Question: Does no contact work differently with a dismissive avoidant ex, and what happens when you go no contact with a dismissive avoidant?
I’ve worked on my attachment anxiety and have made so much progress to becoming secure, thank to you site and many others. I’m only realizing this now, but when my dismissive avoidant ex ended the relationship, the best thing for me at the time was to go no contact. I had originally agreed to staying in contact but it became too painful because I still loved him very much. I did no contact because I honestly needed the space and time to heal, and not to play games and make him miss me.
I’m still not ready to reach out but I’ve been reading about what dismissive avoidants think when you go no contact and watched many YouTube and they all say different things. Some people say they feel hurt because it’s a crush to their ego, others say it doesn’t hurt them at all. Some people say no contact will make a dismissive avoidant come back but you have to give them time to miss and think about you, but I read in your articles that DAs don’t miss you or think of you. I’m very confused about how exactly no contact affects a dismissive avoidant ex.
Yangki’s Answer: You’re not alone confused by information on dismissive avoidants and no contact. But before I can try to answer your question, I want to clarify something.
I have not said anywhere in my articles that dismissive avoidants don’t miss you or think of you after the break-up. What I’ve said in my article What Makes A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Miss You And Come Back? is “Dismissive avoidants miss you after a break-up, but the process of a dismissive avoidant “missing you” and how long it takes a dismissive avoidant to miss you is complicated”, and I went on to explain how dismissive avoidants miss you.
Taking care of yourself can never be a wrong thing to do
I’m all for someone going no contact if they feel they need time and space to get their emotions together, heal and do their self-work. I say ‘if they need’ to because not everyone needs more than a few days or couple of weeks to get their emotions together. Some people, especially those leaning secure can maintain contact with an ex while healing at the same time, but because everyone says “do no contact”, they think the “experts” must know better and go no contact.
If you feel that you need no contact to get your emotions in control and get yourself together, do it because it’s the right thing for you. You are taking care of yourself and that can never be a wrong thing to do. But if you’re going no contact to make a dismissive avoidant miss you, you should know that no contact works very differently with a dismissive avoidant ex.
To understand exactly how no contact affects a dismissive avoidant ex, one must first understand why a dismissive avoidant is called a dismissive avoidant. Most people focus on dismissive avoidants as being highly independent, fear and avoid closeness or intimacy, want too much space, are cold and distant etc., and that’s all true. In terms of how someone comes to be a dismissive avoidant most of us know that they were raised by parent(s) who was unavailable or regularly ignored, neglected or rejected a child’s attachment needs, and minimized the expression of physical and emotional needs for connection. This is also all true, but where and how did the term “dismissive avoidant attachment style” come from? Let’s go to the very beginning of attachment theory.
Attachment styles, separation anxiety and reunion behaviour
John Bowlby, a British psychologist who first introduced attachment theory believed that when a child is frightened or feeling unsafe, they seek closeness, comfort and care from their primary caregiver. He theorized that the bonds between a child and a caregiver impacts how they seek love and care later on in adulthood. Dr. Mary Ainsworth expanded Bowlby’s original work with her famous Strange Situation experiment (1971, 1978) that first introduced the world to “attachment styles”.
Very briefly, Dr. Mary Ainsworth’s strange situation was to understand how different children react to separation and reunion with the attachment figure, in this case the mother. The mother was asked to leave the room briefly and a stranger who had previously interacted with the child in the mother’s presence was re-introduced to the child and tried to interreact with the child in the mother’s absence. The mother then returned and the stranger left.
One group of children cried when the mother left the room and when someone other than the mother stepped in to comfort them, they stopped crying. Later when the mother returned, they showed joy being reunited with the mother and went to the mother for comfort. Dr. Mary Ainsworth categorized these children as having a secure attachment style.
The second group of children wouldn’t stop crying when separated from the mother and couldn’t be comforted by anyone else. They only stopped crying when the mother returned. They were angry that the mother left and acted needy and clingy when she returned. Dr. Mary Ainsworth concluded these children had an anxious attachment style.
The third group of children showed little to no distress when separated from the mother and didn’t seem to need any comforting. They went on playing like the mother never left the room. When the mother later returned, they noticed her return but again turned their attention to play objects. Dr. Mary Ainsworth classified these children as having a dismissive attachment style.
