What is Ambivalent Attachment And How Does it Affect Me?
By Sarah Fader
Updated January 02, 2019
Reviewer Stephanie Chupein
Any child will intrinsically desire love, affection, and security from their caregiver. When given, these three things will result in secure attachment between the child and the caregiver. When these three things do not occur, however, it can result in trauma to the child, even from an early age. With ambivalent attachment the child may receive love, affection, and security, but not in a way that develops healthy relationships and attachments, which is something we'll discuss even more, right here.
What Is Ambivalent Attachment?
When a child receives love and affection sporadically rather than consistently it can result in some different problems for the child. When the parent is not consistent in giving these things and seems to take them away randomly for reasons that the child cannot understand, it results in a level of fear within the child. Because they don't know if love or affection will be provided or not each time they see the parent they see these things as fleeting in all of their relationships going forward in their life, which continues into adulthood.
The child comes to believe that just because they are loved one day does not mean that they will be the next and therefore they become fearful that those they love will one day leave them. They desire to love, strive for affection and crave the attention but they are terrified that those things will not stay. They don't feel safe in any relationship because they don't know how to trust that those people will continue to want them around or to care for them as time goes on, which results in internalization of the problem.
A child in this type of family dynamic will come to believe that they are the problem. Because they cannot understand specific situational reasons for the change in feelings, they will come to believe that it is their misgivings or shortcomings that cause the loss. They come to believe that they are not good enough to receive the love and attention they want or that they are not communicating properly to get what they need from others. As a result, they tend to have difficulty with many of the things that most find commonplace within relationships.
Concerns From Children Of Ambivalent Attachment
These children may have a very little problem expressing their feelings to others but tend to feel extremely emotional. They have difficulty being alone and struggle with a fear of being abandoned. They tend to be very clingy when they are in relationships, to an extent where their partner may have problems with it. They want intimate relationships and desire increased intimacy at all times however they may struggle to form these types of relationships. They are very concerned about being rejected by others and seek out support at times when they feel stressed. They find personal achievement and success even to be less important than close relationships with others.
These individuals are constantly seeking out love and affection but require proof of these feelings as well. They have difficulty trusting others, and they may even put their relationship in jeopardy because of their behaviors and their attempts to prove their partner's feelings. They may become overly obsessed with the relationship, which results in sabotage over time. Their relationships tend to break down as a result of their clinginess and their over-fixation on all aspects of it and their partner, however, it only serves to reinforce their troubles.
What It Means For You
If you were raised in a household where the ambivalent attachment was created, it is most definitely possible that you can overcome that trauma. Learning to create healthy relationships is crucial to your success in the future, with friendships as well as intimate relationships. Because it wasn't modeled or fostered in you during your childhood, it's going to be more difficult to do when you're older, but it's not impossible. By seeking out professional help and going through counseling, it is possible to work through the trauma, the insecurity, and the fear.
Those who have been through these types of situations want to have an intimate relationship and want to have someone that they can trust to be there for them. It can be difficult for this to occur when that same individual is the one sabotaging the relationship. That's why you can't go about it alone. Even the most understanding partner will have difficulty working with you on the intimacy issues that you have or the trust issues that exhibit themselves. By adding a professional therapist or psychiatrist into the mix as well, it's possible to give yourself a better chance.
Finding A Professional
Finding someone that you can talk to about what you're going through and what you've experienced is extremely important, but it takes time, hard work and effort on your part. You need to want this and to be willing to devote your time and energy into it. Finding a professional though, shouldn't be as hard as you might think. No one likes to walk into a psychiatrist's office off the street because no one wants to be judged by strangers. Up until recently, however, that was the only way that you could get the professional help you needed.
Now, there is an entirely different option. You can reach out to a professional entirely online, without ever having to leave your own home. BetterHelp is one way that you can do just that. You'll be able to check out the online website and find many resources about different disorders and what you can do to help yourself. You'll also be able to find some professional therapists and psychiatrists that can help you work through your situation. Because everything is done online, you never have to worry about people on the street seeing you or a nosy receptionist or even missing appointments because of the weather. You'll always be able to feel comfortable.