This is How to Teach Your Body that Secure Attachment is Sexy

by | Mar 21, 2021 | Anxiety, Open Your Heart, Relationships | 19 comments

If we were raised in a healthy relationship culture – one that held what Jungian analyst Robert Johnson calls “oatmeal love” as the ideal for romantic relationships – if we had grown up ingesting healthy models of romance that held friendship and safety at the core, we might associate attachment with sexiness.

Instead, we grew up with these equations:

Love = Longing

We Long for the Unavailable.

Therefore Unavailable and Dangerous = Sexy.


Let’s flesh this out (no pun intended ;));

Largely because of mainstream media, we grow up watching a depiction of romance that includes longing at its core. It’s not unusual to spend ninety minutes or longer watching a star-crossed couple “falling in love” then missing each other for the duration of a film, only to have sex in the final scene where we’re to assume they live forever after in heavenly bliss. We read romance novels with the same theme where there is a pursuer and a distancer, and if only, oh dear god, if only the distancer would ask me out, thinks the pursuer, my life would be perfect.

As a result of these messages, we teach young people that this is what romance and “chemistry” and real love are supposed to look and feel like. We teach them to chase after the high of infatuation and be turned on by longing. It’s certainly what I was taught.

I’ve shared before the story about my crush in high school, how I was obsessed with this boy for two solid years. I filled entire journals with my longing for him, how I was convinced that if were together, I would glide off into the proverbial sunset and all of my teenage angst – my confusion, my loneliness, my insecurity, and probably most of all my grief about the splintering of my family – would float away.

Then he asked me out. And he kissed me. And literally, in the blink of an eye, with that one too-wet, too-fast kiss, everything inside of me recoiled and the crush fell flat on the floor and slithered away.

The truth is that the kiss probably wasn’t “too wet or too fast”. More likely, that was how my fearful heart interpreted the kiss of someone who I was no longer chasing. I had no idea what to do when someone turned to face me. I had no idea what healthy love looked like or felt like. I had been conditioned to equate love with longing, so when my source of longing turned around and I was no longer in the position of pursuer, the feelings of infatuation died instantly.

But now I do know. For what has been mis-wired can be rewired. I learned, through the safe attachment with my husband and by practicing the Love Laws and Loving Actions that I teach in Open Your Heart, to open in the presence of presence. My heart, body, and desire have rewired in healthy ways so that I now move toward real love instead of toward dysfunction or unavailability. For it’s when we turn toward healthy and available love instead of reinforcing the habits and beliefs that cause us to turn away from it that we send ourselves the message, over time, that healthy love with an emotionally available partner is sexy.

How? You might be asking. How do we rewire? How do we learn to find real love attraction and secure attachment sexy?

Through following Love Laws and Loving Actions, like allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, naming our fear walls but not acting on them, and writing and documenting our true love story (not the one that we write when anxiety is in the driver’s seat), to name a few. Love is a feeling, but it’s mostly an action and an intention, which means that when we act in service of love, love grows.

None of this is easy, and it certainly won’t be rewired at the end of a 30-day course, but when you receive a roadmap you can plant the seeds that, when watered and tended over time, grow into the true fairytale romance, one rooted in friendship, lit by shared vision, and grown through daily attention. It’s then that we learn the subtle yet powerful art of softening and surrendering to our safest person in the world, and I’m here to tell you, there’s no greater gift. I’m also here to tell you that if I can rewire; if I can work through the fear-eyes that told me my husband wasn’t this-or-that-enough and now regard him as the sexiest man alive, anyone can. 

If you would like to receive this roadmap, I invite you to join a group of like-minded learners for my 18th round of Open Your Heart: A 30-day course to feel more love and attraction for your partner. The next live round will start on April 10th, 2021, and I look forward to meeting you there.



  1. So beautifully written, Sheryl.

    After many months of trusting myself when fear settled and clear eyes were very far away, today I’ve appreciated myself for finally understanding my wiring and bringing compassion while re-wiring.

    Finding your work has made my heart breathe, heal, grief and burst into flames again. I’ve found a much more loving way of living life and all because I started suffering from relationship anxiety.

    What a gift.

    This article has expressed into words how I’ve been feeling these past two days with my boyfriend (we saw each other after almost 3 months), and I couldn’t believe / express / materialise how I was feeling when I was touching his hands or simply walking besides him. I felt such a pure and relaxed breathe in my heart that was as simple as that but as magnificent as something I’ve never felt with anyone else. Which is basically the sexiness of feeling secure. No chasing, no longing, just stillness.

    Thank you for all you do. Beyond grateful. ❤️

  2. Such a blessing to read this after a week full of high anxiety — both in my relationships and in my work. I was looking forward to your email today, and I feel grateful to receive your thoughtful words. 🙂 Thank you Sheryl!

