By Chris Seiter

Published on April 11th, 2022

Today we’re going to be talking about the major stages that a fearful avoidant will go through during a breakup.

And here to help us is one of the best fearful avoidant experts in the world, Dr. Tyler Ramsey, to help dissect the stages.

According to Dr. Ramsey there are five key stages that a fearful avoidant will go through and oddly they are very similar to the dismissive avoidant stages we talked about in a previous article.

The five stages are,

  1. Avoiding All Things About The Other Person
  2. Feelings Beginning To Surface
  3. The Pendulum Swing
  4. The Attempt To Move On
  5. Nostalgia Loop

First things first though, before we jump into talking about the stages of a fearful avoidant it’s probably a good idea to explain the difference between a dismissive avoidant and a fearful avoidant.

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What Is The Difference Between A Dismissive Avoidant And A Fearful Avoidant

In order to properly explain this concept we first need to really understand two opposing insecure attachment styles.

  1. Anxious attachments: which are classified by individuals who like a lot of attention, affection, and crave constant reassurance in relationships
  2. Avoidant attachments: which are classified by a persons need for independence. Generally when an avoidant feels that their independence is being threatened they will end a relationship.

You probably already know this as its been talked about on this website ad nauseam.

However, we haven’t talked a lot about the difference between dismissive and fearful avoidants.

A great cheat sheet you can use if you are confused is to simply think of the classifications this way,

  1. Dismissive Avoidants: Comprised almost entirely of avoidant qualities.
  2. Fearful Avoidants: Comprised of both anxious and avoidant qualities.

According To Dr Ramsey,

Really you have this unique dynamic with a fearful avoidant that has both qualities from within in so they have that anxious side to them, that’s basically craving a relationship. But also at the same time, they’re afraid to lose themselves in a relationship, their independence, their vulnerability, relying on someone. So you see them battle back and forth between the two. And that’s why they’re actually labeled fearful, because they desire a relationship but they’re afraid of it.

Stage One: Avoiding All Things About The Other Person

So, by his own admission Dr. Ramsey modeled the stages that a fearful avoidant is going to go through during a breakup after this video and article,

However, while they may sound similar there are subtle tweaks and differences that make all the difference in the world.

Almost all avoidants, no matter fearful or dismissive are going to have this first stage of avoiding all things about the other person but interestingly, a fearful avoidant, even though they have anxious qualities, they actually shut down and they deactivate more so than a dismissive avoidant.

Which you wouldn’t really expect.

It’s very interesting that they do these things, and it’s usually for a couple of weeks where they are just full blown, really trying to suppress those thoughts down.

Often you’ll see a lot of a fearful avoidants exhibit bad behaviors that may have been present in previous years.

Some of the most common coping mechanisms we’ve seen them engage in is,

  • Drinking a lot of alcohol
  • Going on a lot of dates with a lot of different people
  • Going as far as sleeping with some of those dates

I guess the more interesting question to ask at this point is why? What’s the psychology behind why they are engaging in these seemingly self destructive behaviors.

Dr Ramsey offers his take,

I think it’s because they have a lot of inconsistency within their past life. Usually what happens is a previous caregiver, was so inconsistent during their upbringing it impacts them on a profound level.

Stage Two: The Feelings For You Begin To Surface

Eventually that suppression can’t last forever and some of those suppressed feelings can begin to bubble to the surface.

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Most of the time, they really tried to convince themselves that they have no feelings for you.

For them, this was a relationship that should have ended and usually it’s from an emotionally based decision.

They’re very emotionally based decision makers, where if something ignites, it ignites right there, then they’re like, Absolutely not, I have to get away.

But they recover quicker, too, because they have that pendulum like anxious and avoidant cycle where as soon as you give them their space, and you let them sit on it for a little while, they come out of it, they sober up in there, they start thinking more logically instead of emotionally.

Usually it’s because they’ve removed themselves from that scary environment.

As a result, that’s why you might see them start to have their feelings bubble to the surface.

But this is assuming you are giving that fearful avoidant ex some space.

What Happens If You Don’t Give A Fearful Avoidant Space?

Stage two is all about feelings being bubbled to the surface if you give them space but what happens if you don’t give them space?

Are they just kind of stuck perpetually in that first stage?

I put this question to Dr. Ramsey. Here was his answer,

Yeah, they stay in that first stage. It’s almost similar to the dismissive avoidant, you just reignite their avoidance all over again and they just push you away further. When an anxious person does go and try to contact a fearful avoidant over and over and over you do push them away further and they feel more firm in their decision, because you’re recreating that emotional kind of situation all over again.

