Relationship Attachment Styles

On Episode 5 of Guess Who’s Coming, I sat down with the brilliant and humble Dr. Ashley Townes for a one-on-one conversation about relationship attachment styles and how our interactions change throughout our lifetime. Dr. Townes and I met a few weeks prior to the National Sex Educators Conference in Newark, NJ, a conference where Dr. Townes provided an incredibly insightful workshop on sexuality and African American women (complete with data!). I reached out to Dr. Townes via Instagram to arrange an interview and we found out that we live around an hour from each other, so as our worlds collided, it was kismet for us to “break bread”.

Episode 5 is now available on Spotify!


Let me start with this: I sucked at relationships for most of my life; I just suck considerably less now (actually, I’m pretty alright) since I came to that understanding and started to dig into WHY. Our first experiences with attachment come in the form of our caregivers, and we learn to model our interactions with others based on those impressionable and formative years. The hope is that we will all develop into confident, mature, secure folx who will treat our partners, friends, and associates with utmost respect, kindness, and love. The reality is that at any time, around half of us has these types of relationship skills, but we are not damned to dysfunction! Relationship attachment styles change throughout our lives, based on experiences which continue to shape and mold us, whether positively or negatively.

How Your Childhood Affects Your Love Styles (Courtesy of Psych2Go).

I want to make sure to mention that as persons of color, specifically Black, we may find ourselves at a disadvantage regarding relationship styles because of how we are culturally raised to perceive “normalcy”. It is hard to admit (personal or cultural) weakness, sensitivity, or insecurity when you are expected to be strong and resilient, just like it is difficult to introduce concepts such as boundaries and consent (which may be inherently seen as “white people” things). Cultural collectivism is a strength, and even admitting our individual downfalls should be seen as strengths because it deepens the relationship with the collective.

Without diving into too much personal detail, I had to observe the shortcomings of my parents’ relationship attachment styles and see how I was mirroring those in my own relationships. From there, I reevaluated the last seven years of my romantic relationships to see how those shortcomings affected said relationships, and how those dysfunctional romantic relationships affected following relationships. Needless to say, it was a tangled web speckled with fuckbois with mommy issues, guys with a “fetish” for Black women, hyper-alphas/power bottoms, men with an Amazonian fixation, and what I have come to believe was a closeted nationalist.

… but I digress…

The Four Attachment Styles of Love (Courtesy of Psych2Go).

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The Four Attachment Styles of Love

There are four main attachment styles of love: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. Other attachment styles sometimes include dependent and codependent.

The Four Attachment Styles of Love (Ni, 2015).
Infographics created by Hunter for Guess Who’s Coming.

Dr. Firestone (2013) explains that our attachment style affects who we choose to date, the pace of the relationship, and even how our relationships end. My attachment style at the beginning of the seven-year trek, dismissive-avoidant, impacted how I interacted with that partner but also how they perceived my value (or lack thereof). A lot of things changed for me around three years ago, and again a year ago, and it really made me view myself in a new, less rose-tinted light. With a lot of time, self-care, love, and even intentional celibacy, I managed to climb my way up to fearful-avoidant and secure (because yes, you can have more than one relationship style at any time).

Attachment styles can even change during the course of a relationship and it is my understanding that communication will make or break things. One way of creating a healthy, safer space for communication with any partner is to start with the real questions from early on! I treat my first dates like an interview, and sometimes I will ask questions about boundaries and their understanding of consent. Based on their answers, you can start to decide whether or not you actually want a second date (or if you may be better off as friends, acquaintances, etc.). Don’t worry, I’ll be creating a script of questions you can ask just in case you don’t know exactly how to ask.

Something fun that I like to do with a partner is take time out for “communication activities”, or little projects where you and a partner can sit down (or lie down, or walk, whatever) and talk about your needs, wants, boundaries, curiosities, etc. I’ll be working through a boundaries list on an upcoming date, so I will share a template for others to use soon, too. I’d like to also mention that it’s a great sign if your partner is receptive to participating in these types of activities… just a little FYI.

Have you ever thought about what your love style(s) may be? Take the test!

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Dr. Helen Fisher’s Four Love Types

Dr. Helen Fisher created a list of four different love types, which she bases on hormonal dominance: dopamine (explorer), serotonin (builder), testosterone (director), and estrogen (negotiator). I would not personally divide folx love types based on hormones, but I do like how this personality dichotomy has laid it out. Here’s a video presented by Psych2Go for further entertainment!

Dr. Helen Fisher’s Four Love Types (Huang, 2017).
Infographics created by Hunter for Guess Who’s Coming.