    • I’m so glad it arrived at the right time, Jamie :).

  3. Hi Sheryl,
    I came across your course several years ago when I had extreme anxiety within my prior relationship. I was in a toxic relationship at that time and had to work through the manipulation and emotional abuse that I didn’t see, but am so keenly aware of now. I will never forget the break free course though and am forever grateful that I am not afraid to do the work. Now, nearly 3 years later I am in a much better place and am with an amazing man! I have had to learn to teach myself to tame the anxiety and calm my triggers. My boyfriend is wonderful and we just went on our first family vacation and it put me in tail spin, reverting to my old thoughts. He is not right for me, he is not my person. Except this time, he really is. I just need to tools to heal my wounds so I don’t project onto him. I am definitely interested in this course. Thanks for your help!

    • I hope to see you on the course, Holly, and since you already have the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course I recommend going through it again (and again and again :)).

  4. Sheryl this post came at just the right time. My dream theme this week has been me “falling in love” with an unavailable person. I had 2 distinct dreams about this and woke up feeling that desperate feeling of longing for the feeling I felt in my dream. Another dream this week was of my husband cheating on me. I am open and curious to these dreams and luckily do not feel the need to take them at face value. However, I found that I could not shake my “longing for longing”. Although I do not fully understand my attachment to desiring that painful longing I knew it had something to do with me neglecting myself. As a nursing student, type A, introverted, and highly sensitive person I often lean towards isolating myself to maintain control and I also put responsibilities before fun. Although being highly responsible has served me well in life, I realized it was time to loosen my grip on life this week (which also was my spring break from school). Even though it was my spring break and was supposed to be a breather from school, I still found myself relistening to lectures, reviewing notes, and doing practice questions until it was time for me to go to work. Then once off work I would clean, make dinner, and tend to other daily responsibilities. I think my dreams were here to tell me that it’s time to let myself indulge in the sweetness in life and let go of control . It’s time to turn towards myself and fall in love with my life and myself again. I focused on socializing with good friends and spent two full afternoons out by the pool with good girlfriends “wasting time”. Instead of putting my birthday money into savings I allowed myself to buy a new swimsuit and a cookbook I really wanted. I am so hard on myself and expect so much from myself. I usually feel frivolous and lazy when I do things that aren’t productive but this week I was able to realize not only how necessary it is to do things just for fun but also how much joy comes from letting go of control. I learned to trust the natural flow of life again. My two year old neighbor called to me from her front door while I was carrying in my laundry from my car. I allowed myself to “waste time” playing with her for an hour. Then I invited her to come watch Peppa Pig at my house. Later when her mom came to take her home, she told me that her daughter hasn’t agreed to go to anyone’s house in a very long time and she was so happy her daughter felt safe in my house. I guess these things aren’t “wasting time” at all. Although I still don’t understand my longing for unavailability, I am leaving this week with a greater understanding of life, myself, and the sweetness of dropping into the kinetic joy that is always there waiting for me to allow it to flow into my life.

    • Ugh. Really struggling lately despite my amazing husband and two wonderful little girls. It’s impossible for me to imagine ever seeing my husband as the sexiest man alive, especially since I never had any infatuation and have always struggled with attraction. I want to so badly, I just want to want him (if that makes sense). It doesn’t help that with nursing and medication I have 0 sex drive. Fear has been telling me that I’ve made a big mistake and that I’ll die not having true love. Just needed to vent a little, your work is always a godsend for me (has been for years!) ♥️

      • Quick reminder: an infatuation stage is NOT a prerequisite for a loving, connected marriage. And second reminder: it’s VERY difficult to feel turned on when you’re breastfeeding and tending to children!

        • Hi Sheryl, what about lack of sex drive in general, pretty soon into the relationship (~ 1.5years)? It’s so frustrating that I had all the hots for my exes and now that I’m with the love of my life, the most amazing man I could dream of, I have and have always had 0 sex drive. Any tips? I know it’s my anxiety, I just get scared at times that we’ll never tap into that hot sex lust territory and that we’ve just missed our chance. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!

    • Thank you for posting this. I related to you in so many ways, especially the putting responsibilities before fun and being rewarded for being highly responsible. I take your post as a message, that I to need to indulge myself. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability, I appreciate it 🙂

  5. Hi Sheryl,

    I previously had a comfort and secure relationship with my husband and felt safe and attracted to him most of the time. In the last couple of years, I found out my dad had been having an affair with a woman my own age. My parents are divorcing and the whole situation is highly disturbing to me. It’s gotten very hard for me to separate that situation from my relationship with my husband and find a sense of safety for physical and emotional intimacy. Every time I start to get close to my husband, I start to feel panic and fear and pull away. Maybe it is that I partly feel broken and tainted inside by everything with my own parents. How would you suggest I approach this problem and begin healing?

