Avoidant Attachment can Stop Your Sex Life
Funny how people write about sexual issues as if all you have to do is learn new positions, and tell each other what you like in bed.
Your style of attachment can have a huge impact, and if you don’t know this, you can’t figure out what to change to make things better.
Elizabeth Wedington and I created a Practice presented in our book, Stop Depriving Yourself: A Self Care Practice to Remove the Obstacles to Living Life Fully available October, 2018. It includes a 10 step guide at the end so that you can engage in the Practice on your own – often preferred by those liking the avoidant style. See my post, “Stop Depriving Yourself,” to read the Introduction.
People fall loosely into three categories of attachment style. The good one is Secure Attachment. Here people feel safe in their relationship, can resolve conflicts easily, and communicate well. You know, the way of being that all the books tell you that you can become.
There are two other styles that cause problems. One is anxious attachment. These people are, of course, anxious when in relationship. They worry about the other person, monitor their behaviors, and want to be reassured of safety.
On the other side of the lucky Secure ones are the Avoidant Attachers. They move away when going gets rough. Leave the room, go back to work, stop talking, act like nothing is wrong, and in general avoid you.
People with these different styles are going to have very different sex lives. The securely attached are ideally going to have the best, but this will also be determined by the level of sexual shame they carry. A couple could be congenial and loving, but have sexual issues not accounted for by their attachment style.
The anxiously attached approach to sex can go in a few ways.
He comes home from work, she has been with the kids. If they are both anxiously attached, it can work well for them because they might both want to affirm their connection with sex. He has been thinking about her, even though they have been married for seven years, because he wants to make sure that she hasn’t looked at another man or is thinking of leaving (abandoning) him. She has given him no evidence of that, but his attachment style says it is possible.
She is anxiously attached, too, so she has been watching the clock for the hour before he is due. She has her phone on the counter as she prepares dinner because she wants to get any text as soon as it appears. She studies his face when he comes in, worrying that he will be in a bad mood, that somehow he won’t be interested in her needs. So she goes to the door when he arrives, and rubs seductively against him.
He finds this incredibly reassuring. If she wants him sexually she must not be on her way out. She isn’t into another man.
They have dinner, he cleans up the kitchen, they get the kids to bed. Heading off to bed, both are eager to find the other one interested.
They brag to their friends that they have a great sex life. They do it almost every night. They both love it. Their friends ask for advice on how to keep the other one interested. They try. But they don’t understand that what they think is love is really an anxious kind of love, an Anxious Attachment.
It works though. Let’s not put it down. When both partners can use sex to reestablish their love, they are using sex for one of it’s purposes. To maintain the intensity of their connection.
The Avoidant Attachers are the ones who have difficulties.
He arrives home from work, and she isn’t home yet. He is glad, and will have time to himself before having to interact. He thinks about wanting sex since they haven’t had any for over a week, and gets a little aroused at the thought of receiving oral. He is glad she likes to do that.
He is about 7 out of 10 on the Avoidant scale, and she is about a 5 out of 10. So she wants more closeness than he does.
In bed, they exchange oral. Then comes intercourse. He is unable to comfortably feel loving and affectionate, and so he goes into fantasy of other women or porn scenes. This way he can feel safely removed from his wife, safety he created as a child. He doesn’t realize that this is an old habit, this staying away from others emotionally, the isolation from closeness. He thinks sex is wonderful because he feels closer there than any where else in his life.
He just doesn’t understand why she doesn’t think sex is that great. He does oral. She likes doing it to him. He doesn’t have his orgasm quickly, leaving her aroused. She always has one. So what’s wrong?
She can’t really explain it. She likes sex. She married him. But she doesn’t feel much other than the physical arousal and orgasm. He becomes even more distant than usual. She agrees to sex on a regular basis, but would be find not doing it much.
After years of this, she decides to have an affair. She wants to be with someone who will be present, who will really want to be with her in bed. She goes on a dating web site, and finds a wonderful man, a 3 on the avoidant scale.
He loves sex, and loves to feel loving. She falls into the delight of being with someone who looks deeply into her eyes, who makes delicious sounds of pleasure.
They meet twice a week for several months. As the time goes on, she finds herself more and more annoyed with his pawing, with his wanting her to look at him the whole time they are having intercourse. She starts fantasizing about men at work or past lovers. She begins to understand why her husband does this.
Should she find someone who matches her in the “Avoidant Attachment” degree? If she is a five, should she find a five? Would that work
She stops the affair. She understands that her husband isn’t going to be sexual the way she wants. She understands that if she looks for someone who is better in bed, she may very well get someone else who wants a different amount of attachment.
She read the book, Attached, and made even more sense of the conflicts created by differing attachment styles. And she discovered that she could ask her husband to work with her to change both of theirs.
They did. He became a five. She became a three. While their differences still existed, they could now understand the conflicts. They could resolve them through knowing how their styles showed up. Both wanted to work toward healing their way to secure attachment. I hope they make it.
And there’s more!