'How Do I Convince An Avoidant Ex-Fiance To Try Again?'

Two pensive young people
Two pensive young people

Reader Oh My God Please Don't Do This writes:

How can I reconcile with an avoidant ex-fiance who abruptly ended things when crisis hit and emotionally ran? It's been 6 months of no contact. I recently reached out for closure, but he states he still feels too unstable and uneasy talking to me. How do I scale his walls? Thanks.

Dear Did You See The Name I Gave You? I Mean It!,

I feel terrible for you. A broken engagement is stressful at best and heartbreaking at worst.  I have friends to whom this happened and they have told me it is extremely traumatic.  But now you want to get back with him? I can see how this could feel possible, but the likelihood of this working out, given all you've told me, is lower than the odds of my baby weaning himself by tomorrow.  Please consider the possibility that your ex-fiance is just not the man for you.  You are in some ways lucky, because you got to realize your ex-fiance's limitations before actually getting married to him.   What if you had a life and children and a house with him and so forth and then he cut and ran?  Would have been even worse, nevermind the financial and practical hurdles of divorce.

So, our job is to explore why you would even consider getting back with him if he begged you, nevermind trying to convince him yourself to resume the relationship.  I totally get why you want to be married, and why you want it to be to this guy, if you love him.  I wanted to get married like the day I started dating my husband.  Women's timelines for commitment are often shorter than men's.  But the key variable here is: this wasn't cold feet.  He didn't just have an outburst, saying he wasn't ready and apologizing.  He left and didn't even contact you for six months and now he is STILL not on board with resuming the relationship.  There is no world in which he is ready for marriage.  So here is what I think:

1. You're familiar with a pattern where you're the emotional pursuer, chasing after someone avoidant who rebuffs your attempts at connection at every turn, even to the point of breaking off your engagement.  You're preoccupied and that type is attracted to avoidant.  (Read more about preoccupied and avoidant attachment here and here.  Also this one that clearly discusses how insecurely attached people do worse at marriage.) So this pattern of chasing after someone to convince them to be close to you is something you've experienced before, likely in your childhood.  Does this resonate?  Were you ever pursuing one or both parents, or even a sibling, hoping to get them to be close, affectionate, more loving?  This is a pattern that is strongly entrenched.

2. You hope against hope that somehow, your love and support will change this man into someone emotionally open and able to weather stressors with a partner.  There is approximately zero evidence for this.  He will do this again, whether physically or "just" by withdrawing emotionally when you need him most.  Even if you can convince him to marry you, you will always worry about how he will react when there is a crisis or even low level daily stress.  What if you have kids with him and then he cuts and runs?  You will regret not having paid attention to the TREMENDOUS red flag of him not only breaking off the engagement but subsequently not even contacting you for 6 months and then after that, not even responding to your entreaties for closure!  This isn't one red flag, it is like five neon red flags each as big as a small planet.

I recommend that you start seeing a therapist in order to discuss why you're ignoring all obvious signs that this man does not have the emotional openness necessary to join his life to yours.  And I am sure you have many friends and family urging you to never speak to this guy again and date someone more emotionally available.  I don't like bandwagons but I am jumping on that one with both feet and locking myself to it with a bicycle chain. Please reconsider before you get hurt, badly, for the second time.

Till we meet again, The Blogapist That Thinks This Is Bound To Disappoint You And Hopes You Realize You're Worth More Than Convincing Some Guy To Marry You.  Also, Check It Out, At Least You're Not In This Situation.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.