Why Anxious Attachment Ex Doesn’t Want You Back (What To Do)

In my experience, the majority of exes with an anxious attachment come back within 0-3 months of the break-up. This is because individuals with anxious attachment styles value relationships over everything; including their own best interest sometimes. They not only have a hard time leaving a relationship, but people with an anxious attachment style also also more willing to give the relationship another chance. But there is a catch.

Anxious attachment before, during and after the break-up

Individuals with an anxious attachment style have the hardest time dealing with a break-up because they tend to get overly attached to someone they’re in a relationship with. Many fall in love too fast and too hard and become dependent on their ex for their happiness and sometimes their day-to-day functioning.

When the relationship ends, most anxious people become distraught, frantic and obsessed with their ex. They text and call their ex incessantly, send messages declaring their love and commitment, beg and plead with their ex to take them back, send verbal threats and unwanted gifts, and even stalk their ex on social media, in their home or work.

In attachment theory, the individual in this state is said to be hyperactivated; meaning the attachment system is more active than is usual or desirable. In someone with an anxious attachment style, break-ups trigger feelings of rejection and abandonment experienced in childhood, or years of being ignored, abandoned, neglected by romantic partners causing the attachment system to become excessively active.

Window of opportunity to get back an anxious attachment ex

During this period of hyperactivating effect, what an ex with an anxious attachment style is looking for is validation and reassurance that they’re worthy of love and attention. Most of them had no experience of a secure and reassuring attachment figure who comforted them when they needed soothing; and as a result felt rejected, abandoned, unloved and unlovable. This is how most anxiously attached people feel just before, during and immediately after a break-up; rejected, abandoned, unloved and unlovable.

Stepping up and being the attachment figure they never had and showing them that they’re worthy of love and attention when they need it the most gives you the best chance of attracting back someone with an anxious attachment style (and fearful avoidant who lean anxious).

But this needs to be handled very carefully because you run the risk coming across as manipulative and pushing your own agenda to get back together and ignoring your ex’s feelings, needs and concerns about the relationship. The validation and reassurance you provide in these early days of the break-up is not that the problems in the relationship will be resolved or that you want an anxiously attached ex back.

The reassurance you provide in this window of time where you have the best chance to get back an anxious attachment ex, is that you’re someone they can trust not to abandon them or make them feel unloved and unlovable. Someone who makes them feel safe and secure to want to come back on their own.

What exes with anxious attachment need after a break-up

Attachment theory defines feeling safe or secure as having an unshakable confidence in the availability and responsiveness of an attachment figure.

Feeling safe for someone with an avoidant attachment style among other things means having an unshakable confidence in the availability and responsiveness of an attachment figure when they need space and when they reach out and want connection. The operative word here is “they need space”. When you “force” space on a dismissive avoidant, it messes with their sense of autonomy and freedom. Dismissive avoidants often don’t react positively to someone trying to “control them”. Fearful avoidants on the other hand react to someone “giving them space” when they don’t need it with wariness and mistrust (“how can I trust this person not to hurt me?”).

“Space” is not something someone with an anxious attachment style needs to feel safe. In fact “giving space” to someone with an anxious attachment style makes them feel unsafe. A little space may be healthy for them too, but when space is forced on them (like many avoidants do), it makes anxious people feel even more anxious.

Feeling safe for someone with an anxious attachment style among other things means having an unshakable confidence in the availability and responsiveness of an attachment figure when they need connection and closeness. They way they feel safe is with frequent validation and reassurance that you love them and are committed to makings things work.

How do you validate and reassure an anxiously attached ex?

If you’re trying to attract back an anxiously attached ex (this includes fearful avoidants who lean anxious), frequent validation and reassurance that you love them and are committed to makings things work should be your number one priority.

Reassurance-seeking is something almost all attachment styles do to some degree and in some form or another. No one wants to invest in a relationship that’s going no where. But excessive reassurance seeking is behaviour exclusive to people with high anxiety (anxious preoccupied and fearful avoidants). They’re always worried if they’re interesting enough, funny enough, or if they’re boring or bothering an ex. It’s something they learned very early on in childhood to cope with uncertainty and help relieve anxiety. But while it helps an anxious person feel better (in the moment), people in a relationship with them find constant need for reassurance exhausting. Sometimes excessive reassurance seeking is the reason for the break-up.

How do you get back an ex with anxious attachment?

