Monday, March 18, 2013

Attachment & adult relationships

A graduate student from Deakin University wanted to explore the question of whether people's attachment to their parents becomes translated to sexual relationships.

Freud's perspective is that young children grow out of the Oedipal and Electra complexes by translating their sexual desires for the opposite gender parent onto peers their own age. When this transition does not go smoothly, adults spend their lives trying to re-create the love affairs they wished they could have had with their mothers or fathers.

Attachment style theory says that the mental images we carry of our relationship with our parents reflect the security/insecurity experienced as a child under their care. If it was felt by the caregiver that they would always be tehre to watch over you, adult relationships would feel comfortable and secure. If caregivers could not be counted on, then this insecurity would carry into your closest emotional relationships. These feelings could have a powerful effect on what happens in adult sexual relationships, being that many of the closest adult relationships people have are with sexual partners.

Attachment style and sexuality complement each other in a reciprocal way. Smooth functioning of the sexual system involves mutual coordination of both partners' sexual motives and behaviors. There could be two types of sexual dysfunctions involving attachment style: sexual hyperactivation and sexual deactivation. Sexual hyperactivation is when one partner tries to get the other to have sex, but if the other partner does not want to have sex, then the first partner may feel rejected and hurt. Sexual deactivation occurs when one/both partners inhibit their sexual desire, avoid thinking about sex, distance themselves from partners who are interest in sex, and inhibit their arousal and pleasure from experiencing orgasm.

People who are anxious and avoidant showed a number of sexual dysfunction. This could range from less arousal, difficulties lubricating, lack of orgasm, and sexual pain. Men who experience this have more problems if erectile dysfunction.

Anxious, but not avoidant, people were less sexually satisfied. They are more likely to equate sex with romantic love. They use sex as a way to reduce insecurities and bring partner closer to them. Sex may make them feel loved and valued.

Those with avoidant attachment who remain in a relationships are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse. They may feel uncomfortable with intimacy.

Despite what people may think, we are not stuck with the attachment style we develop when we were infants. Once aware, people can work on building the secure ties that help achieve fulfillment both inside and outside the bedroom.

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