Going no contact with a fearful avoidant ex or dismissive avoidant ex is a big gamble. The way an avoidant ex reacts when you go no contact and ignore them, and then reach out after no contact may shock you to the core. Pay close attention to the research on how an avoidant reacts to perceived threats; and to someone they think did them wrong. These studies give you deep insight into why ignoring an avoidant ex could potentially ruin any chance of a relationship.
How fearful avoidants react when you go contact after the break-up
The short of it is that you never know how a fearful avoidant is going to react to you when they feel ignored and abandoned. The nature of a fearful avoidant attachment style is that their attachment system can both be activated and deactivated; meaning that a fearful avoidant ex is either going to get anxious and reach out or deactivate and pull further away.
If a fearful avoidant ex leans anxious, they’ll feel abandoned when you ignore them and will most likely reach out. They’re taking the risk to reach out not because they want you back but so you can stop making them feel rejected and abandoned. When you respond an anxious fearful avoidant ex will be happy because it mean that you still care and they’ve not been abandoned. But they’ll also be angry that you ignored them in the first place. Every so often a fearful avoidant ex will remind themselves that you ignored or were indifferent to them and made them feel unwanted, unworthy and unloved. The more they think about it, the more likely they’re to deactivate, stop responding and disappear – start ignoring you back.
If a fearful avoidant ex leans avoidant, they’re going to react to no contact more like a dismissive avoidant ex.
How dismissive avoidants react when you go contact after the break-up
Dismissive avoidants in general are better at adjusting to an ex going no contact after the break-up. Some dismissive avoidants feel hurt and sad and may want to stay in contact after the break-up, but when you go no contact and ignore them, it’ll bother them but it’s only for a very short time. They quickly deactivate and shut down all feelings for you.
The majority of dismissive avoidants don’t obsess about the break-up or even think about an ex. Many of them go on with life like the break-up never happened, and it’s not an act, they truly feel nothing for you because they shut down their emotions. It takes a very long time for these feelings to come back, if they come back at all.
Why avoidants get angry when you ignore them and then reach out
You’d think that an avoidant wouldn’t get angry when you ignore them. They ignore you all the time, right? Wrong. Avoidants get angry when you ignore them then reach out after no contact but not for the same reasons. Why and how fearful avoidants react to being ignored is different from why and how dismissive avoidants react to being ignored because fearful avoidants are anxious-avoidants, and dismissive avoidants are not.
Let’s own it. Every one gets angry sometimes; and every attachment style gets angry. It’s perfectly natural to get angry. It’s how we express anger that always destroys relationships with the people we love.
Research on attachment and expression of anger has found that people with a preoccupied attachment style and fearful avoidant attachment style report feeling more anger when ignored. The general consensus is that anger hyperactivates attachment anxiety. And because most people with attachment anxiety already have poor emotional regulation, their expression of anger is often unhealthy and may be uncontrolled. Anxious preoccupied react aggressively while fearful avoidants react passive aggressively.
Dismissive avoidants react with suppressing anger for two reasons:
- It conflicts with their goal of maintaining independence and;
- To keep their attachment system deactivated.
The suppression of anger over time causes a build-up of anger that can potentially result in an outburst; and even violent behaviour.
Anger could in fact be an avoidant attachment way of maintaining distance
This is valuable information as most people find that when they reach out after 30-days or even 21 days of no contact, their avoidant ex seems angry, aloof, cold and even hostile. It’s not the reaction they hoped for.
Contrary to common belief that when someone reacts with anger; it implies that they still have feelings or are emotionally invested. Research on attachment styles is showing that outward expression of anger could in fact be an avoidant attachment way of maintaining distance. Expressing anger often motivates avoidance behaviours in others (Lang et al., 1998).
While avoidants get angry to keep others away, individuals with attachment anxiety react with anger with the hope that the same negative experience will not happen again.
