Do you know your Attachment Style? Two sex & relationship experts share their wisdom about attachment theory and why knowing your style can help you become a better partner and a better lover.
This story was written in partnership with my very favorite Psychotherapist + Sex Therapist, Christopher F. Brown LCSW, CST.
You can learn a lot from therapists and other mental health professionals on Instagram and TikTok, but sometimes you need to take your relationship advice beyond the memes and into real-life practice. Such is the case with attachment theory, an important framework for understanding all our relationships. There is a lot of depth to this framework, and it can give us a lot of insights about how we connect with ourselves and with each other.
If you want to take a deep dive into attachment theory, join us for our forthcoming workshop called Relationship Intelligence: Improve your Love Life with Attachment Theory. We’re going to talk about how attachment theory works for us throughout our lifespan, how you can build stronger connections now, and how knowing and working with your own attachment style can help you be a better partner (and a better lover!)
This workshop came out of a request from my men’s workshop, and Christopher is uniquely suited to co-facilitate this with me. After working with hundreds of people over his 20+ years in practice, he has a lot to say about attachment theory and how to work with it in relationships. I’ll weave in my expertise about consent, boundaries, and pleasure as exploration. You’ll learn from both of us during this two-hour event, and you’ll leave with tools you can use immediately.
In this engaging workshop, you’ll learn about how to apply attachment theory to help you learn more about yourself and what you need from partners. You’ll learn how doing this work can help you create stronger boundaries, clearly articulate your needs/desires, and build confidence in the relationship. This workshop is co-facilitated. Christopher is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. I’m a masters-level Sex Coach offering a multi-modal approach to this work and practice.
The Basics of Attachment Theory
Attachment theory is the fifth psychology, alongside drive, ego, object relations, and self-psychologies. The origins of attachment theory are from John Bowby’s experience and writings combined with Mary Ainsworth’s “strange situation” experiments from the 1970s. Ainsworth’s studies looked at how babies react in a room full of toys when the primary caregiver is present, then leaves, and when around a stranger. The way the child behaves indicates the relationship they have with the caregiver, and gives us the foundation of what we teach today. Attachment theory began with the study of child development, and through the decades it has been applied to adult development, relationship configurations, and our experiences of large institutions like media, governments, police forces, and our planet at large.
As babies, we need to attach to our caregivers in order to survive. If we felt secure with our caregivers at the time, we’re likely to develop trust and security with that person, and this makes us more likely to trust others and feel secure in additional relationships, into adulthood. But, if during our earliest years our caregivers were absent, abusive, avoidant, alcoholic, or otherwise chaotic, we would not likely develop a secure attachment, and might become anxiously attached, avoid attachment altogether, or become disorganized in our attachment style. Disorganized attachment means that we can show either avoidant or anxious traits depending on the person or institution to which we must have attachment. All of this impacts our adult relationships. If we had to develop insecure attachments to survive we will compulsively repeat these attachment patterns in our adult relationships to work through our attachment traumas. Alternatively we recognize and understand our styles and decide to change them for our partners, for our children, for our families, for our friends, for ourselves.
If you grew up anxious, avoidant, or disorganized (like we did), you CAN build a secure base from which to connect with a partner, and yourself (we’re working on this, too, and it’s going great)! Attachment style is not fixed—you can learn to build and maintain secure attachment no matter how you’re wired currently, and no matter what type of relationship you’re in. Developing the ability to securely attach will improve all of our relationships.
Learn Your Attachment Style for Better Relationships
First, we need to know our attachment style, and from there we can learn to work with our triggers, our responses, and our connection with self and others. The ultimate goal of attachment in adulthood is to be securely attached to (and trusting of) ourselves!
We build our own secure attachment by forming secure attachments to other safe adults (lovers, partners, friends, colleagues) and setting limits and boundaries with unsafe adults. Over time, these acts of connection and self-protection allows us to trust ourselves to take care of ourselves. Once this trust is established and felt deeply within our bodies, we will be able to be more calm, thoughtful, and intentional in our relationships. Our inner peace is the secure base within ourselves from which can explore the outer world, our inner worlds, and the worlds we co-create with partners. When we have a secure base inside of us, we have more leverage to explore (emotionally, physically, sexually) and know and trust within ourselves that no matter what we do, we are loved, safe, and secure.
From your secure base you’ll go places that you could never have imagined in your insecure origins. You’ll create better boundaries, be more clear about your needs, and therefore practice the tools that will help you become a better friend, partner, and lover!
We teach ongoing workshops about this powerful relationship healing subject. Please see my events page to learn more about what’s coming up: EVENTS!