Researchers Main and Solomon (1990) added the fourth attachment style, the anxious-avoidant attachment style, also best known as disorganized attachment or fearful avoidant attachment style. These children’s reaction to separation from the mother was distress/anxiety and confusion and when re-united with the mother acted conflicted. They wanted to go to the mother for comfort but were also fearful of her.
Strange Situation experiment mirrors break-ups and attempts to reunite with an ex
Attachment theory has gained so much attention and become more relevant over the years because the strange situation experiment mirrors adult romantic break-ups and attempts to reunite with an ex.
Anxious attachment: Anxiously attached children were inconsolable when separated from the mother, were angry with the mother for leaving but still sought comfort from the mother.
This is similar to how exes with an anxious attachment feel and act when you go no contact. They’ll remain preoccupied with the break-up and reconnection with their ex even in no contact. They may also go into protest behaviour because of separation anxiety but ultimately feel soothed when an ex reaches out or comes back.
Fearful avoidants: Anxious-avoidant children found separation from the mother distressing and confusing and acted conflicted and fearful when reunited with the mother.
This is how no contact affects fearful avoidants. It provokes anxiety and confusion and makes them conflicted and fearful of reaching out or getting back with an ex.
Dismissive avoidants: Dismissive avoidant children showed little to no separation anxiety and didn’t seem to need any comforting when the mother left or returned.
When you go no contact or stop contacting them, a dismissive avoidant ex will notice it but not be affected by it the way no contact affects someone with an anxious attachment or even fearful avoidant attachment style. It doesn’t mean they don’t notice your absence, they do, but dismissive avoidant sub-consciously (and consciously) choose not to be bothered by an ex going no contact.
Misconceptions about dismissive avoidants and no contact
Misconceptions about dismissive avoidants and no contact come from trying to understand a dismissive avoidant from an anxious person’s perspective.
It’s hard for someone who feels separation anxiety to imagine that an ex can love you and when you break-up, they notice your absence but go on with life like you never left. They think that surely at some point they’re going to feel the void of my absence and feel sad and miserable just like I feel sad and miserable without them.
This is what many people hope will happen when they go no contact with a dismissive avoidant ex. They think a dismissive avoidant feels separation anxiety just like an ex with an anxious attachment, the only difference is that the effects of the break-up take time to hit for a dismissive avoidant. They wrongly assume that eventually, no contact will make a dismissive avoidant obsess about an ex and be preoccupied with getting back together. And when they reach out after no contact, a dismissive avoidant will be excited and happy about the reconnection. But that’s not what Dr. Mary Ainsworth’s strange situation experiment that started attachment styles found.
Dr. Mary Ainsworth found that dismissive avoidants behave in a very distinct and consistent pattern when separated from an attachment figure. They didn’t respond to separation and reunion like an anxious attachment in slow motion, they responded in a distinct dismissive avoidant way.
No contact makes dismissive avoidants lean away from contact with an ex
Studies on adult attachment are consistent with Dr. Ainsworth’s findings. When asked to imagine being permanently separated from their partners, highly anxious individuals had strong negative emotional reactions, whereas highly avoidant individuals did not. One study (Fraley RC, Shaver PR 1998) shows that when separating at airports, dismissive avoidants seek less physical contact with their romantic partners and display distancing/distraction behaviours very similar to the strange situation. This doesn’t mean they love less or aren’t going to miss their romantic partner, this means that while separation makes someone with an anxious attachment want an ex and a relationship even more, no contact makes dismissive avoidants lean away from an ex or relationship.
It doesn’t matter if a dismissive avoidant is just imagining a separation, physically separating from a romantic partner or if the separation is temporary or permanent their behaviour is consistent – separation makes dismissive avoidants act distant and distracted.
You’ll spare yourself a lot of anxiety, frustration and confusion by understanding (and acknowledging) that a dismissive avoidant ex responds to separation and no contact differently. It may even increase your chances of getting back a dismissive avoidant if you understand why they act the way they do when you go no contact.
A dismissive avoidant may send an angry text when you go no contact
When you go no contact, a dismissive avoidant ex may get angry if they wanted to stay in contact. Thy may reach out with an angry text or phone call asking, “Why aren’t you responding?”. A dismissive avoidant ex may even send an angry “If you don’t want to talk, I’ll not contact you again” text. This is not a text from someone missing you or feeling separation anxiety. This is a text from someone angry and feeling slighted that they’re not given the respect they feel they deserve.
