What Happens When You Ignore A Dismissive Avoidant Ex?

In polite society, ignoring someone is considered rude, disrespectful, emotionally immature and even cruel. The message you’re sending when you ignore another person is that they’re unimportant and unworthy of your time and presence. It’s equivalent to denying their existence and most people feel spited and insulted when you ignore them.

The only time when it’s considered acceptable to ignore someone is if you don’t like them, don’t want to speak to them and if engaging them will only escalate a situation. But in dating and relationship circles more specifically in North America, ignoring someone is an accepted strategy for getting their attention, increase feelings of attraction and/or for getting back at them for something they did that hurt you or that you don’t approve of.

When you look at ignoring someone through the lens of attachment styles, it’s easy to see why ignoring someone with an anxious attachment or even a fearful avoidant attachment style would get their attention. Both of these attachment styles have high attachment anxiety, low-self worth and care so much about what others think about them (and how they’re treated), ignoring them would trigger feelings of anxiety about unworthiness and importance to the person ignoring them.

Someone securely attached will be unaffected by someone ignoring them to get their attention because a secure attachment style’s sense of self-worth and value is not dependent on others and how others chose to act or treat them. Dismissive avoidants on the other hand have an unexpected reaction to being ignored and it often takes anxiously attached and even fearful avoidants by surprise.

It takes a while for dismissive avoidants to realize that you’re ignoring them

When you ignore a dismissive avoidant they’re not going to immediately realize that you’re ignoring them or even  think the reason you’re not reaching out or responding to texts or looking their direction is because you’re ignoring them. If you’ve been over texting them and you suddenly stop, their first instinct is that you’ve realized your behaviour is unacceptable or disrespectful and are either embarrassed or trying to change. They’ll even be pleased that you’re not being “too much” anymore.

If you continue ignoring them for a extended period of time, again, they’re not going to immediately conclude that you’re trying to provoke a reaction from them or get their attention. They’ll think you probably need some “alone time” because that’s what they’d do – not reach out and/or respond – if they needed time and space to themselves.

I’ve worked with so many anxiously attached people who want my help “getting back” their dismissive avoidant ex. When I ask how the break-up happened, they say they stopped reaching out because they were not getting what the wanted from their dismissive avoidant partner and a dismissive avoidant didn’t reach out even one time. The anxiously attached client felt they’d been ghosted and/or broken up with. When they reached out months later, the dismissive avoidant couldn’t understand why the anxiously attached was referring to the time when they didn’t talk to each other as “the break-up” or “the time you broke up”. They just assumed an anxious attachment was unhappy and needed time and space away and they gave it to them.

It’ll take a long time for dismissive avoidants to realize that you’re ignoring them, and even when they realize you’re ignoring them, dismissive avoidants will not feel rejected and/or abandoned and react with attention or reassurance seeking behaviours, or even try to reestablish connection.

Dismissive avoidant have six things influence how they react to being ignored and which work as buffers against feeling unworthy or unimportant when you ignore them.

1. Low attachment anxiety

Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety depending on the situation or experience. It’s not normal to completely have no anxiety. But when we talk about anxiety in relationship to attachments, we’re talking about worry about a relationship, fear of losing connection and anxiety when having to separate or when separated from someone we are close to (attachment). We are also talking about inability to self-soothe and instead act out uncomfortable emotions to get attention, reassurance or re-establish connection (protest behaviour).

People with an anxious attachment and fearful avoidant have high levels of attachment anxiety, secures and dismissive avoidants have low levels of attachment anxiety; which means thar secures and dismissive avoidants don’t constantly worry about their relationship and/rejection or abandonment. This is why ignoring them doesn’t immediately register or affect them the same way it does someone with an anxious attachment and fearful avoidant.

2. Relationships are low priority

Dismissive avoidants don’t just struggle with forming strong or lasting attachments, they also prioritize relationships lower than work or hobbies.

Just like if you take away something from someone who doesn’t really need it or even doesn’t want it, they’re not going to miss it. When you ignore a dismissive avoidant you are already in low in the list or priority and if they’re busy with work or hobbies, they’ll not miss you your presence as much as someone with an anxious or fearful avoidant attachment will.

You really have to work harder to make them realize “you’re not around anymore” and even then, most dismissive avoidants will react with anger to your efforts to get their attention and not to the fact that “you’re not around anymore”.

