There are certain principles you need to follow if you want your ex back but it’s not one-size-fits-all advice.
The truth is that you need to look deeper at your ex—and yourself—if you want them to change their mind and come back to you.
Let’s talk about attachment theory, figure out your ex’s attachment style (and yours) and then I’ll tell you what to do with this information to win them back.
What Is An “Attachment Style”?
The basic idea of attachment theory is that the way that you form attachments with other people–like friendships and romantic relationships– falls into one of four categories, or “attachment styles.”
Which one you fall into is largely determined by how you bond with your caregivers as a child. This original attachment sets the foundation for how you navigate relationships throughout life.
So basically the relationship you have with your parents during childhood is what determines your attachment style–how you form attachments to others.
The style you learn as a kid will mostly stay with you, and will affect your relationships as an adult… especially romantic relationships.
The four styles are secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. I’ll help you determine which one of these categories you and your ex fall into, how this has affected your relationship, and what you need to do going forward depending on your ex’s attachment style.
Determining Your Ex’s Attachment Style
So which of these attachment styles apply to you and which apply to your ex?
It’s not a perfect science–most people exhibit some aspects of multiple attachment styles and the lines between them are not set in stone–but chances are you’re going to lean in one of these four directions.
Secure Attachment Style
This is the most common attachment style.
It’s estimated that around half of all people have a Secure attachment. This style can be considered “ideal” in many ways, because people with secure attachment tend to have the most trusting, healthy relationships.
If you have a Secure attachment style, you’re comfortable with intimacy, and you tend to be less worried about rejection or your partner leaving you. You’re able to trust and build relationships more easily than people with the other three attachment styles.
Someone with a secure attachment type will usually be able to deal with emotions and the pain that stems from a breakup. They’re more likely to be able to learn from mistakes and failed relationships.
So how can you tell if your ex has the secure attachment style?
First off, I should say that none of these indicators predict you or your ex’s attachment style 100%, so look for a cluster of these signs before placing them into one of these categories.
But here are a few signs of a secure attachment style. First off, those with secure attachment don’t experience as many breakups as those with the other three styles because they find it easier to maintain relationships and choose partners who they are compatible with and who fulfill their needs.
So if someone has had just a few, long-lasting and healthy relationships in their past then this may indicate a secure attachment style.
Another sign has to do with their relationship with their parents. If someone has a great relationship with their parents and always felt very happy and taken care of during their childhood then they may have secure attachment.
Note that a close relationship with one or both parents doesn’t necessarily indicate secure attachment. You can have a very messy, unhealthy relationship with your parents and still be super close.
In a relationship, securely attached people are able to handle the ups and downs in a mature and relaxed way. They don’t tend to blow things out of proportion and make problems worse.
They’re good at maintaining their boundaries while also letting the other person in. They are able to trust their partner and don’t experience as much jealousy of those with different attachment styles. They aren’t smothering or distant to their partners.
Here are the hallmarks of a securely attached person:
- They have the ability to regulate their emotions
- They trust others easily and assume the best
- They have effective communication skills
- They are able to seek emotional support
- They are comfortable being alone and comfortable in close relationships
- They are easy to connect with, handle conflict well, and typically have high self-esteem.
And remember, if you’re not sure, it’s most likely that your ex has a secure attachment style because around 50% of people do. That’s why we’re addressing this one first.
Now… how does this affect your goal of getting your ex back? Well there’s good news and bad news here. If you or your ex have a secure attachment style, then it’s easier to form relationships which means that once you have begun to reconnect, things are just going to get easier from there.
You’ll be more able to trust and be trusted, and you won’t be plagued by jealousy or conflict the way that others would.
But there is a downside here. People with secure attachment are LESS likely to break up and get back together by their very nature. That’s not to say that it’s impossible–it absolutely is possible in most situations–but once a breakup has happened, people with secure attachment are more likely to stick to their decision and move on.
This is because they’re better at processing the bad feelings associated with the breakup, so they aren’t going to miss you as much as someone else would, sadly–at least not in an obsessive way. Also, they are less desperate for a partner because they’re comfortable being alone.
You need to take all this into consideration when dealing with a secure ex. They’re less jealous so trying to make them jealous will be more difficult.
They’re more likely to be swayed by sincere and consistent attempts to spend time together and rebuild the connection.
Avoidant Attachment Style
Sometimes referred to as “dismissive-avoidant”, people with this attachment style are highly independent and tend to place less value on connecting with others. They find that the costs of closeness outweigh the benefits so they tend to push others away.