    • It’s about individuating from your parents and trusting that their story is not your story, which hinges on self-trust and learning how to un-enmesh from parents.

  6. Dear Sheryl,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article, and all of your incredible work! It never ceases to bring me comfort and guide me towards healing. Ever so often I almost believe I am reading my own diary or thoughts when I read your posts, or that you have written just exactly about my experiences. I too have exactly had this pattern of love-chasing (equating it with desire) you described here. All through my teens I was desperately longing for different boys, if only they would notice me, love me… And when they did, everytime there was this ultimate anti-climax and the urge to move away as far as possible. In my twenties I then only fell for emotionally unavailable guys which caused me so much heart-break – until I met my current boyfriend and RA hit (for everyone, do the Relationship Anxiety course! It is a life-changer). So thank you once more for enabling to understand my own experiences better through your wise words. Much love!

    • Dear Meret: Sending love from one reformed drama-chaser to another!

  7. Beautiful as always ❤️
    I got slightly triggered by your story of your high school crush though. I tend to compare my story a lot, and realize I mostly tell my story in the form of anxiety and lack, but I got triggered because my story isn’t like that and I didn’t ever have a crush actually date me. I’ve only ever actually dated guys who pursued me cuz they wanted to be with me and I wanted a boyfriend (and I constantly judge myself for how “wrong” that is) and have had a lot of doubts and lack of feelings with all of them, one including my now boyfriend who I do feel like I truly love when I’m living from my heart rather than my head. But with the biggest crush/infatuation I had he and I hung out and kissed and it was the longing and the bliss and the thrill (although me and my boyfriends first kiss was better I must add!) and everything I wanted like everything I grew up believing was love and I started having a couple minor doubts towards the end of us seeing eachother in person before he moved away but I didn’t think too much into them, probably because I was still in the fantasy realm and the chase was still on, especially now that he moved several hours away. So that’s the closest I ever got to dating a crush and I feel like since I didn’t get that experience it’s hard for me to determine if I’m in relationship anxiety with my boyfriend now or if I just don’t actually love him and wanna be with him and I’m just convincing myself. I have a lot of shame and regret around my beginning with him and believing I didn’t wanna be with him and I’m just too good of a person to leave and that I ruined the love I’ve always wanted. It hurts so bad. And The doubts come in a lot cuz I can’t fully grasp a part of me that says, “yes this is totally relationship anxiety” from previous experience cuz I didn’t feel like I had clear previous experience to prove that. I mean I suppose the couple of small doubts with the crush could count and also the fact that when I first met my boyfriend I actually did have a crush on him but it faded eventually and I moved on to another crush and then a year later I learned that he liked me and I was just like “oh” and that crush for him from a year before was no longer there. So technically I am dating a crush it just didn’t happen during the crush time. Obviously I’m still hung up at the level of relationship anxiety no matter how hard I’m trying to heal and take everything I’ve been learning about real true love into account but the beginning and not having that definite knowing that this is relationship anxiety haunts me daily. And it shows I’m still hung up on what the media has taught me of “true love” and am struggling to see that a crush isn’t actual true love anyway. Any help navagating through this would be great and maybe helping me look differently at things, thank you! I want to love myself and forgive myself and heal so bad so I can live from my heart and love myself and my boyfriend as we both truly deserve; he is such an incredible man who I’d be crazy to leave because I’ve never met anyone like him or met anyone who has the heart that he has. I know I can get to the point of really experiencing true love for him because I’ve had times here and there that I do and it’s INCREDIBLE!! I just need help working through the beginning so I can stop beating myself up about it. Thank you and I apologize for the long post!

  8. Hi Sheryl,
    I’m young and in a relationship and i CANNOT stop thinking about how i need to experience more people before i can settle down, it feels like i truly want to do it. I don’t even push the thoughts away anymore but I do not want to leave my partner. Is this something I should actually do and is it possible to regret never doing that? Or after reading this article I understand that it could be that I am just craving that longing feeling and that mystery that you can explain above. Could this be true?

  9. Thanks for the great reminders about real love! I can say with confidence that your work has changed my life for the better; years ago, this course gave me the healing and training necessary to recognize an amazing chance at real love with my now husband. I’ve since come to recognize that I experience similar patterns of anxiety around work, and the tools you taught me have helped tremendously. So for anyone wondering whether this course is worth it, for me it was a game-changer. If you struggle with anxiety, the tools extend far beyond your romantic relationship to other areas where anxiety tends to pop up. Its not that I never struggle now (I do!) but I know the basics of how to respond constructively. Thank you for all that you do, Sheryl!

    • Thank you so much for sharing this, Lori! I remember when you took the course in 2014, and I’m so glad you’re doing well :). xo


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