It’s common knowledge these days that the relationship between parent and child has long-term effects on a child’s behavior. The presence or absence of both parents is the first and the most influential model of their future interpersonal relationships.
That is true, even if nobody really remembers how things were in the first three to five years of their lives.
Ambivalent attachment relationships happen when the child only receives sporadic care from their parents.
An infant will instinctively look for emotional and physical protection from people they see. After a few months, they begin to recognize important people in their lives such as their nuclear family or caregiver. They expect a certain level of affection from these people and the moment there is a disconnect between reality and those expectations, an ambivalent behavior develops.
Irregular care from those people will confuse the child. They haven’t developed the critical thinking faculties to figure out the inconsistent treatment they receive. Because of that, they will arrive at the simplest conclusion. It is their fault. It is how ambivalent attachment behavior starts to manifest.
Ambivalent attachment style and type
There are two different sub-classifications of ambivalent attachment styles.
Ambivalent resistant attachment type
It’s when the child, or eventually an adult, desperately seeks attention but is resistant to relationships. Bullies, delinquents, and casanovas are born from this type.
They want to be the center of the world and do what they can to receive attention and intimacy but refuse to reciprocate it back.
Ambivalent passive type
It is the complete opposite of the resistant attachment type.
They fear judgment and connections and thus avoid interaction with other people. They are socially awkward but desperately want companionship.
Once someone is able to break through the communication challenges, they become extremely clingy and possessive.
Ambivalent attachment in adults
The attachment styles are only different in how they portray themselves in public. Inside personal relationships, all types of ambivalent attachment styles act the same. They are always doubting themselves, their partner, and the relationship as a whole.
They are always expecting people to leave them. They will go through extremes to prevent that from happening, from subtle actions to suffocating their partner. They will constantly need reassurance in love, care, and affection. Insecure-ambivalent attachment is a high maintenance relationship for the other party.
They will always demand attention from their partner, the moment they feel neglected, they interpret the matter in an extremely negative light. Their subconscious childhood memories will tell them that no relationship is stable and people will leave for no apparent reason.
Once their preoccupied or ambivalent attachment disorder kicks in, they would react to a “slight neglect” in various ways.
1. They need over-the-top validation from their partner
A mature individual in a relationship looking for reassurance from their partner will only need a hug or a few words. A person with an ambivalent attachment disorder will need a full-blown date with gifts, flowers, and other forms of affection.
Their insecurities will not be sated by simple words or signs of affection. Assuming their partner wants to continue their relationship, they would need to work hard to stabilize the situation even if they have done nothing wrong. As you can tell, this kind of personality is annoying and gets old real fast.
The partner will end up abandoning the suffocating relationship and it further reinforces all the subconscious justifications of the ambivalent attachment behavior.
2. They would become clingy and possessive
Some people with Ambivalent Attachment disorder will be proactive in protecting their relationship. Instead of asking for reassurance and validation from their partner, they would put them in a very short leash.
Their forgotten childhood memories of abandonment and unsatisfied needs will manifest in an intimate relationship in a dangerous stalker form. They will become controlling and manipulative in an effort to keep the relationship together.
The logic here is to prevent their partner from making decisions that would lead to a break-up, the ambivalent disorder partner will be making all the decisions for both of them.
Obviously, it won’t sit well most people. There are masochistic people who might enjoy it, but for the majority of the population, this kind of relationship is unhealthy and repressive.
They would eventually leave the relationship and the ambivalent attachment person will resolve to try harder next time. Their negative prediction becomes self-fulfilling prophecies.
3. They would begin preparations for a break-up
Not all people with ambivalent or preoccupied attachment personality will actively prevent the relationship from falling apart. A lot of them are already used to the circle of desperation, relationship, abandonment and will not fight what they consider as their “fate”.
It doesn’t matter if the signs they are seeing are real, imagined, or misinterpreted. They would assume the worst and take steps to “move on.” It includes desperately looking for a new partner. In order to protect themselves from abandonment, they will be the first to leave the relationship at a physical and emotional level by finding a new mate.
They are not blaming their partner for their shortcomings, they just believe it’s the natural course of things that people hook-up, break-up, rinse, repeat.
Even if they are desperately searching for a deep bond with a person, they find it impossible to trust a person and form that bond.
Their childhood trauma is telling them that it doesn’t matter who the person is or what they do, they will all act in an unpredictable manner. So regardless of their actions or inactions, over time, their partner will leave. The Ambivalent attachment person will enter a relationship with this mindset, and like the previous two behaviors, this too will lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy and further justify their dysfunctional behavior.
Ambivalent means conflicting, and ambivalent attachment by definition is a behavior that acts contradictory to their desires. The inconsistencies they received at an early age is now exhibiting as destructive and counter-productive actions or reactions. Now that they are adults, their confusing actions are preventing them from having a healthy and fulfilling relationship.