Welcome to The Midlife Sex Coach for Women™ Podcast, the only show that combines a fun personality, medical knowledge, sexual counseling, and life coaching together. To create unique sex coaching that helps busy women awaken their libidos, address intimacy issues, and learn how to express their sexuality for the rest of their days. Here is your host, certified life coach and sexual counselor, Dr. Sonia Wright.
Megan: Hi Diamonds. I’m Megan, Dr. Sonia’s podcast producer. As you know, this month, we’re talking all about enhancing relationships for better intimacy and you are in for a treat this week because we’re welcoming a guest host to the show. You might have heard about attachment styles and you might even know yours, but what do you really know about the role that they play in your intimate relationships? Well, you’re about to learn a whole lot more because this week, Dr. Sonia invited Dr. Kimmery Newsom onto the show to guest coach on the topic of attachment styles in relationships. So without further ado, here is Dr. Kimmery.
Dr. Kimmery: Hello, everyone. My name is Dr. Kimmery Newsom and I am the guest coach podcaster for Dr. Sonia. And today we’re going to talk about attachment styles. But before we get into that I want to let you know a little bit about me. I am the relationship coach and the trauma coach for Dr. Sonia’s programs. And I have degrees in marriage and family therapy and in human development, family studies and psychology.
And so I have been working with people, individuals as well as families and couples working on their different relationships and their families and the developmental stages and things like that for about 20 years now. And I bring a pretty vast knowledge and expertise to this subject so we’re going to kind of get right into it.
So people ask all the time, “What is an attachment style? What does that actually mean?” Well, attachment styles refer to how people think and behave in relationships. So somebody with secure attachment may believe that their close relationships and people are trustworthy. Somebody with insecure attachment tends to distrust people and worry about their bond with other people. Now, when are these established? How does attachment come about and when do we know what our attachment styles are and can and will be?
Well, most of the time attachment occurs in childhood. When we’re children we learn that the world is safe, that people will respond to us when we have needs or we learn that the world is unsafe and people really don’t care about what it is that we need. And so we adapt and we decide how we will interact based on those things. So people have had secure attachments, there are several different types. Secure attachment is the one that we want.
And the person who has secure attachment, engages in healthy relationships, friendships, intimate partnerships, work relationships, all the relationships. And they engage in them with good communication, with healthy communication, with autonomy, with freedom. They also express their needs well. They talk about what it is that they want and have an expectation that their needs are important and will be met.
People who also have secure attachment have the ability to trust their partner. They are willing to meet the needs of their partner and understand the autonomy that’s necessary for their partner as well. Because sometimes in relationships it tends to look like people struggle to have an understanding of what it may mean and what it is to be independent and to have autonomy.
But the person who is securely attached does really well with that and they can find their relationships fulfilling. They’re committed to the relationship but they’re independent. They’re attentive. They’re affectionate and they are accepting. And they are also able, which is really important, this is so significant, you all, when it comes to relationships you have to be able to problem solve. You have to be able to handle conflict. Dr. Sonia and I did a podcast on fair fighting.
And a part of the fair fighting is understanding how to deal with conflict. And we often do so in the context of knowing our partner’s attachment style and we’ll get there in just a second. The other type of attachment is the secure attachment, the opposite of that is insecure attachment. And there are different types of insecure attachment, but when someone is insecure in their attachment they don’t engage really in good intimacy in their relationship. Their communication may not be clear or effective.
And they may struggle with some autonomy. There may be some codependency and that sort of thing in their relationships. They don’t express their needs well. I can’t say exactly. I can’t say definitively that they don’t express their needs well, but it’s likely they did not learn to express their needs well. They did not learn to trust the world, trust people. And they may not find their relationships fulfilling.
And so one of the insecure attachment styles is the anxious attachment style. This is where they worry about their partner’s availability and commitment. So if the person is not available right when they need them at the exact time that they want them to be available there is fear. They’re distrustful over their partner. They don’t believe that their partner is committed to their relationship. They’re afraid that their partner might leave the relationship and is it really that they aren’t really important in the relationship?
And then they often may have feelings of being incomplete without their partner and seek out excessive reassurance that they’re okay, that their relationship is okay, that they are needed in their relationship. And it’s possible also for there to be some jealousy and struggle with jealousy when their partner has other types of connections with other people. They may fear abandonment. They fear being rejected. They fear conflict. And are sometimes really sensitive to criticism and hungry for approval.
