Protest-behaviour can be aggressive e.g., incessant calling, sending angry texts, threats, harassing or stalking (showing up at an ex’s home, workplace or stalking them on social media), and in some cases physically endangering or harming someone.
Protest-behaviour can also be passive-aggressive e.g. unfriending their ex, blocking access to their social media, changing a phone number etc. just in case an ex responds or tries to make contact.
Other passive-aggressive behaviours anxious–preoccupied attachers engage in include posting how happy they are, photos of them with another guy or woman etc.
Protest behaviour can go from aggressive to passive-aggressive and back to aggressive. This is all in hope that their behaviour will get their ex’s attention, and make their ex contact them.
While an ex reaching out or responding provides some reassurance to anxious–preoccupied attacher, it does very little for their underlying constant need for reassurance. They may even try to act like they are not bothered by what they thought was their ex pulling away, but they just can’t keep it in for long because they NEED to know that everything okay, they didn’t to anything to upset their ex and if they did, they want him or her to know they are sorry.
The aggressive anxious–preoccupied attacher may want an explanation or demand an apology for their ex not responding or calling back (as they promised). Hearing their ex apologize is important because to an aggressive anxious–preoccupied attacher, it’s reassuring guarantee their ex’s behaviour will not be repeated.
Since most anxious–preoccupied attachers attract dismissive-avoidants the response to an anxious-preoccupied’s protest behaviour is likely to be dismissive or avoidant.
Nothing is wrong, they were busy, didn’t have their phone with them, didn’t feel like talking, or the anxious–preoccupied attacher is over-reacting or being needy.
But this does not reassure an anxious–preoccupied attacher.
Anxious–preoccupied attachers crave attention and affection, and when they get into a relationship, they give it their everything, quite often at their own expense and expect the same from their partners.
Most don’t realize that their need for attention, affection or reassurance is way above the scale of what most people want, can take, can give or are willing to give.
For example, they don’t see how someone can be ‘too busy” to respond to a text or why someone wouldn’t feel like “talking” to someone they love. To them if you love someone, you should respond to their text immediately and should want to talk to them all the time. They also say things like, “I put her on a pedestal”, “I did everything for him”, “I loved her more than I love myself”, “He was my everything” etc.
That’s the way they want to be loved and the kind of attention or affection they crave for, and can’t understand (or imagine) why anyone can not want to be ‘loved’ like that.
When the relationship ends, anxious–preoccupied attachers have a hard time accepting that someone who said they loved them (and still says they love them) does not want to be in a relationship anymore. To them if you love someone, you do not leave them. That’s where most of the needy and sometimes stalking behaviour comes from – the inability to understand or refusal to accept that someone can love you and leave.
When trying to get back their ex, they act in the way that they would want their ex to act towards them. They send more texts than most because they’d want their ex to send them many texts. They also spend more energy and time than the average person trying to make sure their ex knows how much they love him or her, and tell their ex they love them over and over and that they are not “giving up on them” because that’s the kind of reassurance they need from their ex. Most of the time they think they are showing that they care, are being supportive or trying to connect and most of the time they are, but they do it in ways that go beyond what their is ex comfortable with, wants or is ready for.
If their ex is a securely attached person, they will communicate clearly that they are not comfortable with the attention or affection the anxious-preoccupied attacher is giving or ready for the closeness the anxious-preoccupied wants. Most securely attached exes will set boundaries and communicate the consequences of violating the boundaries they’ve set for the anxious-preoccupied attacher.
Setting and communicating clear boundaries is one thing that securely attached people are very good at, but it’s also where they have the most problems when dating or in a relationship with an anxious-preoccupied attacher.
Securely attached individuals have strong and healthy boundaries, anxious-preoccupied attachers have weak or not boundaries. Securely attached individuals respect boundaris others set for themselves, anxious-preoccupied attachers are chronic boundary violators.
When dating or in a relationship with an anxious-preoccupied attacher, securely attached individuals find themselves always having to communicate thir boundaries over and over, and sometimes set up new boundaries to just for the anxious-preoccupied attacher.
Most securely attached individuals understand that anxious-preoccupied attachers feel safest when their partner is reassuring, available and attentive. They also understand that anxious-preoccupied attachers jump to worse-case scenarios when they feel ignored or when their feelings are dismissed as just being needy, so they try to provide the anxious-preoccupied attacher what they need to feel safe and loved.
It’s not always easy because an anxious-preoccupied attacher need for reassurance goes deep into their childhood. But I have known many securely attached people who helped their anxious-preoccupied partners or exes change their attachment style by providing the stability and security anxious-preoccupied attachers crave.