I think I have been able to succeed and mature within the context of my more recent relationships (both internal and interpersonal) because I recognize the importance of self-reflection and transparency. I wrote an article for Purpled Palm Press about the lessons I’ve learned from the last seven years of dating (aka, breakups) and it was actually quite cathartic for me. I was at the end of a long roller coaster of uncertainty and manipulation brought on by an ex, and I was struggling to figure out what the fuck to write about. As it usually happens for me, my writer’s block was blasted through with the last bomb of truth delivered by my ex and I used that experience as the frame to tell my story.

I will be releasing a recorded reading and script of my article, titled “Beach Boys, Sage Bundles, and an Absence of Genitalia”, on my blog after the article has been published, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, happy fucking!

If you want to learn about your own relationship styles, here are a few links:

Psychology Today’s Relationship Attachment Style Test

Dr. R. Chris Fraley’s Attachment Style Test

ReLuv’s Relationship Attachment Style Test

Dr. Helen Fisher’s Four Love Types Personality Test

References:

Firestone, L. (2013). How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship.

Huang, C. (2018a). Dr. Milan and Kay Yerkovich’s 5 Love Styles.

Huang, C. (2018b). The 4 Attachment Styles in Love.

Huang, C. (2017). Dr. Helen Fisher’s 4 Love Types.

Ni, P. (2015). What is Your Relationship Attachment Style?

Lancer, D. (2014). How to Change Your Attachment Style.

Myers-Briggs, Condoms & Lube

For Episode 4 of Guess Who’s Coming, I co-hosted with Jessica from Radical Eros (@radicalerodspodcast) and Ben over a lovely Sunday morning breakfast. The conversation first starts with explaining our personality types (intermingled with recapping on our dates from the night before) based on results from the Myers-Briggs personality types. After several (read: 20 minutes) of this, our conversation redirects towards the headlining subject: condoms and lubrication. Before I talk about condoms and lubrication, I want to make sure that I briefly cover what this personality test is about…

Episode 4 is now available on Spotify.

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Personality tests have taken an ever-popular turn in the modern dating world, with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in the forefront among millennials. As a psychology geek, the MBTI was brought up (frequently) during introductory courses but I did not pay much attention to it until several years later when I had to take the test during a graduate-level public health course. Let’s dig into the basics…

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory utilizes the theory of personality types, developed by Carl Jung, to understand how people perceive themselves and interact with their environment (internal and external) (The Myers & Briggs Foundation, 2019a). The creators, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, developed the inventory to develop insights about people and groups. Those variables developed by Carl Jung assisted in the creation of 16 distinctive personality types, expressed in 4-letter codes:

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

From these variables, folks can determine their preferred environment (E or I), how they prefer to focus on basic information (S or N), if their decisions are more based on logic or instinct (T or F), and if there is a preference for structure or fluidity (J or P) (The Myers & Briggs Foundation, 2019a). Below, you will find the “type table” as demonstrated on The Myers & Briggs Foundation (2019a) website:

The Myers & Briggs Foundation (2019a) “type table”, as retrieved from www.myersbriggs.org ( click image to be redirected ).

The Myers & Briggs Foundation (2019a) “type table”, as retrieved from www.myersbriggs.org (click image to be redirected).

You can learn more about each personality type here and take a free test here.


NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF…

I did not learn about different types of condoms and lubricants until I was in my mid-20s, and consequently, I dealt with several complications since I was using things that did not work for my body. If you listen to this podcast episode, you will hear about how I found out I am allergic to latex condoms. After figuring this out (and buying latex-free condoms), it helped to improve my sexual experiences because a) I was not stuck in my head instead of enjoying the moment, and b) I learned how to connect with my body in a more intimate way (i.e., I listened!). The most commonly reported symptom related to an allergic reaction to latex condoms is yeast infections. However, you can experience other localized (itching, redness, hives, etc.) or systemic (watery eyes, flushing of the face, runny nose or congestion, etc.) symptoms, or suffer from anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, swallowing, or swelling of the throat, mouth, or face) (O’Keefe Osborn, 2018).

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It is worth mentioning that you can use polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lambskin condoms as an alternative to latex. I would only recommend lambskin if you and your partner have tested negative for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since lambskin should only be used to prevent unwanted pregnancies (O’Keefe Osborn, 2018).

There is also the possibility of an allergy to lubricants (or spermicide, which actually may not prevent pregnancy at any higher likelihood when compared to a condom without spermicide), so it is worth learning about the different types: water-based, silicone-based, oil-based, and hybrid (or “natural”).  

