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Make or Break: Overcoming Relationship Ambivalence

Are you stuck in an ambivalent relationship? We know it’s hard! But don’t worry. This article will help you decide what’s best for you both.

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If you’ve found yourself here, you may be searching for some clarity on where your relationship is headed. Of course, highs and lows are part of any partnership but, sometimes, relationship ambivalence rears its ugly head. It’s easier to break up when you no longer like the person. But what do you do when you just aren’t sure how you feel?

An ambivalent relationship is a mixed bag of emotions. There are some moments you feel comfortable and others where you find yourself questioning why you’re even together. This can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and resentful of both yourself and your partner. It’s important to remember that this is a normal part of any relationship, but dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions can be difficult and exhausting. This article will provide insight and understanding of how to manage an ambivalent relationship so that you can make the best decision for both of you.

We’ll help you identify the signs of an ambivalent relationship, explore why your emotions may be in limbo, and advise how to move forward. We will also share some tips on letting go with grace if you decide a break-up is the best option for you.

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How to Recognize Relationship Ambivalence

Relationship ambivalence refers to having mixed emotions toward your romantic partner. People who are feeling ambivalent about their relationships often experience a push and pull within themselves, feeling both positive and negative emotions towards their significant other at the same time.

Ambivalence can manifest in different ways, including feeling unsure about committing, having doubts about the relationship’s future, or simply feeling conflicted about one’s feelings towards the relationship. These confusing emotions can cause stress and anxiety, leading to difficulty in making concrete decisions about the future for you and your intimate relationships.

It’s important to note that ambivalence can occur in both newer and long-term relationships, and it’s a normal part of any relationship’s journey. However, each partner is responsible for understanding their own emotions and communicating with their partner about their doubts, insecurities, fears, and concerns if they want to overcome them and move the relationship forward.

Learning to navigate relationship ambivalence can be challenging, but seeking help from resources like couples counseling therapists, friends, and even articles like this one can be beneficial in understanding and resolving these mixed feelings. Ultimately, addressing ambivalence head-on helps individuals create healthier and more loving relationships.

Warning Signs of an Ambivalent Relationship

Recognizing the warning signs of an ambivalent relationship is crucial to addressing and finding help. Here are some common signs that may indicate ambivalence in your relationship:

Feeling unsure about the relationship’s longevity.

When you think about your future—is your partner in it? Of course, the answer should be yes, but this may not be the case if you’re feeling ambivalent about the relationship.

Having doubts about being in love with the partner.

Romantic love is an essential part of any healthy relationship. However, it could be a red flag if you’re questioning your feelings for your partner and doubting that you are in love with them.

It’s important to remember that love is a choice, and the feeling of “head over heels” love will come and go. However, if you’re feeling constant ambivalence about your relationship, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

Feeling disconnected or distant from the partner.

One of the most common signs of relationship ambivalence is feeling distant or disconnected from your partner. This could manifest in many ways, including one person not wanting to spend time with the other, avoiding physical intimacy, or not having the same communication as before.

Feeling like the relationship is holding you back from personal growth.

While there is always compromise in any healthy relationship, it shouldn’t feel like you’re sacrificing your own personal growth or goals. You should be excited about how your partner supports your growth as an individual.

Struggling to communicate needs, feelings, and emotions with your partner.

Communication is key. Once a breakdown of communication happens, the dominos begin to fall. If you’re unable to effectively communicate and share emotional intimacy with your partner, you and your partner may not be the best match.

Wanting more independence but fearing abandonment.

This is a tough one. Sometimes people stay in relationships longer than they should because being single sounds scarier. They fear being alone and don’t want to be abandoned. However, if you want more independence but stay put out of fear, this could lead to even bigger problems.

Feeling trapped and wanting to end the relationship but unsure how to do so.

If you feel like you’re stuck in a relationship and can’t seem to find your way out, this could mean the relationship is beginning on a downward spiral. This is especially true if the thought of leaving feels stronger than staying. Therefore, it’s important to consider all aspects before deciding to stay or go, as either decision has serious implications for yourself and your partner. 

Avoiding difficult conversations and choosing to stay in silence instead. 

Believe it or not, not talking can be just as damaging, if not more so, than arguing. If you find yourself avoiding difficult conversations or discussions, this could mean that both parties are beginning to emotionally leave the relationship.

Becoming increasingly distant from friends and family. 

When going through a rough patch in your relationship, it’s not unusual to become increasingly distant from your friends and family and avoid other interpersonal relationships. This could be a sign that you’re struggling to find support or validation from other sources. If you find yourself doing this, it’s important to reach out for help and seek emotional support from those around you.

How to Handle an Ambivalent Relationship

When it comes to handling an ambivalent relationship, the most important thing to remember is that you are in control. No matter how hard things may seem, there is always a way forward one way or the other. This section provides guidance as to whether the relationship is worth fighting for or if it’s time to part ways.

