Loving A Fearful Avoidant With A Chaotic Attachment Style


If you felt that your fearful avoidant ex was constantly sabotaging the relationship, you are probably right. If you felt that the relationship had become abusive, it probably was abusive. If you feel that since the breakup, things with your fearful avoidant ex have turned ugly and toxic, you are not wrong. Loving a fearful avoidant with a disorganized chaotic attachment style is not easy.

If you Google:

  • What is the most difficult attachment to love? Fearful avoidant attachment.
  • What is the unhealthiest attachment style? Fearful avoidant attachment.
  • What attachment style do most abusers have? Fearful avoidant attachment.
  • What attachment style sabotages relationships? Disorganized attachment.
  • What’s the most toxic attachment style? Disorganized attachment style.
  • What is the most difficult attachment to heal from? Fearful avoidant/disorganized attachment.

But what does it feel like to be fearful avoidant?

Someone whose earliest experiences with attachment figures or caregiver were chaotic, unpredictable, volatile and sometimes emotionally, physically and sexually abusive is likely going to have an increased risk for unstable, explosive, unhealthy and toxic relationships. They may even develop a comfort with chaos and feel uncomfortable when a relationship doesn’t have the tension, instability, chaos, volatility and emotional outbursts they’re so used to.

When relationship instability and chaos feel normal, it can lead to a whole new level of emotional dysfunction, toxicity and even emotional abusiveness where a fearful avoidant is loving and caring but is also the angry yeller and abuser from their childhood. Things can be going along so well in the relationship and some insignificant happens, you say or do something that triggers a fearful avoidant and before you know it, there is yelling, mean words, angry outbursts, slamming doors, and even physical violence. New day, things are good again, but only until the next argument or fight.

A fearful avoidant with a disorganized chaotic attachment style needs chaos and instability to feel like things are normal. Some fearful avoidants even thrive in crisis situations, most of them of their own making. There are even fearful avoidants who believe that if a relationship is calm, peaceful and healthy then it’s superficial and not real. Others end a relationship because they stopped feeling intense and volatile emotions and concluded their feelings were/are gone or weren’t real. Once the thrill of the chase wears off, they feel bored, restless, and anxious and crave the tension/friction of chaos. They start finding reasons to be unhappy and pull away or end the relationship just so they can feel the intense and volatile emotions of a breakup.

When researching for this article, I came across an article by Savannah Cannon detailing her disorganized attachment experiences and what it feel like to be fearful avoidant. Read it for yourself.

Love was chaotic, love was loud, love was angry, and safety was sporadic

I grew up in a chaotic household. If there wasn’t some form of physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse actively occurring, there was a sensation of walking on eggshells until some form of abuse began again. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop, I learned that love was chaotic, love was loud, love was angry, and safety was sporadic.

I used to believe that I had anxious attachment, as there was an overwhelming fear that I would be abandoned, and I clung to people so they would not leave me (spoiler alert: that never works). My biological dad was not a part of my life since I was very young, my parents separated multiple times, my teenage boyfriend died horrifically, friends have died in combat…anxiety reigned supreme when I thought of my relationship attachments…and then…I realized the chaos I had experienced in childhood transmuted almost every romantic relationship I had as an adult.

I expected chaos…and when I didn’t get it, I would become uncomfortable. This wasn’t what love is supposed to be like…calm, supportive, kind? And if I wasn’t in a relationship where I doubted my self-worth, where I was worried about getting cheated on, or hit, or yelled at, or left and returned to repeatedly, I would create chaos MYSELF, because chaos was “home”.

I think that’s what professionals call “self-sabotage”.

If my partners weren’t good to me, I felt “good”. I settled into the pattern of walking on eggshells, waiting to be (insert abuse of choice here), and doing my damnedest to be worthy of that chaotic love. I knew the next move; getting someone to treat me like s**t felt like a “win”, an “AHA, see, you’re bad too” moment, and I could finally be comfortable in the chaos. And if my partners were good to me, I would wreak havoc.

Over the last year, I have realized I am way more disorganized than anxious in my attachment style…which feels way worse than simply having an anxious, avoidant, or, certainly, secure attachment.

Abandonment issues paired with an extremely fatalistic view on relationships

Having disorganized attachment paired with abandonment issues manifests as me having an extremely fatalistic view on relationships. If there is a slight disagreement, I automatically assume it is over and immediately begin detaching to protect myself from the emotional turmoil that will take place with a breakup. I will shove them away, having a “me against you” instead of an “us against the problem” mindset…because how am I supposed to feel like there is an “us” if you are leaving? Arguments in my childhood home ended with an explosion of abuse; wouldn’t this be the same experience? Desperately craving love and emotional closeness, I will pull away and collapse inward. Then I panic as the relationship begins to teeter because I have pulled away and rush back…only to realize that the idea of a long-term relationship with vulnerability without an end in sight is terrifying…so I shut down again. Repeat. At least once a month.

Having a fatalistic view of relationships means I cannot see past the next fight (which might be a fight *I* create), because I need to be ready to leave, ready to be wholly independent instead of interdependent, and the amount of vulnerability I would need to give to a person long term is enough vulnerability to destroy me. Of course I crave stable, non-chaotic love…but there is a deep desire for me to have chaos again…the craving becomes visceral, and I feel like I am fighting an internal battle not to destroy a calm relationship.

