Anxious, avoidant, disorganised, secure: The connection between your attachment style and sex life

Article compiled by Bonolo Sekudu and first published on News24 on the 26th of October 2023.
Photo: Strelciuc Dumitru/Getty Images

  • Dating coach Leigh Joy Mansel-Pleydell says your attachment style can affect your sex life. 
  • “Avoidant attachment style people have a general discomfort or a low desire for sex,” she says. 
  • People with a secure attachment style display the healthiest form of attachment.

When we don’t understand our partner’s attachment style, it may affect dating life, relationships or marriages. This goes beyond the relationship’s well-being, impacting pleasure and intimacy.

Dating coach Leigh Joy Mansel-Pleydell says all the attachment styles offer a glimpse into how we show up in relationships and that no one is condemned to a particular attachment style.

“I have done powerful healing work with couples, helping them become securely attached, inspiring them to co-create beautifully life-affirming and loving marriages and relationships. Being securely attached to your faith is foundational in stability and loving relationships.”

She says:

Our attachment style, whether anxious, avoidant, disorganised, or secure, impacts how we connect with others, e.g. lovers, partners, friends, or family members.

“If we were raised with an anxious, avoidant, or disorganised attachment style, it is possible through therapy and a healthy attachment to a lover, partner, friend, and or family member to heal and be securely attached.”  

She details 4 attachment styles, what they mean, and how they affect connecting sexually. 

Anxious attachment

They struggle to feel secure in relationships. They may wish to feel connected to their partners; fears of abandonment, mistrust, and low self-esteem often drive this need. Your attachment style develops in childhood but can affect intimate relationships as you age. They have a high need for sex to stay safe and connected. They view their own sexual desirability as a way to keep someone connected. Sex becomes a way not to be abandoned. They show up as using sex as conflict resolution or as a substitute for emotional intimacy, having sex quickly in relationships, instant attachment after having sex, and sex as a way to reduce their own anxiety. 

Avoidant attachment

People with avoidant attachment styles were children whose parents or caregivers didn’t show care or responsiveness besides providing essentials like food and shelter. Avoidant attachment style people have a general discomfort or a  low desire for sex. They fear emotional connection and can often appear distant or shut down. They are driven towards more casual relationships and less sex within partnerships. They show up as not enjoying sex and prefer sex with no emotional connection, avoiding sex whenever possible, having sex because their partner wants to, not to meet mutual needs.

Disorganised attachment

Persons with a disorganised attachment style are characterised by inconsistent and hard-to-predict behaviour and is sometimes called a fearful-avoidant attachment style. People with a disorganised attachment style pursue a loving relationship but get triggered and then detach and lash out at a partner who gives them that love. People with disorganised attachment have a general compulsive nature towards sex (the attachment style most prone to sex addiction) or complete avoidance of sex (sexual anorexia). This is because of a deep fear of trusting people; they tend to shut down emotional connection during sex. They seek intense, casual situations, being extremely into someone sexually and then disappearing. Addictive sexual behaviours and extreme shifts or changes in sex drive are common.  

Secure attachment

People with a secure attachment style display the healthiest form of attachment. It describes an attachment where a child feels comforted by the presence of their caregiver. Securely attached children feel protected and that they have someone to rely on. Children with secure attachment prefer their caregiver over strangers, seek comfort in their caregiver, and are comfortable exploring their environment with their caregiver present.

Secure attachment is seen as crucial to healthy development as it has lasting impacts on an individual. By growing up with a sense of stability and care, securely attached children find it easier to be curious about their world. Securely attached people have less anxiety or fear in relationships. They are then able to express love through sex. They are less likely to engage in casual sex as adolescents and more comfortable and connected in long-term relationships. They show up with sex to bond, show affection and connect, comfort being spontaneous and experimental, less likely to be unfaithful or deceptive sexually, and more attentive to their partner’s sexual needs. 

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