Should You Tell A Fearful Avoidant Ex You Love Them?

If you have an anxious attachment and are thinking “If only my fearful avoidant ex could see how much I love and care about them, they will see that we are meant to be together and come back” or “I just need to keep trying to give my fearful avoidant the facts I know and show them that I love and care about them”, you need to read this.

Attracting back a fearful avoidant is more complicated than just showing them that you love and care about them. First you need to understand how fearful avoidants experience relationships or feel love, what drives a fearful avoidant attachment style, how they process relationship-related information, how they perceive your efforts to show them you love and care about them, and why all your efforts to show them that you love and care about them might not be enough.

Our attachment style has a profound impact on how we experience love

According to attachment theory, our attachment style formed during early childhood and subsequent experiences with important attachment figures has a profound impact on how we experience adult romantic love and our satisfaction within the relationship and with a relationship partner. For example, individuals with an anxious attachment need sustained emotional intensity in their relationships to feel loved, while avoidants may initially welcome intensity in their relationships, they feel uncomfortable over time as things get more serious. Similarity, an avoidant may feel love and satisfaction with the relationship if they’re able to do their own things independent of their partner; something that might feel threatening and triggering to an anxious partner.

Our attachment style doesn’t just influence what love feels like to us, it also influences the way we think, feel, and behave in relationships. By attaching current key information on previous or past experiences, it creates an automatic bias which reinforces behaviours that elicit reactions consistent with our expectations.

This presents several challenges especially when it comes to how we process key emotional information.

1) Alters and distorts facts and new information to match what we expect, what we want to believe, what feels comfortable to us or what is simpler to process or accept.

2) Assigns biased meaning to pieces of information, particularly when predicting high-risk situations or managing threat-related information. For example, we attribute intentions, motives or feelings to a neutral situation or believe something even when the evidence is showing the opposite.

3) We develop a bias towards or against towards certain emotional information limiting our ability to really hear the other person. For example, we block out or refuse to accept facts that are unpleasant, uncomfortable, scary or hurtful.

4) Affects what we pay attention to and whether we give greater consideration to self-protection and eliminating potential threats or adopt relationship-building strategies.

Understanding the way we process information can help you communicate more effectively

The way you process relational information doesn’t just affect what you hear, it also affects what you say and how you we say it. And because how you process relationship-related information depends a lot on your attachment style and how your ex process relationship-related information depends a lot on their attachment style, what your ex hears may not be what you said and what you heard may not be what your ex is saying. This can lead to miscommunication, ineffective messaging efforts, bad decisions, unintended escalation, failure to adjust to new information or respond in a timely manner.

The key is to be insightful enough to understand how both of you are processing information. Being aware of both your ex’s and your own information processing bias will help you see:

  • What you might have missed that led to the break-up or what you are missing now that is preventing you from seeing any progress towards getting back together; or might prevent you from getting back together.
  • What information your ex is paying too much attention to and focusing on.
  • What information they are dismissing, ignoring or blocking.
  • What words, phrases or emotional states trigger them; and how you can approach communication or respond in an appropriate and safe way.
  • What information you may be giving too much attention to or relevant information you may be ignoring; and challenge your biases.

Anxious attachment: Do you love me? Do you feel my love? Do want to be close to me?

An anxious attachment is characterized by concern for an attachment figure’s availability, responsiveness, love and care. They fear that the person they love, and care about will not love them back, want to be close to them or will leave them.

This internal working models makes anxiously attached individuals do whatever it takes to increase closeness, earn a partner’s approval, attention, affection, love and care and stop a someone from leaving. They genuinely believe that showing someone how much they love them will make the person love them back – and not leave.

Most can’t understand and are confused as to why someone they love and obsess over isn’t thinking about them constantly, can’t see how much they love them and wants to leave the relationship. But the constant need to provide reassurance, validation or be support tires most people and they pull away or leave, which anxious individuals then perceive as rejection or abandonment.

When the relationship ends, individuals with an anxious attachment feel neglected or unappreciated and blame themselves for the break-up. Many think their ex ended the relationship because they didn’t show their ex that they love them or didn’t do enough to show their fearful avoidant ex they loved them. Others hold resentment because they feel they did too much to love their ex and show them that they love them, but their ex didn’t appreciate them.

When trying to attract back an ex, most individuals with an anxious attachment honestly believe (even when facts are pointing the opposite direction) that if their ex can see how much they love them, their ex will change their mind and take them back.

This creates a bias for the kind of information they pay attention to or dismiss and ignore; and alters and distorts what their ex is actually saying or what’s actually happening. The fear that an ex is doesn’t love them anymore, doesn’t want to get close and doesn’t want to come back affects how exes with an anxious attachment 1) word their texts or construct sentences and the general tone and mood of their communication and 2) process and interpret their ex’s words and actions.

Fearful avoidant: Can I trust you? Can I trust myself? Can I trust us together?

A fearful avoidant attachment is formed when an attachment figure who is a source of safety also becomes a source of fear, uncertainty, instability, chaos or anxiety. Because they were let down and/or hurt so many times and in so many ways by attachment figures, trust that someone will not disappoint them or hurt them became even more important to a fearful avoidant than concern for an attachment figure’s availability, responsiveness, love and care.

