Attachment anxiety linked to a steep decline in men’s sexual desire during the ‘honeymoon’ phase

Anxiously attached men tend to have a steeper drop in their sexual desire over the course of a relationship, according to new psychology research

The study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, examined how attachment styles influenced sexual desire during the “honeymoon” phase of a romantic relationship. People with an “anxious” attachment style are fearful of rejection and abandonment, while people with an “avoidant” attachment style tend not to trust others and shun intimacy.

“My research focuses on initiation, development, and maintenance of romantic relationships. I’m specifically interested in the maintenance of sexual desire over time, which is not an easy task for long-term couples,” explained Moran Mizrahi, the corresponding author of the study and lecturer at the Ariel University Center of Samaria.

“I believe that an understanding of the normative fluctuations in sexual desire along the course of romantic relationships is important for the maintenance of sexual and relationship satisfaction, and may help to prevent relationship dissolution in long-term couples. Marital therapists may use this understanding in order to promote sexual and relationship quality.”

The researchers surveyed 62 newly dating couples over an 8 month period and 175 newlywed couples over an 18 month period.

As expected, sexual desire decreased over time in both men and women overall. But this decline in desire was significantly impacted by attachment anxiety in men.

Men who agreed with statements like “I worry that romantic partners would not care about me as much as I care about them” showed significantly steeper drops in their sexual desire over time. Men with low levels of attachment anxiety, on the other hand, did not see a decline in their sexual desire.

“To me, the most interesting finding was that desire did not drop in men who were characterized by low attachment anxiety. In contrast, desire dropped significantly over time in women and in anxious men,” Mizrahi told PsyPost.

“Therefore, desire seems to be more fragile when it is fueled by relational expectations rather than pleasure-centered urges (as in the case of secure men). It suggests that desire declines more rapidly when people are preoccupied with their relationship and that it is not necessarily doomed to wane over time.”

But it is still unclear what exactly is driving anxious men’s decline in sexual desire.

“The specific mechanism that explains why anxious men may be more prone than others to an erosion in desiring their partner is still left to be determined. Possible candidates may be worries about sexual competence, high perceived demands of sexual interactions, and lack of psychological differentiation from a romantic partner,” Mizrahi explained.

“I believe that a developmental perspective for romantic relationships and the use of longitudinal data are important for an integrative understanding of processes operating in romantic couples.”

The study, “When Insecurity Dampens Desire: Attachment Anxiety in Men Amplifies the Decline in Sexual Desire during the Early Years of Romantic Relationships“, was authored by Moran Mizrahi, Harry T. Reis, Michael R. Maniaci, and Gurit E. Birnbaum.