I tend to recommend water-based lube as a starter for folks, typically Sliquid H2O. The benefits of water-based lube are that they are safe to use with latex and non-latex condom options. According to Adcox (2017), “This type of lube is most popular for three reasons: it won’t stain your sheets, it’s easy on the skin, and it washes off easily in water.” Unfortunately, water-based lubes tend to dry rather quickly and will require reapplication, but you can use this lube with your toys. An additional note, provided by @featsofeducation (on Instagram): water-based lube is not hypoallergenic, and it is much more likely to contain potentially irritating ingredients because it generally has more ingredients than others.

Lubes.png

Silicone-based lubes are also recommended for super sensitive skin since silicone is hypoallergenic. It is also long-lasting and tends to feel like silk on your skin. As I mentioned on the podcast episode, Uberlube is a wonderful option to test out. Not only does it come in a beautiful, sleek glass bottle, but a small amount will go a very, very long way (I would strongly recommend slip guards in your tub for this one!). The downside is that silicone-based lubes can degrade your toys but are typically safe for use with condoms (Adcox, 2017).

Oil-based lubes are ideal if you do not want to apply more than once, but they should not be used with latex condoms since they increase the likelihood of a condom rip or tear (Adcox, 2017). Furthermore, oil-based lubes are associated with higher rates of infections (such as bacterial vaginosis), they can stain sheets and clothing, and is difficult to clean up.

Hybrid, or “natural”, lubes are newer to the game, and typically include natural-based products (coconut oil, aloe, etc.) and very few ingredients. Like other oil-based lubes, coconut oil can cause the condom to break or tear (Adcox, 2017). Aloe-based lubes can also have a drying effect on the vagina’s natural lubrication, so it is important to not stack a bunch of new products when you are engaging in sex so you can decipher which product(s) are working well (or not so well) with your body.

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Adcox (2017) shares that you should always pay attention to ingredients listed, avoiding certain ones which may cause irritation or inflammation, including: glycerin, nonoxynol-9, petroleum, propylene glycol, and chlorhexidine gluconate. Also make sure that whatever lube you use is latex, rubber, and plastic-friendly. Other ingredients which may cause genital irritation or discomfort include l-arginine, parabens, and flavoring agents.

Lastly, for the love of all things wonderful, avoid lubes and condoms that are flavored and scented. These items are typically intended for oral play, and they can have a very negative effect on vaginal pH (potential for Hydrogen).

Happy fucking!

 Use the code “RADICAL” at checkout when shopping at Lube Life!

The Fourth Date: Kink Talk

Some groundwork for kinky folks from a research nerd.

Episode 3 is now available on Spotify.

First – don’t “yuck” somebody’s “yum”! This means, don’t react negatively to what may be someone else’s pleasure. According to Misch Barber Way from AskMen.com (2018), “Taboo refers to practices that are generally prohibited because of religious or social pressures.” A “yuck” could be considered a taboo to some, and a “yum” could be a fetish or kink to others. Conversations related to kink and fetish should be dealt with in a way that allows transparency and acceptance of all parties, even if something isn’t your “thing”.

Second – a kink can be a fetish, but a fetish can’t be a kink. The terms “kink” and “fetish” are often used interchangeably, but there are distinct differences. According to Kelsey Borresen (2018): “Kink is a broader term that encompasses a bunch of alternative sexual interests, preferences or fantasies that go beyond your run-of-the-mill missionary sex. It might include BDSM, roleplaying or impact play such as spanking and whipping.” A fetish, on the other hand, “is a sexual fixation on a specific object or act that is absolutely necessary to a person’s sexual gratification. Often, it’s something that may not be inherently sexual, like shoes, leather or sploshing.” Furthermore, a sexual fixation on a particular body part (such as feet, hands, butt or boobs) is known as “partialism.” (Borresen, 2018).

According to sex educator with the moniker Dirty Lola (2018), “a fetish is heavily tied to having a psychological need for those specific objects or acts in order to experience pleasure and or orgasm, whereas kinks can add to a sexual experience but aren’t necessarily needed to achieve sexual release,” (Borresen, 2018). Allison Stevenson (2017) adds that, “fetishists need their fetish to be a part of sexual intimacy, and often times can replace ‘traditional’ sexual intimacy entirely.” Furthermore, psychologist and sex therapist Shannon Chavez details that “fetishes generally develop early in a person’s life and can be based on experiences during childhood or adolescence.” She continues with, “[fetishes are] reinforced by desire and pleasure found in engaging in that behavior. Most fetishes develop from early life experiences and are patterns and behaviors that grow as the person develops sexually,” (Borresen, 2018).

I also want to make sure that I mention that paraphilic disorders are “recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviors that are distressing or disabling and that involve inanimate objects, children or nonconsenting adults, or suffering or humiliation of oneself or the partner with the potential to cause harm,” (Brown, 2017). “People may have paraphilic interests but not meet the criteria for a paraphilic disorder,” Dr. Brown (2017) adds. “The unconventional sexual arousal patterns in paraphilias are considered pathologic disorders only when both of the following apply: 1) They are intense and persistent. 2) They cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, or they harm or have the potential to harm others.”

