Some of the advice online says that the way to get a fearful avoidant ex back is to ignore them. This is possibly the worst thing you can do to a fearful avoidant because it confirms their fear that they can’t trust you to be available and responsive when they need you.
A fearful avoidant attachment abandonment issues
Fearful avoidants are called anxious-avoidants because they crave connection and closeness (anxious attachment) but also fear connection and closeness it at the same time (avoidant attachment) because they fear that someone they love will reject or abandon them. Some fearful avoidants feel trapped in relationships and distance, self-sabotage and push you away because they feel attached to you, and this raises the risk of rejection and abandonment.
For someone trying to get back with a fearful avoidant ex, the combination of an anxious attachment style and an avoidant attachment style makes the process feel like a roller coaster with highs and lows. The highs are when a fearful avoidant leans more anxious and reaching out, showing interest, wanting to get close and doing all that good stuff that makes you feel wanted and loved. This often happens early on after the break-up (1-3 months of the break-up) but can also happen weeks and even months after the break-up though this is rare.
The lows are when they are distant, guarded, pull back so often, ignore texts and even stop responding. This can go on for weeks even months with some fearful avoidant exes.
But sometimes fearful avoidant ex may swing from anxious to avoidant several times over a short period of time making them seem like they don’t know what they want or are confused about how they feel about you, and all this is true. Some fearful avoidants don’t themselves understand why they’re so conflicted or why they want to get back together with their ex and fear a relationship with them at the same time.
How do fearful avoidants react to being ignored?
Because fearful avoidants have both an anxious attachment style and an avoidant attachment style, it’s hard to predict how a fearful avoidant ex will react to being ignored.
Fearful avoidants learned that a source of love, care and safety can also become a source of fear, rejection and hurt. They expect the people who claim to love them to become unavailable or unresponsive soon or later because in a fearful avoidant’s world, that’s what people do. They love you and make you feel wanted, then they reject and abandon you. They promise you that they’ll always be there for you, then they leave or abandon you.
A fearful avoidant may perceive being ignored by an ex as rejection or abandonment and feel sad, neglected, unworthy, unwanted and scared. This can trigger intense anxiety, distress, fear and worry; it’s like they’re experiencing the abandonment they felt as a child all over again, and they start hyperactivating and directing all their attention to an ex who is the source of their distress and fear.
To an ex ignoring a fearful avoidant, it feels like a fearful avoidant ex’s “feelings came back” because a fearful avoidant is acting interested and so into them – sending so many texts or calling frequently. They even suddenly out of nowhere ask to meet (when you’ve been beginning them to meet, and they turned you down). They emotionally open up like they never did before and really make you feel loved and wanted. But what a fearful avoidant ex really wants is the reassurance that they’re not being abandoned.
Feeling of rejected and abandoned can also make a fearful avoidant ex cold and distant, and they may pull away and go no contact or get involved in a short-term rebound relationship just not to feel rejected and abandoned. Some fearful avoidant exes even lose feeling for you because you ignored them and made them feel invisible, unworthy, unwanted and alone.
How long can you ignore a fearful avoidant?
It doesn’t matter if you ignore a fearful avoidants for a few hours or a few days, if it triggered their fear of rejection and abandonment, it escalated their concerns and worries about your availability, responsiveness and their fear that you’ll again abandonment. You’ve proven that you’re capable of abandoning them, so it’s not a matter of IF you will, but WHEN.
Sometimes a fearful avoidant who at the beginning of the relationship was avoidant can turn anxious at the end because their partner who was anxious in the beginning turns avoidant in the middle of the relationship. This happens a lot when both people are fearful avoidants, or when an anxious attachment goes into protest behaviour. But the avoidant to anxious doesn’t last very long.
If you are ignoring your fearful avoidant ex just to trigger their anxious attachment because the attention from a scared, worried and dejected fearful avoidant feels so good that you want things to stay this way forever, you’ll be disappointed. Unlike an anxious attachment who can remain in a state of anxiety for an extended period of time, a fearful avoidant’s deactivating coping strategies intervenes to reduce or contain the distress a fearful avoidant is experiencing.
The transition from anxious to avoidant can be sudden and quick with some fearful avoidant exes. One day you’re texting everyday all day long and they say the love you and it even looks like you’re about to get back together, and the next, they’re not responding or want nothing to do with you. And with some fearful avoidant exes going from anxious to avoidant is gradual and like a fade out. You notice that they’re reaching out less, taking longer to respond, conversations are shorter, replies are one or two words, they seem cold and disinterested and then one day they stop responding and disappear altogether.
If you want a fearful avoidant back, avoid making their fear of abandonment worse
The damaging effects of ignoring a fearful avoidant last a long time. Many fearful avoidant exes hold resentment from being ignored and end up not responding at all after being ignored. Others hold off getting back together for months just to make sure they can trust you not to abandon them again. Even fearful avoidants who end up coming back, they will not forget how you made them feel – unappreciated, unworthy and unwanted. You may find yourself with a fearful avoidant who acts so confused that you start feeling confused yourself.
Don’t make a fearful avoidant feel unsafe and expect to feel safe with them. People who feel unsafe are not safe for others.
Think of it this way, the damaging effect of a caregiver or parent ignoring a child’s attachment needs created a fearful avoidant attachment and the effects of that childhood experience are still felt by a fearful avoidant 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 plus years later. And it’s not just your fearful avoidant who’s affected by their childhood experience, you are too. This is probably why you’re broken up. Does it really make sense to you to add another layer onto your fearful avoidant ex’s attachment trauma and expect to be in a happy health relationship with them?
Unless a fearful avoidant ex asks that you don’t contact them, maintain some form of contact but at a safe, emotionally comfortable distance; that’s if you want a fearful avoidant ex back and want a heathier and safer relationship for both of you.