If you fall under the Avoidant attachment style, you may be downright scared of intimacy and become angry when you feel your partner trying to control your behaviour or limit your freedom.
When someone is said to have “commitment phobia”–like the stereotypical “player” who brings home a different girl every night–they probably have an avoidant attachment style. It is a bit more common for men to fall into this category than women but upwards of 25% of people fall into this category so it’s far from rare.
RELATED: Getting Your Avoidant Ex Back
Avoidants are formed by parents who do not accept their child’s emotions or tolerate the expression of these emotions. Or parents who expect their children to be independent and mature at a young age. Avoidants expressed emotion and desire for closeness from their parents and were often rejected.
It doesn’t mean that they had an awful childhood, but this kind of upbringing taught them that connecting with other people is often difficult, painful and not worth the hassle… so they found meaning in other places in their lives.
This can manifest in a variety of different ways. Many avoidants are also workaholics or are passionate about hobbies that they can do completely solo.
They’ll have few close friendships and will avoid social events. Avoidants will have fewer relationships than others and often more casual relationships. They’ll be afraid of commitment and moving forward in relationships. And they’ll struggle to express feelings or get close to others.
Closeness can have them feeling constrained and suffocated. They’ll withdraw into themselves at the first sign of conflict and they’ll be dismissive to the thoughts and emotions of their partner. And they’ll be fiercely independent, defending this independence at all costs.
Here are some other signs of the avoidant attachment style:
- They have a hard time trusting people
- They spend more time alone than interacting with others
- They believe they don’t need others in their lives
- They are stubborn and set in their ways.
Of course, a lot of this is all kind of a facade. Like those with anxious attachment, they’re operating out of fear but instead of opting for closeness to try to alleviate that fear, they choose distance.
The avoidant feels that if they can avoid getting too close, they won’t have to risk being hurt.
And, as I’m sure you know, they DO need people in their lives, despite how they may act. They crave connection the same as other people, they just find it more difficult and costly than their secure counterparts.
So how will this affect getting them back? Well, I won’t lie to you, avoidant exes can be hard to win back. This is because they’re stubborn, so they don’t want to admit that they want you back… even if they really do. And on top of that, they’re very good at stonewalling, so you may not get a message back from them for days, if ever.
The strategy here is to be patient with your avoidant ex. Don’t try to push them or you’ll scare them off and end up alone. Treat them like a nervous cat you’re trying to pet. Take slow steps forward. Give them space and don’t make a big deal out of it.
Let them feel like they’re in control of the situation and that you’re busy and have your own stuff going on. This will show your ex that you both value their independence and their own and that’s going to make them more willing to reconnect with you.
The good news about winning back an avoidant ex is that avoidant people are often quick to break up because they don’t know how to deal with conflict. This means that, with time, your ex will most likely realize that they ended the relationship for a stupid reason and that they want you way more than they want to avoid one argument.
Like I said, avoidant exes DO want connection with other people. They’re just afraid to ask for it so you’re going to have to be patient here.
Anxious Attachment Style
Nearly 20% of people have an anxious attachment style. These people tend to crave more intimacy and connection. They often struggle with being single, and tend to be insecure in relationships, constantly seeking reassurance from their partner. They’re more prone to emotional outbursts, anger, and paranoia… and often become ‘clingy’ or possessive in romantic relationships as a result of their insecurity.
This desire for closeness is often divorced from reality. For example, an anxious person could have just spent four days straight with their partner but the minute they leave to go to work, they’re suddenly worried that they’re never coming back.
If you remember the movie Wedding Crashers, there’s one girl in it that Vince Vaughn refers to as a “Stage 5 Clinger” because she won’t leave him alone. Or the main character in the show “Crazy Ex Girlfriend.”
This is what the “anxious attachment style” looks like. People with those traits–clingy, jealous, controlling–probably have an anxious attachment style. Women are more likely to have this attachment style than men.
People form anxious attachment styles as a result of inconsistent parenting. Sometimes the parent or parents will be receptive and attentive to their child’s needs.
Other times they will be distant and cold or even fully absent. A child does not know why their parents are acting so hot and cold and so they internalize it–assuming it is their own fault…the way that some children blame themselves for their parents’ divorce.
When a caregiver’s behavior sends children mixed signals, then it’s difficult for a child to understand what reasonable expectations are so they try to win their parents’ affection at all costs so that they feel better.
