How Often Do Exes Come Back? (Odds By Attachment Styles)

How often do exes come back based on an ex’s attachment style? Attachment styles offers insights into why exes come back, how often and how they come back.

But first what does the research say on the percentages of exes who come back say.

If you are like me, you want to see scientific research to back it up. I went looking and found not many credible scientific studies on percentages of exes who come back. Most studies I found online were conducted by “get your ex back” sites… and meh.

The good news is that most percentages look good, but the studies are somewhat old

1. A study conducted by Kansas State University found that nearly 50 percent of all exes come back. The exes who got back together assumed their ex had changed for the better; or that they would be better at communicating.

2. Psychology Today, a credible source has on their site roughly the same percentage of 40-50 percent of exes who come back. Exes cited various reasons why they come back; top on the list was lingering feelings

3. Kansas State University also did another study and found that 37 percent of cohabiters and 27 percent of married couples had experienced a breakup and got back together with their exes (Vennum et al., 2014).

4. The JSTOR Journal (for the intellectually curious) sites a study by Dr. Howard Wineberg studied 506 women who attempted reconciliation before divorce was finalized.

  • 50 percent them got divorced eventually.
  • 44 percent were still living with their spouses.
  • 32% successfully got back together and stayed that way for more than one year.

How often do exes come back based on attachment style?

There are no hard numbers and percentages on how often exes come back. But there are studies that draw a direct link between how different attachment styles behave following a break-up and how often exes come back.

1) Secure attached ex

Of all the attachment styles, exes with a secure attachment style are the most likely to stay in contact after a break-up. This is because people with a secure attachment style have better coping and emotional-regulation skills. And because they score low on anxiety, secures don’t react to a break-up with obsessive pursuit. They also score low on avoidance and don’t use avoidant defensive strategies (i.e no contact) to avoid break-up thoughts and emotions.

“They face relationship breakups with greater resilience, acceptance, and emotional recovery. But more importantly, they recognize both their attachment needs and their ex’s attachment needs and act accordingly. The use of strategies open, empathetic communication, and negotiation of needs and desires gives them greater willingness to reunite.” (Madey & Jilek, 2012)

The Verdict

The good news is: if your ex is securely attached, the chances of them coming back are very good. The bad news is: exes with a secure attachment style may not want to come back if you engage in self-destructive coping strategies such as obsessive pursuit. The may also be put off by some of the avoidant defensive strategies you use (i.e no contact, mind games). Individuals with a secure attachment style believe in open communication and negotiating both of your needs.

RELATED: Why A Securely Attached Ex Reaches Out After A Break-Up

2) Attachment anxious ex (preoccupied and fearful avoidant leaning anxious).

Of all the attachment styles, preoccupied and fearful avoidant attachment leaning anxious exes are the most likely to come back. The main reason being that they are likely to be available and responsive; because they need connection and a relationship. This increases their chances as they are able to persist where most attachment styles would give up. 

Individuals with high anxiety have more trouble adapting to a relationship breakup and acting independently, and they experience greater emotional distress, anger, anxiety, depression, and loss of emotional control (Fagundes, 2012;Gilbert & Sifers, 2011;Yárnoz-Yaben, 2010).

The use of hyper-activating emotion regulatory strategies leads to unwanted pursuit behaviour; which leads to a cycle of repeatedly breaking up and getting back together.

Studies have shown that people high on attachment anxiety are more willing to stay friends with an ex to potentially maintain close ties allowing for later reconnection. But their motive especially in times of distress is more self-focused and not necessarily in the best interest of an ex or even the relationship. So yes, your ex will come back but you may also break up soon after.

The verdict

If your ex is anxious preoccupied or a fearful avoidant attachment leaning anxious there is a very high chance that they’ll come back. The bad news is: your ex will likely play lots of mind games during the course of you trying to attract them back. This will likely decrease the chances of your ex coming back.

RELATED: Why An Anxious Preoccupied Ex Keeps Coming Back (Can’t Let Go)

3) Attachment avoidant ex (Dismissive Avoidant/Fearful Avoidant Leaning More Avoidant)

Of all the attachment styles, dismissive avoidants and fearful avoidants leaning avoidant exes are the least likely to come back.  This is because avoidants use deactivating emotion-regulatory suppression strategies; these strategies often create emotional distance with an ex.

Deactivating strategies have been linked to a greater tendency to breakup, weaker emotional reactions to breakups, and self-destructive coping strategies. (T.J. Collins, O. Gillath / Journal of Research in Personality 46 (2012).

The Verdict

The chances of your ex coming back is less with a dismissive avoidant and a fearful avoidant leaning avoidant. This doesn’t mean dismissive avoidants don’t come back. This means that the probability of a dismissive avoidant ex not coming back is higher than them coming back.

One reason for this is that avoidants in general, dismissive avoidants in particular tend to be involved in short-term relationships. They have very little to no emotional investment in their relationships. And many of these relationships have lower interdependence, commitment, trust, and satisfaction. So when the relationship ends, they are ready to move on.

Over the years, I’ve found that dismissive avoidants are more open to getting back together when the relationship is over 3 years old. They may even actively pursue a reconciliation.

There is more to an ex coming back than just their attachment style

There are other individual factors unique to your ex that may affect whether or not they will come back. (See: 10 Factors That Affect The Chances Of Getting Back Together With Your Ex)

When all is said, don’t be discouraged from trying to attract back your ex because right your chances seem bad. It takes work and it takes time, but it’s possible.

