Today we’re going to be talking exclusively about exes who are fearful avoidant.
An ex who is fearful avoidant will generally see-saw between anxious traits and avoidant traits after a breakup.
But there’s so much about fearful avoidant exes that my team and I are finding that people don’t know. Especially when it relates to breakups. For example,
- They left because of survival instinct
- The fearful avoidant will typically appear to move on from you quickly
- The fearful avoidant will still think you’re available for them even after a breakup
- Don’t expect the fearful avoidant to initiate contact
- They will long for you when they think there’s no chance
- When they pull back you pull back
Well, today we’re going to be talking about each of these insights in depth so you have a better understanding of how to deal with an ex who has a fearful avoidant attachment style.
They Potentially Left Because Of Survival Instinct
At the heart of every avoidant attachment style lies a paradox.
Relationships require us to be interdependent and yet during true moments of interdependence the avoidant wants nothing more than to flee.
That’s the avoidant.
A fearful avoidant on the other hand creates even a greater paradox in that at times their anxious side gets triggered. So, throughout moments of the breakup they might literally convince you that they want nothing more than to be together and then flip that into harsh moments of disinterest.
What’s going on here?
Well, after studying fearful avoidant exes for almost a decade we can confidently say that in the end their survival instinct ends up winning out.
If you want the quick crash course on what their survival instinct looks like watch this interview I conducted with a success story who won her fearful avoidant ex back,
So, what is this survival instinct?
Every avoidant attachment style has this idea that they are better off alone. Think of this concept as a “home base.” Do you remember as children we would play tag but there would always be a home base? In other words, the people who touched home base couldn’t be tagged. They were safe.
Same principle applies here.
Your exes “home base” is this core belief that they are better off alone. In fact, they may internalize this belief so much that they convince themselves they don’t deserve interdependent relationships and it becomes this kind of self fulfilling prophecy.
What’s interesting is that the mistake we see most of our clients make is that they end up chasing after an ex trying to convince them (rightly so) that they are stronger together than they are apart but the fearful avoidant rejects this because it’s they’ve convinced themselves that isn’t the case. They’ve known no other way their entire life.
This leads to an interesting chain of events starting with…
A Fearful Avoidant Will Appear To Move On From You Quickly
There will be a sense of freedom the fearful avoidant has initially upon the breakup which I realize probably isn’t what you want to hear but it’s true. I can dip into my real life to illustrate this point.
I definitely have fearful avoidant tendencies.
There were times throughout my relationships that I could be incredibly anxious. Yes, I was that guy that would constantly badger my girlfriends with questions like,
“What are you thinking?”
“How much do you love me?”
To my great shame, I even had one girlfriend that I was so insecure about I literally said,
“Do you love me more than your family?”
Pretty cringe, right?
Thankfully that girlfriend said no.
But I would also have moments where I would completely disappear in the relationship. Where I felt more comfortable by myself. I’ll never forget that there was one girl I dated that I just decided I would ghost her for a few days.
No great reason other than I was tired of dealing with her.
I came back of course because my see-saw tipped back towards the anxious side.
As you can see, fearful avoidant exes are tricky but one thing they almost always have in common is an initial wave of euphoria after a breakup. That may sound a bit odd to you but hear me out.
When you enter into a relationship you enter into this kind of contract with the person. Not a legal one, like marriage but an emotional one. This contract comes with certain obligations and with those obligations comes pressure. There’s nothing an avoidant personality hates more than continued pressure. So, when the breakup inevitably comes it can feel euphoric initially to have no obligations. After all, you’re back to your home base. You feel safe.
But that feeling of being safe and comfortable won’t last forever. Initially grief begins to set in and this freaks the avoidant out. So, right on brand they try to avoid that grief and pain surrounding a breakup by distracting themselves with another relationship.
And around and around the cycle goes.
The Fearful Avoidant Still Believes You’re Available For Them After A Breakup
Last year I ran a poll on our private Facebook support group asking our clients what type of attachment styles their exes were.