Third – What are some things considered to be kinks or fetishes? Nooky Box (2018) provided a helpful list of some more commonly-known kinks and fetishes:

1) BDSM
Bondage/Discipline Domination/Submission Sadism/Masochism (Linden, 2015) – can be sexual or nonsexual. Can include activities such as impact play (bondage, restraints, spanking, etc.), humiliation, or any of the other kinks and fetishes listed below.

2) Roleplay

3) Age Play
“Ageplay is the idea of role playing someone of a different age than you biologically are. Many ageplayers prefer picking a role in the younger ages such as an infant, a toddler, a younger child, or a teenager. The specific age someone prefers will be unique to the person themselves,” (Kinkly.com, 2017).

4) Hosiery

5) Fluid Bonding
“To be fluid bonded means to engage in unprotected sex with one other individual, in an exchange where both partners have agreed to be monogamous, but only in regards to the exchange of their bodily fluids. Partners may interact with others in a sexual way, but have agreed not to have unprotected sex with anyone outside their monogamous, fluid bonded relationship. Usually, couples that decide to become fluid bonded have been tested for STDs and have shared the resulting information with their partner,” (Kinkly.com, 2019a).

6) Feet

7) Submissive Males

8) Humiliation
(Which can be a part of BDSM or separate) Typically suggested by the submissive, or “bottom”, as a way for the Dom/Domme, or “top” to emotionally exploit them. Obviously, consent and psychological wellbeing and stability are HUGE here.

9) Amazonian Women,
sometimes called “macrophilia”

10) Voyeurism
“A voyeur habitually seeks sexual gratification through visual means. Most often, a voyeur receives pleasure from viewing activities that are private. These activities include individuals undressing or that are partially undressed, individuals engaged in sexual activities both alone and with others. For most, watching private activities is most stimulating when the individuals being watched are unaware. That said, a similar fantasy can be enacted with all participants' consent,” (Kinkly.com, 2019b).

11) Exhibitionism
            “One of the most common types of exhibitionism is known as flashing, where an individual will quickly expose their genitals or breasts to get a rise out of those around them. Mooning, or exposing one’s buttocks, is another form of exhibitionism. Streaking, which is more for shock value than sexual purposes, involves stripping down naked and then running through a public place.” There are other forms of exhibitionism, including anasyrma and candaulism (Dr. Patti Britton, 2013).

12) CBT (Cock and Ball Torture)
The act(s) of inflicting intentional pain on the penis and/or testicles of a consenting partner. Acts include ball bursting, ball stretching, ball crushing, needle play, urethral play, knife play, sensation/temperature play, genital bondage, electrostimulation, genital spanking, creams/oils (like icy/hot or chili oil) (Uberkinky.com, 2018).

13) Erotic electrostimulation or Electric play
“Electrical play is any type of BDSM play (sexual or non-sexual) where electricity is used on the body to create different sensations. The most common electrical toys are neon /violet wands and TENS units,” (Kinkly.com, 2019c).

14) Sploshing or “wet and messy” fetishism.
“Sploshing is a term used to describe a sexual fetish that involves smearing the body with wet and messy substances. The most common substances used during sploshing are food items, including whipped cream, chocolate sauce, custard, cake and condiments, just to name a few. Other messy substances, such as mud, can also be used. Individuals aroused by sploshing are sexually aroused by watching someone get messy or by the feeling of these substances being smeared on their own skin,” (Kinkly.com, 2019d).

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RECAP: During the interview, I mentioned the article from Salty regarding pegging, and I want to add to that a little bit. According to Salty (2019), “’Pegging’ was coined by sex columnist and podcast host Dan Savage and it is the act of penetrating the prostate using a strap-on. It’s a practice that lesbians have been into for ages, but in the last few years, a growing number of men have caught on too. After all, there is indeed a gland in their ass that can make them cum.”

A link to the article from SaltyWorld.Net, titled “How to Talk to Straight Dudes about Pegging”, can be found in the reference section below or clicking the link.

References

Borresen, Kelsey (2018)
Britton, P. (2013)
Brown, G. R. (2017)
Chavez, S. (n.d.)
Kinkly.com (2017)
Kinkly.com (2019a)
Kinkly.com (2019b)
Kinkly.com (2019c)
Kinkly.com (2019d)
Linden, David J. (2015)
Way, M. B. (AskMen.Com, n.d.)
Nooky Box (2018)
SaltyWorld.Net (2019)
SexEDAGoGo (Dirty Lola)
Stevenson, A. (2017)
Uberkinky (2018)