Their greatest fear is that when they allow someone to get close, the person will either find reason to reject them or information to use to hurt them; or they’ll end up finding something about the person that’ll make them lose interest. Either way, they end up getting hurt.

This is the filter through which fearful avoidants processes and interpret key emotional information. They hyperfocus on inconsistencies and things that can go wrong in the relationship even if there is nothing to worry about, and are prone to overanalyzing and focusing on words, sentences and tone that 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 losing interest.

The fearful avoidants I’ve talked to say it’s scary having the thought that they will lose interest in someone right at the start of a relationship. Like many FAs, they develop feelings and love for someone and even like and entertain the idea of a future with them, but they just can’t shake off the fear that the relationship will not work however much effort either they or the other person puts into it.

And there are many fearful avoidants who take time to attach or commit to someone because their experience is that if they wait long enough, their feelings will change if not disappear completely. Others say they sometimes push through their fears and thoughts and even get to a place where they’re comfortable with the idea of being in the relationship and having a future together, but every now and then the fears come back.

Even when a relationship is relatively good, a fearful avoidant thinks: I can’t trust you. I don’t trust myself. I can’t trust us together. 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.

Information processing bias affects what you say, how you say it – and what you hear

An anxious attachment information processing bias traps an anxious exes in emotional loop. For example, when an ex doesn’t respond or takes too long to respond, their anxious attachment information processing bias tells them their ex’s unavailability and unresponsiveness means that they’re pulling away and their ex wants them to show that they love and care them (or wants them to reach out or even chase them). So they send a text message telling their ex how they feel and/or how much they love and care about them; or post something on social media with the hope that their ex will see how much they still love and care about them.

Sometimes an ex posts something on social media and anxiously attached ex immediately thinks it’s some kind of sign that “My ex wants me to show them I love and care for them”. They react to the post and either get no response back, or even get blocked – and they’re genuinely confused because all they did was show love and care.

What happens often is an ex with an anxious attachment sends a fearful avoidant a text telling them how they feel and how much they love them. They excitedly wait for a response, but get no response or the fearful avoidant ex responds but says nothing about how they feel. The anxiously attached ex is disappointed, hurt and feels resentment. In their attachment way of processing information, 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.

But 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 love or want to communicate how they feel. Most are unimpressed (and sometimes annoyed) because to them telling them you love them is not enough. People who told them they love them also disappointed and hurt them; and the same people who were their source of safety also became a source of fear uncertainty, instability, chaos or anxiety.

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? If your words and actions have in the past shown that they can’t trust you and don’t feel safe with you, it doesn’t matter how much you love a fearful avoidant, they’ll always keep their guard up.

Information processing bias is the cause of much of the miscommunication and unintended conflict

The reverse is also true with a fearful avoidant attachment style. To experience love or feel love, they need to feel safe, trust that someone will not disappoint or hurt them, or that they will not lose interest and not want to be in the relationship anymore. Even when they want to get back together, they remain guarded. If they’re not questioning an ex’s motives and intentions, they’re questioning their own instincts, worthiness, attractiveness or ability to love.

They don’t open up about their feelings because they don’t feel safe with an ex and don’t trust themselves and their own feelings. What happens is that they keep conversations at a superficial level. They may even be fully engaged but avoid or sidestep topics or questions that ask them to reveal or talk about how they truly feel. How they truly feel is that they’re confused, conflicted and afraid of getting hurt again or losing interest.

As long as the conversations stay superficial and spaced out, most fearful avoidant exes don’t deactivate. But just not deactivating is not enough for an ex with an anxious attachment because to feel love, an anxiously attached ex needs to know: Do you love me?… do you feel my love for you?… Do you want to be close to me? They’re happy that a fearful avoidant is responding, but what they’re looking for from a fearful avoidant is reassurance that a fearful avoidant feels their love and wants to get close.

An anxiously attached ex gets impatient and frustrated with a fearful avoidant not wanting to talk abut how they feel and not providing the assurance and validation that anxiously attached need to feel loved and wanted. Being anxiously attached, they push for a fearful avoidant to provide validation and reassurance but because each attachment style is processing information through their own internal working model and information processing bias, miscommunication and unintended conflict and escalation is unavoidable.

The key is to be insightful enough to understand how both of you are processing information

On one hand you have an ex with an anxious attachment doing everything to show a fearful avoidant that they love them because they believe 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 being safe and if the relationship can work than about being told how much they’re loved.

Understanding how each attachment styles experiences relationships or feels love and their relationship-related information processing bias will help you avoid miscommunication and unintended escalation. Being aware of both your ex’s and your own information processing bias can also help you communicate with your ex in a way that what you say is what they hear and what they say is what you’re hearing.

This is usually where I step in. I help my clients see how the how their internal working model and information processing bias is distorting what’s really going on and limiting their ability to really hear their ex, to respond constructively and in a way that strengthens feelings of attraction; or in a way that avoids unintended conflict and escalation.