When you feel discouraged and want to give up, these Incredible Success Stories of readers like you who got back their ex might help!

RELATED:

How A Fearful Avoidant Ex Comes Back – Explained In Detail

What Makes A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Miss You And Come Back?

Attachment Styles And Why Your Ex Doesn’t Want You Back

Attract Back An Avoidant Ex:1 – Attachment Styles Can Help

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53 Comments

  1. says: Nina Flores

    My fiance broke off our engagement because I wanted to wait to get married til he is financially set but he took it as called off. I contacted him telling him how much I miss him and want him to come back. Is that even possible?

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      As the article says, exes do come back, but not in the way you are going about it.

      It’s possible to get back your ex but it’s a complicated process mainly because it’s about ’emotions’. It helps if you know what you are doing.

      Spend sometime here reading about how to attract back your ex.

  2. says: Siya

    I broke it off and he was deeply hurt. I apologised and at first he was hot and cold. Things are a lot better now. He says he still loves me and can see us getting back together but wants to be friends and decide in 6 mos if he wants to get back together. He wants us to date other people but says he is just dating and not looking to get in a relationship. He is open to hanging out and we text once a day sometimes more. I know I messed up and want him to be free to date, and he also said I can date others if I want. I don’t want to be friendzoned and need to set some boundaries for how we move forward. I have your book dating your ex, my question is which other book would you recommend for my situation ‘It’s just a break-up’ or ‘dating your ex boundaries’?

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      Both books apply to your situation. It’s Just A Break-Up will help with the emotions of trying to get back someone who is dating other people. But I’d go with Dating Your Ex Boundaries 1 & 2 because as you rightly put it, you need to set some boundaries.

      1. Boundaries help you avoid being friendzoned
      2. Boundaries keep both of you from making things worse and ruining whatever chance you might have had.

  3. says: Lauren

    He said I love you but I’m not in love with you anymore, you deserve someone that will put in the effort, you’re a great person, I still want you in my life. I did 1 week no contact, made plans to meet up & say my piece. I cancelled & wrote him an email- I felt seeing him would cause me more pain- no response. I feel I pushed him away in wanting to see him more & move in. Is it possible he’ll come back or is he scare to commit & needs space? Do exes come back in this case?

  4. says: Nelli

    The breakup happened because we were both focused on our careers and it was getting harder to make time for each other. It was an amicable breakup and tough on both of us as we didn’t want it to end but recognized that no matter what we wanted the relationship wasn’t working for either of us. We stayed in touch for a year in which I spent a lot of time on this site practically every night. I realized that I hadn’t been willing to compromise and make sacrifices and told him. He said he was guilty too and we decided to give us another chance. In a way I am thankful for the breakup because I now appreciate him better than I ever did, and I have you Yangki to thank for teaching me that I needed to give love a chance. Thank you.

  5. says: Angie

    OMG! I know I had asked for advice! Mea culpa! But if anybody anyway reads these comments I want to tell you that 1 hour after I posted my last comment (on how freakingly frightened I was about a possibly upcoming phonecall with him) my ex wanted to call me!!!

    So I swallowed again as fast as possible some of your book‘s lessons and – well – it was a kind, warm and friendly talk for about 2 hours! Amazing, I admire every little bit how you offer solutions that work. And I learned so much about my selfish past and how love first and foremost addresses the other person. Not oneself! I listened REALLY, understood and acknowledged his reservations and doubts and kept the line to him. He is still frightened that things could turn out the same nasty way as they did already and wants to keep friends – and wants to call again tomorrow !!! Many, many thanks for your work! LoL

      1. says: Angie

        Dear Yangkie,
        he is back. 3 weeks from “the end of the world” to “better than ever”!! Thank you so much for all your wisdome, humour and good down-to-earth sense!!!
        Much love
        a.

        1. says: Yangki Akiteng

          YES!!!

          You are easy to love, Angie. It makes sense he’s back so soon.

          Don’t thank me, thank YOU. Okay, me a little… 🙂

          Much love back at you!

  6. says: Angie

    Dear Yangki, just some days after having read your book I am in contact with my ex again. Your approach is amazing! He writes very long messages (he obviously has still a lot to say to me) full of accusations but also leaves tiny bits of hope for the future. Suddenly I find myself scared to death when it might come to our first phonecall. We broke up – both in stressful personal situations – neglecting one another‘s needs. I realized that, but he is still fully convinced that his actions were completely right and honourable. I am afraid he would start again by forcing me to prove that I am serious with him. Meaning he expects sacrifices that I – as a Single Mom cannot make. And that would probably mean the end again. Good advice is very welcome!
    Kind regards

  7. says: Elizabeth

    This site has really helped me. I am at a point where I believe my ex will come back. He is slowly opening up and initiating more contact. He also invited me to watch super bowl like we did before. He was holding my hand and rubbing it. He walked me to my car and it seemed like he wanted to kiss me but held himself back. I want to ask him out, do you think it’s a good idea?

    1. says: Yangki Akiteng

      Thanks, I do the best I can.

      Yes, it’s a good idea… 🙂 There is enough momentum to propel you forward. I too believe that you will get back together, it’s only a matter of time (if you don’t screw it up).

  8. says: Abi

    Hi Yangki,

    Do you have an article/advice for someone (who did not initiate the break up) who thought NC would be a good idea to give themselves some space but is now realising (after finding your website) that this may have been a very bad idea!

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