If a dismissive-avoidant reaches out or initiates contact, it’s usually a sign that:
- They don’t think it’s necessary to make a big deal out of what happened (“it’s no big deal, let’s move on from the past”).
- They feel responsible in part for the way things are and stepping out of their comfort zone is their way of trying to make things right again.
- They are not yet ready to let go of the relationship.
Unlike fearful-avoidants, dismissive-avoidants don’t do limited or low cotact. They don’t see the point of reaching out for reaching out’s sake. And unlike fearful-avoidants, they also aren’t worried about not getting a response (just like they don’t feel obliged to respond).
Many anxious attachers are pleasantly surprised when a dismissive-avoidant reaches out because they think that because their ex is an avoidant, the natural thing for them to do is to avoid all contact. They feel good when a dismissive-avoidant reaches out but also disappointed that the dismissive-avoidant is not giving away how they feel or what they’re thinking.
The natural tendency for an anxious attacher is to apologize, give reassurance that their feelings have not changed or talk about what happened and how they now feel about it. Often this eagerness to “correct mistakes”or ‘set the record straight’ is what makes them come across as desperate, needy, moving too fast or pushing too hard for connection and closeness.
A dismissive-avoidant may not like what happened but they are not in a hurry to talk about it or get close again. Most of the time they see no need to talk about what’s already been discussed, explained or agreed on, or make a “big deal” about it.
This dismissive-avoidant’s nonchalant attitude frustrates and infuriates many anxious attachers and fearful-avoidants.
- How can someone not respond to a text for hours or days, then act like it is no big deal?
- How could they have said x and y and reach out so casually?
- How can they ignore questions and continue with a conversation like it doesn’t matter?
It’s hard for them to understand how someone can be casually calm because for them, anxiety and fear is part of connection and closeness.
Very often I find myself reminding an anxious attacher to focus on the fact that their ex responded instead of getting all worked up about their avoidant ex’s cool, calm, and collected attitude. “It may mean something and it may mean nothing. The only way you are going to find out is if you create a safe environment for your ex to open up about what they are thinking or feeling. This is not helping.”
One explanation for an anxious attacher’s fixation on their dismissive-avoidant ex’s detached and cold disposition is that, anxious attachers and fearful-avoidants respond to texts, phone calls or requests to meet 99% of the time. Anxious attachers respond to texts, emails or phone calls much faster than fearful-avoidants because they crave contact and get excited (sometimes too excited) when their ex responds.
Fearful-avoidants also want contact but are more worried about rejection and therefore less excited about contact. They worry way too much that they might say something or do something that will cause contact to stop or put them in a place where they are vulnerable to rejection. And because they want contact and closeness and fear it at the same time, they often find themselves unable to decide whether they want to be in contact with their ex or have no-contact.
They reach out and when they don’t get a response or get the response they don’t like, they cut off contact as if contact is the problem. Then after a while, they find themselves wanting contact again, and reach out again. Between contacts they are driving themselves crazy with “Will my ex contact me? Should I reach out to my ex?” It’s crazy what fear can do!
Anxious attachers on the other hand fear that not reaching out to an ex or not responding to a text (email, call or request to meet) will make their ex feel ‘unloved’ or send the wrong message. They respond very quickly because they think it will make their ex ‘feel good’ that they didn’t wait too long for a response. Remember, anxious attachers do things they want their ex to do to them including respond immediately.
For an anxious attacher, a quick response means that their ex still cares about them, is missing them and/or interested in what they have to say. A delayed response means something is “wrong” (their ex is pulling away, not interested any more, doesn’t want to get back together etc). Sometimes they read too much into what’s not there and other times they miss what is right in front of them because they want to believe something else.
When a response doesn’t come quickly or their ex doesn’t respond at all, anxious attachers worry, “What it means? Did they say/do something to push their ex away? Have they completely ruined their chances? What can they do to salvage the situation and make things right again? Etc.
Securely attached individuals and dismissive-avoidants don’t feel the same anxiety and fear when they don’t get a response or fail to respond to a text in a given time or manner. It’s the one of the many traits they share, and often makes dismissive-avoidants come off as securely attached (see attachment style and contact with an ex).
It’s not that they don’t think about it or don’t care whether or not they get a response, it’s just not something they think about all the time (all day long), or allow to dominate their thoughts and influence how they feel or act.
The difference between securely attached and dismissive-avoidants is that securely attached individuals will reach out to try and reconnect sooner than later. If for any number of reasons they were unable to respond to a text (including that they just didn’t feel like it), most securely attached individuals will mention that they didn’t respond and/or explain why they didn’t respond because securely attached individuals care about how their actions affect their ex, and contact, communication and connection is important to them.
Anxious-preoccupied attachers also care about how their actions affect their ex and put a high priority on contact, communication and connection (see attachment style and contact with an ex), the difference is that anxious-preoccupied attachers pursue contact to feel more secure (reassurance), securely attached individuals do not have worries and concerns about security in a relationship.
They can afford to respond immediately, wait hours or days to respond or not respond at all because they are not worried about losing their partners or ex, and not constantly on the lookout for signs that their partners or ex might be pulling away from them.