Attachments: The Ambivalent Style

If you have been following this series of posts on personality attachment styles, you will have a basic understanding of the theory that relationship patterns learned in infancy carry over into adult relationships. We have explored the Secure style (as associated with the majority of people) and the Avoidant style. Now let us go into detail on the Ambivalent style.

conditionality-889217_640 johnhainThe Ambivalent style is most commonly seen in infants with inconsistent, unpredictable parents. A parent may be affectionate and loving one moment, and the next emotionally unavailable. The child becomes distrustful and anxious as a result. They may become desperate for attention but withdrawn when that attention is received.

Then anxious children become adults, and carry much of this behavior into adult relationships. They are eager for approval from others and become clingy when they don’t get it. Their insecurity turns inward, creating self-doubt and fear, while at the same time feeling positive about others. Because the Ambivalent adult expects rejection and inconsistency, he or she is hypervigilant, looking for clues in a relationship that the partner is losing interest. In a desperate attempt to maintain the relationship, the Ambivalent adult may feel angry but suppress that anger, which often expresses itself in inappropriate ways.

If you recognize the Ambivalent style in yourself, you are not trapped in that role. Self-understanding and compassion in a therapeutic setting can make a difference. You can learn to be assertive and state your needs in a healthy way. You can learn authentic ways to relate, avoiding manipulation and game-playing. You can learn ways to accept and love yourself, finding self-fulfillment to reduce your codependency. You can learn to meet your own needs, so that a significant relationship can be a healthy one.

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