If you feel blindsided by a fearful avoidant dumping you from what seem like out of no where you’re not alone. There are fearful avoidants who who didn’t want to break up but dumped you because they felt they had no choice but to break up. This shows up in a fearful avoidant ex’s mixed signals they send immediately after the break-up and even months later.
A fearful avoidant dumper can have strong feelings for you and even love you very much but not want to be in a relationship with you because they feel that they’re not ‘enough” for you or can’t give you the relationship you need want and/or deserve. And if you communicated to them or complained, criticized and blamed them for you not being happy or for the relationship not working, they felt that they have no choice but to distance, leave or break up.
A breakup with a fearful avoidant who feels they have no choice plays out something like this:
Anxious attachment: Show me love. I need to know you love me.
Fearful Avoidant: I am doing the best I can. What more do you want from me?
Anxious attachment: I want to know that you love me.
Fearful Avoidant: What do you want me to say or do to show you I love you?
Anxious attachment: Can’t you see I’m not happy.
Fearful Avoidant: If I’m making you miserable, then you should leave.
Anxious attachment: I don’t want to leave. I just want you to show you care about me.
Fearful Avoidant: You’re not happy and I’m not happy. Let’s break-up.
Anxious attachment: But I don’t want to break-up. I love you.
Fearful Avoidant: I can’t give you what you need. I don’t want to make you unhappy.
Some clients are surprised and even shocked when I lay it out to them exactly why I think their fearful avoidant didn’t want to break-up but felt they had or felt pressured to do it. They start remembering things that their fearful avoidant had said prior to the break-up that they wish they’d paid attention to.
Fearful Avoidant dumpers generally believe that someone was going to end it
Many fearful avoidant dumpers believe (and their experiences have confirmed it) that because you’re unhappy and they’re unhappy you will end the relationship at some point, or they will end it. They may have not expected to break-up when it happened but they knew it was coming.
They honestly believe that them leaving will make you happier since they’re the ones making you unhappy. Unlike dismissive avoidants who on most part don’t believe they have done anything wrong to cause the break-up and feel “the punishment fits the crime”, fearful avoidant dumpers mostly believe that they are the reason the relationship didn’t work out and if they are hurting it’s because they allowed themselves to get close, be manipulated or be taken for granted.
Fearful avoidants dumpers also believe that the relationship would have ended at some point, it was only a matter of time. This makes it very difficult for fearful avoidant dumpers to put their feelings and love for you ahead of their rejection and abandonment an/or feelings of not being good enough. They may even start thinking that something is wrong with them because they still love you even when the relationship made then unhappy.
Growing up with an attachment figure who made them feel loved but also frightened them or hurt them is what created the disorganized attachment in the first place, it makes sense that fearful avoidants think that something is wrong with them because they still love someone who’s unhappy with them or an makes them unhappy or feel not good enough. They even struggle more if they can’t trust their feelings. It’s like, “Something is really wrong with me. How can I still love someone who makes me feel good enough/makes me unhappy? ”
Fearful avoidant dumpers mixed feelings about the breaking up
But because fearful avoidant dumpers also remember that even if you’re unhappy and they’re unhappy, there were times during the relationship when they made you happy and you made them happy, it creates a conflict in their feelings for you and sometimes their decision breaking up. They’re walking away from someone who made them happy but also made them unhappy not because they want to, but because they have to.
Some fearful avoidant dumpers after the break-up cut off all contact because the pain of the conflict within is too much for them to continue contact with you. It’s better to feel sad from a distance than continue to make each other unhappy.
Many fearful avoidant dumpers who feel that there were more happy times than unhappy ones don’t want to lose connection and to distance from the happy memories. They ask to keep the lines of communication open, ask the be friends and object or react with protest behaviour to you cutting off contact then they still want it.
The problems with fearful avoidant dumpers who don’t want to lose connection or distance from the happy memories and want to keep the lines of communication open is that can’t help their disorganized attachment programming.
They think of the good times in he relationship and they want to text consistently and even reach out and as the two of you get closer or you started asking for them to show you they care and love you (which because of your anxious attachment programming you can’t help but do), they’re reminded of why the ended the relationship and stop responding or pull away.
Sometimes the trigger is you asking for faster responses or that the respond and leave you on unread. Sometimes the trigger is you asking to meet or how you ask them to meet. Sometimes it’s you asking for your stuff back or them asking for their stuff back and met with resistance from you. It can be anything that reminds them of how unhappy you were or how unhappy they were, and had no choice but to break-up.
A fearful avoidant dumper can still love still you but not want a relationship with you
All the getting close and pulling away can make you feel like a fearful avoidant stopped loving you, didn’t want to be with you, broke up with you and not just leading you on. If they ever loved you, they wouldn’t have break up, they’d fought for the relationship even if it meant them being miserable and unhappy. This is what you’d do.
This couldn’t be more far from the truth. When you have an anxious attachment you naturally assume that if someone breaks up or doesn’t want a relationship with you, it means that they stopped loving you. If they loved you, they wouldn’t break up, they’d fight for the relationship even if it meant them being miserable and unhappy. This is what you’d do because this is how your attachment style is programmed.
An anxious attachment is organized around “Please show me you love me and care about me”. The need to be shown love and care is a “childhood cry” for a caregiver’s availability and responsive that was never answered and created the belief that that people don’t really love you and don’t want to be with you, and that you have to work hard to be shown love and care. Even loving parents can inadvertently set in motion and anxious attachment with the belief that if you let a child “cry themselves out”, they’ll calm down on their own. But instead of calming the child, the practice induces separation anxiety.
When someone break-ups up with you, it triggers your worst fears. Did they really ever love you because if they did, they wouldn’t leave you. They’d want to be with you and not break-up.
The reality of relationships and of attachment styles is that fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants break up with people they still care about all the time. They distance from an ex they still love, still have feelings for and still interested in. Unlike someone with an anxiously attached who thinks ‘If you love me, you’ll be with me”, avoidants (and securely attached) can separate love for you from the relationship. They can still love you very much but not want the relationship.
Fearful avoidant dumpers feelings can quickly fade away
But here’s the thing, a fearful avoidant dumper may have not wanted to break up and may they may even still have strong feelings for you, but those feelings can quickly fade away if you keep doing things that confirm the fears and beliefs fearful avoidants have about relationships and/or confirm that something must really be wrong with them for loving someone who makes them not feel good enough or makes them unhappy. And the fastest way to make their feelings quickly fade away is engage in protest behaviours.
Learn to communicate in ways that make the other feel listened to and heard instead of having conversations in the language the other doesn’t speak or understand. Set boundaries an avoidant will respect that not only project you but protect the relationship as well.