest or regret allowing you to get close? You can go no contact or stay in contact, send long tests and write a fearful avoidant ex all the letters you want, tell them how much you love them in many different ways and remind them of all the memories you can think up – and it won’t make a fearful avoidant come back and stay.
Your fearful avoidant ex may even respond positively but keep things on a superficial level and/or remain guarded and fearful. If they’re not questioning your motives and intentions, they’re questioning their own feelings or ability to love. And if there was so much inconsistency in the relationship – periods when things are good for a while then go wrong then good again, you’re in contact for a while then no contact then reconnect again, you tell them they’re everything you’re looking for in a partner, then complain that they’re avoidant then tell them you accept them and don’t want them to change – it doesn’t matter how much you tell a fearful avoidant ex you love them or still have feelings, they’ll not want to come back or want a relationship with you until they’re convinced that what happened in the past will not happened again.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tell your fearful avoidant ex that you love them. Fearful avoidants are part anxious and want to know you love them. What it means is that trust and consistency is more important to a fearful avoidant than telling them you love them or still have feelings for them.
Instead of getting frustrated that your fearful avoidant doesn’t feel and experiences love in the way you feel and experience love, and trying to force or manipulate a fearful avoidant to want your love and care, love them the way they feel and experience love. I’m not talking just about “love languages”, I’m talking about what’ most important to a fearful avoidant attachment, trust and consistency.
Show your fearful avoidant ex that understand them and accept them as flawed as they are, and consistently show up in ways that make them feel safe being in a relationship with you. They want to be able to trust that what they feel for you isn’t going to end up a mistake they will regret (like all the others). If they can’t trust you or trust themselves, your fearful avoidant ex is not coming back.