Ambivalence in Relationships

Ambivalence in Relationships


Have you ever felt the pang of unrequited love? Or had the thought:  “Is this my last chance at love?”

If you vacillate between avoiding love and loving too much, you might be what’s called Ambivalent. This is a kind of attachment disorder that is difficult to understand.

Read this helpful article to understand this kind of struggle that leads to difficulty in forming deep connecting relationships.



Ambivalence in Relationships

By susanpeabody 01/29/18

When it comes to toxic love and relationships, there are two kinds of people: those who love too much (the Love Addict), and those who love too little, (the Love Avoidant). If you vacillate between the two you are an Ambivalent. All of this is part of an attachment disorder.

Most Ambivalents are frightened of intimacy and usually pursue unavailable people. I call them Torchbearers. This used to be called unrequited love. This kind of ambivalence, more than any other, feeds on fantasies and delusions. Many of these people believe that their infatuation is reciprocated (returned) when it is not (erotomania). People who are still in love with their high school sweetheart are ambivalent. They cannot fall out of love after withdrawal. They must wait to fall in love with someone new and transfer the limerence [romantic love].

Often Ambivalents destroy relationships when they start to get serious or at whatever point their fear of intimacy comes up. This can be anytime—before the first date, after the first date, after sex, after the subject of commitment comes up. Men are more likely to do this than women, but there are no statistics on this.

Some Ambivalents run hot and cold. They always come on to you when they want sex or companionship. When they become bored or frightened, they begin withholding companionship, sex, affection, anything that makes them feel anxious. If they leave the relationship just once, they are called Saboteurs. If they keep repeating the pattern of being available/unavailable in the same relationship, they are Seductive Withholders. SW’s offer more intimacy each time they come back. They up the stakes with offers of commitment, living together, marriage, children, etc.. They rarely keep their promises to change.

Some Ambivalents are simultaneously addicted to multiple partners. Unlike sex addicts, who are trying to avoid bonding altogether, these Ambivalents bond with each of their partners, to one degree or another, even if the romantic liaisons are short-lived. These Ambivalents are often confused with Sex Addicts. Tiger Woods [could be considered] a good example of this. I call them Romance Addicts.

The most famous kind of Ambivalent is someone who suffers from being a Narcissist. On the surface, the Narcissist appears to be an Avoidant. He or she is usually aloof, detached, self-confident, self-centered, domineering, and/or afraid of commitment. However, when you leave Narcissists they can turn into Ambivalents because they can’t handle being rejected. They turn to manipulation, aggression, and even violence to hold on even though they remain ambivalent. (O.J. Simpson was Ambivalent like this.)

It is a common pattern for Ambivalents to obsess when someone is unavailable and then become ambivalent when a healthy person comes along. This happens a lot in recovery for other addictions. For more about this, read “Finally Getting it Right,” by Howard Halpern.

Ambivalents suffer from some form of childhood of incest (overt, covert, or emotional), and they fall in love but abort the relationship when it gets too serious. By incest I mean overt (sexual molestation and rape); covert (sexual energy without touching); and emotional incest (being forced to be a surrogate partner.) Research this. I recommend “The Emotional Incest Syndrome” by Patricia Love or The “Courage to Heal” by Laura Davis.

In summary, Ambivalents are complicated people. They need to understand themselves and change. That is the only way to find healthy love.

In conclusion . . . Like Goldilocks, we are all looking for the relationship that is “just right.” So whether you love too much, too little, or just can’t make up your mind, find a recovery program suitable for your situation. Get help and CHANGE. Remember there is always a brighter tomorrow.

(used with permission from