Another pattern linked to the anxious attachment style is when the parent seeks closeness with their child to satisfy their own needs instead of the child’s. These parents can appear intrusive and over-protective. They may try to control the child in order to calm their own fears about the future.
So because of their upbringing, they will be preoccupied with a few things: that you’re going to leave them, that you hate them, that you’re cheating, or that you two aren’t as close as they would like. With all that swirling around in their heads, it’s no wonder that they’re so anxious.
These feelings will come out in a variety of ways. First off, they’re likely to start relationships quickly even with people that they’re not compatible with because they’re–in a word–desperate to have a partner. Once in a relationship, they’ll move things along too quickly, often faster than their partner is comfortable with, because they crave that closeness in such an acute way.
Here are a few more hallmarks of anxious attachment:
- They are highly sensitive to criticism and the approval of others
- They struggle to be alone, even for a short time
- They have low self-esteem and feel unworthy of love
- They have an intense fear of rejection and a fear of abandonment because it’s hard for them to trust others.
So anxious attachment is difficult in a relationship but it will help you get your ex back in most situations. This is because your ex CRAVES connection with another person. This means that you have something they want: closeness and intimacy. On top of that, jealousy is a huge problem for those with anxious attachment so don’t be afraid to push these buttons a little if you want them back.
That said, they may be a little volatile compared to a secure person. They’re afraid of abandonment and a breakup can trigger this big time–even if they ended things–so they’re going to need a lot of reassurance and love from you while reconnecting.
Disorganized Attachment Style
This is also known as the “fearful-avoidant” attachment style. People who fit into this category have the worst of both worlds: they crave intimacy and close connection, but also fear it and run from it.
They tend to be pessimistic and approach relationships expecting to get hurt. They don’t handle their emotions well, and can quickly become hostile or even abusive.
Luckily only 5% of people fall into this category so it’s not likely that your ex has disorganized attachment.
Disorganized attachment can be caused by childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse. It can also be caused by or go along with other psychological issues. As children, these people were afraid of their parents and were deeply confused. Again, this comes from a kind of hot and cold behaviour from the parents, but turned up to 11.
Those who fall into the disorganized attachment category will suffer from fear of rejection and have an inability to regulate emotions. Their behaviour may be very inconsistent and confusing. They experience high levels of anxiety and have difficulty trusting others. As you can probably see, these are signs of both avoidant and anxious attachment styles.
This type is also associated with mood and personality disorders, self-harm and substance abuse. Not a pretty picture. Chances are this attachment style may have led to your breakup in the first place, if your ex really is a fearful-avoidant.
Obviously, there’s a difficult road ahead if you want this person back, but it’s rarely ever impossible. Since they have traits of both avoidant and anxious attachment, both of these approaches should be taken into account when trying to get them back. So don’t rush them, but be emotionally present and consistent.
Do NOT get caught up in drama or take their behaviour personally. This kind of person struggles to deal with emotions so they’re likely having a tough time with the breakup, and may show strong emotions or try to suck you into arguments.
There is some good news though: if the disorganized attacher allows themself to brood and reflect on the issues in their previous relationship–which they are more likely to do–they may develop insight into their actions and see what went wrong.
If they think they’re responsible for the breakup–and people with low self esteem tend to blame themselves–then they may be able to alter their patterns of behavior for the better in future relationships.
So, the person with disorganized attachment may be more likely to experience success in future relationships due to their tendency towards looking inward.
And remember, attachment styles aren’t set in stone… they’re on a spectrum. That means that you’re not going to fit 100% perfectly into any single attachment style… you’re likely just somewhere in one of the four “quadrants” of the Attachment Theory model.
You could have elements from 2 or 3 attachment styles, and even change over the course of your life as you learn and grow in relationships.
What About Your Attachment Style?
Now you’ve figured out your ex’s attachment style and what it means…but what about YOURS? I’m guessing by now you already have an idea which attachment style sounds closest to your own. The question is, how will this affect getting your ex back?
Well you need to determine how your behaviour—caused by this attachment style—affected your relationship and your ex in the past.
Did they end the relationship because you were avoidant and cold? Were you too clingy and jealous? Did you refuse to deal with conflict? Did you create conflict because you didn’t feel loved? Were you controlling?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then this will determine how you need to approach your ex going forward.
If you were jealous or controlling, you need to show your ex that you’ve changed by allowing them to have their space and independence. If you were avoidant then you need to show up for them and be more warm and present.