And so this attachment style is really akin to people who have been abandoned. This happens a lot with people who have not had secure trust in people around them, their caretakers, their caregivers were not people that they could depend on to take care of them and to be there. And then sometimes when their caretakers were there, there was a fear that they may leave or that they have left. And the person or the child is left to their own devices and they have to figure out life on their own.
And so it makes sense that there will be distrust. It makes sense that there will be struggle in really being in relationship with someone else. There is a hunger for approval and there’s a desire to be accepted and wanted. But really they may never feel fulfilled in that. The person with the anxious attachment style may never feel like they truly fit and belong in their relationship with their partner. They may really struggle with understanding what it means to have a partnership and to be independent and separate from their partner.
Then we have the avoidant attachment style. Now, this one can come across as aloof and emotionally detached. These are people who tend to avoid intimacy. They tend to avoid the vulnerability. And often those things have been punished when they’ve shown vulnerability, when they’ve tried to create a level of intimacy with their caregiver, they have been punished for that. And that’s something that they’ve carried on into their adult lives. And may have an understanding or a belief that vulnerability and emotional expression will be punished and isn’t accepted.
And so they tend to avoid commitment as well because they’re not sure what that means for them. It doesn’t necessarily make them feel safe and secure to have a committed relationship. And they often spend time away from their partner and not meaning in a healthy type of way where there’s separation and there’s need for autonomy and freedom but avoiding the relationship. Intimacy, avoiding the parts of the relationship that are uncomfortable where vulnerability and things like that are involved.
And so people with avoidant attachment are usually overly rigid and guarded. They can seem like walls are 18 feet high. And there’ll never be a way to get in, that the boundaries are not permeable. And there is no way for anyone to have access to the true nature of who they are. And the reason for that is because they have been taught that to be vulnerable is to be harmed and whatever that harm might look like. They also can seem very distant, meaning that they may engage in a relationship and may decide that they want to be with someone.
And at the same time, maintain a level of distance that requires them to be as independent as possible. In some relationships there is a level, there’s a healthy level of dependency. You want your partner to remain connected to you. You want to be able to have intimacy regarding the emotional connection with your partner. But someone who has an avoidant attachment really is uncomfortable with emotions and they aren’t sure how to remain connected in that way which is why they often can seem distant and why they often spend time away from their partner and not connecting with them in a genuine way. And then there is conflict.
And people who are avoidant, I mean if you think about what the word ‘avoid’ means. It means that you shy away from or you keep yourself away from or you go around. People who are avoidant in their attachment styles also avoid conflict. They don’t want to deal with discord in the relationship. And so it’s common that when there is a problem or a problem arises or there needs to be something that is addressed in a relationship, the person with avoidant attachment will flee, literally leave the relationship and may never come back to it.
It’s often called, what do we call it? Ghosting nowadays, now, not everybody who ghosts has an attachment style that’s avoidant. That’s not always the case. However it is sometimes the case. And so if something happens and there needs to be an intervention of some type or you need to confront someone about their behavior or something that is lacking in the relationship and you’d like to work on that.
If you have a partner who has an avoidant attachment style, it’s going to be very difficult to address that conflict even if they are present because it’s possible that they may not even acknowledge that a conflict exists. And they also have this difficulty in expressing their wants and needs too. And so it creates a level of discomfort when someone else is comfortable doing that, when someone else is willing to express their wants and their needs.
It makes the situation uncomfortable for the person with the avoidant attachment style because now they feel like wait, I’m not sure if I can even meet the need myself. And so I don’t know what to do with this. So there’s a lot of issues there with the avoidant attachment style.
And then you have the anxious avoidant attachment style. And this is where the person alternates between being anxious which is worrying about the commitment and feeling incomplete without their partner. And having the need for excessive reassurance and struggling with jealousy to the avoidant attachment which is being aloof and emotionally detached and avoiding intimacy and vulnerability and often spending time away from their partner.
They simultaneously desire and distrust intimacy with their partner. And this results in this contradictory inconsistent behavior. It’s kind of like, what, where are you? What are you doing? Who are you? Why are you showing up in this way? I don’t know what to expect from you. You disappear for days at a time and then you come back and you’re really clingy and you’re wanting to be reassured that everything is okay and those sorts of things. And so there is a tendency toward these emotional extremes.
And we have a spectrum of emotion, but often people who have anxious avoidant attachment styles live on the all or nothing range. There is not a gradation in between there. And so the goal is usually for us to kind of live in the middle and maybe we, in certain periods of time or certain relationships, we may lean more towards one end or the other, but that’s not the case with those who have anxious avoidant attachment. And those with this attachment style also have difficulty maintaining healthy boundaries. And they are prone to these high conflict relationships too.