We know that the vast majority of our clients have anxious attachment styles so what the poll really told us was that the typical relationship coupling we need to study is that of the anxious and the avoidant.
Here’s what we learned.
Every time an avoidant leaves an anxious person theirs this certain illusion they project onto their ex partner.
They still want me.
It’s really easy to see why they think this.
After all, the anxious person will constantly be seeking validation throughout the relationship and the intensity of that only goes up after a breakup occurs. So, the fearful avoidant will literally have this thought that you are always interested in them after a breakup because that’s pretty much the only experience they’ve had with you throughout your relationship.
Don’t Expect The Fearful Avoidant To Initiate Contact
That’s not to say that they won’t. We have seen some fearful avoidant exes initiate contact but it does typically end up being rarer.
If you really think about it, it all boils down to control.
The avoidant typically pushes away in relationships to feel safe. They don’t want to deal with the heavy emotions of interdependence and the result is they withdraw to protect themselves.
They want to control the situation.
Well, initiating contact with you post breakup can make the fearful avoidant feel a bit too vulnerable and this makes them uncomfortable. So, usually what happens is that they play around with the concept of reaching out to you but end up getting too worked up over it and just decide it’s easier to leave well enough alone.
It’s interesting though.
What’s going on when they are “thinking of reaching out to you?”
The Fearful Avoidant Will Long For You When They Feel There Is No Chance
This is a concept I talk about a lot in this video,
Thus far it probably seems like we’ve only really focused on the avoidant aspect of the fearful attachment. Well, here’s where things kind of become messy as we look at the anxious side of the attachment.
A lot of people mislabel those with avoidant attachment styles as people who only like to be alone. While it is true that they feel safest when they are alone they are constantly plagued with a hunger for connection.
This irony creates a lot of inner turmoil and conflict.
Because of the avoidants inability to deal with the emotional fallout of a breakup they will often push any kind of nostalgic feelings away but there’s only so long you can deny yourself.
Are you familiar with the peak-end rule?
It’s basically a psychological concept that studies how human beings “remember” experiences. Generally speaking we aren’t great at remembering the whole of the experience so to compensate for that our brain remember the peak experiences and the end experiences.
(Remember, that’s a super simplified version but you get the idea.)
So, what often happens with fearful avoidant exes is that only after they feel safe will they allow themselves to remember the peak experiences of your time together. Generally when this happens they think back on those positive peak moments.
I suppose the question ultimately becomes WHEN does a fearful avoidant feel safe?
- When you become completely unavailable (you’ve moved on to someone else)
- When they have completely moved on to someone else
- If they haven’t heard from you in a while
- You get the idea
Essentially the only time an avoidant can truly feel safe is when there’s a situation where it seems like reciprocity isn’t possible.
This one singular insight taught us a lot about our own success stories.
For years we had noticed this really interesting phenomenon where exes seemed to come back but only after our clients had completely given up on them. We think this is why.
When They Pull Back You Pull Back
Everything I’ve written up until this point has been preparation for this one section. I’ve been trying to peel back the layers on fearful avoidants so you can better understand why this technique works so well.
Here’s the general rule of thumb.
When you deal with an ex who is a fearful avoidant when they start to pull back you need to start to pull back.
Almost every one of our success stories will contain some hint of this technique.
But why does it work so well.
I personally believe it’s because it combines two things.
- It proves your anxious behavior was a thing of the past
- It perpetuates the fantasy that you are over them
What’s interesting about these two ideals is that they both make the avoidant feel safe after a breakup.
By not doing the anxious thing (aka: blowing up your exes phone) you end up in a situation where you begin exhibiting more secure behaviors. Also, by pulling back when they pull back you end up perpetuating this fantasy that you aren’t really that into them which in turn makes the avoidant feel kind of safe.
Remember, they are a lot more likely to have bouts of nostalgia when they feel like you’ve moved on from them completely.