Some people with a disorganized attachment like Savannah Cannon go to therapy and are able to see how their actions and reactions are tied to their childhood experience of love. You can read Savannah Cannon’s article in full here.

Chaos turn something simple and/or beautiful into something complicated, messy and toxic

Many fearful avoidants who are not aware of their unhealthy comfort with chaos and instability often find that chaos permeates every aspect of their life – family, friends, job, public life, social media, gym, therapy, restaurant etc. The world feels like a hostile place and this perpetuates their fatalistic view of everything.

They get into relationships and are happy for a while, but eventually their need for chaos makes their partners feel stressed, confused, overwhelmed, off-balance, stuck, manipulated and abused. The comfort with chaos may not even manifest as anger, emotional outbursts, or violence but as extreme anxiety, oversensitivity, unpredictable behaviours, inconsistency, impulsiveness, emotional withholding or pulling away. The result is the same, the chaos turn something that’s simple and/or beautiful into something complicated, messy and toxic.

The flip side of a disorganized attachment’s comfort with chaos is that some fearful avoidants don’t recognize that what they’re experiencing in their relationships is emotional abuse. Chaos, instability and abuse feels so normal that they tolerate toxic relationships and/or stay in an abusive relationship because the constant arguments, criticisms, put-downs, emotional outbursts, silent treatment, emotional withholding, the instability created by frequent on-and-off breaking up and getting back together and generally feeling scared and unsafe feels safer (and even exciting) than a calm, peaceful and healthy relationship.

And the people who love fearful avoidants and/or want them back don’t know any better. They get used to and enjoy a fearful avoidant’s intense and volatile emotions in the beginning of the relationship, but can’t handle the unravelling of intense and volatile emotions that comes with being in a relationship with a fearful avoidant.

When a fearful avoidant who was initially intense and doing the chasing pulls back, it shifts the power dynamic and many anxiously attached become dissatisfied and even angry with the scaled back contact, affection and intimacy. Some anxiously attached become nasty in conversations, intrusive, withhold affection, use a fearful avoidant’s insecurities and flaws against them, and even introduce more insecurity into the dynamic (i.e. doing things to make a fearful avoidant feel neglected and abandoned or jealous) and create narratives that end up perpetuating the cycle of chaos, volatility, toxicity and/or abuse.

The key to stabilizing a disorganized attachment is the opposite of the chaos

Like all attachment styles, fearful avoidants exist on a spectrum, some are more disorganized in their attachment than others, but like all attachment styles, fearful avoidants even though they seem more comfortable with chaos and even seek out chaos want peace, stability, acceptance and love in their relationships; and not just want space and independence.

The key to stabilizing a disorganized attachment’s pattern of chaos, sabotage and toxic relationship is to create an environment that is the opposite of the chaos they’ve come expect. The goal for you as someone who loves someone with disorganized attachment or wants a fearful avoidant ex back is to provide stability, be the attachment stabilizer or stable base from which a fearful avoidant can learn that love doesn’t have to be chaotic, loud or angry, and safety can be consistent and reliable.

A fearful avoidant avoidant needs to see you consistently model calmness and skillfully deescalate emotionally volatile situations and not act like the passive aggressive, distancer, angry yeller or abuser from their childhood. They need to experience consistent safety and and not the chaotic love they’ve come to expect.

Being the relationship stabilizer will not fix a disorganized attachment’s comfort with chaos or fatalistic view on relationships as this goes much deeper but it will at least communicate a sense of safety which fearful avoidants crave more than anything.

If you are a fearful avoidant reading this and tired of toxic relationships and want to change your role in creating the chaos and toxicity, get professional help to deal with the root cause of your need for constant and prolonged chaos, why you need to feel intense and volatile emotions to feel love, and why you are drawn to people who trigger your fears about attachment figures and insecurities about yourself. Conveniently distracting your woundedness with repeated toxic relationships is what is making you feel powerless and depressed.


Can A Fearful Avoidant Ex Stop Being Hot And Cold?

Why Did My Fearful Avoidant Ex Block and Then Unblock Me?

Fearful Avoidant Ex Done With You Or Lashing Out?

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  1. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Sandy

    I made a lot of mistakes because I was not emotionally healthy when I was in a relationship with my ex and then tried to get back with him too soon. I started to grieve the old relationship and just be present for my ex as his friend. It has developed into a real authentic friendship, and we are spending more time together. He’s dealing with depression and changing his careers. It’s at times frustrating not to be with him in way I want to be but the experience is teaching me strength and unconditional love.

  2. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Kerstin

    I literally bless the day I stumbled upon your website. Your advice on dealing with a failing relationship has helped turn my relationship situation from one that was headed towards a breakup to something I now see has a potential of being the relationship I always wanted. I just want to say Thank You :=)

  3. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: blossom

    Once again, a wonderful posting. We cannot always control the outcomes in a manner we would like but if we allow things to go, what will return to us will be the best outcome for our lives.

  4. AvatarAvatarAvatarsays: Joycen

    I’m in a similar situation with my husband of 11 years. He keeps telling me if I just let go and stop trying to control him and the marriage things would be a lot different. In my head I know he is right but in practice it’s hard to ignore the fact that he is not committing to the relationship as much as I am. I’ve seriously considered divorce because it seems much simpler to find love else where than to continue everyday in a stressful, relationship.

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