How Attachment Styles Affect Getting Your Ex Back
Every individual is born into a family and environment that will ultimately affect how they navigate relationships in the future.
Nature and nurture both become factors in how and why people do what they do.
There are decades of research behind the concept of attachment and how infant and early childhood experiences influence our personalities, behavior, and emotions.
Being born or adopted into a family that is physically and emotionally available and one that takes care of needs as they arise typically results in a healthy and secure individual.
However, on the other hand, someone who must endure physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect will likely not fare as well as the secure individual.
Consequently, they may end up being anxious or avoidant in the way they relate to relationships with others.
That is all those people have ever known, so it can be easier for them to keep their guard up and to feel as though they are protecting their hearts.
What was just described on a basic level are the differences in attachment styles.
Did you know that when using the no contact rule after a breakup that attachment styles don’t necessarily seem to matter?
Attachment styles affect relationships; however, the rule can work for everyone no matter the circumstance.
All About Attachment
How do attachment styles affect a relationship?
Many people are wondering about this.
You might be in a relationship or in the middle of a breakup and interested in knowing how certain experiences and events may have contributed to how things turned out.
Before you continue reading, be prepared to take this information on attachment styles with a grain of salt–don’t get too attached to the concept of attachment styles affecting your relationship.
It can definitely affect it, but there are other factors in play regarding your relationship and breakup.
Even though someone’s attachment style can influence behaviors, a relationship and breakup are not solely about attachment styles.
It is always beneficial to gain knowledge and become aware of psychology-related topics, but don’t go too far down the rabbit hole to where it blinds you from the real issues at hand.
The Father of the Attachment Theory
John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist and childhood psychoanalyst, believed that mental health and behavioral problems could be attributed to early childhood.
In 1969, he developed the attachment theory which posits:
- A child has an innate (i.e., inborn) need to attach to one main attachment figure
- A child should receive the continuous care of this single most important attachment figure for approximately the first two years of life.
- The long-term consequences of maternal deprivation might include the following:
- reduced intelligence
- increased aggression
- affectionless psychopathy
- Robertson and Bowlby (1952) believe that short-term separation from an attachment figure leads to distress
- The child’s attachment relationship with their primary caregiver leads to the development of an internal working model
Bowlby was a significant figure for his pioneering work in attachment theory.
Types of Attachment Styles
There are three main styles of attachment; however, some individuals can be a mixture of two.
- Secure Attachment Style
As a child, this person grew up in a stable family where s/he felt safe and secure.
There was a sense of comfort and calm in the home and their parents had a reassuring and supportive presence.
Regardless of what is going on in the home, the child knows they are cared for and will be supported by their parents. However, nothing is perfect.
About 50% of the population can be considered to have a secure attachment style.
I will discuss in a bit if the no contact rule works with a secure attachment style.
- Anxious Attachment Style
As a child, this person grew up in an environment where they did not feel cared for, whether it be due to abuse or neglect.
The parent was not the parent they should have been and as a result, this person did not have a good example of what a healthy relationship looks like.
Due to their upbringing, they may be suspicious of others and simply wait for and expect things to fall apart.
People with an anxious attachment style tend to be “needier” and require more reassurance from others.
Unfortunately, anxious people can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy.
They are scared of people leaving them, but sometimes their neediness can push people away, causing the anxious person once again to feel abandoned.
I will discuss in a bit if the no contact rule works with an anxious attachment style.
- Avoidant Attachment Style
This style is similar to the anxious attachment style in that the child in this situation has also felt abused and/or neglected.
Due to mistreatment in the home by a loved one, they prefer to avoid relationships.
When in a relationship, they may flee when conflict occurs and believe it is just a matter of time when the relationship will end.
I will discuss in a bit if the no contact rule works with an avoidant attachment style.
Some people can go back and forth between anxious and avoidant because they stem from the same types of trauma.
Oftentimes, people attempt to diagnose themselves or their loved ones based on information they have learned or even experienced.
Too much analysis of the attachment theory and styles is not recommended; although it is beneficial to have basic knowledge of the styles and how they can affect the relationship.
Saying “she is avoidant” or “he is anxious” is not helpful; people adapt and grow while they are in relationships.
They learn conflict-resolution and communication skills that benefit them.
Just because someone has had adverse childhood experiences doesn’t mean they are doomed forever with relationships.
Overall, it is best to avoid using attachment styles as a label or as an excuse for certain behaviors.
Stick to the big picture.
