Do you ever struggle with feeling trapped in your relationship and as a result keeping your partner at a distance? But do you also tend to cling to your partner when you feel rejected? Then this might have to do with your attachment style: The disorganized attachment.

Why do disorganized individuals feel insecure?

We all have a need for closeness, a need to feel loved and a need to feel safe. Ideally, this is given to us from an early age onwards. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes parents were preoccupied and did not have enough resources to take care of their child or were overwhelmed by trauma, loss, or abuse. This could lead to maltreatment and disconnected parenting with insensitive, rejecting, ambivalent and frightening behaviour. In such an environment the child lives in a constant state where their needs and trust have not been met by the most important people in their life. From an early age this child then has learned attachment through this treatment and continues to attach to other people like this. The child is then in a constant expectation that other people are also unpredictable, unavailable, and insensitive to them. Those expectations are impacting the relationship quality, intimacy, and sexual desire in a relationship, even as an adult. 

The Attachment theory

A psychological theory which helps us understand how the upbringing determines future attachment needs in relationships is the attachment theory by Bowlby and Ainsworth. They describe attachment as a bond that is formed with the primary caregivers in the early years of one’s life and which predicts relations in the future

How does disorganized attachment impact the relationship?

Sex and Intimacy are a vital part of romantic relationships, but how we perceive it depends on our attachments style. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize which attachment pattern we have in order to help us understand ourselves and our relationship better!

The struggle for intimacy

Disorganised individuals are very ambivalent in their intimacy and sexual behaviours: They want to be close to their partner, but at the same time feel trapped, when they achieve closeness. Then they want distance again but are at the same time afraid of abandonment and rejection and get clingy. To the people in their lives their moods might seem unpredictable and feel like a storm broke loose. Sometimes they absolutely love their partner and in the next moment they absolutely hate their partner. This impacts intimacy tremendously because the partner in the “safe haven” is the same person they are afraid to get too close to or not being close enough. They obsess over their partner, have very passionate romantic feelings but are also clingy, intrusive, and controlling, when their needs are not met. Therefore, these relationships have a lot of highs and lows and feel rocky or overly dramatic. 

The struggle for sex

As you might have guessed by now, when intimacy is hard to maintain for individuals with disorganized attachment the sexual satisfaction, motives, attitudes, and behaviour are also affected. Sometimes they try to fulfil their unmet needs with sex. Other times they engage in sex just to avoid abandonment or to lessen negative feelings of the partner. They also see sex as a barometer of how much their partner really loves them. Therefore, it makes it hard for them to differentiate between sex and other components of relationships, as intimacy, commitment, and affection. The use of sex as a strategy to satisfy unmet attachment needs may not be the most effective route to meet those needs. Because the seemingly never-ending demands for more love, intimacy and closeness leads to frustrations, sexual disappointment, loneliness, and rejection.

However, one’s attachment style does not have to determine how to interact with others in the future. Once you have learned more about your attachment style you can start to find patterns in your behaviour and figure out how to feel secure. Therapy can be a powerful tool to achieve a more fulfilling and secure relationship and mindset. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Lisa Zach is an intern at Willingness and currently pursuing her master’s degree in clinical psychology. As an aspiring therapist, researcher, and educator, she is particularly interested in action-oriented research, advocacy, and holistic approaches to mental health.


Shemmings, D. (2011). Understanding Disorganized Attachment: Theory and Practice for Working With Children and Adults. Jessica Kingsley Pub.

Birnbaum, G. E., Reis, H. T., Mikulincer, M., Gillath, O. & Orpaz, A. (2006). When sex is more than just sex: Attachment orientations, sexual experience, and relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(5), 929–943.

Bowlby, J. (1968). Attachment and Loss, Vol. 1: Attachment. New York: Basic Books.Davis,