And so those are some things that we must be aware of. And I think that is important for us to recognize in ourselves. Where do we fall in this? One thing that I think is really interesting, in the work that I’ve done with couples and families and all of those things and all of the time that I’ve done this work, it’s very common for the anxious attached and the avoidant attached to form a relationship. And I have often questioned that. Why?
Why is that the case? Why is it that the person who is anxious and needs reassurance and always worries about the availability of their partner, gravitate toward the one who avoids all of those things? The partner who is emotionally detached, the partner who avoids the intimacy and the vulnerability and is guarded and uncomfortable with emotions.
And the same vice versa, why does the avoidant person, why are they drawn to and connected with the person who is anxious? Which that’s the person who’s hungry for approval, the person who’s hungry for excessive reassurance and wanting to have an emotional connection and wanting to be told over and over again that they’re good and that they’re okay and that the relationship is fine. I don’t have an answer to that question, but it’s just been really interesting to me how over time that is what I’ve seen.
That is a type of connection that people have and they come to me wanting to know how to handle each other’s way of relating. And so I think that is very important to understand and know your partner’s attachment style in order for you to understand the impact that it’s going to have on your relationship. Having an understanding that your partner avoids conflict and is uncomfortable with the conflict and is uncomfortable with emotions and is guarded and is distant is going to be really, really helpful when it comes to developing a connection emotionally, developing an intimate connection.
And knowing that your partner is also very anxious and tends to require tons and tons and tons of reassurance. And they may struggle with jealousy if you have friendships with other people that they may not be friends with or you want to spend time away from them and that sort of thing. Having understanding of that can really help you to develop the type of relationship that you want. And it also may help you to determine whether that’s a relationship that you want to continue to pursue, if you’re comfortable pursuing that relationship or not.
And I think that that’s really important for us to know. And we’ve got to understand our own attachment style. We each have our own attachment style and our way of relating in relationships too. And that can help us to know who we match well with. That can help us to know why we may be drawn to certain people and why we may have these issues with connecting with others.
Now, a question that I get all the time is, how can insecure attachment styles and people with insecure attachment styles become more secure in their attachment? And it is possible. You can become secure in your attachment as you grow into adulthood. Now, healthy relationships require a mix of intimacy and independence. And this is something that you definitely discuss with your partner, “What is our level of time that we spend apart? What is the amount of time that we spend together? How do we balance the two? What do you do with your friends?
How do you spend time with your friend? What do I do with my friends? How do we do with our friends together?” And so someone who is insecurely attached often struggles with that. That’s a struggle. And by insecurely attached I mean the avoidant and the anxious attachment and the avoidant and anxious attachment. And it’s possible though with time and effort to really feel safe and fulfilled in relationships. And what I mean by time and effort is you learn to trust your partner. You learn to trust that they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do.
And your partner’s consistent in their communication with you and is patient with you as well and you being patient with them. So some ways to do this is one, as we just talked about, learn your attachment style. You must learn your attachment style. And that comes with learning the associated thoughts and behaviors. Now, what this does is it empowers you to be able to see the trends in your relationship history and to make a plan to break those unhelpful patterns. It is a commitment. It is a commitment to make those types of changes.
And those types of changes don’t always have to be made in the context of a relationship. You can do those things on your own. You can do that work before you end up in a relationship with someone. And then you must examine your beliefs about relationships just in general. And our views of our relationships tend to start and get set early in life. Our family is our first socialization group. We learn how we should be treated. We learn how people of certain genders should be treated. We learn how children should be treated. We learn how people outside of our family should be treated.
If you don’t think your children are watching, you are sorely mistaken. Children are paying attention. And we must understand that the views that we have for relationships or about relationships are important for us to investigate because we must know what is actually true about our relationships and abandon the outdated beliefs and interpretations.
We must look at the relationship we have that’s right in front of us and throw out those outdated beliefs, throw out those outdated ways of thinking about relationship. Because if we don’t then it can be very, very harmful to ourselves, to our partners and to just the future in our inability to maintain and establish relationships with others.
Another way that you can work towards creating a secure attachment is to act opposite to your anxious or avoidant attachment style. What do I mean by this? Well, if you have an anxious attachment style, you try and take these little, small steps toward becoming a little bit more independent. You allow yourself the space to be separate from your partner, to spend time away from your partner. And you work very hard to be okay with your partner spending time away from you. You give yourself the permission to do that.
