I found something interesting working with avoidant exes trying to get back with an ex. Avoidants initiate 90% of break-ups but most avoidants take only 10% responsibility for the break-up. When I ask avoidants trying to get back their ex what they take responsibility for and how they think they contributed to the break-up the response I often get is “I won’t take responsibility for something I haven’t done”, and my response is, you’re absolutely right. You shouldn’t take responsibility for what you’re not responsible for, but you should take responsibility for your words and actions.
Why do most avoidants find it so difficult to apologize or take responsibility for the break-up?
The word responsibility means “response-ability” or the the ability to consciously and deliberately choose a response appropriate to the situation AND hold oneself accountable to the response one chooses. It’s to be aware of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and be able to influence our experience to align with our needs and values, and in relationships, to also be aware of the feelings and needs of our partner and the aspects of the relationship that we can influence to align with both our needs and our partner’s needs..
It does not mean not holding yourself accountable for someone else’s actions. Taking responsibility for things you are not responsible for doesn’t make you a loving or evolved human being. Taking responsibility for things you are not responsible for makes you desperate, passive aggressive, needy, inauthentic, manipulative and an attractive target for ill-treatment and abuse.
Both anxious and avoidant attachment don’t often take responsibility for the breakup
Just to be very clear. People with an anxious attachment have their own ways of not taking responsibility for the break-up and this includes playing victim, denying reality, projecting their thoughts and emotions onto their ex, insisting being “avoidant” is only reason for the break-up, putting an ex on a pedestal and taking all the blame for the relationship not working to the point of obsessing about how they “scared off” the “most amazing, wonderful person”, which we all know avoidants aren’t because of their insecure attachment; and not even securely attached are a perfect partner.
On the surface, anxious attachment behaviours don’t look like not taking responsibility for the break-up because but they seem to be about getting close and wanting to work things out, but if you examine each of the behaviours, you see that the intent is not to hold oneself accountable for one’s choices and actions but deflect, assign blame, seek praise or approval, and mostly complain and make excuses for not empowering themselves to influence their experiences to align with their needs and values.
Avoidants have their own way of not taking responsibility and this includes being the passive partner in the relationship and letting their partner take most if not all the responsibility of making the relationship work, not owning up to their role in the break-up and blaming it mostly on their ex, and not processing the break-up or doing a post-break-up relationship autopsy.
Most avoidants are like what happened happened, let’s not talk about it or make it a big deal. Let’s just move on from it. The more an ex insists that they take responsibility for the break-up, the more an avoidant ex digs in because as far as they’re concerned, take responsibility for the break-up feels like being forced to say they regret the breakup (and they don’t) and/or that they’re a bad person for ending a relationship with someone they’re no longer attracted to, weren’t not happy in or don’t want anymore.
Taking responsibility empowers you to be proactive and take action
Once again, taking responsibility is NOT 1) assigning blame or beating yourself silly with regret and guilt or 2) holding yourself accountable for someone else’s actions, and) does not make you or your ex a bad person.
Taking responsibility for only and only your words, behaviours and actions, and how they led to the break-up, you is you saying, “I’m not a helpless victim of my circumstances or childhood, instead I’m the co-creator of the good as well as the bad that happens in my relationships.”
When you put it like this, you realize that taking responsibility aligns perfectly with your values and need for self-determination and self-direction. You also see that taking responsibility empowers you to be proactive and take act instead of withdrawing every time things get rough. It allows you to ask yourself the right questions: Is what I’m planning on doing going to help or hurt my chances? What can I do differently that will help me move things further along? How will I constructively handle things if they don’t turn out as expected? How do I take responsibility for making the relationship safe and secure? etc. Only when you are truly self-accountable does true healing and growth begin.
When trying to get back with an ex, taking responsibility for the break-up communicates a willingness to learn from your past choices and behaviours and a desire to change. What your ex hears when you take responsibility for the break-up is, “I hold myself accountable not just for what went wrong but for what happens going forward”. Most exes aren’t expecting perfection, they want to see genuine effort and commitment to a better dynamic and healthier safer relationship.
I’m not saying that if you showed up and were more present in the relationship, didn’t deactivate or pull away so often, and sat down and had heart-to-heart conversations more often, someone with an anxious attachment would stop being anxiously attached. They probably wouldn’t because an anxious attachment style is programmed to worry that others don’t want to be with them. But it would make a big difference in your dynamic a anxious attachment felt validated and reassured in the relationship, and an avoidant took more responsibility in making the relationship safe and secure not just for themselves but for their partner as well.
Only take responsibility for what you are responsible for
Every now and then, I encounter “it’s all my fault”, “I am so awful” or “I feel like the worst person in the word” avoidant self-blame and self-beating. While it shows vulnerability and one can empathize with realizing that your actions created the pain you feel, it can also be another way for an avoidant to deflect and avoid taking accountability.
Part of genuinely taking responsibility is keeping it real. So don’t swing way too much on the other side and take all the blame for the relationship not working to the point of obsessing about how you “pushed away the most amazing, wonderful person” etc. Keep it real, and don’t let your “more self-aware” ex guilt-trip you into taking responsibility for their dependency on others to feel happy, inability to self-regulate, and need for constant reassurance. That’s something they need to individually work on to become more secure and not hide behind “avoidant made me do it”.
Securely attached people don’t blame circumstances or others for how they feel, the choices they make or their behaviours. People with a secure attachment understand that that in every situation they have two choices, they can choose:
1) To fixate on what they can’t control (i.e. someone being an avoidant or anxious attachment or
2) Take advantage of what they can control, choose the best course of action that creates the outcome that benefit themselves, their partner, and the relationship.