By Chris Seiter

Published on June 20th, 2022

Today we’re going to talk about how often dismissive avoidants come back after they go through a breakup. Interestingly, there are a lot of resources out there talking about this. Unfortunately, almost all of them focus on “exes” in general and fail to take into account the nuanced approach dismissive avoidants require.

In my opinion, dismissive avoidants usually won’t come back to you unless they are given enough time to begin “longing” for you and even then they tend to like fawning after you from afar. So, most people don’t ever think their dismissive avoidant ex wants them back because there are no “big” signs.

Today though, I’m going to show you exactly what the experience is like in that post breakup period. Starting with the following,

  • Familiarize Yourself With The Relationship Wheel Of Death
  • The Separation Elation Factor
  • The Depressive Episode
  • The Longing Episode
  • The Phantom Ex Category

Let’s begin!

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Everything Runs Through The Relationship Death Wheel For An Avoidant

Perhaps we should start by actually defining what a dismissive avoidant is.

Someone who has dismissive avoidant tendencies is usually fiercely protective of their own independence. So, if they enter into a relationship where that independence gets threatened they usually do everything they can to keep that independence which usually involves leaving.

Every dismissive avoidant is caught in the same relationship wheel of death that they can’t ever seem to escape.

Of which there are eight main stages.

  1. They want someone to love them
  2. They find someone who they think is the new person
  3. Then they start to notice some worrying things about that new person (usually any type of insecure attachment behaviors)
  4. They start contemplating leaving
  5. They decide to actually leave
  6. They are happy they left
  7. Then they feel lonely
  8. Then they feel sad that they can’t ever find the right person

And then the wheel goes around and around and around. Crushing new and old relationships alike. What I’d like to do in this article is use this wheel to explain the post breakup behaviors you’ll typically see from a dismissive avoidant.

Honestly, if you really think about it there are three main phases that occur in the post breakup time period.

  1. There is the separation elation period
  2. The depressive episode period
  3. The longing episode

Each of these are integral to understanding how an avoidant operates and when they are likely to come back. Before I jump into the three phases I’d like to put forth an idea.

One of the reasons that it’s so hard to explain how often dismissive avoidants come back is because they need to experience these three phases in order to feel like they want to come back.

Unfortunately, many of our clients don’t ever give them the time and space to experience those stages because they lack the emotional control necessary for such a function.

It’s the very reason that the no contact rule is such an essential strategy but enough chit chat. Let’s dive in deeper.

Understanding The Separation Elation Period

For reference, that’s stage number six on the death wheel,

According to Free To Attach,

After a relationship ends, people with an avoidant attachment style tend not to show much anxiety or distress, often feeling an initial sense of relief at the relinquishing of obligations and the sense that they are regaining their self-identity, and not tending to initially miss their partner – this is “separation elation” as the pressure to connect is gone.

Being a dismissive avoidant myself I thought I’d add my own personal experience.

In college I dated a girl for nine months and broke up with her very suddenly. Interestingly, I think it had more to do with my own insecurities more than anything else. I just didn’t like the person I was becoming and was tired of fighting every single day.

Anyways, like with all relationships that you want to work when you are in the midst of them you convince yourself that “this is it, this is going to be the one.”

Yet, strangely after the relationship devolved into nothing but arguments and name calling I couldn’t take it anymore and broke up with her.

The relief I felt immediately afterwards was indescribable. It felt like I could smile again for the first time in months.

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This was the initial separation elation kicking in.

Finally, it was just me again. I didn’t have the pressure of worrying about someone else. I just had to worry about little old me.

Of course, like all dismissive avoidants you get caught up in the separation elation which leaves you unprepared for what happens next.

The Depressive Episode Period

Once again, pulling from Free To Attach,

But they can have a depressive episode from 2-4 months after a breakup, manifested in feeling numb, disconnected and meaningless, which they may try to repress. Everybody needs deeper connection, but often avoidants don’t recognise they need their partners until the partner actually loses interest and leaves, through separation, divorce, also death, illness, or something else. Then, when they finally realise nobody is “in the house”, that’s when the crisis hits. It’s then that a very deep depression can happen, because they actually want connection and ultimately a safe, secure attachment like anybody else.