And then if you are a person who has an avoidant attachment style, try letting down your guard a bit and initiating some intimacy, not necessarily just physical intimacy but also emotional intimacy. I think it’s important for us to realize that in most relationships if there’s a physical component to that relationship, if there is not an emotional connection then it makes it very, very difficult for there to be a physical connection for a lot of people. And so I think that that’s important for us to know and to realize and to understand that we must be committed to letting down our guard and letting people in especially, especially our partners.
Another thing you can do to create a secure attachment is to increase your emotional awareness. Now, you learn to express and tolerate your emotions by practicing doing so. This makes you better able to accept and empathize with those emotions that show up in your partner. You have an increased understanding because you know what it feels like on the inside to feel a certain way. This decreases reactivity to people’s emotions and it increases attachment security.
So increase your emotional awareness and increase a level of self-awareness that you may not have had previously. Communicate openly and listen empathetically. You may not have had anyone who will listen to you empathetically who wanted to help you see yourself in a different light, to see your experiences in a different light, to see that yes that was very painful what someone said about you or that was very painful what they did to you. How can I help you through that? And how can I help you talk about that?
You may not have ever experienced that and so if you are able to, you work towards doing so. You work towards communicating openly with your partner and listening to your partner with empathy. A secure attachment requires communicating in a respectful and open-hearted way. When conflict happens, you collaborate together, you work together with your partner so that you help each other feel understood and connected. And this is true even when you disagree.
In fact, it’s more important to collaborate together when you disagree because that is a way for you to engage securely in your connection with your partner. That it’s okay to disagree and you can still be together, you can still love one another. And then another way to do this is to seek out others with healthy relationships. If you want to learn how to be in a healthy securely attached relationship you surround yourself with people who have done this successfully.
Now, don’t hear perfectly, that’s not what I’m saying. I am saying, successfully, these are people who have worked towards communicating openly and listening empathetically. These are people who increase their emotional awareness. These are people who are willing to engage with their partners in ways that they may not have ever tried to before. Or these are people who are already securely attached and they have the tools necessary and so you can borrow a page out of their book, so to speak, and do this with your partner.
And then you want to minimize stressors. Stress definitely can worsen attachment issues. It’s like we go to that which we know. We’ve done a bunch of work, and I’m saying the hypothetical we. We’ve done a bunch of work in our relationship and stress happens, we have a stressor. And we go back to the way that we were. We go back to our shutting down. We go back to the excessive need for approval. What we can do here is we can be proactive by committing to self-care, knowing what we need, that’s number one, committing to self-care.
And then we address the conflict before it escalates. And we engage in a calming manner. We give each other space. You engage with your partner to calm the nervous system and to create an environment where you are able to actually come back together and create peace and harmony again. There is lots of information out there about attachment and I think that is important for us to seek out the help that we need.
If you are wanting to work with a therapist or work with a coach about attachment and you want to do so with your partner, or you want to do so individually, there are lots of resources out there. And if you would like to work with me in particular, you can reach me via email at drkimmery that’s D-R K-I-M-M-E-R-Y at Dr. Special K, that’s D-R S-P-E-C-I-A-L-K.com. Or you can reach me on my website www.drspecialk.com.
Alright, I’m out and I appreciate you listening to me. Have a good one. Take good care. Bye now.
Hello, hello, hello again, Diamonds, it’s Dr. Sonia. I have some questions for you. Do you feel like you’re missing out on passionate intimacy and amazing pleasure even though it looks like your life is pretty good from the outside? Or maybe you feel like sex is an obligation, a duty, something that’s on your to-do list right after taking out the trash. Perhaps you would love to get rid of the story that’s on replay in your mind that sex is shameful.
Maybe you just want to know all about the toys or maybe you want to want to want sex and intimacy again. Maybe you feel like your libido is dead or missing in action never to be found again. Well, Diamonds, Dr. Sonia and her team, we are here, we hear you. We know what’s going on in your lives and we want to make a difference. There’s a lot of things that are going on behind the scenes and that will be happening over the next few months with The Midlife Sex Coach for Women organization. I am so excited about this.
So make sure that you’re on our email list to get all the updates as soon as the information is available. So if you’re not on our email list, click on the link below and get on that list. And in the meantime you’ll get your free intimacy guide. It doesn’t get better than that. Okay, Diamonds, talk to you soon. Lots of love.