A dismissive avoidant may have thought staying in contact would make you see them in a “good light” or as them trying to make up for the hurt they caused you. When you cut them off and go no contact, dismissive avoidants see it as a slap in the face.
It’s important to understand the difference between a dismissive avoidant reaching out to connect and one reaching out because they are angry. A dismissive avoidant attachment trauma and core wounding also stems from perceived or real unacceptance, ridicule and contempt from parent(s) toward the child. As a result, a dismissive avoidant may be sensitive to behaviour they see as spiteful, unkind or intentionally hurtful. It’s not only a bruise to their ego, it’s also a grudge they’ll hold against you. Dismissives avoidants never forget a slight, and may seek revenge (to teach you a lesson) in their dismissive avoidant way.
A dismissive avoidant ex may see no contact as you needing space and time
Some dismissive avoidants may see you go no contact as you needing space and leave you alone. They’ll not reach out because they think you need time to get your emotions in control and when you’re ready, you’ll reach out. This is what they expect others to do when they need space to self-regulate. They expect others to respect their need for space, and will give you the same respect when you need space and time to self-regulate.
But the longer the no contact goes on, a dismissive avoidant’s ex’s thoughts about you needing time to get your emotions in control and get yourself together change. In a dismissive avoidant’ mind, it shouldn’t take you that long to get your emotions in control. It usually takes them a few days to a couple of weeks at most to self-regulate and be ready to re-engage. If you struggle this much to get your emotions in control, how can they trust that your emotions won’t be a problem if you get back together.
You needing so long to process your break-up emotions and feelings can be seen by a dismissive avoidant as a weakness. They’ll not reach out or want to get back together because they think your emotions will become a problem.
It doesn’t help that many people with an anxious attachment keep wanting to talk about the break-up, or are in a rush to talk about getting back together. Some anxious attachment won’t even talk to their ex unless their ex guarantees them that they want to give the relationship another chance. Even exes who try to ‘take it slow” still keep creating emotional mini-dramas because they’ve not learned how to self-regulate their emotions.
Does no contact work to make a dismissive avoidant ex miss you?
Not in the way you hope it will. If you feel that you need no contact to get your emotions in control and get yourself together, do it because it’s the right thing for you. And if as you say you’re still not ready to reach out to your dismissive avoidant ex, don’t feel pressured to “hurry up” your healing process for a dismissive avoidant. No one should ever feel that they need to please someone else to be loved. But if you go no contact because you think it’ll make a dismissive avoidant think of you, miss you, reach out and come back, you will be disappointed.
1. You will be disappointed because being in control of one’s emotions is a big deal for dismissive avoidants. If you’ve shown them that “you have a problem controlling your emotions”, 30 days, 45 days, 60 days of “needing to get your emotion under control” is like waving a red a red flag to a dismissive avoidant ex
2. You will also be disappointed because a dismissive avoidant ex who wants to stay in contact may see you going no contact as an attempt to manipulate them. Believe it or not, dismissive avoidants read articles, watch videos and listen to podcasts on “no contact” and some of them even lurk in ‘no contact’ discussion forums. They know why exes go no contact and if there is something dismissive avoidants really, really don’t like, it’s someone trying to manipulate or control how they think or feel.
No contact plays no role in a dismissive avoidant reaching out or coming back
Here’ s the inconvenient truth you’ll probably not find anywhere else on the internet. No contact plays no role in a dismissive avoidant reaching out or coming back. It’s nice to think that you made a dismissive avoidant miss you and reach out by going no contact, but that’s just an illusion of control – you thinking that you finally have some control of the situation. If you don’t believe me, watch how things quickly go back to a dismissive avoidant controlling how and often you talk to them. You can’t manipulate and control someone whose existence is about resisting being controlled.
Dismissive avoidants as you should know by now do what they want to do. This is why many people find them very difficult to be with. If a dismissive avoidant ex wants to reach out or come back, they will whether you go no contact or not. If a dismissive avoidant ex doesn’t want to reach out or come back, they will not reach out or come back whether you go no contact or not. This is how independent dismissive avoidant are and how they protect their independence.