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Thursday, July 22, 2010

T3 - Ambivalent Attachment

Since I'm still answering questions from the response section of this post, this week I'm tackling
TrophyofGrace's question about ambivalent attachment:

"I'd really like to understand more about ambivalent attachment in adults and the effects of relationships it can have and the symptoms, etc. How would you go about lessening ambivalent attachment?"
For those who don't know what attachment is, much less ambivalent attachment, I did a series of posts here on the different types of attachment. In short, attachment is a lasting psychological connection between human beings. We learn how to relate to others by how our parents related to us. There is a direct link between childhood attachment patterns, adult attachment styles, and functioning in intimate and romantic relationships.

Those who are ambivalently attached have relationships often characterized by anxiety and uncertainty. Because they have such a low opinion of themselves (that they are unworthy of love and unable to get they love they need without being angry and clingy), they can be excessively vigilant and jealous. The might always demand reassurance of faithfulness and end up scaring others away. It's a catch 22--they have a profound need for closeness but can't trust that their partner will be emotionally available.

So, as you can imagine, the effects on a relationship can be disastrous. When a partner doesn't feel trusted, it picks at the very foundation of a good relationship. Initially, the partner might just think, "Oh, she needs a bit more of my attention." But since he's into you, he'll go with it for a while....until it becomes over-the-top and, quite honestly, annoying. No one wants to keep reassuring their mate that they love them or find them attractive. I'm sure it would get old. Eventually the mate would likely become bitter about it, and arguments spring forth. The end is a short time away. And the ambivalently attached person seeks to do this all over again.

Lessening ambivalent attachment problems--or ANY attachment problem--will be easier with therapy. Trained professionals know how to dig in and treat the root cause of the attachment disorder. Here are two options besides seeking individual therapy:

1) Join a grief group.

Moving through the process of grieving childhood losses is important to feeling comfortable in our adult roles. Resolving old grief around how we were brought up will help us not to bring these unresolved feelings into our intimate relationships.

2) Undergo communication skills training.

You don't have to go to therapy for this one. This kind of training happens on the job, by picking up a self-help book, etc. But learning the basics of listening and talking can take a strained relationship and make it more successful. Learning the art of creating safe environments to discuss in, being attuned to the other's needs, learning empathy, understanding the difference between passive/aggressive/assertive communication styles, utilizing body language...all of these skills can help you talk better to your spouse or intimate partner.

I hope this helps with your writing, TrophyofGrace!

Wordle: signature


K.M. Weiland said...

Doesn't sound found very fun - but it *does* sound like it has all kinds of potentials for fictional angst!

Tara McClendon said...

Any catch 22 is a good foundation for conflict. Thanks for the question and answer.

Linda Glaz said...

Oooh, this opens the door to some deep internal for the character. Thanks,

Shannon said...

I always feel sorry for the poor old Ambivalents when I see them in books. Their need is so great that they're so often alone.

TrophyofGrace said...

Thats awesome, thanks heaps!! Such an interesting world an ambivalent lives in, defo can delve deep with this one!

SugarScribes said...

Sounds very much like a personality disorder that my husband's ex wife suffers from. It is called BPD or Borderline Personality Disorder. The symptoms sound familiar and I know that she has fear of abandonment which causes her to feel unworthy of being loved. Her fear causes her to test and question the people who love her until she normally clings to them and becomes so possessive and clingy and jealous (unfounded) that the people in her life (men and also her friendships with women go through this) end up leaving her. It is like her fear makes her act in the very manner that causes those close to her to leave, hence her original fear comes true. (If that makes any sense)

Is this at all like the situation you are desrcibing?


Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

melissa - it's very much like borderline....i honestly hadn't thought of it that way, but it definitely fits. it's a push/pull---i hate you, don't leave me. (that's actually the name of a book all about borderline PD....fascinating read).

thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.