Attachment & the Dance of Sex
Article Written by Dr. Sue Johnson on
March 14, 2016
Dr Sue Johnson talks about how relationships are about attachment---and good sex comes from a secure bond. Just as we are biologically wired as infants to bond to our caregivers, the same applies in intimate relationships.
Excerpts taken from www.drsuejohnson.com. For full article, see link below
"Of course – Sex is a dance. We can show one partner a technique for how to modify their sexual response, for example by slowing down and squeezing the penis to prevent premature ejaculation, but in the end its the Between – the quality of relationship interactions that powerfully shape partners responses in and out of bed. In focusing on our individual sexuality, perhaps we forget that we are, above all, social bonding animals. Our bodies and our brains are designed to link with and resonate with others in bed and out of bed."
"We call sex “making love”, and attachment is a theory of love and loving. Sexual attraction and connection is a key part of falling in love, forming and maintaining a bond. But even though Bowlby, the father of attachment science, told us there were three aspects to adult love – attachment, sex and caregiving, it’s really only very recently that the explicit links between bonding and sexuality have been explored. But – in our bones – we have always known that sex and attachment go together."
The adult attachment perspective gives us 5 principles – laws of romantic bonding: Dr Sue Johnson
1. Bonding with a trusted other is a compelling drive wired into the mammalian brain by millions of years of evolution. This is all about survival.
2. Loving connection offers us a safe haven to go to where we can maintain our emotional balance, deal optimally with stress, be flexible and move in any direction – and a secure base to go out from to effectively explore and discover our world. Paradoxically, knowing someone has your back, that you are not alone, grows the ability to be independent – and to be curious about your inner and outer world.
3. When we lose this sense of connection with a loved one we experience emotional isolation, loneliness, panic, pain and helplessness. This distress can heighten or it can crowd out other concerns –like sexuality.
4. We now know the key elements that define an attachment bond – the perceived Accessibility, Responsiveness and Engagement we have with loved ones (as in “ARE you there for me?”). Responsiveness shapes bonds.
These 4 laws tell us what is normal in love– they offer us a map for love and loving. Law 5 tells us about differences in how we see and set up bonding relationships.
5. Secure connection with a responsive loved one promotes healthy development and functioning including a positive coherent sense of self and attunement to others, whereas insecure connection – anxious or preoccupied bonding and dismissing or avoidant bonding constrains us – limits our growth. These labels, secure, anxious and avoidant simply describe a partner’s habitual ways of dealing with emotion and responding in intimate situations. Anxiously attached, fired up nervous systems are tuned to cues of rejection and abandonment, these partners seek ongoing intense connection for reassurance, and they also have a hard time trusting and taking in this reassurance. To avoid the pain of expected rejection, avoidant partners tend to numb out, stifle their longings and reject support from others. They shut down and shut their partners out, especially in situations where closeness is called for or vulnerability comes up.
"Attachment is THE primary need here –even more potent than sex or aggression. SAFETY & SURVIVAL needs come first. Attachment realities define, shape the other two aspects of a love relationship – caretaking and sex. Caretaking and sex can operate separately from attachment, but much of the time they form an interacting system. But some experts focus down on the power of the sex drive and suggest that romantic love is all about sexual desire – just “frustrated desire” in fact- once satiated, the theory goes, love and desire inevitably slip into low-key companionship mode. Acknowledging the primacy of attachment puts much more focus on the fact that sex is a not just about pleasure or procreation – it is a potent bonding activity. To bond with someone means that they become special – irreplaceable – and you want to be special to them. Attachment suggests that there is nothing at all “unnatural’ about serial monogamy – Our need to rely on others has shaped our brain, our nervous system, our hormones. Oxytocin, the so called cuddle hormone or ‘molecule of monogamy’, triggered in your brain at orgasm and even when you simply think of your lover, sets the stage for optimal sexual experience by soothing the fear centers in your brain, fostering trust and helping you read the signals on another’s face accurately."
"...perhaps the most important law of attachment for sexuality is that- A.R.E.- Accessiblity Responsiveness and Engagement are the defining features of secure bonds and also I would argue – optimal sexuality. Emotional and physical attunement, responsiveness and focused mutual engagement –full presence – epitomizes great sex. We can see these qualities in the sexiest dance of all – Argentine Tango. The open, yet safe embrace helps each person keep their balance – recover from missteps – Partners tune into and mirror one another’s moves – in synchrony – moving from body memory –responding to a thousand cues instantly. It is not the STEPS – the external performance technique that makes the dance. It is about feeling – it is the flow of the partners’ attunement that makes the dance beautiful and mesmerizing – it is the intensity of Engagement between the partners. You don’t believe me?- let me show it to you in just three minutes:"
Article Written by Dr. Sue Johnson on
March 14, 2016