When trying to get back an ex with anxious attachment, you need to pay attention to their need for validation and reassurance. While some anxious exes invest time, effort and money to change their excessive reassurance-seeking behaviours, it’s not behaviour that one can get rid off overnight or even in a few months, you can help by:

  1. Being available and responsive in a safe manner (safe means setting clear boundaries and respecting theirs, including if they ask for space and time)
  2. Showing interest in what they say or do, and in things they’re interested in
  3. Being sensitive to their emotional needs (including their need for closeness and connection)
  4. Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts without judgement
  5. Being a good empathetic listener and confidant who reflects back honesty, openness and vulnerability
  6. Being consistent in giving them attention and following through on promises and commitments
  7. Trying as best a you can to understand their concerns about getting back together and respond appropriately
  8. Using non-violent communication instead of pressure, manipulation or advising/psychoanalyzing
  9. Recognizing when they feel anxious and address whatever is making then feel anxious immediately and directly.
  10. Providing help but only when asked and if it does not conflict with their ability to do things on their own. People with an anxious attachment style are often co-dependent as well. You do not want to encourage that in a relationship.

How feeling safe and secure makes an anxious attachment ex come back

Frequently reassuring an anxious ex that you love and care about them, have not lost interest, are not leading them on and want them back (eventually) does so many things that tremendously increase your chances of getting back with an ex with an anxious attachment style.

  1. Helps decrease their anxiety and dispel any doubts they may have about your intentions.
  2. Creates space for positive interaction and connecting in a meaningful way.
  3. Helps an anxious person express their feelings, needs and concerns and feel validated and not not be afraid they’ll push you away.
  4. Tells an anxious ex that you’re still committed to making it work.
  5. Shows you’re dependable and can be trusted to show up and be there for them them.

The safer you make an ex with an anxious attachment feel, the faster they’ll come back. Remember most exes with an anxious attachment style are willing to give an ex another chance, they just want to make sure they’re not making a mistake and things end up as before.

Why anxious attachment exes do not come back

Even when they struggle the most after a break-up; and often end up depressed, feeling confused and side blinded by the break-up, the chances of an ex with an anxious attachment style coming back are always good.

But while on average it takes 0- 3 months for an ex with an anxious attachment style to come back, there are other factors that may prolong the process and even prevent an anxiously attached ex from coming back. Many of these factors have little to nothing to do with an ex’s attachment style (e.g. long distance, unemployment, age differences, incompatibility issues etc). These issues have to be worked on separately from an ex’s attachment style; and are often things that can be resolved with work and commitment from both sides.

But there are other factors that not only prolong the time it takes an anxiously attached ex to come back, but in some cases make it impossible to get back together with an anxiously attached. These include:

1. Your anxious attachment ex went from being anxious to avoidant

An ex with an anxious attachment style may not come back because they deactivated and went from anxious to avoidant. Sometimes this is protest behaviour and temporary in that they return to being anxious very quickly. But sometimes extreme high anxiety accompanied by deep feelings of rejection and abandonment can make someone with anxious attachment avoidant; or more precisely anxious-avoidant, which is another name for fearful avoidant. This is something many people doing no contact do not know about.

When you cut off contact; it triggers the fear of rejection and abandonment in someone with an anxious attachment style. Once triggered it causes them to frantically try to re-establish connection to help relieve their anxiety and feelings of abandonment. When you don’t respond, the attachment system remains fully or partially activated. But because an individual can’t continue to function and do day-to-day things in a state of hyperactivation, the attachment system at some point begins to deactivate. This is to protect the individual from getting too overwhelmed or going into a mental break-down.

An ex who previously was so anxious and blowing up your phone stops reaching out, and may even become cold and distant. Because feeling “no feelings” (distant, cold and disconnected) is a strange feeling for most people with an anxious attachment style, they interpret this as they “lost feelings” or attraction for you and should therefore move on.

2. Your anxious attachment ex doesn’t feel you’re safe

An ex with an anxious attachment style may not come back because they they feel that you are not safe. If your ex is aware of attachment styles and that no contact is designed to trigger attachment trauma and make them feel abandonment and insecure, they will not want you back because you are unsafe. Even exes who are not aware of attachment styles are sometimes aware that something you did is making them feel unsafe. The feeling that they are not safe comes from:

  • Having no confidence that you will be available to when they need connection.
  • If you respond, will be you be there for them in a safe and calming manner (or will you re-traumatize them).

Sometime with an anxious attachment may even be afraid that you will see them reaching out in a vulnerable way as a weakness to exploit or take advantage of, and hurt them again. These are real fears from past experiences. The people who said they loved them acted and did things that made them feel even unsafe, suspicious and distrustful.

Once you use someone’s attachment trauma against them, it will be very hard for that person to trust that you will always have their back. This is why many people after no contact struggle to emotionally connect and/or get an ex to open up. Even when your ex comes back, the fear that you will abandon them again will make your ex cautious and unable to fully open up emotionally or fully trust you. Most relationships don’t last after getting back together because of this nagging fear in someone who an anxious attachment style.