Tips for Making It Last

Take a step back: It’s important to take a step back from the relationship and evaluate your feelings and emotions. Reflect on what’s causing the ambivalence, and ask yourself if the good still outweighs the bad. 

Communicate openly: Ambivalence in a relationship often stems from a lack of communication. Having an open conversation with your partner is important to discuss your thoughts and feelings toward the relationship. Be honest about your doubts, concerns, and needs, and encourage your partner to do the same.

Seek professional help: Strain on the relationship can be complex and challenging to navigate on your own. Seeking the help of a therapist or counselor can be beneficial in understanding and resolving your mixed emotions and learning the tools to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships.

Be patient: Working through ambivalence in a relationship takes time and patience. Allow yourself and your partner the space and time to work through the issues and make a plan for moving forward. Keep in mind that progress may be slow, and setbacks may happen.

Set boundaries: If the relationship is causing stress or anxiety, it’s important to set boundaries to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being. Consider taking a break from the relationship to focus on personal growth and self-care.

Explore new activities: Trying something new with your partner can help foster connection and create positive experiences when things start to feel stagnant. Look for activities that are new to both of you as new experiences can help foster a sense of closeness.

Set goals: It’s important to establish realistic expectations and set achievable goals for the relationship. This can help provide a sense of direction and progress instead of feeling trapped in a cycle of ambivalence.

Be kind: Even if the relationship isn’t going as planned, it’s important to maintain kindness and respect towards your partner. Rejecting animosity or spiteful behavior can help create an environment to work through the ambivalence productively.

Take time apart: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Spending time apart can help give both partners the space they need to explore their feelings and reflect on what they need out of the relationship. This will also provide an opportunity for self-growth and individual healing.

Practice self-care: Taking care of your own emotional and mental health is essential in working through ambivalence in a relationship. Practice self-care by engaging in activities that make you feel good and help reduce stress, such as yoga, journaling, or spending time with friends.

Seek support: Seeking the support of family members and friends can be beneficial when feeling overwhelmed with ambivalence. Talking to someone outside of the relationship can help provide clarity and an objective perspective.

Be honest: It’s important, to be honest with yourself and your partner about the current state of the relationship. Acknowledging that the relationship is in a fragile state can help both partners understand their own feelings and work towards creating a healthier future together.

Be open-minded: It can be helpful to have an open mind when approaching a turbulent time in your relationship. Be willing to explore different solutions, confront difficult conversations, and find ways to create an environment that works for both partners.

Take it one step at a time: Working through ambivalence can sometimes feel like you’re in relationship limbo. At times it might feel overwhelming and exhausting, so it’s a good idea to take it one step at a time. Making small changes over time can help you move forward and create a healthier relationship, rather than trying to make a hundred changes all at once.

Relationships can be challenging, but with patience, persistence, and open communication, it’s possible to create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Remember that you deserve love and respect, and your decisions should ultimately reflect what’s best for you and your well-being.

When to Break It Off

While every type of relationship has its own set of challenges, here are some signs that it may be time to pull the plug on your relationship:

You don’t feel anything changing: Your doubts and concerns are persistent, and progress has not been made despite open communication and professional help.

Talking to your partner is like pulling teeth: Your ambivalent partner is unwilling to acknowledge and address your concerns.

You’re always stressed: The relationship is consistently causing you stress, anxiety, or depression.

Your lives are moving in different directions: You have different goals, values, or lifestyles that cannot be reconciled.

Love isn’t part of the relationship anymore: You no longer feel supported or loved in the relationship.

You feel taken for granted: Your needs aren’t being met, or your partner is not appreciating the effort you put into the relationshipYou feel like you’re doing all the heavy lifting, and that could hurt your self-esteem.

You no longer share common interests: Your relationship is starting to feel more strained, and there are fewer and fewer things that bring you joy together.

Your gut says to leave: Your body often knows before your mind does when it’s time for a change. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your intuition and pay attention to the signs that it’s time to move on.

You don’t trust each other anymore: When communication is no longer open and honest, trust can quickly deteriorate in a relationship.

A breakup is never an easy decision, but remember that you deserve to be in a healthy, fulfilling relationship. Trust your instincts and prioritize your well-being. Remember that with time and self-care, you can heal and move forward toward a happier and healthier future with the right person.

How to End a Relationship

If, after reading this article, you feel it’s time to end your romantic relationship, here are some tips to help make the end of your relationship as smooth as possible:

Be honest and direct: When ending a relationship, it is important to communicate your feelings honestly and openly with your partner. While it can be difficult, framing the conversation in a respectful and understanding way can help both parties feel heard.