Keep reading to find out how the no contact rule can be looked at differently based on the attachment style your ex has.
The no-contact rule surprisingly works well with individuals with all types of attachment styles.
It works well across the board because attraction works well across the board.
Remember that most relationships fail due to a drop in attraction.
Of course, you can gain that attraction back after it is lost, but it takes work. That is where the no-contact rule comes into play.
If someone is breaking up with you, why should they care if they lose you?
You might think “my significant other broke up with me; we’re done forever; there is no turning back; it’s their loss; I’m moving on because clearly, they don’t want me, etc.”
But your ex can change their heart and mind, especially after they reflect on what it’s like living without you.
The goal is for your ex to come to terms with their decision to leave you and realize that life isn’t as great without you there.
During the period of no contact, they learn things about themselves, like what is important to them, which hopefully is you.
If you are married and wanting to know if it can help you reunite with a separated spouse, read my article, “Can No Contact Work For Marriage?”
If someone is breaking up with you and they have an avoidant attachment style, for example, they may be doing it simply because they are avoiding conflict and don’t know what else to do, there still could be attraction toward you.
Keep in mind that many people with anxious or avoidant attachment styles don’t always make the best decisions in relationships.
Even people with a secure attachment style can make horrible choices and negatively affect others.
When in No Contact…
Show that you respect yourself. You are not going to force your way back into your ex’s life.
Begging, pleading, or trying to force things will only push your ex further away.
By exhibiting no contact and resisting the urge to speak to your ex, you are also showing him or her that you respect them and their decision.
They need to get to a point where they fear losing you.
Ultimately, your ex will start wondering if they made a mistake and will, hopefully, want you back, which is the goal.
“Should I have broken up with her?”
“Maybe I should text him tonight…”
These are things you want your ex to be thinking during this period, and they will as long as your respect their space and the rules of no contact.
Is No Contact is for Everyone?
Remember that both avoidant and anxious people can be included in the no-contact rule.
It works no matter the attachment style.
There is nothing that proves otherwise. Keep in mind though, that nothing is 100% perfect or effective.
If no contact works with people of all attachment styles, how will that separation period differ?
Those who have more of a secure attachment style typically will have a slow, traditional type of no contact response: the 45 days of silence.
Normally they will go through a period of separation anxiety.
The odds of having a secure ex contact you are good while they go through the mental and emotional stages an ex goes through during no contact. They might text you and see if you want to meet for coffee to have a casual conversation.
If your ex has an anxious attachment style, these types will often try to reach out to you sooner than someone with a secure style.
Their method of contact, frequency, or intensity of contact can also be more extreme than that of a secure person. For example, they may call and text begging for you back.
Be careful! If you respond with a similar intensity, you could send your ex back to where they began— in the wrong direction.
More forward, not backward. Let your ex know that you are open to start talking and allow them to earn you back – but resist the urge to simply agree to go back to how things were immediately or else you could doom your reunion.
Lastly, someone with an avoidant attachment style might take longer to warm up to coming out of no contact.
It may be longer than 45 days when they finally reach out to you; more like 60 days.
This is because your ex doesn’t want to make a mistake.
Due to their anxiety, they are already thinking that you will reject them when asking for another chance, and they are less likely to initiate the conversation early on.
These types often don’t want to put forth effort when they feel as if they are going to be rejected. That is why it is important not to ignore your ex if they reach out.
Staying calm and being casual is the best way to approach this type of ex.
As you can see, the no-contact rule works for people with either type of attachment style.
Your response to them, once they contact you again, will be only a bit different depending on their style…and that’s okay.
Both types of people —avoidant and anxious—need to see some progress after no contact ends in terms of getting back into the relationship if that is what they say they want.
It is best not to jump on board right away, but don’t ignore your ex either.
Treat things delicately and reassess the situation as you move forward.
No matter what happens, remember to respect yourself; ultimately, respecting yourself and your ex will make you more attractive in your ex’s eyes.
Don’t forget that it is beneficial to learn about attachment styles and their function, but it is healthy to not get too caught up in the specifics of it. Refrain from labeling yourself or your ex.
Throughout the breakup and no-contact process, stay in the present. Work on yourself, be mindful of your emotions, and don’t get too anxious overthinking the future.
What will be—will be.
Once you do have contact with your ex once again, take things slowly, protect your heart, and also be willing to be open to what their differences may bring to the relationship.
I talk about more details in my Emergency Breakup Kit, including how to handle requests for meet ups, what to do when you see them face to face, whether or not you should suggest it, etc.