Can my attachment style do non-monogamy?

Apr 20, 2024
Two people are seated next to each other on a large boulder. One is wearing a gray t-shirt with black pants and has their hair up in a bun. The other is wearing a black t shirt. They're leaning on each other, against a backdrop of a lake, green pine trees, gray mountains with white snow on top, and a blue sky with white clouds.

3 minute read

Introduction to Non-Monogamy and Attachment Theory

Are you considering opening up your relationship or exploring polyamory? As a depth psychologist and a long-time participant in non-monogamous relationships, I believe understanding your attachment style is crucial for anyone embarking on this path. Originally developed to describe the emotional bonds between infants and caregivers, attachment theory offers critical insights into adult relationships, including those that extend beyond traditional monogamy.

How Attachment Styles Impact Non-Monogamous Relationships

Identifying your attachment style—be it secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, fearful-avoidant, or disorganized—can significantly influence how you navigate the complexities of loving more than one person:

  • Secure Attachment: I've observed that individuals with a secure attachment style typically struggle *if* they are over-confident about what that secure attachment means. Remember that secure attachment isn’t a guarantee of how you’ll feel in new relationships or a whole new relationship paradigm. 
  • Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment: Those with an anxious style may experience increased fears of abandonment, which necessitates clear and consistent communication in their polyamorous relationships… in other words, exactly the ingredients for a smooth-running relationship of any structure. Consider getting support 
  • Dismissive-Avoidant and Fearful-Avoidant Attachment: If you identify with these styles, you might find the emotional closeness and frequent communication required in non-monogamous relationships quite challenging. But don’t let that stop you from exploring; instead, use it as a chance to do some valuable inner work. 
  • Disorganized Attachment: This style is characterized by a lack of a clear attachment strategy, resulting from a combination of both anxious and avoidant behaviors. Individuals with disorganized attachment may find non-monogamy particularly challenging as they often experience mixed feelings of both desire for closeness and difficulty trusting others. These conflicting emotions can make managing multiple relationships complex, requiring a heightened level of self-awareness and communication skills. This doesn’t mean you can’t do non-monogamy, though! I consistently returned as a result of disorganized attachment for many years. It took a lot of self-work, but I thrive in non-monogamy now, and I’ve helped lots of people navigate this path.

Truth time: All attachment styles can happily do non-monogamy, but most of us will need support along the way. Group learning situations can be perfect for this because you won’t see things just from your perspective; listening to other people share how non-monogamy feels for them can help you challenge your habitual attachment patterns.

Personal Growth Through Non-Monogamy

Non-monogamy is not just about having multiple partners; it's a profound journey of personal discovery. It challenges you to articulate your needs, develop robust communication skills, and foster deeper emotional intelligence. Engaging with multiple partners can serve as a mirror, reflecting back your deepest emotional patterns and offering a chance to transform them.

Building Confidence in Your Choice to Practice Non-Monogamy

Building confidence in choosing non-monogamy starts with self-awareness. By understanding how your attachment style affects your relationships, you can set realistic expectations, foster healthier interactions, and ultimately achieve a more fulfilling love life.

Effective Communication in Non-Monogamous Relationships

In my podcasts and sessions, I stress that communication is the cornerstone of successful non-monogamous relationships. Openly discussing feelings of jealousy, power dynamics, and relationship agreements can help maintain healthy relationships among all partners involved. This is especially crucial if your attachment style predisposes you toward insecurity or detachment.

Enhancing Non-Monogamous Relationships Through Attachment Theory

In my discussions on the podcast, including episode 148 of Playing with Fire: Can my attachment style do non-monogamy? I explore how understanding attachment theory can enhance relationship dynamics within non-monogamy. I recommend delving into resources such as Jessica Fern’s book Polysecure, which discusses attachment theory within the context of polyamory. These resources can offer further guidance and strategies for building secure, fulfilling relationships in a non-monogamous framework.

How to mis-use attachment theory

That said, don’t expect attachment theory to solve your relationship woes. In fact, when used badly, attachment theory tropes can be weaponized in adult relationships. Listen to the whole episode to unpack the nuances of applying attachment theory in non-monogamous relationships. While attachment theory is a helpful lens for understanding relationships, it is important not to over-extend any single psychological theory to explain every aspect of intimacy and connection. (Seriously–this is a big topic to unpack–go check out episode 148)

Conclusion: Embrace the Complexity of Non-Monogamy

Exploring non-monogamy is about much more than managing multiple relationships; it's about understanding yourself on a deeper level. Whether you're polyamorous, in an open relationship, or simply poly-curious, integrating insights from attachment theory can provide a solid foundation for all your relationships.

Next Steps in Your Non-Monogamy Journey

To better equip yourself for this journey, I encourage you to educate yourself further on attachment theory, maintain open communication with your partners, and embrace the personal growth that comes from these relationships. Join online forums, read relevant books, and consider consulting with a coach or counselor experienced in non-monogamy.

By understanding and applying the principles of attachment theory, you can navigate non-monogamy with greater empathy and insight, leading to richer and more satisfying relationships.

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