This Is How You Deal with Sex and Intimacy, According to Your Attachment Style
There are pros and cons for each.
If you don’t think you have a type…well, you’re wrong. And I’m not talking about having a thing for “dark, tall and handsome” men or gorgeous boss babes or bartenders. I’m talking about your attachment style, which not only indicates what type of person you might be attracted to and why, but also provides insight into your relationship patterns and behavior.
“A person’s attachment style—which is formed early in life depending on the degree of attunement, loving connection, security, and safety experienced with key caregivers—affects us throughout life,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of her upcoming book, Date Smart, tells HelloGiggles. “A person’s attachment style tends to be most obvious in adulthood within intimate relationships where attachment issues related to vulnerability and trust tend to get triggered.”
Translation: your attachment theory likely rears its head on childhood wounds whenever intimacy comes into play, which can include anything from getting to know someone more deeply to committing to someone to even having sex.
“Knowing your sexual attachment style is important because it forms the basis for how we interact in our intimate relationships,” says Dr. Manly. “Although attachment style can certainly be changed with conscious self-work, those who do not purposefully invest in self-development will tend to maintain their attachment style throughout life.”
Of course, while your sexual attachment style can give you insight into your sex life, it’s not the full picture as every connection and individual is different. However, understanding the basics of your or your partner’s sexual attachment style might provide you some clarity on why you respond the way you do to intimacy and what you might want to get curious about, especially if you’re encountering some hiccups (like attracting bartenders who keep loving and leaving you).
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, see below how your attachment style can affect how you deal with sex and intimacy, according to experts. And if you don’t know your attachment style, take the quiz here.
If you’re someone who values yourself and longs for a relationship that’s interdependent since you relish both independence and connection, then chances are you’re a secure person.
“A person with a secure attachment style will tend to move into romantic relationships with a sense of self-awareness and self-assured ease,” says Dr. Manly. “As trust is built through genuine interactions, a natural sense of security will arise. Securely attached individuals tend to be non-reactive and emotionally available.”
For a secure person, intimacy isn’t something to be scared of, but the progress toward deeper intimacy is often tempered and mindful. For those who are securely attached, sex will often feel like the “icing on the cake,” says Dr. Manly. “The secure relationship is the cake, and the fabulous, intimate sex will feel like luscious frosting.”
That’s because securely attached individuals tend to enjoy sex from a well-balanced place of desire and emotional connection. Since they thrive on reciprocity and healthy, honest connections, sexual encounters with securely attached individuals can feel deeply gratifying emotionally, mentally, and physically.
An individual with an anxious attachment style has a nearly insatiable thirst for connection, says Dr. Manly, which she says often leads to fantasy bonding—where a partner is idolized and put up on a pedestal. For example, a person with an anxious attachment style is more likely to text their new crushes every hour on the hour or who are more prone to ask, “So, where is this going” after date two.
“Due to a deep fear of being alone and losing a relationship, the anxiously attached person may be very clingy and highly dependent,” says Dr. Manly. “Due to the lack of self-esteem and inner strength, those with anxious attachment can be reactive, emotionally hypersensitive, and willing to accept less than they deserve in relationships.” Meaning they will accept undesirable relationships, like situationships and friends with benefits, and even emotionless sex just to feel some type of connection. However, those with anxious attachment styles will often have difficulty being in situations that are “just sex” due to their need for sexual intimacy and emotional connection.
Although often passive and submissive, the anxiously attached person can also become aggressive when in a deeply fearful state. According to Dr. Manly, a fear of being rejected or abandoned is often consciously or unconsciously present in the anxiously attached individual’s mind—even when a partner is faithful and loving. However, in a mutually loving relationship (most likely with a secure person), Dr. Manly says, “the anxiously attached individual can be very nurturing and find sex both soothing and enjoyable.”
Someone who’s been labeled as “emotionally unavailable” is most likely a person with a dismissive-avoidant style. These folks, according to Dr. Manly, tend to be self-focused, hyper-independent, and generally take an “I don’t need anyone” stance.
“Although they can be charismatic, they tend to prefer superficial connections,” says Dr. Manly. “Dismissive-avoidant individuals see themselves in a positive light and tend to look down on others. They are often ambivalent in relationships and tend to push others away by putting up defensive walls.”
Those in this group often enjoy pleasurable sexual encounters yet have little or no desire for sexual intimacy. “Sex with such people can be fun during the encounter but leave a partner feeling very hollow and dismissed afterward,” says Dr. Manly. “They often choose hook ups and short, sex-based relationships to avoid intimate connection.”
Fearful-avoidant folks are typically a mix of anxious and dismissive types when it comes to their attachment style.
“An individual with a fearful-avoidant attachment style feels constantly conflicted about close relationships; there is a simultaneous desire to obtain and avoid connection,” says Dr. Manly. “This constant unconscious inner conflict tends to create unpredictable, combustible relationships based on fear of intimacy.”
A fearful-avoidant person may be “all in” one moment and angrily running out the door the next.
According to Dr. Manly, those with this attachment style do not have confidence in themselves or in others, which might explain why many of their relationships are short-lived. Not surprisingly, then, “sex with a fearful-avoidant person can be terrific and fulfilling in the moment, yet lasting intimacy and healthy connection is extremely difficult and unsatisfying—and often impossible without psychotherapy.”
What to know about the types before having sex:
If you’re wondering what type you are or what type you’re naturally attracted to, keep Dr. Manly’s advice in mind: “Certain attachment styles can be very toxic in combination whereas others may fare better over time and even foster emotional healing,” she says. “For example, a securely attached person may help an anxiously attached person feel safe and secure over time; coupled with self-work (e.g., psychotherapy), the stable, nurturing presence of a securely attached person may benefit the anxiously attached individual.”
On the other hand, she notes, an individual with an anxious attachment style may be constantly triggered by the indifferent attitude of a person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style. Two anxiously attached individuals may cling to each other and feel “safe.” In the same way, two dismissive-avoidant individuals may both feel comfortable in a more emotionally distant relationship.
And while she says mindblowing sex is possible with any attachment style, “healthy sexual intimacy is often deepest with those who are securely attached,” says Dr. Manly. “As well, those with secure attachment styles tend to have stronger self-esteem; this often translates into greater awareness of sexual needs and an ability to communicate sexual needs to a partner. A securely attached person’s healthy self-awareness and ability to share openly can lead to deeply fulfilling, passionate sexual encounters.”
The biggest tip for an anxiously attached person, she says, is to move into a relationship knowing what you want and stating those needs. “Although this might be difficult, it is empowering and can lead to more fulfilling relationships and sexual encounters. Of course, sex with an anxiously attached person tends to rely on being nurturing—and having the ability to withstand emotional roller coasters.”
Enjoying sex with a dismissive-avoidant individual relies on being “in the moment” and not expecting intimate connection in the long term. “Due to the emotionally evasive nature of the dismissive-avoidant person, prepare yourself for infrequent post-coital cuddles to avoid disappointment.”
And, sex with the combustible fearful-avoidant style can be terrific, says Dr. Manly, “if you don’t mind the ups and downs and mixed messages!”
Ultimately, when it comes to having amazing sex, no matter what the attachment style, clear communication is key. Not only when it comes to what you want in the bedroom but what you’re expecting to happen outside of it. Knowing who you are and what you want is hot, and will bring you that much closer to a satisfying fulfilling sexual experience.