What To Do When Your Ex Triggers Your Anxious Attachment

Does your ex trigger your anxious attachment and cause you to self-sabotage? This simple hack of your emotions will help you stop being triggered by your ex.

Everyone trying to attract back their ex worries and has concerns about something every now and then. Even someone with a secure attachment style sometimes gets anxious and question their ex’s words and actions. What gets a securely attached person through the triggering event is that they believe in their ability to deal with the situation; and believe that their ex has good intentions. This helps them not take things their ex says or does personally.

But when have an anxious attachment style, it’s hard not to be triggered by your ex’s words and actions; and to take things personally.

Why your ex causes you so much anxiety and triggers you to a point that you self-sabotage

Exes trigger attachment anxiety because it’s not a case of “you might get hurt”; there is proof that the worst already happened and can happen again. It’s a case of not knowingly placing yourself in a position where you could get hurt again. And when you’ve been hurt so many times, you become so hypervigilant to ensure that ensures that you’re protected from harm.

Being in this constant state of hypervigilance can skew your perception of reality by drawing your attention to what your anxious attachment sees as threats. This can cause you to blow things out of proportion and make things appear worse than they really are.

In your hypervigilant state, it feels that what you feared would happen is already happening; and what follows is an emotional overreaction.

High levels of “negative” emotion affects communication with your ex

A constant state of hypervigilance has a profound effect on how you communicate with your ex; the words you use, the energy you transmit and the attitude you project. You not only come across in ways you don’t intend to; you also create experiences that you did not intend or want.

Here’s an example: Your ex tentatively agrees to a date but says they will get back to you to confirm it. Wanting things to go really well you went ahead and made reservations. But the day approaches and your ex still hasn’t given you a firm answer. Anxious, worried and afraid that your ex might cancel the dinner, you send a text:

“Hey, you haven’t told me if you are coming for dinner or not. Please confirm if you’re coming before noon tomorrow, otherwise I’ll have to cancel the reservations”.

This kind of text although it appears polite is worded in ways that say that you expect your ex to cancel the dinner date; and are disappointed that you have to cancel the reservations.

Worst case scenario thinking can quickly turn into self-fulfilling prophecies

Many of us think that things happen a certain way because we know our ex very well; and those of us familiar with attachment styles conclude that a certain outcome is expected because an ex is an avoidant. On the surface it looks like someone with an anxious attachment style reaching out and triggering an ex with an avoidant attachment style. Or an avoidant not responding, pulling away or deactivating and activating an anxious attachment style.

Rarely do we think that maybe because we expect something to go terribly wrong, we subconsciously communicate in a way that creates the very outcome we’re trying to avoid.

In the example above, instead of asking your ex to confirm the dinner date, you assumed your ex was acting in bad faith or was going to cancel the date. Your ex after reading your text, decides to cancel the date or doesn’t respond. You conclude that you were right all along; they never confirmed the dinner date because they had no intentions of coming.

Even if your ex was planning on coming; the words, tone and attitude of the text suggests that you are upset. Who wants to go to dinner with someone upset? But more importantly, who wants to be with, let alone get back together with someone who second guesses every word you say and is suspicious of your every action?

The hack that will help you stop being triggered by your ex is giving your ex the benefit of the doubt

Granted, your ex should have confirmed the date; but you don’t know why they haven’t confirmed the date. Give them the benefit of the doubt; let them prove you wrong.

You’re not obliged to always give an ex the benefit of the doubt; but doing so helps someone who doesn’t trust others learnt to trust more. Harvard professor Jeffrey Polzer calls this process, a “vulnerability loop.” When you take a risk by trusting a person, that person is very likely to read that as a sign that they can show you trust.

Trust in each other’s intentions is even more crucial with an ex because when you perceive your ex as having “hurtful intent”; you you’ll not feel comfortable taking risks with them. And when you don’t take some risks, you won’t get anywhere. Things stay stuck for months; and your chances of getting your ex back fade further and further away.

