Caught in a Pattern of Anxious/Ambivalent Attachment? – 4 Common Indicators

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Our attachment style develops early in childhood. We carry it with us through the years.

Unconsciously, it drives many of our relationship patterns.

If you feel like you’re stuck repeating the same type of relationship over and over again, then perhaps you repeatedly pick the same type of partner because of your attachment pattern.

Anxious-ambivalent attachment is one very common pattern. It can develop in children whose primary caregiver was inconsistent to some extent. In other words, when you were a baby, you cried, and sometimes Mom (or your personal equivalent of Mom) met your needs, but sometimes she didn’t (even if she did her very best and it wasn’t her intention whatsoever to misattune to your needs).

As a result, in your adult life, you may be always trying to get your needs met in your relationship in ways that reinforce that feeling of inconsistency.

Here are four signs in adult relationships that indicate you are stuck in a pattern of anxious/ambivalent attachment.

1. You Struggle with Prevailing Feeling of Insecurity

If you have a secure attachment, then you feel pretty confident in your relationships. You feel like if you need your partner, they are going to be there. That said, you don’t feel like they are the be-all-and-end-all of your happiness.

If you have an insecure attachment, though, you more so don’t believe that your partner will meet your needs. Moreover, in an anxious/ambivalent attachment, you also don’t believe that you can get those needs met elsewhere, so you likely aren’t inclined to leave the relationship even if it is painful.

Your insecurity may manifest as:

  • Preoccupation with the relationship, sometimes to the exclusion of all else

  • Constant fear of rejection even from partners who say they accept you

  • Jealousy and the feeling that, certainly, this partner will abandon you

  • Always seeking reassurance that your partner loves you

Basically, no matter how much your partner shows up for you, you're pretty sure that someday they are going to stop showing up. Your behavior indicates as much.

2. You’ve Been Accused of Smothering

Are you the type of partner that goes overboard when it comes to PDAs? Do you cling to the person you’re dating, always sure to touch them every minute that you’re out?

If you are generally clingy, both emotionally and physically, then you’ve probably been accused more than once of smothering your partner. That’s a huge red flag that you’re stuck in an anxious/ambivalent pattern.

3. You Assume Your Partner’s Actions Are Always About You

Your partner says that they need space, and you immediately think that you’ve done something wrong. In fact, you can’t really fathom why they might want personal space unless something is amiss.

If you take your partner’s behavior very personally, focus on what they want even sometimes to the exclusion of what you want, and get offended easily by the things that they say and do, then you’re probably stuck in an anxious/ambivalent pattern.

4. Your Conflicts Could Be Described as Stormy

If you weren’t sure that your needs were going to be met when you were young, you may have learned to engage in dramatic behavior in order to get the attention that you needed. This can follow you into adulthood. Instead of having calm disagreements with your partner, you get really wound up, blow up, and possibly even storm out.

This seems contradictory to your desire to cling to your partner, but the underlying desire is that you want them to come chase after you and make everything okay. You want to “poke the bear” so to speak because, at least, that gets the bear’s attention. You may also act unreasonably childlike in the hopes that your partner will want to take care of you.

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Contrary to some information you may read out there about attachment, you actually are not fated to the same attachment style permanently. Working through those early childhood attachment wounds is a powerful way to change the patterns in your adult relationships. Click here to learn more about how I might help.