Center for Shared Insight therapist Dr. Brittany Woolford, Ph.D recently talked with Dave Glaser from Believe Be Real Be Bold. Their discussion explored the relationship between attachment systems and sex. Throughout the podcast, Dr. Woolford shares her insights as a therapist as it relates to the way healthy attachment correlates to healthy sex.
In this podcast, Dr. Woolford reminds us that sex can be used in a relationship as a way to connect or disconnect. It can be used to confirm or enhance the relationship. She explores the quadrants of attachment types, or the continuum of attachment styles, which are anxious, avoidant, fearful, and secure. She reminds us that a partner approaches a relationship from their default attachment style, and that impacts how they might also approach sex in the relationship.
Here are some of the key ideas explored in this podcast:
Anxiously attached individuals struggle with self-confidence and self-love, so they seek sex to gain love, attention, and approval. They believe that sex will keep their partner happy and therefore they engage in riskier sexual behavior, often from a younger age. They may feel coerced into sex, preoccupied with their partner’s sexual satisfaction, and have little power to negotiate their needs during sex. They often use sex as a barometer for how the relationship is going, with sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction having a direct correlation.
Avoidantly attached partners are more likely to have a later onset of sexual partnerships, multiple partners, and/or casual sex. As long as they are getting their physical needs met, they often avoid intimacy and foreplay. In fact, sex is not high on their priority list, compared to and not highly correlated to relationship satisfaction.
Fearfully attached individuals are both anxious and avoidant and “flip scripts” between having both styles. Oftentimes, this is due to early childhood or relationship trauma. This flip-flopping is used as a protective coping mechanism and a distancing tactic.
Those who are securely attached are most likely to have long-term committed relationships, and thus have fewer sexual partners, and feel connected with their partner when it comes to sex. They report high sexual satisfaction and are comfortable talking with their partner about sex.
Beyond attachment styles, throughout the podcast, Dr. Woolford explores:
The push and pull between anxious and avoidant partners as it relates to sex
How different attachment types need or want sex throughout the relationship
What you can learn about yourself as you respond to partners with different attachment styles
How setting boundaries and expectations around sex does to relationship dynamics
How open communication and vulnerability can create healthy sex
How behaviors can push buttons from past relationships
How trauma can trigger certain reactions to sexual advances
How you can support your partners’ attachment style
Why the chemistry wears off after the first three months
Reasons for infidelity and why anxious styles are more prone to it
The role of social media in dating, relationships, and attachment
The interconnectedness of attachment and sex is not a well-researched topic because it’s often difficult to get funding to study it. But, Dr. Woolford’s mission as a therapist is to help people create healthy relationships by advocating for clients to be authentic in relationships, even if this falls outside of societal expectations.
If you find the podcast helpful and Dr. Woolford’s approach to relationship therapy resonates with you, schedule a free consultation with our intake coordinator to learn how you can work with Dr. Woolford to have more satisfying relationships in your own life.