3. Your ex thinks they deserve better and can do better than you

A study on Attachment Styles and Personal Growth following Romantic Breakups (Marshall et al 2013) found that individuals with an anxious attachment style are more motivated to commit to self-improvement after a break-up than avoidants. As a result they report developing more new interests and changing things that need changing. They also reported discovering that they are stronger than they thought they were. They start to see themselves as deserving of love, security and commitment. If an ex with an anxious attachment style sees that you can’t provide them with these things, they will not come back.

The link between attachment anxiety and self-cultivation however was only significant for people whose break-up occurred longer ago but not for people whose break-up occurred more recently. Also, anxious individuals were only more likely to go on the rebound after sufficient time had passed since the break-up, suggesting that the initial shock of a more recent break-up may temporarily neutralize their tendency to seek new partners. But after some time has passed, exes with an anxious attachment style seek new relationships because being in a relationship is so important to them.

4. There’s just too much damage to get back together

An ex with an anxious attachment style may not come back because they they feel that there’s been to much damage to make a relationship work. This is often the case when someone with an anxious attachment style feels that their needs were neglected for far too long or there was abuse in the relationship. Even when they still love you, they find it hard to move past the what happened in the relationship. It’s very likely that the relationship brought back memories of years of being ignored, abandoned, neglected in childhood and by past relationship partners.

You can’t be in a relationship with someone, neglect them and their needs and make them feel that you don’t love or care about them; then after a break-up instead of making them feel loved and cared for, ignore them even some more because you want them to “miss you” and then expect them to want to come back.

Exes with an anxious attachment style need connection, closeness, love and affection to feel safe and secure; and they need frequent validation and reassurance that you love them and are committed to makings things work. If you are not meeting their attachment needs, they’re more likely not coming back. All the things you’re doing to get back an ex with an anxious attachment style will not be enough to get them back and make them stay.


How Do I Reassure An Ex With An Anxious Attachment Style?

Why An Anxious Preoccupied Ex Keeps Coming Back (Can’t Let Go)

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  1. says: Diecey

    My anxious and also fearful avoidant ex becomes really anxious when I don’t respond quickly. He pulls back, stops watching my IG stories and ignores my comments for days to weeks. I’m going to try to be reassuring and make him feel safe. Thank you.

  2. says: Mich

    I missed my window to get her back when she suggested going to therapy. Now she barely responds to my texts msgs and is out going on dates every night. I feel so awful because she really wanted us to work and I sabotaged our chance to be together.

  3. says: Kyky

    I’ve gone from anxious to avoidant with my last breakup. I may have triggered anxiety in my FA ex who is now putting in more effort than he’s done in our 1-yr relationship. The irony is I wanted him to do all these things in the beginning of the breakup and show me he loves and care about me but instead we had no contact for almost 2 months. He reached out first and is now doing all the things I wanted him to but I’m very guarded and don’t want to get too close. I want to, but I just can’t. It’s making trying to work things out a lot harder. We’ve discussed taking time apart for 2 months and see what happens.

    I don’t know if I overcorrected my anxious attachment and swung the pendulum to avoidant or if this is a temporary phase, part of the process of healing and moving toward secure attachment, but it definitely feels strange not to want to get too close.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      Part of the process of healing and moving toward secure attachment is that everybody gets there in their own way and time. This may be how you get to secure, I don’t know. If however you continue to feel distant, not want to get too close to anyone and can’t be vulnerable again, it’s possible that you swung the pendulum the other way, and need to swing it back to the center.

  4. says: Jazuan

    I’m FA and my AA ex broke up with me a week ago. I’m working on becoming secure and haven’t distanced or deactivated but I asked her if she wanted some space and she said she’d reach out to me in a couple days. I don’t know whether to reach out to her or wait for her to reach out. I really don’t want to go back to the old pattern of distancing and deactivating. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you.

    1. says: Love Doctor Yangki Akiteng

      She said she’ll reach out to you, it’s best to give her the opportunity to do so. It’s probably taking her a lot longer to process her feelings. As someone learning not to deactivate, it’s good to give the other person time and the benefit of the doubt. If she doesn’t reach out in 10 days, reach out to re-establish connection.

      If she does not respond, it’s possible she wants you to miss her and chase her to reassure her that you really want to be with her. This is more likely if the reason for the break-up was that she felt you were not into her. she felt neglected or you weren’t putting in as much effort into the relationship. I don’t know how you feel about chasing someone.

      1. says: Jazuan

        Thank you for your quick response. She broke up with me for all the reasons you mention. But she also did something that hurt me deeply.

        If she wants me to chase her, I’m not doing it. Everything I’m reading about secure attachment says chasing someone is unhealthy. I’ve been on the other side, and none of those relationships ever went anywhere. But I’ll reach out as you suggested if I don’t hear from her.

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