3. Avoidant and dismissing coping strategies

When something unexpected happens in the relationship or with a connection, a dismissive avoidant’s instincts are to ignore, dismiss, downplay and/or minimize the threats and their feelings about what’s going on. It’s a dismissive avoidant’s way of self-regulating – don’t think about it, don’t feel anything, don’t care, distract, keep keeping on. You don’t need anyone.

And as unhealthy and dysfunctional these coping strategies are, it works for them. Dismissive avoidants are able to shutdown uncomfortable feelings or thoughts they may have about you ignoring them and even trigger your fear of rejection and/or abandonment. Their complete lack of reaction or cold response will make you panic that you’re losing them and reach out for reassurance.

4. Positive self-view/negative view of other

A dismissive avoidant attachment Internal Working Model consists of a positive view of themselves and their self-worth and a negative view of others, especially the people they’re in romantic relationship with. Their positive self-view shields them from instinctively recognizing ignoring them as rejection.

When you ignore them or don’t reach out, a dismissive avoidant ex’s thinking may be something like, “I haven’t heard from Joe/Jane. I’m sure I’ll hear from them sometime. They always reach out after a while”.  And even when dismissive avoidants recognize that you’re purposefully ignoring them, they don’t automatically think that the rejection is about them. In fact, most of the time, dismissive avoidants think ignoring them is about you – your being needy, reactivity/too emotional, need for drama etc.(all the behaviours of an anxious attachment that annoy dismissive avoidants and turn them off). Most dismissive avoidant exes are like, “here we go again!”

5. Fierce independence

Dismissive avoidants want to feel like they’re in control of their life and everything that happens to them. Dismissive avoidant attachment see any attempts to influence how they feel or act, redefine what they can say or do, unsolicited advice or comments about what they’re allowed to say or do, or complaints about who they are and how they behave is an attempt to control them.

So when you ignore a dismissive avoidant and they know you are doing it on purpose, they see it as an attempt to control them. Some dismissive avoidants will even make fun of you for ignoring them to try to get their attention.

If you have a history of playing mind games, getting upset or acting out when you think a dismissive avoidant is ignoring you, a dismissive avoidant may get angry because to them you’re doing the very thing you say upsets you when they do it. If you didn’t get upset when you thought they were ignoring you, they wouldn’t have a problem, but you don’t criticize them for doing something then turn around and do it. You find that when you reach out, they’re angry that you reached out and some dismissive avoidants even feel insulted that you thought you could manipulate them.

6. Emotional control

Dismissive avoidants are not just extremely independent and self-directed, they’ve also mastered the art of emotional control. To borrow from attachment project.com, emotional control is a dismissive avoidants superpower. This is one reason they make great bosses; the don’t allow their emotions get in the way of what needs to be done or accomplished.

In relationships, that level of emotional control doesn’t always make for a healthy relationship because relationships require expressing, communicating and sharing emotions for them to work. The few times a dismissive avoidants emotional control superpower works in a relationship is to de-escalate an emotionally charged situation, not act impulsively or make “emotional decisions”, and not take being ignored personally and/or react to being ignored in ways that encourage someone to ignore them to get attention.

Dismissive avoidants do what dismissive avoidants want to do

If a dismissive avoidant ex reaches out after not hearing from you in a while, it’s not because you ignored them and they felt ignored. They’re not reaching out so you feel ignoring them worked, they’re reaching out so you know that they care about you and because they love you. If the don’t care about you or love you, you’ll ignore a dismissive avoidant until you can’t ignore them anymore and they’ll still not reach out.

I tell my clients all the time, don’t downplay just how much your dismissive avoidant ex values and cares about you by minimizing their feelings for you as rejection fear-driven. Somebody reaching out you because they felt rejected or abandoned is not about you, it’s about the person trying to get attention, reassurance and/or validation.

A dismissive avoidant stepping out of their comfort zone to show care and love is not trying to get attention, reassurance and/or validation, but admitting to themselves that they care enough about you to be vulnerable and show they want closeness. If you fail to respond to their vulnerability in a way that makes them feel safe to continue being vulnerable and want closeness, a dismissive avoidant will pull back, emotionally shut down or end things. And if a dismissive avoidant feels that they “embarrassed” themselves by showing they want closeness and/or need you, and you rejected their vulnerability, they may get angry with themselves – and with you, and not want any kind of relationship with you ever again.

RELATED:

Why No Contact Doesn’t Work With A Dismissive Avoidant Ex

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment And “Longing” For An Ex

Why A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Keeps Coming Back

How Do You Avoid Triggering A Dismissive Avoidant Ex?

Do Dismissive Avoidant Exes Test You? (And How?)

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