If you have been reading my articles on attachment styles, by now you know that some exes need more contact and connection and some exes need less.
An ex with attachment anxiety needs you to contact and connect with them as frequently as possible, and to give them plenty of validation and reassurance before they can feel safe enough to want to try the relationship again.
You don’t respond, take too long to respond or say/do something that triggers their attachment anxiety and your ex gets upset. If they are anxiously preoccupied they text you multiple times to tell you how they feel and how you are responsible for making them feel the way they feel, and even threaten to end it all completely.
You not responding, taking too long to respond or failing to validate or reassure them makes them feel disrespected, taken for granted and considered unimportant. They feel that you don’t care and they don’t matter.
An avoidant ex, specifically a dismissive avoidant ex on the other hand needs you to give them plenty of me-time (space) and freedom to do their own things.
Contact and connection has to be approached slowly and incrementally while making sure that they know that you want to get back together but there is “no pressure”.
They have to be comfortable with the frequency, length and content of contact, communication and connection. If you text or reach out “too much” or if they don’t respond or take too long to respond and you “complain” that’ll be seen as “pressure”. If they respond with one or two sentences and you insist on writing paragraphs, that’ll be seen as “needy” and cause them to respond less and less.
You also have to allow them to emotionally open up at their own pace. If you try to force connection (emotional intimacy) too soon or push too hard for it to happen, they’ll pull away.
*Note*: While taking things slow with an avoidant can make the difference between getting back together and not, incremental contact and connection when dealing with an avoidant is equally important simply because dismissive avoidants especially are comfortable with things remaining uncertain and stagnant (in limbo) for months on end.
But what if an ex is both anxious and avoidant?
How do you give them the validation, reassurance and the constant contact and connection they need while at the same time give them the space and independence that they so much value?
Human beings generally follow established patterns of behaviour and if you are really, really observant, you will see a pattern in your ex’s attachment anxiety or avoidance:
- Why they want contact and why they distance,
- When they feel most connected (contacting your more, opening up more, wanting to see you more etc) and when they emotionally shut down and/or put up walls,
- How they get close (emotionally and physically) and how they pull away,
- What they are most open to and what they avoid (e.g. digital contact, physical contact, emotional connection, social engagement like going out etc).
Some anxious-avoidants can come on too strong and even aggressive, and at times you may feel that they are so much more into you than you are into them. They are constantly initiating contact, acting flirtatious, asking you out on dates, telling you how much they care about you, initiating sexual encounters and telling how much you mean to them and even talking as if they see a “future” with you. This may go on for week or even months.
Then you start noticing that they seem angry (and you don’t know why), are sometimes mean to you even when you have done nothing to warrant their meanness, they say things that make you feel that they do not love you anymore or aren’t interested in getting back together. They never really completely cut off contact or tell you that they don’t want contact, but they are not initiating it or as engaged as before. It’s like they are gone but not completely gone.
If you ask why they seem to be pulling away, they will deny that they are, say that they only want to take things slow or need space.
Like most people, you feel confused, frustrated and even angry. Why do they say all these things and act like someone in love then just stop? You are also confused, frustrated and even angry because you thought by letting them initiate most of the contact and set the pace, you were taking things slow or giving them “space”.