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

Some of you reading my articles and watching my YouTube channel have taken this to heart and sent me emails asking me what a secure attachment style looks and feels like; and how to make an avoidant feel safe enough to want to come back.

I heard you and will discuss how to make an avoidant feel safe and 10 things that securely attached do that make an avoidant feel safe.

Making your ex feel emotionally safe and secure should be your number one priority

Attachment theory defines feeling safe or secure as having an unshakable confidence in the availability and responsiveness of a relationship partner.

The central premise of attachment theory is that primary caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant’s needs allow the child to develop a sense of security. While attachment bonds or relationships displayed in adulthood are not necessarily the same as those seen in childhood, availability and responsiveness are still the two main factors that facilitate and foster a sense of security, and stability in romantic relationships.

What this means that when a relationship partner is unavailable and unresponsive, the other partner feels unsafe and insecure. On the other hand, when a relationship partner is available and responsive, it increases the other partner’s sense of attachment security, making the relationship more stable.

This increase in attachment security is what has come to be known as “felt safety”. “Felt safety” is possible with someone who is available and responsive, and can provide a safe environment (or safe base) to practice feeling comfortable being close, and giving and receiving love without the fear of losing your independence or fear of being hurt.

12 things that securely attached do that make an avoidant feel safe

1.Give an avoidant the space they need

When an avoidant needs space, let them have it. It’s not personal, so don’t take it personally. If they come close, rather than complaining about their avoidant behaviour, offer understanding and reinforce their positive actions.

Individuals with a secure attachment style understand that sometimes the person we love is not emotionally where we want them to be; and if you love them, you meet them where they are.

If an avoidant says “I need space” and you can safely and calmly articulate your feelings; it doesn’t hurt to admit to an avoidant that you need closeness to feel loved. Being able to openly talk about an avoidant’s need for space in a constructive way; makes an avoidant feel safe to communicate to you when they need space and for how long.

Practice sitting with each other in silence and just being present. This can help an avoidant feel that they can ‘take space’ without leaving the room or going somewhere away from you.

2. Be patient and take things slow

What makes a dismissive avoidant feel safe is different from what makes a a fearful avoidant feel safe.

A dismissive avoidant attachment greatest fear is losing their identity in a relationship. This is why they are so protective of their independence; and why you shouldn’t chase a dismissive avoidant. Their second greatest fear is that no one can love them because they can’t love them back enough. They keep you at a distance because they believe that if you come too close, you will end up disappointed and/or hurt.

A fearful avoidant’s fear is that no one can love them because they are not good enough to be loved. Chasing a fearful avoidant makes them feel that you want them (more than they want you), and that means they’re good enough.

A securely attached person understand that most people with an avoidant attachment don’t even know that they are acting out of fear. They are patient and consistent which makes an avoidant feel safe.

To make an avoidant feel safe, don’t force your love on them; and don’t demand for more than they can give at the moment. Take things slow and your patience in the short term will pay off in the long term.

What “taking things slow” means different things for a dismissive avoidant and a fearful avoidant.

3. Tone down the drama

Nonstop drama, constant arguments, and emotional stress makes avoidants feel unsafe. Dismissives avoidant don’t have the skills and tools to deal with their own emotions; let alone other people’s feelings and emotions. They get easily overwhelmed and want distance. Fearful avoidants are highly sensitive to rejection and see drama, constant arguments as a threat to the relationship. They worry you might break-up with them, so they break-up with you first.

One trait that separates secure attachment from insecure is the ability to self-regulate their emotions and actions; and respond or act in ways that are appropriate for the situation. To make an avoidant feel safe, tone down the drama; better yet, cut it off.

4. Communicate, communicate…

Fearful avoidants are especially sensitive to rejection; complaining or acting passive aggressive makes them feel unsafe. If you want an avoidant to do something, ask directly and clearly. Don’t expect them to read your mind. It will make a fearful avoidant feel safe, knowing that you value their input or support and can ask for it. To a fearful avoidant, it means they are good enough. To a dismissive avoidant, it means you respect their knowledge, skills or talent.

5. Deescalate instead of escalate

Avoidants especially fearful avoidants over-react to minor injuries or upsets; and act cold and distant (and even mean). Try not to get defensive or pick a fight when they overreact or act cold and distant. Calmly try to resolve the issue. Don’t let your feelings get in the way of a constructive conversation.

If the issue can’t be resolved right there. Ask that both of you take a few hours apart to cool off. It will help both of you approach the issue constructively. Distance makes avoidants feel safe. Too much distance makes a fearful avoidant feel unsafe. A few hours is not too little and not too much.

6. Don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to

If an avoidant doesn’t want to talk about something, don’t force them to talk even if you know directly dealing with issues is better than avoiding them. Just make sure you keep the lines of communication open because talking to each other even if you are avoiding the issue will make an avoidant feel safe.

7. Let them feel they’re in control

Avoidants feel safe when they feel that they are in control of what is most important to them. If for example they are doing a project that is important to them and you want to be supportive; ask if you can help with little things here and there; things they are willing to let you help with.

8. Be supportive but non-intrusive

Support your avoidants goals, dreams, interests, hobbies personal journey, soul searching, growth etc. but in a non-intrusive way. Let them make the major decisions and only step in to provide advice, support and help (including financial) if asked. This ties in with an avoidant’s need to feel in control.

