Ambivalent Attachment

Over the last five to six years, I’ve put a lot of time into developing insight. After seeing how a three-year toxic relationship unfolded and almost led to my untimely demise, I knew there was work to be done. With that being said, I’ve been in countless therapy sessions, had hundreds of deep conversations with loved ones, and written dozens of reflective pieces on this blog.

As much as I felt like I had a strong understanding, something was missing. There was a nonexistent piece to this elaborate puzzle that felt like it could pull it altogether.

I remember mentioning this small void to my therapist back in July after a tumultuous three-week fling with a codependent woman. That short stint was enough to reignite a trauma response.

I’d say that every two to three sessions I’d mention this feeling to my therapist. I sensed an internal frustration because I couldn’t quite figure it out. It was there. I could feel it, but I couldn’t identify it. It kept creeping up, and I continually accepted it as an unknown factor.

Recently, a client of mine (who also happens to be a counselor) was talking about a group she led at her job. The topic of the group encompassed attachment styles as a child and how it translated into adulthood.

At my next session, I brought this up to my therapist. I could almost immediately see a light bulb go off over her head. She identified an “ambivalent/anxious” attachment style. See below:


Compulsive caregiving

Rapid relationship breakups

Feel overly involved and underappreciated

Idealizing of others

Strong desire for partner to reciprocate in relationship

Desire for extensive contact and declarations of affections

Over invests his/her emotions in a relationship

Perceives relationships as imbalanced

Relationship is idealized

Preoccupation with relationship

Dependence on relationship/Heavy reliance on partner

Views partner as desirable but unpredictable (sometimes available, sometimes not)

Perceives others as difficult to understand

Relationship is primary method by which one can experience a sense of security Unlikely to view others as altruistic

Sensitive to rejection

Discomfort with anger

Extreme emotions



Views self as unlovable

Suicide attempts

Mood swings

Tendency toward anaclitic depression (dependent depression)

As I started reading the details, I felt myself tearing up. It made too much sense.

Now, I’m not going to say that every single one of those traits fit me, but at least 70%-80% of them fit me. My therapist explained how my relationships growing up (i.e. parents) and my trauma history caused this attachment type. I craved a strong bond with people, but my distrust in others made it difficult for that to happen. Those two things also caused me to feel responsible for others and become dependent on others to feel fulfilled. It made sense as to why I came off as intense in past relationships and felt alone even when I wasn’t.

Is that to say that I would change my past or how my parents cared for me? Absolutely not. My past made me who I am, and some of those characteristics listed above I actually don’t mind like the caregiving aspect. I like that about myself. However, I need to keep them in check and not let them take over to the extreme.

Seeing the list my therapist sent me also quelled that internal frustration. It brought a sense of tranquility with it. It helped me to connect everything I’ve been working on up until this point.

– The Caring Counselor

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