Stage Three: The Pendulum Swing

Yeah, so the third stage is really where things start to change a little bit more from the dismissive avoidant stages because you actually kind of see their anxious side getting triggered a lot.

It’s best to look at their behaviors similar to that of a pendulum.

Swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Most like to think there’s an even split of how a fearful avoidant is half anxious or half avoidant but that’s actually not correct.

Rather a more accurate split is, 60/40 or 70/30.

And so depending upon if they’re more anxious or avoidant, they’re gonna sober up and they’re going to potentially try and reconcile with the relationship.

But when that happens, they have this ability to re suppress like a dismissive avoidant as well.

So, in the interview with Dr. Ramsey he gave some insight into the complicated nature of fearful avoidant thoughts,

And what makes this trigger is their anxiousness getting to them too much, or what’s actually going on in their life. Currently, they’re feeling alone, they’re feeling like they can’t get anyone else, then they’re more likely to reconcile because they’re more anxious. And you’ll see sometimes and it’s probably like a 50/50 shot, a fearful avoidant will actually reach out to you. During that time, it’s not always the case. But the reason why they may not reach out is because they are afraid of being rejected all over again, or feeling that pain all over again, that they tried to avoid previous. So that’s why it’s a 50/50 shot if they’ll reach out. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to reconcile, if they don’t reach out, it just means they’re too scared to put their, you know, vulnerability on the line.

Ultimately this is the stage where you see a lot of mixed signals and for many who date these individuals it can feel like they’re almost dating Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Stage Four: They Attempt To Move On

Either the Re suppression or the rejection will win out eventually and they will try and begin to move on.

But it’s interesting to note that this stage can potentially never occur if you push them too far with anxious behavior. This is all assuming you are giving that fearful avoidant space.

If that’s the case, then usually they themselves are tired of being bitten by that anxious part within them.

Honestly, in a lot of ways, fearful avoidants are very complex people.

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They’re not this just cookie cutter kind of person.

Really, I think if you are very anxious towards them they are still very empathetic people, so they feel bad for hurting you.

They’ll feel bad for making you feel that anxiousness. And so they don’t typically hit that point of no return until after you triggered them a few times.

Often you’ll have to continuously do it over and over and over and over to where what happens is it becomes too much of a burden on them.

They feel so bad, because they have such a core wound of feeling like they’re not good enough.

And that’s actually what an anxious person is reconfirming to them that they’re never good enough.

Because they’re reaching out saying they didn’t do these things for them.

Or why how could you treat me like this?

So they eventually just push you away completely forever, because you’re too dangerous to them and you’re too emotionally volatile.

It can make them feel so bad about themselves that they can’t handle it anymore.

And so it’s an interesting concept because anxious people don’t always think that way but they are honestly reconfirming to a fearful avoidant, their deep core wound over and over.

Stage Five: Nostalgia Loop

Stage five is all about the fearful avoidant getting hit with these waves of nostalgia about your relationship.

When eventually the FA (fearful avoidant) becomes more stabilized when they feel ok and a lot of time has passed they can actually sometimes enter this phantom ex stage.

They’ll start thinking,

“Man I missed this about my ex.” “I remember how good it felt during that one time.” etc.

And so they get caught up in the cyclic nostalgia loop but that nostalgia loop isn’t always enough to make them want to come back.

Remember, they almost like having the phantom ex ideal in their head.

In fact, according to Dr. Ramsey,

One of the hard truths is that a lot of times a fearful avoidant will attempt to cope with rebound after rebound after rebound. They’re very subject to rebounds because they have that anxious side of them. They can fall victim to that honeymoon phase. They’ll just go from one to the 111th person to the next but after a while they get tired of it. They re-reflect back on themselves and go, “gosh, maybe I had it good for with that one person from way long ago, maybe I’m never gonna find someone, maybe, you know, I’m gonna spend my life alone forever.” Why can’t I stay in a relationship for so long?

It’s usually at that point that they go back and they revisit that one.

And so you’ll see that happen a lot. In fact, most of the time typically has to pass before they do something like that.

The Rebound Comparison Game

Another interesting thing we’ve found about rebounds is that they play this strange comparison game.

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Since often they’re rebounding what they’ll do is constantly compare every person to the key core characteristics they prefer in a partner.

They have this warped sense of reality where they think relationships should be perfect with no hardship, no emotional vulnerability.

And if it does have that, then it’s not the right person.

And they blame it on that and they break up. And so because they have all of these people that they have crossed compared on this person offered this and this one did this, and this person that I’m looking for should have all of these things, and I shouldn’t have to work hard at all.