I’ve seen many exes with anxious attachment give up because for months they’ve been texting a fearful avoidant and telling them how they feel or showing them how much they love them but don’t get the reassurance that a fearful avoidant wants to get close. I’ve also seen fearful avoidants give up because while their ex with an anxious attachment is telling them how much they love them, they’re also doing things that make a fearful avoidant feel unsafe, feel that they can’t trust their ex to not disappoint or hurt them, and make a fearful avoidant lose interest.

Should you tell a fearful avoidant ex you love them?

You should absolutely show a fearful avoidant that you love them. Because fearful avoidants are part anxious, there is a part of them that wants validation, reassurance and knowing that someone wants to be close. They just want to know that they’re not going to get disappointed or hurt whether intentionally or unintentionally. In the past, they allowed themselves to get close because people told them they loved them and even showed them that they cared about them, but the same people ended disappointing and hurting them. As a result they can no longer trust themselves to know who to trust or get close to – and if they do, if their feeling and desire to be close will last.

So instead of frantically and excessively showing a fearful avoidant that you love them in the way you want someone to show they love you or you think avoidants must accept being loved, make them feel love the way they want to feel loved. I’m not talking just about “love languages”; I’m talking about a fearful avoidant attachment sense of security, positive feelings about the relationship and confidence that they can trust you and can trust their own feelings.

You have a better chance of getting a fearful avoidant to trust you and trust themselves if you approach relationship and deal with the break-up the way securely attached do; and can make an avoidant feel safe being in a relationship.


Avoidant Ex Says “I Don’t Want A Relationship” (What to Do)

How to Make An Avoidant Ex Feel Safe Enough To Come Back

How to Be Consistent With A Fearful Avoidant Ex (Get Them Back)

Anxious attachment – How to Communicate With An Avoidant Ex

Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 2 – How An Avoidant Ex Feels

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  1. says: E?ijah

    Thank you Yangki for a compassionate and balanced take on attachment styles. I’m FA and when trying to understand myself, I studied both anxious attachment and avoidant attachment, both are not favorable for a healthy relationship. Which sucks for me as someone with both anxious and avoidant attachment. But I also find that much of the advice is against avoidants and anxious people are given a pass even when their behaviors are equally abusive, damaging and hurtful. I’m not trying to excuse avoidant behaviors, I’m trying to work on mine, but I also recognize that I need to work on my anxious side and not expect others to put up with it.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      I completely agree with you that whether you are avoidant or anxious you need to work on your core wounds and trauma to have a healthy relationship.

  2. says: Julia H.

    I have had my fair share of therapy throughout the years and learned a lot about my AP attachment style, but this is one of the most relatable things I’ve read in a long time. My last relationship that ended over 5 months ago was with FA who questioned if he wanted to be with me for the long term right from the day we met. I showered him with love and attention because I thought that would make him feel safe and reassured of our relationship, but the more I showed him love and gave him my everything, the more he seemed to lose interest. Finally, one day he told me he didn’t want to be in a relationship because he wanted to focus on himself and building his business. Less than 2 months later, he was in a new relationship.

  3. says: Bitfem

    Yangki, I’ve spent weeks on your site and very impressed with your knowledge and empathy. I’m FA and tend to attract guys who are anxious and way too much into me with expressions of love and I can’t take it and lose interest. But 4 months ago, I met a guy who at first I thought was FA but now suspect is DA. He says he likes me, thinks I’m amazing and someone he wants in his life but he also doesn’t want a relationship. He says he’s happy single and is a monogamous dater. He’s super controlling with his time and space and hasn’t introduced me to any of his friends although he’s met all my friends and family. He brings out major anxiety in me and it’s very confusing because this is not me. I’m usually the one on the other side and really struggling with my overwhelming feelings and crazy behaviors.

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      He is either DA or FA with strong DA traits. There are articles on here about DAs but they can only help with how to be in a relationship with one or how to get a DA ex back. I have a few articles on managing attachment anxiety, but since I’m a relationship coach, they may not be enough. There are many other resources on the internet that can help you manage “overwhelming feelings and crazy behaviors.”

  4. says: Marchese

    It sucks that I’ve spent months working on my avoidant attachment but from reading your articles I recognise that I’m a fearful avoidant. I’m both high-avoidance and high-anxiety and also have high sensitivity to rejection especially when someone takes long to respond. I get by but I’m generally awkward in social interactions and my instinct is to escape and hide from judgement. In relationships, I tend to focus on others’ needs and feelings more than my own and need validation and support for me to feel safe and want to get close. I mentioned this to my therapist, she doesn’t seem to take my anxious side seriously and this is exacerbating my anxious attachment.

    1. says: Ricky

      Same here, my therapist says I’m DA but everything I’ve read says DAs are “high-avoidance and low-anxiety. I have friends who are DA and dated a DA for 3 months and I don’t fit the DA attachment. The few similarities are difficulty trusting, difficulty communicating my emotions and need for space although for me my need for space is born out of fear of appearing needy and clingy. In general, I feel happier when close to someone.

      1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

        Attachment styles is on a continuum scale and FA and DAs share many common avoidant traits. However, research shows that high-anxiety (FAs) and low-anxiety (DAs) is one of the consistent difference between the two avoidant attachment styles.

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