Understanding why an ex with an anxious attachment style keeps reaching out and why they keep coming back (or trying to come back) is key to getting them back.
What is an anxious attachment style and how does someone ends up with this attachment style?
An anxious attachment is characterized by:
- Over dependency on an attachment figure
- Overwhelming fear of abandonment
- Low view of the self and high view of others, especially an attachment figure
- Preoccupation and even obsession with a romantic partner
- Indirect expression of needs or feelings
- Panic and worry that the other person could leave
- Feeling underappreciated and unloved
- A strong desire or urge to stay connected in spite of damaging or harmful consequences
- Difficulty letting go of a love interest
The reason your anxious attached ex keeps coming back is rooted in their childhood
A child develops an anxious attachment style having had parents who were unavailable most of the time or inconsistent with meeting the child’s emotional needs.
One can also develop an anxious attachment from having anxious and overprotective parent(s). A parent’s anxiety creates a lingering fear that makes a child feel that they are unsafe and need to be protected.
A child learns that people who love you are never there for you; and can’t or don’t want to meet your attachment needs. They also learn that relationships are not safe; anytime it can be taken away. If you don’t want it taken away you must hold on to it tightly
You can also develop an anxious attachment from being in an abusive relationship, where you are constantly made to feel that you’re incapable of taking care of yourself; and need your abuser.
Anxious attached people try too hard to be loved, and “love” you a little too much
The fear of being left alone, of not getting their needs met and of losing an attachment figure drives an anxious attached person’s romantic relationships.
Individuals with a secure attachment have “I love/want you and you love/want me” dynamic in their relationships. Both people in the relationship feel loved, wanted and safe.
Fearful Avoidant relationship have “I love/want you but you may not love/want me” dynamic in their relationships. Dismissive avoidant have “You love/want me but I don’t know if I love/want you” .
Anxious attached relationships tend to have “I love/want you even if you don’t love/ want me” dynamic in their relationships.
Anxious preoccupied attached men and women often fall in love easily and quickly; often without really getting to know the other person well. They put their love interest on pedestal and exist to serve their needs and wants. They also put in a lot more energy, time and commitment into making the relationship work. These are all great qualities in a partner, except that anxious-preoccupied take it to another high level.
Because they love hard and too much, they often find themselves chasing after someone who:
- Shows little or no interest in them whatsoever
- Is insecure or has self-esteem issues that makes it hard for them to trust people
- Takes a lot more from the relationship than they put in
- Disrespects them in subtle ways and sometimes openly
- Suffers from depression, addiction and/or for some other reason is unable to be fully present in the relationship
- Treats them like an option (someone they come back to when the new relationship ends)
- Constantly questions and doubts the relationship
- Gets close then pushes them away
Someone with an anxious-preoccupied attachment may become needy, clingy, possessive, jealous, demanding and controlling, and play games in an attempt to hold onto a romantic partner or a relationship.
When a relationship ends, people an anxious-preoccupied become obsessed with trying to get you back and get back into your life. It’s all they think about sometimes even years later; and even when the relationship didn’t meet their needs, or an ex was abusive.
They keep reaching out and trying to come back into your life because:
1) An anxious preoccupied ex can’t stop loving you – You gave and showed them love (even if they doubted it) that they didn’t get from the attachment figure in their childhood.
2) An anxious preoccupied ex doesn’t want to be alone – Anxious preoccupied individuals grew up often feeling alone, neglected and abandoned and they don’t want to feel like that way again.
3) An anxious preoccupied ex finds it difficult to let go – They learned from childhood that it they don’t want a relationship taken away, they must hold on to it tightly.
4) An anxious preoccupied ex’s attachment system is partially of fully activated – When you ignore and don’t respond, you trigger the fear of abandonment in anxious preoccupied attached ex. They will keep coming back until something or someone else deactivates their attachment system.
How long will an anxious attached ex keep reaching out; and keep trying to come back?
Studies show that people with attachment anxiety are the most likely to work on their attachment style following a break-up. As a result they experience more growth and earned secure attachment than avoidants. They don’t go through the same pain again and want to be better partners.
Maybe your ex was anxious-preoccupied or fearful or avoidant when you broke up. They were triggered when you went no contact and acted needy and clingy. But when you ignored them and did not respond, they went into full “work on me” mode. The work they put into their self-growth has made them become more secure.
When you contact them weeks and months later, they don’t want you back. They haven’t forgotten that you ignored them and how you made them feel. Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.’