Attachment Styles, Overcoming Anxiety & How to Feel More Secure

Psychologist Dr. Gina Di Giulio joins us to discuss Covid anxiety, CBT, and the ways in which attachment styles affect our relationships. She walks us through the three dimensions of attachment theory as well as the four main styles of attachment. Jess and Brandon open up about their own irritability and frustrations and they discuss cognitive strategies to increase feelings of security. And on a totally separate note, Jess also weighs in on a listener question regarding how to ride like a pro!

Check out Dr. Gina’s notes below…

Attachment theory: How we attach to other adults strongly corresponds to how we attached to others, especially our primary caregivers, as a child

  • Adults with different attachment styles will differ in terms of how they deal with emotional intimacy
  • How they communicate in relationships, in terms of their needs and wants, how readily they are willing to consider others’ as well
  • How much they trust others, how vulnerable they’re willing to be in relationships
  • How they respond to interpersonal conflict
  • What they expect from their partner

There are 3 dimensions that underlie attachment styles: 

  1. Closeness – how comfortable someone feels being emotionally close and intimate
  2. Dependency – how comfortable someone feels with needing or having to rely on others
  3. Anxiety – the extent to which someone worries about their partner abandoning or rejecting them

The four attachment styles are: Secure, Ambivalent, Avoidant & Dismissive.

Double Date Nation - Attachment Styles, Overcoming Anxiety & How to Feel More SecureSecure Attachment: 

  • Low on avoidance, low on anxiety
  • Are comfortable relying on their partner, and their partner relying on them in times of need
  • Trust that their partner will be around, don’t worry about abandonment
  • Trusts partner to lead independent life without feeling threatened
  • Don’t smother their partner
  • Healthy self-esteem
  • Comfortable with closeness
  • Better in conflict, don’t avoid it
  • Forgiving, empathic
  • Effective communicators
  • Regulate their emotions well

Ambivalent (Anxious) Attachment: 

  • Low on avoidance, high on anxiety
  • Insecure in relationships
  • Fearful of being rejected or abandoned, react by becoming clingy
  • Worried about being too little or too much for their partner
  • Sensitive to partner’s moods, take them personally
  • Clingy, demanding, possessive “Needy” – can scare partners away
  • Don’t regulate their emotions well
  • Moody, argumentative, blame others, poor boundaries

Avoidant (Dismissive) Attachment: 

  • High on avoidance, low on anxiety
  • Uncomfortable with closeness
  • Prefer to be alone
  • Keep partner’s at arm’s length
  • Values independence and freedom (intimacy = a loss of independence)
  • Dismissive, fearful
  • Scared of being hurt
  • Don’t communicate openly and effectively
  • Fear of being vulnerable or “weak”
  • “Emotionally unavailable”
  • Avoid conflict
  • Good in a crisis, “stoic”, action-oriented
  • Emotionally distant and rejecting

Disorganized (Unresolved, Fearful-Avoidant) Attachment: 

  • High on avoidance, high on anxiety
  • Fearful of being rejected or abandoned, react by distancing themselves from others
  • Uncomfortable with intimacy
  • Uncomfortable with closeness, difficulty trusting others, can’t depend on others
  • Unresolved emotions, mindset from past traumas
  • Often abusive and dysfunctional in relationships
  • Lack of empathy, punishing, narcissistic, disregard for rules
  • Often a traumatic past, PTSD, intrusive triggers, anger, dissociation to avoid pain

Attachment Styles and Infidelity

There are many reasons why people cheat, complex and varied – attachment styles is one of them and the dynamic between partners is one of the strongest predictors of cheating. The Ambivalent (Anxious) is most likely to cheat.

Anxious Attachment: Running toward closeness.

  • Might cheat as a means of feeling closeness and feeling an emotional connection and affection from someone else (esp. if their partner is dismissive)
  • Reassurance-seeking
  • Cheat to feel secure, intimacy that might be lacking from their relationship (that they so desperately need)
  • “A self-esteem boost”, way to confirm that they’re wanted and desired by others
  • May be an “insurance policy” if their primary relationship falls apart

Avoidant Attachment:

  • Might cheat as a means of distancing themselves from their primary relationship, running away from closeness, commitment
  • Anxiety and distress activated by closeness, not aware of this consciously:
  • May start to pick on their partner instead, complain about them
  • Cheat as a distraction to their feelings, sexual connection is a distraction
  •  They are not seeking closeness from another person
  • Often have no intention of leaving their primary partners

Follow Dr. Gina on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

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