According to Dr. Ramsey,

I think the biggest difference between a dismissive and a fearful is the fact that one has a high self esteem and one doesn’t. It’s the fearful avoidant that has the low self esteem.

Ultimately you’ll see that type of behavior play out consistently throughout their relationships.

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10 thoughts on “Stages A Fearful Avoidant Goes Through After A Breakup”

  1. Chiara

    June 27, 2024 at 6:48 pm

    Hi, my FA ex broke up 3 months ago, first month we had some contact, then MIA for a month & reappeared showing indecision if coming or not (he stopped in the middle of the roundabout staring at me),few days later we had an “argument” face to face & he looked cold,distant & angry (deactivation?) and, even though he keeps saying that he cares for me deeply, he changed again the reason for pulling away, but then 4 days later reappeared when & where he knows he can find me (always same place) & said hi with the hand. Now in real NC since that day (it’s been 18 days of NC). What’s the best course of actions?
    I would like to reconnect and build back our bond

  2. Bahareh Khoshnoodi

    February 18, 2024 at 11:47 pm

    Hi , my fa boyfriend has broken up with me 1 months before , he came back 2 weeks after and we were together for few days and the he broke up again we were leaving together for 1/5 years and we rent new Appartement together so we have financial issues that we have to solve,
    I texted him about some bills that I received yesterday he text me back and he told me he needs the papers and we can meet somewhere, but today he didn’t text me to meet , I don’t really what should I do , should I text him or should I wait more

    1. Coach Shaunna

      March 10, 2024 at 11:33 pm

      Keep on top of shared bills and responsibilities, if he does not reach out to you and bills need paying ASAP allow him 24 hours and if he does not respond explain to him that things need to be sorted between you both financially where he sets up a standing order to pay his share so that you do not need to chase him down every time there is a bill to pay.

  3. Aggie

    September 1, 2022 at 12:15 am

    I am in a relationship if you can call IT a relationship. I finally figured him out after all these years of not knowing. I am more resilient and know what to expect. There is only one thing about FA that makes my nights sleepless; how can I maneuver this up and down cycle for him not to get to that extreme and pull away again. Help me.

  4. A

    August 3, 2022 at 10:09 am


    My ex is a FA and she moved on quick into a new relationship. I have done no contact with her and recently saw her for the first time in a month and a half since NC. Based on circumstances we will be seeing each other regularly over the coming months – she is still in the new relationship, but I am aware through our close friends she is wanting communication and for me to initiate and communicate (she feels as though I don’t want to talk to her so doesn’t feel as though she can talk to me).

    I want to rekindle and be together again however I am unsure how to approach the situation with her being in a new relationship but still wanting communication from me. Is this possible? Do I just ease back into it with her?

    1. Coach Shaunna Nicol

      September 2, 2022 at 8:43 pm

      Hey A, so I would suggest spend some time reading about female FA style along with Chris texting information, understand that you are going to have to be patient and that things will take some time.

  5. Jane

    July 6, 2022 at 11:33 am

    Do FAs rebound with someone that looks similar to their ex as you described with DAs?

    My FA said he didn’t want a relationship with me and we should be friends in Feb. I said I don’t think being friends is possible right now but understand and went NC. He reached out to me in mid-March confessing he made a mistake, was afraid and wanted to talk. I agreed to meeting and then he essentially ghosted me, eventually replying 2 weeks later saying he thinks we should stay friends. I didn’t think this was very fair and told him I too needed space from him and went NC again nearer end March. We’ve not spoken since and I essentially blocked him as I didn’t want him to keep playing these games with me.

    I’ve now discovered he’s in a new relationship with someone who looks a lot like me which I think is really weird. I’m not sure what this means as it really looks like he tried to find almost a twin replacement. Is he likely to initiate contact later down the line or is this it?

    1. Coach Shaunna Nicol

      August 6, 2022 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Jane, yes it is possible that he would go for someone similar to you and as for him reaching out as an avoidant understand that it takes time. I would say that you need to read and prepare yourself for the texting phase and the being there method.

  6. Danielle

    April 19, 2022 at 12:52 am

    Hi there, I’m confused about some conflicting information! You say to do NC and then start reaching out to your ex once NC is over. However, with a FA, it seems that we have to wait for them to think we’ve moved on and for them to reach out first? Can you clarify?

    I’m in my second breakup with a commit-phobic FA, we’ve been NC for around 80 days and I don’t know if he’ll ever reach out due to his low self-esteem.

    Thank you! Great article! This describes my ex to a T!

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      April 20, 2022 at 9:18 pm

      Hi Danielle, I would say that you would need to start reaching out soon if you want to start getting your ex back, if you know they are a FA then know this process that can take a while to make progress and plenty of patience.