Relationships: The Ambivalent Attachment Style

September 17, 2016   •  Posted in: 

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. 

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Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

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