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Relationships: The Ambivalent Attachment Style

Relationships: The Ambivalent Attachment Style

In a previous post, we discussed the traits of individuals with The Secure Attachment StyleNow, let’s discuss The Ambivalent Attachment Style. 

An ambivalent attachment style comes from a childhood in which love and affection are inconsistently given, based on factors the child does not understand.  Love and affection, though desperately wanted by the child, are seen as incredibly fragile things that can vanish without warning.  Because the child is never sure of receiving love and affection, they have an overriding necessity to secure the insecure. 

A child who is unsure of love and lives with the constant fear of abandonment grows up ambivalent toward relationships.  They desire something of which they are fundamentally fearful.  In ambivalent relationships, there is no safety.  Love and acceptance one day do not guarantee love and acceptance the next day, even under identical circumstances.  The only constant the child has on which to affix blame for this inconsistency is self.  The child concludes that love is withheld because they are not good enough, or have not communicated strongly enough.  There is no security in the relationship with the parent because that person may leave or withdraw love and affection at any time. 

Here are the statements that describe those with an ambivalent attachment style:

  • I really like sharing my feelings with my partner, but they do not seem as open as I am. 
  • My feelings can get out of control quickly.
  • I worry about being alone.
  • I worry about being abandoned in close relationships.
  • My partner complains that I am too clingy and emotional.
  • I strongly desire to be very intimate with people.
  • In my closest relationships, the other person doesn’t seem as desirous of intimacy and closeness as I am.
  • I worry a great deal about being rejected by others.
  • I tend to value close, intimate relationships over personal achievement and success.
  • When I get stressed, I desperately seek others for support, but no one seems as available as I would like them to be. 

A person with an ambivalent attachment style is constantly looking for proof of love and affection.  They are distrustful of others and seek to verify the relationship, often with extreme behaviors that can backfire and alienate the other person.  Because the relationship seems always in jeopardy, the ambivalent person tends to focus obsessively on the relationship.  How is it going?  Are there any problems?  Did I do everything right?  How does the other person feel about me?  No amount of reasonable reassurance seems enough, and the person appears needy and clingy while at the same time capably of extreme anger and rage. 

If you are struggling with relationship dependency, our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at addressing the symptoms today, but also unearthing and healing the root of the issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.



  1. This ambivalent attachment sounds exactly like me. I keep loving my partner but get nothing back in return, I don’t really know how to end the relationship, because I can’t be alone and would love him to love me too. We have been together a long time, there has been violence from him years ago, but not now. And I show anger sometimes and is clingy. My mum threatened to leave me when I was 2 but let me cry while she was packing her case, then after her leaving me cry for ages she let me know she was going to have my baby brother and wasn’t leaving.

  2. my spouse has what I feel is this disorder. It effects my whole life. I am exhausted trying to make him happy. he grew up as the “black sheep” and was always left out. I feel he is constantly looking for attention. He doesn’t see it as well as I do. I have asked him to go to therapy, etc for himself, but he won’t do it. says I just don’t give him enough attention, etc. etc. I’m so tired….

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your thoughtful message. Please feel free to call our admissions team to learn about treatment options at The Center or to receive resources close to you. Our number is 888.771.5166. We look forward to visiting with you. Wishing you peace and happiness this holiday season.



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