I had a chat with a client that prompted me to write this article. For confidentiality reasons the details of our conversation are intentionally vague but the focus of our chat is not.
She contacted me because she’d read my articles on Understanding Your Avoidant Ex. She had questions about her ex’s behaviours and wondering if he was an avoidant or just wasn’t interested in getting back together.
We discussed the way her ex was acting towards her and came up with the following:
Typical dismissive avoidant behaviour:
- Listening, asking questions and taking an interest in her but revealing very little about himself
- Being so private that they’d been dating for 10 months and she had never seen inside his home, never met his family and only met two of his friends
- Not responding to texts for days and then reaching out like everything is okay
Not necessarily an avoidant thing:
- Choosing to spend time (e.g. holidays) with his family and friends over spending time with her
- Cancelling dates because he was tied up at work or too tired
Doesn’t care about how she feels or the relationship:
- Going out of town and only telling her he was out of town because she asked where he was is partly dismissive avoidant but more like someone who doesn’t care about how she feels or the relationship);
- Saying he wasn’t ready to stop seeing other women after she had told him she wanted to be exclusive and he nodded in agreement is partly dismissive avoidant but more like someone who told her what he thought she wanted to hear but had no intention of following through.
Relationship problems that can be resolved:
- Shutting down and not reaching out when she confronts him is partly dismissive avoidant and partly poor communication or way of dealing with conflict on both ends.
- Complaining that he emotionally shuts down because she talks over him and does not give him a chance to explain himself is more a problem that needs to be addressed and can be resolved than dismissive avoidant behaviour.
The list is long but that’s not why I wrote this article. The reason I wrote it is because I see more and more women and men attribute all a current partner or ex’s behaviour to being an avoidant, ad giving up on trying to get back together because they feel that there is nothing they can do.
It is important to understand both your attachment style and your ex’s attachment style, but it’s equally important to understand that just because someone is an avoidant doesn’t mean all relationship problems haapen because you are with an avoidant.
Sometimes the relationship really has problems, and the problems can easily be resolved but because you are so focused on your ex’s attachment style, 1) you fail to see what you are doing to get the reaction that you are getting from your ex, and 2) don’t try to correct or change those behaviours that are causing your (avoidant, anxiously-attached or secure) ex to act the way they do.
So, before you conclude “my ex is an avoidant” (which they may be), look at your own behaviours first. Sometimes a little self-reflection is all that is needed to interrupt the deactivation of attachment.
I am not saying that your ex’s behaviours are excusable or not hurtful, all I am saying is that you can only own and work on your part of the dynamic. When your ex sees that you are making a genuine effort to understand why they needed to do what they did and they way they did it, (e.g. cancel a date more than once, stop responding, lie about not seeing other men or women etc.) and that your efforts are aimed at trying to establish emotional security and trust for both of you (not just for yourself), they will be more understanding of your own behaviours and more comfortable trying to make the relationship work.
Yes, even avoidants are capable of being sensitive, considerate and caring, and when the relationship offers the safety and security they need, they can be as committed to the relationship as someone who’s securely attached. They earn their security from being with someone who offers security (secure base provider).
But if you are convinced or have proof based on past behaviour that no amount of understanding on your part or efforts aimed at trying to establish safety, security and trust for both of you will make a difference, then you need to be honest with yourself. Is the situation far gone that letting go and/or moving on is the only option? If you do get back together, what kind of relationship will you have without safety, security or trust?
If your ex’s behaviours – avoidant or not – are straight up mean, inconsiderate, insensitive, selfish or uncaring then you need to be honest with yourself about whether this is how you want to be loved. Sometimes wanting someone so bad blinds us to the fact that the object of our desire is incapable of love, incapable of meeting our most important needs, and incapable of being the partner we need and want.
You may also be interested in: Can A Dismissive-Avoidant Ex Want You Back?