You undermine an avoidant’s attachment sense of safety by:

  • Making decisions for them that they can make for themselves;
  • Providing advice or support that is not needed or desired;
  • Taking over and controlling an aspect of their life;
  • Violating their boundaries or privacy;
  • Trespassing or encroaching on their social support network.

9. Be trustworthy

Avoidants in general have a hard time trusting; and an avoidant may never be able to fully trust. But they see when you make the effort, and feel safe.

You show an avoidant that you are making an effort to gain their trust when you:

  • Listen, empathize and respect their perspective
  • Are open, honest and as transparent as you can be
  • Take full responsibility for your actions
  • Apologize when necessary, but don’t over apologize
  • Don’t create drama but also don’t run away when you feel like we’re losing control

9. Be reliable and dependable

Be dependable but not dependent, especially with a dismissive avoidant. Reliable and dependable means you have yourself put-together. When you say you are going to do something, you keep your word. Knowing that you can be counted on makes avoidants who have a hard time trusting others feel safe. They don’t have to constantly worry that you will let them down or that they will disappoint themselves for relying on you

The goal should be interdependency where an avoidant can rely on you for some things and you can rely on they for others.

11. Be consistent

Consistency is a unique trait of a secure attachment style. A securely attached person is the same person in all their different relationships; a significant other, family, friends, co-workers and even strangers. They are not one way with this person and in this relationship; and another way with someone else. Even in difficult emotional situations, they don’t change their behaviour to avoid thinking about, feeling, or doing difficult things. For instance, if you break-up with them, they are not going to suddenly cut you off. They will treat you like they treated you when you were together. And if you decide to cut off contact, they will respect your wish not to be contacted.

To make an avoidant feel safe, be consistent in how you love and show you care about them.

12. Be available and responsive

You make an avoidant feel safe by being responsive to their bids for connection. You also make them safe by being attuned and responsive to their distress cues; and not ignoring them. Instead provide comfort and/or assistance when needed.

If an avoidant says they want ‘space’ and no communication, respect their wish. But if an avoidant indicates they want ‘space’ but also want to keep the lines of communication open; make an effort to check in on them every now and then. Not too much. Every other day or 3- 4 days is reasonable.

If you are not doing these things, you are not making your ex feel safe and secure

This also means you are not pulling your ex closer. You may be doing so many things not to push them away, but not doing enough to pull them closer. The safer and secure someone feels, the closer they want to be.

A study found that one partner’s sensitive and responsive behaviours can buffer or reduce the other partner’s attachment anxiety; or avoidance during moments of relational tension; and can thereby foster attachment security within a relationship over the long run (Arriaga, Kumashiro, Simpson, and Overall).

In a longitudinal study of newlywed couples, researchers found that perceptions of partners as available and responsive were associated with reductions in attachment avoidance 12 months later, and that perceptions of partners as accepting and valuing one’s needs and goals predicted subsequent reductions in attachment anxiety. (Arriaga, Kumashiro, Finkel, VanderDrift)

The beneficial effects of a partner’s responsiveness were also observed by Lavi. In an 8-month longitudinal study with newly committed couples, it was found that anxiety and avoidance decreased as a direct function of a partner’s actual sensitive and responsive behaviours.

RELATED:

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

How to Pull Your Ex Closer Vs. How To Avoid Pushing Away Your Ex

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  1. says: Trish

    I have been looking for how to make a fearful avoidant feel safe and only found it on this site. Very helpful. Thank you.

  2. says: mark

    This article is on spot about everything that has been lacking in my relationships.

    I am FA, and the change came for me realizing that people do not run away from me, its more like I run away from them before they do it eventually. I subconsciously feared there’s no way it could work and mentally prepared myself by not letting anyone in.

    I’ve been working really hard on becoming secure: letting myself feel what I am feeling, communicating my feelings, asking others how they feel rather than making assumptions and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

  3. says: Scorpiolove

    I am new to this person’s advice, and I am loving what I have read so far on attachment styles. I have long believed that attachment theory is the holy grail of relationships and a powerful tool for healing, connection, and growth. But I have been disappointed and frankly appalled by how people who call themselves experts on attachment styles use it for manipulation and exploitation.

    You shouldn’t be using what you know about someone’s attachment style to manipulate and abuse them. It’s wrong. It’s cruel. You should be using their attachment style to understand them, help them heal and love them for who they are.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      Thank you, not just for your kind words about my advice, but your views about attachment styles. Like you, I believe that attachment theory was meant to help us all understand each other, see beyond each other’s childhood trauma and wounding, and acknowledge that we are all wounded in some form or another, and with this knowledge help each other heal and learn to love again in a healthy way.

      The emotional wounds we inflict on someone by preying on their attachment anxiety, fears and insecurities and taking advantage of their need to be loved is worse than the wounding they received in childhood. It’s worse because it’s intentional, calculated, manipulative and meant to benefit only one person, and it’s not the person we claim to love. It’s wrong, and it’s cruel.

      My call has always been: How would you feel if the tables were turned?

      You opened up to your ex about being neglected and feeling abandoned as a child and when you broke up with them, they used what you shared with them to make you feel ignored and insecure. Would you feel loved or manipulated? Would you feel safe opening up to your ex again?