How a fearful avoidant ex reacts when you reach out after no contact
When you first reach out after no contact, fearful avoidants leaning anxious are curious as to why you are reaching out and what you want. They will not respond right away, but wait a while to respond. Once they find out you want them back, fearful avoidants both leaning anxious and avoidant start:
- Sending mixed messages and being intentionally ambiguous
- Acting nice and warm but actually being cynical or intending to criticize
- Sharing something on social media that seems innocent but is actually aimed at you
- Ignoring texts for long periods of time
- Reaching out and disappearing
- Texting but refusing to meet
- Pulling away and/or distancing themselves
If they’d preciously expressed that they want to stay in contact and/or be friends, you going no contact is likely to have triggered the rejection and abandonment they experienced in childhood and that created their disorganized attachment style in the first place. And because fearful avoidants grew up feeling unimportant and their feelings and needs ignored or dismissed, the message no contact sends is: you don’t matter and your feelings and needs don’t matter to me. It reinforces their fear that you weren’t going to stick around anyways, why should they trust you?
How a dismissive avoidant ex reacts when you reach out after no contact
When you go no contact, a dismissive avoidant ex suppresses all their thoughts and feelings of you. They may be aware that you are ignoring them but choose to suppress all feelings about it. When you reach out after no contact, you find that you’ve been emotionally shut out. All that is left is coldness. Some dismissive avoidants respond to tell you they’re good with things the way they are – with no contact.
Even dismissive avoidant exes who still have feelings for you have a problem with someone needing 30 or more days of no contact to regulate their emotions. They worry that someone who struggles this much with emotions is going to struggle with regulating their emotions in a relationship. This is especially true if your emotions – being needy, clingy, arguments, conflict, drama, jealousy etc., – were the reason for the break-up. Needing 30 days of no contact to deal with your emotions is proof that they were right to end the relationship, and right not to take you back.
The percentage of dismissive avoidant exes who respond after no contact is very minimal, except of course if there is “no-strings attached sex” involved.
How your ex feels about you doing no contact affects not only your chances of getting back together; it also affects the new relationship if you end up getting back together.
How an ex with an anxious- preoccupied attachment style feels after you ignore them
Remember anxious-preoccupied worry that a relationship partner is/will be unavailable and unresponsive to their need for closeness. No contact confirms their worst fear; and because of an anxious preoccupied’s tendency to hold a grudge, their fear of you being unavailable and unresponsive is exacerbated after no contact. Even after you get back together, they’ll continually dwell on thoughts of you one day abandoning them and cutting off all contact again.
How an ex with a fearful avoidant attachment style feels after you ignore them
Fearful avoidants have the hardest time trusting others, and often feel alone and unworthy of love. No contact intensifies and reinforces a fearful avoidant’s fear of getting close, and in some cases makes it worse. They feel that if you can abandon them and treat them like they don’t matter; maybe they really don’t matter. Maybe they’re indeed unworthy of love and better off alone. The inability to trust you and feeling that they may be better off alone will create the push-pull dynamic (more: What happens when you ignore a fearful avoidant).
How an ex with a dismissive avoidant attachment style feels after you ignore them
No contact and ignoring a dismissive avoidant strengthens their disregard for close relationships. As far as a dismissive avoidant ex is concerned; what’s the point of being in a relationship when two people can be perfectly okay with ignoring each other. Maybe they’ve been right all along; relationships are overrated.
Re-introducing you back into their life after weeks of no contact is inviting back expectations; demands for their time and space; drama and everything they don’t like about relationships. If you get back together, they’ll always have one foot out of the door. They’ll always be thinking of the time when there was no contact and they could be themselves, do whatever they wanted; and ignore you back without any guilt (more: What happens when you ignore a dismissive avoidant).
Can your ex get over how they feel about ignoring them?
If you’re reading this and have been confused and puzzled as to why your avoidant ex reacts with anger or is cold when you reach out; now you know why.
It may take a while for your ex to get over their feelings about you doing no contact and ignoring them; and some exes may never get over it. Next next time you think about doing no contact, don’t think just about how you feel in the moment; think about how your one action now will affect your chances later.
COMMENTS: I encourage comments from avoidants on how you react to an ex when they reach out to you after no contact. Let’s all learn from each other. Thank you!