Understandably, it can be hard to trust the intentions of someone who said they loved you; and then broke your heart and hurt you. But it’s also hard for your ex to prove to you that they’ll not hurt you again, if you do not give them the chance to prove themselves.

Trusting someone doesn’t mean you overlook their negative behaviours

One of the things I tell my clients is: it’s not your job to teach your ex how to behave; or teach them “good manners”. You’re not their mom or dad. But it’s your job to cultivate trust and a sense of security in the relationship.

If your ex’s behaviour is just one in the list of many things that your ex does that make you feel disrespected, taken for granted, undervalued or insecure about the relationship; then maybe you need to ask yourself why you want to get back together. Maybe this is not a good relationship for you.

But if you feel insecure and are jumping to negative conclusions about your ex’s intentions and creating negative self-fulfilling prophecies; then a good first step is to figure out what kind of distorted thinking is taking place that is causing you to be anxious, worried and afraid.

Take a deep dive as to why your ex’s words or actions bother you so much that you are willing to risk something good over something that won’t even matter weeks or months from now.

Identifying the mental patterns and thoughts that always cause you to react or respond negatively to your experiences is challenging at first because they often make sense to you at some level. It’s important to look for objective evidence or talk to someone you trust to see if there are alternative explanations or ways to look at the situation. This will help you expand your thinking and over time be able to quickly identify the thoughts before you act.

Giving your ex the benefit of doubt is deciding that you won’t assume the worst in them

One of the traits of securely attached individuals is that they trust other’s intentions; until they’re given reason not to. This is reflected in the words they use, and in their tone and attitude. Notice the difference.

Insecure (anxious/fear/avoidant) driven text:

“Hey, you haven’t told me if you are coming for dinner or not. Please confirm if you’re coming before noon tomorrow, otherwise I’ll have to cancel the reservations”.

Secure (self-confident/self-assured) text:

“Hey, I am following up on tomorrow’s dinner. I made the reservations for 8 pm as we discussed. The restaurant wants a confirmation by noon. Let me know if I should go ahead and confirm. See you at 8!”.

No blowing things out of proportion, predicting negative outcomes or jumping to conclusions. Yes, there is a chance that your ex may cancel the dinner date, but they haven’t cancelled it yet. Working yourself into an emotional mess isn’t going to give you any new information; or change the outcome.

I am sure some anxious preoccupied and fearful avoidants are like, “Won’t contacting an ex to confirm a dinner date make you come across as needy?”‘ or “Won’t it make your ex feel pressured?”

No, it won’t. You are not chasing after a date; you are just confirming one that was already tentatively agreed on.

Most of the time, it’s not your ex who triggers you; it’s about your insecurities

In order for someone else to trust you and feel safe with you; you must first trust you and feel secure within yourself. It’s only when you feel secure within that you’ll feel secure with your connection and relationship; and not get not hang-up on what your ex should or shouldn’t have done, or why they did this and not that.

Feeling secure with your connection with your ex at whatever stage in the process you are in helps you see things more clearly. You can see if your assessment of your chances with your ex are better than they look; or if your worst possible outcome thinking is making things look worse than they really are.

So, the next time your ex does something that makes you anxious, worried, afraid or annoys you; remind yourself that you don’t know their whole story. And just because you feel anxious, worried or afraid or irritated by their words or actions doesn’t mean your ex is acting in bad faith; or has bad intentions. Maybe they have their reasons and until you know anything for sure; you won’t assume the worst in them.

Trust me, this attitude and approach goes a long way in stopping you from getting triggered by your ex; and creating trust and a sense of safety with an ex; especially an avoidant ex.


Attachment Anxiety – How to Stop Overanalyzing Relationships

Attract Back An Avoidant Ex:1 – Attachment Styles Can Help

14 Characteristics Of Truly Loving People

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