Curious about ambivalent attachment and how it affects your relationship?

Join me in this video for our continued overview of the attachment styles, beginning with ambivalent attachment. I’ll share with you some of the specific childhood experiences that lead to the formation of the ambivalent attachment style (also called anxious attachment or anxious-ambivalent attachment), including attachment trauma.

Attachment theory explains that if you have an anxious attachment style, you may have learned as a child to put your own needs aside and take care of others.

People with anxious-ambivalent attachment often believe that other people aren’t fundamentally there for them. This can lead to getting into relationships with unavailable partners, and can make it hard to stand up for what you need to be happy.

So check out this video for some powerful new insights into ambivalent attachment!

Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Gabrielle Usatynski, and this is your power couple relationship tip.

So, as I said in my last video to you, I’m going to be going deeply into the various attachment styles so that you can get a sense of what your attachment style is and your partner’s.

If you like what you learn in this video, please, remember to hit the Subscribe button and give me a thumbs up. And also, you can go to The Power Couple Formula to learn all kinds of tips about how to have a fantastic relationship.

Anxious-Ambivalent Style

The first attachment style we’re going to be talking about is the anxious ambivalent style.

Now, this style goes by a number of different names in the literature. It’s sometimes called the anxious style, sometimes called the ambivalent style but for the purpose of this video, we’re just going to call it the ambivalent style. Okay? So each of the attachment styles has a certain kind of family that produces that particular style, certain kind of family culture, you could say, or relationships within the family.

So children who grow up to develop ambivalent attachment come from families where they did get a certain amount of good contact. They were held, kissed, rocked, and perhaps soothed at least some of the time when they were sick or when they were hurt.

Other times, they were not responded to with that kind of sensitivity and warmth.

So maybe they had a parent who was really overwhelmed with their own problems, and just wasn’t there for the child emotionally, or it could be a situation where a parent was just really preoccupied with themselves or with something else going on, or maybe the child was really shamed and treated with derision and even treated meanly by the parent. 

So what you get with ambivalent attachment is this dual kind of caregiving where sometimes a parent is really showing up for you, and sometimes, they’re really not. And what that does is it makes the child feel very ambivalent, there’s that word, about being in contact with another person.

And that makes sense, right?

How Ambivalent Attachment Affects Relationships

Maybe their relationship is going well, but there’s always kind of this voice at the back of their head that’s going, “This isn’t going to work. I’ve been here before. I know how this goes. And even though you might be here for me right now, I’m anticipating that you’re going to drop me, that this is going to go sour for me pretty soon.”

Okay, so that’s that ambivalent kind of experience that we see with this attachment style.

Ambivalent attachment can be in men or in women and causes lots and lots of problems in relationship.

So one of the problems that we see with this is that because you have this kind of ambivalent attitude about being in connection with another person, there’s a part of you that’s actually expecting that this isn’t going to go well.

It can be very easy to get into relationships that actually aren’t good for you, where you actually aren’t being treated well because there’s a part of you that kind of believes that this is how relationships go, that people are going to drop you, they’re going to mistreat you, they’re not going to be there for you.

Role Reversals

So one of the things that happens in families that produce an ambivalent attachment style is that there’s a lot of what we call role reversal. And what that means is that a child is expected to perform parental jobs, parental responsibilities within the family.

Role reversal is pretty much present in all families that produce this kind of attachment style.

And what it means is that usually there’s a parent, very often the mother but not always, who has very poor emotional regulation herself. And by that, I mean that she is not very good at managing her own feelings. So she might get very easily overwhelmed, she might cry a lot, and she might feel very unsupported in her own life.

And as a result, she may be relying on the child for a certain kind of soothing, a certain kind of comfort and emotional support, and that can very easily produce the ambivalent attachment style in that child.

Because what that child learns is that in order for me to get the connection that I need, I have to put my own needs aside, and take care of the other person.

Ambivalents Struggle To Set Clear Boundaries

And so ambivalents are people who tend to grow up believing that the best way to be in the world is to put what they need aside, and take care of the other person. And you’ll often see that in relationships with partners who are extremely giving, and, you know, take care of everybody else except for themselves, and they’re always on the back burner.

One of the big problems that ambivalents encounter when it comes to adult intimate relationships is that it’s very difficult for them to stand up for themselves if it means that it might end the relationship.

So, let’s say that you’re in a relationship, and you’re being treated very poorly by your partner, if you’re ambivalent, it can be very difficult to say, “Look, this needs to change. We need to work on this, or I’m going to have to leave.”

Now that’s a very fair thing for a person to say, it’s a necessary thing for someone to say if they’re in a relationship with a partner who is being insensitive or unfair, and to be willing to put your foot down and insist that you guys go to couple’s therapy, or you work on the problem in some way to get to a solution that works for both of you.

But many people with an ambivalent attachment style are not willing to actually draw that line in the sand, and insist on what they need in order to be happy in the relationship because they’re afraid that if they do that, that the relationship might end.

So, it’s a fear of standing up for oneself if that means the end of the connection.

And that is a problem that you can really understand if you understand the history, the childhood history, where the child had to put their own needs aside in order to take care of somebody else.

So, that leaves really no room for that child’s needs, and that’s what that person is used to, and that’s why it’s so hard for them to be willing to stand their ground, and insist on what they need in order to be happy.

Of course, it’s a very painful thing as a therapist to see somebody struggling with this issue where they’re being mistreated in their relationship, their partner is not interested in working on the problem, and the ambivalent is not willing to say, “No, this needs to change,” or, “I’m moving on.”

Solutions to Ambivalent Attachment

So the solution to that problem is if you have an ambivalent attachment style, it’s really important to reflect on why is it that you can’t stand up for yourself.

Who was it who made you feel like your needs didn’t matter?

And the more you can have an understanding of where that comes from, the easier it is to understand and make a connection with how you’re behaving in your relationship now.

And very often, what happens for people is they just realize, “Wow, I don’t want to live like that anymore. You know, I was made to feel like second best as a child, my needs did not come first, but I’m going to make a different choice now.”

The learning really is that in order for a couple to succeed, both partners need to feel like their needs are being equally met in the relationship.

It’s never going to work when one person feels like they’re getting the raw end of the deal.

If one person’s getting the raw end of the deal, it doesn’t work for anybody.

So, this is where it starts, is the recognition that just because your needs for contact, for closeness, for love, for comfort might have been overlooked when you were younger, it doesn’t mean that you have to have that kind of life for you now.

So, if you enjoyed what you learned in this video, you can sign up to our newsletter for lots more information about how to build a great relationship.

Don’t forget to subscribe, click on the Like button, and leave me your comment below about your questions about ambivalent attachment, and I’ll be happy to answer them. 

See you next time.

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