Are you familiar with the concept of causality?

It’s essentially a fancy way of referring to cause and effect.

What you’ll find is that if you want an answer to how often avoidants come back you need to understand the cause and effect that gest them to the mental state where they start considering it.

First comes the separation elation where they are so happy to have reclaimed their independence. They are happy not to have to worry about you anymore.

Next comes the depression. The realization that they might “end up alone” which is something they don’t want deep down.

This puts them in the perfect state of mind for “longing.”

The Longing Episode

In this video I talk about what conditions need to be present in order for an avoidant to “miss you.”

Avoidants typically long for an ex when they encounter the paradox of feeling safe but at the same time grow lonely.

They also need to feel like you have moved on from them. Remember, avoidants get freaked out by losing their independence so if you are constantly “trying to win them back,” or “blowing up their phone trying to fix the relationship.”

You’ll end up extending the separation elation period.

You are essentially reminding them of why they broke up with you in the first place.

Nevertheless, if you do give them enough time and they enter this longing stage this is often where you are most likely to get them back.

But don’t expect them to reach out and ask for you back.

Remember, avoidants prefer phantom exes over real ones.

Understanding The Phantom Ex

If you want a deeper understanding of the phantom ex I recommend you read this article I wrote or simply watch this video,

Essentially though the most important concept for us to understand is the paradox that lies at the heart of every avoidant.

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The dismissive avoidant wants someone to love them fiercely but at the same time won’t let anyone close enough to love them.

You can start to see why a “phantom ex” that they can selectively remember the “good times” with is preferable. It’s a relationship that they can bask in the memory of the connection with but not get close enough to get hurt.

This is often why we don’t see avoidants reaching out during a no contact rule.

Free To Attach backs this up as well,

But often avoidants won’t initiate contact with their exes, and they rarely unilaterally initiate reuniting because it creates uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability, and they can feel they don’t know how go about fixing things.

In other words, even if they go through this process where they are remembering you fondly don’t expect them to reach out to you and try to “get you back.”

If anything, you will still have to do the work.

That doesn’t mean they won’t reach out. There are exceptions to every rule and a lot of times our clients show me times where their dismissive avoidant reaches out to them to prove me wrong.

Only when they look a little deeper their ex is actually a fearful avoidant and one of the things that separates a dismissive avoidant and fearful avoidant is this singular fact right here.

Dismissive avoidants are a lot tougher to communicate with post breakup because they are mostly avoidant.

Fearful avoidants are a lot easier to communicate with post breakup because their anxious side can sometimes take hold and cause them to engage with you.

So, coming back to the original question on how often dismissive avoidants come back. It’s been my opinion that they often don’t come back on their own accord. They are a lot more comfortable putting you in a box as a phantom ex that they can fawn over from afar.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t reach a place emotionally where they are susceptible to coming back, they do. It’s just quieter.

Luckily for you, you know now how read their silence.

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13 thoughts on “How Often Do Dismissive Avoidants Come Back?”

  1. Carter

    June 1, 2024 at 2:52 pm

    Does no contact work if an avoidant rebounds with an ex?

  2. Josi

    November 5, 2023 at 8:57 pm

    How does it work if you continue living with the avoidant ex? Where theres minimal interaction about the flat and they bury themselves in work. Can they still go through those stages or they get stuck in the first one?

    1. Coach Shaunna

      November 12, 2023 at 7:17 am

      Hi Josi yes they do go through the stages, it is going to be a mix of emotions but they also go back and forth, do not try to guess what stages your ex is facing at the time, burying themselves in work is an avoidant trait and this is going to be their way of dealing with the break up and the stress of co living together. Be sure that you are working through the articles to help you recovery from the break up and move forward, following a 45 days Limited no contact.

