Attachment Theory

Months ago, Jon sent me a link to a dating article from Ask Men magazine. My first reaction to the article was that it was focused on Millennials who were unwilling to commit and thus didn’t apply to us because 1) we had both committed to our spouses and 2) neither of us is a Millennial. I probed him further and he explained that he wanted to know if I thought there was a concern about either of us becoming attached to our relationship, revealing that he and his previous play partner had said (and meant) I love you to one another.

I re-read the article, which provided guidance on how to keep things casual in a relationship, suggesting you limit the frequency you see one another and avoid romantic dates. Perhaps it was good advice, but I wondered… Which has greater influence on us: candlelight or cuddling?

Science has shown that oxytocin, aka the cuddle chemical, which is released during intimacy, is a bonding agent that makes us want to connect physically with another person and then stay connected. Along these lines, our pre-poly foray included a sexy encounter with our friend, K. K was adverse to swapping spit (aka kissing) because she worried that I would become attached to her. I don’t think that a single night of passion can undo or hamper 20+ years of marriage, but I appreciated her concerns.

Moreover, in the world of psychology, the concept of Attachment Theory, first coined by psychologist John Bowlby, refers to the emotional and physical attachment to another person that provides a sense of stability and security as part of one’s personal development. And, while Bowlby was primarily concerned with the successful social and emotional development of children, his ideas were extended to adult romantic relationships by Cindy Hazan (a professor at my alma mater, Cornell) and Phillip Shaver. And, of keen interest, Dr. Hazan’s studies (and others) indicate “that people who have close social ties are happier and healthier and also live longer than people who lack such ties.”

After the second read, I considered my relationship with Jon. While I didn’t have crazy chemistry with him, I really did like him and felt connected to him as a result of what he had shared with me about his life, marriage, job search, etc. Interestingly, due to travel commitments and hectic schedules, it was several weeks between the initial text conversation and when we actually saw each other. And then even more time went by after that meeting, which has since become our last date. So, his concern was moot.

But, more importantly, as I reflected on the idea about becoming attached to someone other than Viktor, it didn’t scare or worry me. I feel that as humans, we have a huge capacity to love. I firmly believe that we can love multiple people without it negatively impacting any of those relationships in much the same way that parents of numerous children can love all of their children equally.

So, I am confident that I can develop feelings for someone else without it interfering with my relationship with Viktor. As long as Viktor remains as my priority and my primary partner, I don’t anticipate any problems. Moreover, the strength of our bond and time invested in one another further reinforces my belief that a new relationship would be hard-pressed to replace what Viktor and I have.

Yet, now that this concept of attachment has been broached, I am intrigued about what it might mean for these relationships that I am pursuing. Is there a danger of falling in love? Maybe. But, as noted, I don’t think so. However, I do know that I want a more emotional connection than simply having sex with different people, especially over time.

Yes, I am so fortunate to have an amazing, loving relationship with Viktor, but I don’t think it is wrong to want more. I know that this idea has been difficult for Viktor, but I am confident that we will continue to discuss his concerns and allay any fears as we navigate this together, in a way that honors us both and our marriage.

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While happily married to my soulmate for 20+ years, after years of body shame and sexual shutdown, I am ready to step into my sexual power as we open up our relationship and explore the possibilities.

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