I have worked with so many anxious attachers that I can tell when we are approaching “when will my ex start meeting my need for more contact and closeness?”. Usually it is at that stage when things are picking up momentum and/or an ex is showing signs of interest.
If an anxious attacher has been doing no-contact, it doesn’t even get to ‘things are picking up momentum’. They’ve been supressing their feelings and needs (for contact, connection, closeness) for so long in order to complete “no contact” and now that they’ve completed the ‘program’, they crave contact, connection and closeness more than before but still have no idea what to do to attract back their ex.
It’s like one of those ‘diets” where someone looking to lose weight is told to avoid their go-to comfort food for a month, 3, 6, 9 months or a year. After completing the ‘program’, they are told that they can now eat whatever food they like but in moderation. Guess what food they are going for first and guess how much of it they’ll eat?
You can starve yourself of contact, connection and closeness but if contact, connection and closeness with your ex is what you crave, the craving will still be there when you re-establish contact.
If you were worried or afraid that your needy behaviours will push your ex further away before you did no-contact, those fears will still be there when you open lines of communication with your ex.
If you didn’t think your ex loved you, respected you or valued you before you did no-contact, you will feel exactly the same even if your ex is responding and showing signs of interest.
What was there before is still there now does not apply only to people who do no-contact. It applies to people who maintained contact with an ex as well. It sometimes even applies to people who have done work on themselves and feel a little bit more securely attached.
From time to time throughout the process of attracting back your ex, you will have moments when you start asking yourself, “when will my ex start meeting my need for more contact and closeness?” and that’s normal. As I mentioned earlier, I can tell when we are approaching that stage with my clients, and I am not surprised or disappointed because it’s normal for anxious and fearful people to doubt themselves, doubt the process and doubt or distrust their ex’s words, actions, intentions and love.
When I provide a safe environment for the anxious attacher to reflect on their own behaviours and attachment style or can give them the reassurance they need, most people with attachment anxiety are able to move past their fear and/or anxiety and wait for the right time to increase contact, ask to meet in person or ask to get back together. What this says is that anxious attachers are capable of being securely attached with the right tools and mindset.
Sometimes however, anxiety and fear wins. No matter how much I tell someone that their dismissive-avoidant ex’s behaviour of not responding to texts for hours/days, not responding to texts at all, reaching out like nothing happened before, not talking about feelings or the old relationship doesn’t always mean what they think it means, or tell them that their ex will start to respond more, initiate contact, agree to dates or ask them out when they feel comfortable to do so, their attachment anxiety still pushes them to react in ways that ruin their chances of getting back together.
Some of them are listening to fellow anxious attachers who advice them to send their ex a letter/flowers/video, go talk to them face to face, show up at his workplace, talk to her mother, tell them how much you love them and want them back, tell them you are sick and dying etc. Just basically do ‘whatever’ calms down the anxiety even if it ends up messing up things even more.
Fearful avoidants leaning anxious also listen to other avoidants who tell them to give him space, leave her alone, stop contacting him, let her initiate all contact – and all the other attachment avoidant stuff. Things that help one avoid possible rejection, but do nothing to create attraction or improve relationship dynamics.
The anxious-preoccupied and dismissive-avoidant dynamics is especially delicate because they are the exact opposite of the other. Anxious-preoccupied attachers rate high in anxiety and low in avoidance. Dismissive-avoidants rate low in anxiety and high in avoidance. When an anxious attacher gets more anxious, a dismissive-avoidant become more avoidant.
Dismissive-avoidants see an anxious-preoccupied attacher’s constant reaching out, sending letters, showing up uninvited or reassurance-seeking behaviours as someone intruding into their independence and/or lacking self-control and self-restraint.
Dismissive-avoidants also see an anxious-fearful’s abrupt withdrawal from contact or communication as someone unhappy with their (dismissive-avoidant) independence, self-sufficiency and control of their emotions and reacting because they can’t get what they want.
Sometimes both people want the same thing – for things to move slowly and happen naturally, but attachment anxiety makes it hard to move slowly or slow things down. Attachment avoidance on the other hand doesn’t allow things to happen naturally because dismissive-avoidants militarily control how close others can get.
If you are an anxious attacher who has worked so hard to get things to where there is momentum and/or your ex is showing interest by following the Secure Attachment Model in Dating Your Ex, don’t prove your dismissive-avoidant ex’s fears about you right by reacting with attachment anxiety when your ex show signs of pulling away.
Remember your ex knows you, knows how you get anxious and how you react.
1. Unless there is good reason to course correct, don’t change what you have been doing just because it feels like your dismissive-avoidant ex is pulling away;
2. Follow the advice on Page 355 (Strategic Thinking Tactical Action), Page 358 (Going Slow to Go Fast) and Page 477 (Push-Pull Dynamic). Specifically watch how your ex re-engages because that will tell you whether they are just being the dismissive-avoidant that they are, or whether these are signs that your dismissive-avoidant ex is moving on or has moved on.
3. If you catch yourself having an anxious reaction e.g. worrying that you will never hear from your ex again, wanting to apologize for what you think (but don’t know) is the reason your ex hasn’t responded, trying to fix what was wrong with the old relationship, reaching out to your ex for support when you should be reaching out to your friends or family, doing too much to show him or her how much you love and care about him or her – and all those other things you know you shouldn’t be doing but do anyway, instead of following through on an anxious impulse, do something different.