  3. Jelly

    September 7, 2023 at 1:06 am

    Hi Chris, I am wondering if you have an advice for me. My partner and I broke up 3 days ago because of mental health, he took the initiative to ends things with me to protect me and for us to heal. As I see it he is a dismissive-avoidant, I know he loves me a lot and I was the only person he was open to. I am wondering if I should still wait for him, I respect his decision so I haven’t contacted him and is planning not to but I want him to come back without manipulating him.

    1. Coach Shaunna

      October 21, 2023 at 10:51 am

      Hi Jelly, if your break up was for your both to heal. I would say respect this and make sure that you do work on your mental health and be sure that you are focusing on how to be the best version of yourself so that if and when you ex speaks with you they can see the growth you have made in your time apart.

  4. Sarah

    April 21, 2023 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Chris. I’m wondering if you might be able to let me know the best time to reach out to my ex? He’s D/A and we finished amicably. There has been no contact at all for five weeks, and I’m wondering if it’s too soon to message him? I already have a message planned (in accordance with all your advice!), so I don’t need help with that, only with the optimum time frame. Thank you so much.

    1. Coach Shaunna Nicol

      May 4, 2023 at 4:28 pm

      Hi Sarah, allow 45 days to pass then reach out with the text that you have planned out, along with your exit plan in place.

  5. Venita Lockyer

    April 21, 2023 at 11:55 am

    I think my ex is a fearful avoidant, we were together for only a shot time, But had a history. We were together when we were young and fate brought us together again if you believe it that. He was ok until he got cancer then he went cold and we broke up I was in no contact for five months until I couldn’t stand not knowing how he was. He was nice but very stand off ish . He told me he didn’t want to get in touch as he thought it wouldn’t be a good idea. But said he would try in the future not to be so distant. That was three weeks ago . He is having his last lot of chemo now and they got all the cancer, he said he is looking to the future. Weather I will be in it who knows?

  6. Tracy

    November 13, 2022 at 10:19 am

    I ruined my relationship with my avoidant ex by having an anxious attachment, which eventually wote him down. He told me he needs ‘time away’ from us so he can go and sort out other things in his life that were bringing him down. 2 days on and after reading this article I’m thinking he’s gone for good and won’t be back. Has he really gone?

    1. Coach Shaunna Nicol

      November 13, 2022 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Tracy, I would suggest that you spend some time working on yourself working on your anxious attachment once we become a secure attachment dealing with an avoidant is less stressful and at times can help them work to becoming more secure themselves.

  7. Pebs

    September 3, 2022 at 9:11 pm

    Hi, I have only just learnt about importance of attachment styles. My ex was also my best friend of 35 years before we got together, than three years into our 6 years relationship I had a breakdown ( PTSD) lost my career, my identity & became negative & took on ridiculous battles….I was a pain! My partner couldn’t cope with conflict but never sat me down and spoke to me about it. In fact she constantly assured me she loved me & was in love with me. But was white anting me to others.
    After I put on a 4 day 60th bday celebration, she had little contact me during this time. On her bday evening we had a fight because of her poor treatment of me and I later found a text message she was planning to leave me.
    After this I left her at the place, and she left me homeless, ending the relationship. She has treated me appallingly & I still can’t believe how she could be so cruel and cold.
    She is now in another relationship.

  8. TT

    June 30, 2022 at 4:23 pm

    I broke up with my ex after 2 years cause he wouldn’t marry. He is a dismissive avoidant and I reached my breaking point. I broke the no contact rule and haven’t heard from in 4 months. He was pretty cold and mean when I reached out. Any suggestions on what to do? I don’t want to reach out again because I fear he will be mean. I am just trying to work on myself and move forward.

    1. Coach Shaunna Nicol

      July 18, 2022 at 10:29 pm

      Hey TT, it is common that people worry about reaching out to their ex based on the response they will get. You mentioned marriage, is he set that he NEVER wants to get married? If so is this something you are willing to sacrifice for yourself? If this is something that he is not going to change his mind on then you could find yourself in the same position in a few months or years time.