Can I Get Back An Avoidant Who Feels I’m Controlling?

Question: Can I get back an avoidant who feels I’m controlling?

I hope you can help me. My avoidant ex broke up with me a few weeks ago because according to him, I’m controlling and manipulative. He said he felt like he was losing his independence and needed to find himself again and regain his fun and happy self. I admit that I have engaged in manipulation, and I’ve been told by friends and family that I’m sometimes controlling, and I’m working on that. But what I don’t understand is how an avoidant can feel controlled when they basically control every aspect of the relationship. We were together for over a year, but after the honeymoon period, I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells and anything I said or did triggered my ex. He has a history of depression and when I suggested he get help, in his view, I was trying to control him and he’d push me away, which really hurt as I care very much about was his well-being.

He says he still loves and cares about me and so we are trying to work things out. Neither of us wants to do no contact and this is why I was drawn to your advice and why I need your help. I may be looking at things from an anxious attachment, can you please help me understand 1) what I did wrong and 2) can I get back an avoidant who feels I’m controlling, and if so, how?

Yangki’s Answer: What you did wrong in a tricky question because on one hand, you are right about feeling that your avoidant ex controlled (and controls) every aspect of the relationship.

Avoidants often control the how, what, where, who and when of the relationship. Fearful avoidant not so much, but dismissive avoidants do, sometimes to a paranoid level. They dictate everything from when and how to text, when and where to meet and when and how to get back together. You feel that feel like you’re walking on eggshells around an avoidant because you are. It’s the avoidant’s terms and way or an avoidant stops responding, pulls back or deactivates.

On the other hand, your avoidant ex is also right about feelings controlled. I talk to avoidant who feel that anxiously attached insisting on an avoidant recognizing and validating their feelings, and dependency on an avoidant to meet needs that an anxiously attached should be able to meet on their own is an attempt to exert power and control. They feel manipulated into doing things an anxiously attached wants because avoidants don’t know how to deal with someone being “emotional” and give in to demands they’re not comfortable with to avoid dealing emotions. Some avoidants even feel bulldozed into a relationship.

Unfortunately, anxiously attached are right about avoidants and avoidants are right about anxiously attached. Both anxious and avoidant attachment styles have developed attachment strategies to help them feel in control in situations that are unsafe, unpredictable and likely to get out-of-control. As long as they control the outcome of an unsafe, unpredictable and out-of-control situation, they control their fate.

So while it appears that one is trying to control the other, the reality is that anxiously attached are just trying to protect themselves and avoidants are doing the same. This is why both anxiously attached and avoidants get very defensive when accused of being controlling. But in trying to protect themselves, they end up making the other feel controlled and even manipulated.

How do you get back with an avoidant ex who feels you’re controlling?

1) Identify what it is that is making your avoidant ex feel controlled

Feeling controlled is both perception and reality or experience, and this is why it’s sometimes hard to see how you are being controlling. These are some of the behaviours that make avoidants feel that you’re controlling and/or they’re being controlled.

1. Do you educate (therapy-speak) an avoidant on how to be in a relationship – e.g. how to love you, how to feel, how to talk to you, how be more vulnerable, how to be more romantic, how to be less avoidant etc.?

2. Are you trying too hard to keep an avoidant in the relationship because you’re afraid that if you micromanage the relationship, they’ll leave you?

3. Are you asking or taking more of an avoidant’s time and space that they feel they have little time and space for themselves?

4. Are you overly dependent on an avoidant that they feel like you expect, demand and want more than they can give your or are capable of giving to you?

5. Are you making decisions for an avoidant that they can make for themselves because you believe you know what’s best for them?

6. Are you constantly providing advice or encouragement that is not needed or desired because you feel that because it’s coming from a good place, it’s still helpful?

7. Do you intentionally or unintentionally violate your avoidant’s boundaries or privacy and make them feel exposed and unsafe?

2) Do the work for both of you

Of course, it’d be great if an avoidant also did their self-work, but if they’re not yet where they feel they need to change you have can either 1) walk away now or 2) try to change how you both experience the relationship.

In your case, changing behaviours that your avoidant ex feels are controlling and making it hard for him to be in a relationship with you even thought he still loves and cares about you is in my opinion the better option.

A healthy relationship can happen not because the other person stops being avoidant or anxious, but because one of you becomes more secure and becomes the secure base or attachment stabilizer in the relationship.


How to Make An Avoidant Ex Feel Safe Enough To Come Back

What Triggers A Highly Independent Avoidant Ex? (What to Do)

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