What Happens When You Ignore A Dismissive Avoidant Ex?

Question: Should I ignore my dismissive avoidant ex?

I’ve read many of your articles and like how you approach attachment styles from a place of empathy rather than judgement. I’m interested in what you have to say about most people presenting as secure in the initial phases of a relationship and then becoming anxious or avoidant as things get serious. Also some people say dismissive avoidants get anxious when you ignore them because they think you’re leaving them and you have a better chance of getting them back if you ignore them and yet others say, when you ignore a dismissive avoidant, you are giving them exactly what they need to move on. What do you think? Should I ignore my dismissive avoidant ex and if so, what happens? What should I expect?

Yangki’s Answer: It’s true that most insecure attachment styles don’t generally show until later. This is because in the “honeymoon” phase of the relationship, most of us feel safe. We are optimistic and want things to work so we ignore or downplay early-on “red flags”. But as things progress or the relationship gets serious and relationship problems show up, our insecure attachment emerges. That seems to be the common pattern, but there are also people who are avoidant-avoidant or anxious-anxious from the beginning. These are usually people on the extremes on the attachment styles range.

I’ve also spoken to people who believe that ignoring an avoidant gives you a better chance of getting them back. Instead of commenting on what other people believe and say, I’m going to tell you what I know and what peer-reviewed researchers have found, and let you decide if ignoring a dismissive avoidant gives you a better chance of getting them back, or if ignoring a dismissive avoidant is giving them exactly what they need to move on. I must warn you, it’s not that black and white.

Confusing a fearful avoidant ex for a dismissive avoidant ex

While attachment styles are not neat little boxes that we each fit in perfectly, there are behaviours that are common between attachment styles (some in varying degrees) and behaviours that are unique to an attachment style. Knowing what triggers these behaviours and more importantly how to respond to triggers can mean the difference between you getting back with a fearful or dismissive avoidant, and not.

Avoidant can describe a fearful avoidant or a dismissive avoidant and most people tend to confuse the two. Most of the confusion comes from just looking at behaviours or traits and concluding that someone is fearful avoidant or  dismissive avoidant without a real deep understanding of what creates an attachment style, what drives it, the attachment’s internal working models (how does each attachment style view the Self, view the “other’ and view the relationship between the Self and “the other”), what triggers a fearful or dismissive avoidant, how do they deal with threats in a close-relationship etc.

Attachment anxiety and fear of rejection and abandonment

Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety depending on the situation or experience. It’s not normal to completely have no anxiety. If a plane hits turbulence, you’re going to get anxious (at varying degrees) whether you have an anxious attachment, fearful avoidant attachment, dismissive avoidant attachment or secure attachment.

When we talk about attachment anxiety, we’re talking about worry about a relationship, fear of losing connection or the relationship 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 acting out uncomfortable emotions to get attention, reassurance or re-establish connection (protest behaviour).

High attachment anxiety is associated with an anxious-preoccupied attachment and a fearful avoidant attachment. Separation makes these two attachment styles feel abandoned and as a result are hypervigilant for any signs of rejection or separation. Rejection and abandonment is something they constantly think about, something they expect from others and unfortunately, is often their realty.

Secures and dismissive avoidants score low-levels of attachment anxiety and don’t constantly worry about rejection or abandonment. This doesn’t mean secures and dismissive avoidants do not get anxious, it means that their attachment anxiety is so low that it’s not often noticeable, does not end in protest behaviour and may not affect connection or the relationship. Some dismissive avoidants don’t even recognize that they’re feeling anxious, and others easily suppress their anxiety before it “gets out of control”.

What happens when you ignore a dismissive avoidant ex?

When you ignore a dismissive avoidant ex, they’re not going to automatically think they’re being rejected and/or being abandoned and react with attention or reassurance seeking behaviours, or even try to reestablish connection.

Dismissive avoidant have four things that work as buffers against feeling anxious, rejected and/or abandoned when you ignore them.

1) Avoidant 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.

2) 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: 1) Fear of rejection is not in their attachment programming and 2) a few days or even a week with no contact is normal for a dismissive avoidant.

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!”

3) Fear of being controlled – When you ignore a dismissive avoidant ex and they know you are doing it on purpose, they see it as an attempt to control them. As far as a dismissive avoidant attachment is concerned, 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.

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.

4) Self-control – Dismissive avoidants are not just extremely independent and self-directed, they’ve also mastered the art of self-control; including the ability to control their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviours.

If a dismissive avoidant ex reaches out after not hearing for you in a while, it’s not because you ignored them and they felt anxious. They’re not reaching out so you text or call them back, they’re reaching out so you know that they want to. 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 anxiety-driven. Anxiety-driven anything is not about you, it’s about the anxious person trying to get attention, reassurance and/or validation.

It takes a lot out of a dismissive avoidant to be vulnerable and show they want closeness, and 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. If a dismissive avoidant feels that they “embarrassed” themselves by showing they wanted to get close/need others, they may get angry with themselves – and with you.


No Contact Works Differently With A Dismissive Avoidant Ex

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment And “Longing” For An Ex

Why A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Keeps Coming Back

Why A Dismissive Avoidant Ex Is Slow To Respond

Attract Back An Avoidant Ex: 3 – Avoidant Ex Lost Feelings

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