Take care of yourself: Ending a relationship can be emotionally draining, so taking time for yourself and practicing self-care is important. Make sure to engage in activities that will help you cope with your emotions and recharge during this transition period.

Stay busy: Don’t wallow around at home; take the time to do something that you enjoy. Get out and engage in activities with friends and family, or volunteer your time with a local charity. Keeping busy can help prevent feelings of loneliness and boredom.

Allow yourself to grieve: It’s important to take time to process the emotions that come with ending a relationship. Allow yourself to feel sad and angry, but also remember that you are strong and capable of moving on.

Seek professional help: Talking with a therapist or counselor can be incredibly helpful in the transition period when breaking off a relationship. They can provide support, guidance, and perspective when it comes to dealing with the emotions associated with ending a relationship.

Be kind to yourself: Above all else, remember that you are doing what is best for you and your future. Stay positive, and look forward to better things ahead!

Discover What Your and Your Partner’s Attachment Style Is

Several attachment theories explain how early childhood experiences shape adult romantic relationships. Understanding which attachment style you and your partner (and other close relationships!) have can better recognize behaviors that tend to lead to unhealthy relationship patterns. This knowledge can then be used as an opportunity for growth and positive change in areas such as communication, trust, and emotional connection.

Here are a few of the most common ones:

Secure Attachment Theory: Secure attachment suggests that individuals who have secure attachments with their caregivers as children will have healthy, secure romantic relationships. They feel comfortable with intimacy, trust their partner, and can communicate effectively.

Anxious Attachment Theory: This theory suggests that individuals who have inconsistent or unpredictable caregiving as children may develop an anxious attachment style. They may struggle with trust, experience jealous tendencies, and feel insecure in their relationships. People who fall under Anxious Attachment Theory tend to have an insecure attachment to their partner, meaning they may overanalyze small interactions.

Avoidant Attachment Theory: Avoidant attachment style is one where individuals who have emotionally distant or neglectful caregivers as children may develop an avoidant attachment style. They may be independent to a fault and hesitant to commit to relationships, as they may have learned that relying on others leads to disappointment. As a result, they may come across as a narcissist, when in reality they don’t fully understand their own feelings.

Disorganized Attachment Theory: This theory suggests that individuals who experienced abuse or trauma as children may develop a disorganized attachment style. They may struggle with regulating emotions and may alternate between anxious and avoidant behaviors in relationships.

Ambivalent Attachment Theory: Also known as the “anxious-preoccupied” attachment style, this theory suggests that individuals who had caregivers who were overly controlling or intrusive as children may develop an ambivalent attachment style. They may have difficulty trusting their partner and fear abandonment.

These attachment styles are not fixed and can change over time, especially with self-reflection, therapy, and supportive relationships. Understanding attachment theory can help individuals recognize and change negative relationship patterns.

Final Thoughts

Counteracting ambivalence in a relationship can be tough and filled with unpredictability. Emotions are high—you’re likely confused and wondering if you should push through or call it quits.

Breaking off a relationship can be difficult and painful, but with the right care and support, it is possible to move on. To ensure that your emotional well-being is taken care of during this time, it is important to seek professional help and take the time to process difficult emotions.

Additionally, understanding attachment theories can help individuals recognize negative patterns in their relationships and learn how to break free from them. Although ending a relationship can be daunting, it can also be an opportunity for personal growth. With the right self-care practices and tools, you can move forward with confidence and compassion.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is relationship ambivalence?

Relationship ambivalence involves an internal conflict regarding how you feel or how and when to take action when neither the positive nor the negative feelings are dominant.

Is ambivalence in a relationship normal?

Periods of relationship ambivalence can be normal. However, it’s not something that should extend for long periods of time or happen frequently. If this happens, it might be time to reevaluate where you stand.

How do you resolve ambivalence in a relationship?

Resolving relationship ambivalence can be difficult and complex. It’s important to take time to reflect on how your past experiences, attachment styles, and expectations may be impacting your behaviors.

How do you deal with an ambivalent partner?

When dealing with an ambivalent partner, it’s essential to maintain open communication. Try some of the conversation prompts in Adventures From Scratch: Date Edition. You also need to know when to give them space.

How do you know if you are in an ambivalent relationship?

Feeling uncertain about your future or struggling to communicate are just some of the signs of an ambivalent relationship. Read more at’s blog, which is focused on all kinds of connections.

How does ambivalence affect relationships?

Relationship ambivalence can cause insecurity, distrust, and confusion. It can be challenging to communicate and maintain a connection with your partner, which often leads to a “make or break” scenario.

What is the difference between being ambivalent and feeling apathetic about a relationship?

Ambivalence and apathy are different experiences. An ambivalent relationship involves feeling unsure of what to do, while apathy is more of an emotional detachment from things that once mattered.

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