What I’ve Learned About Men’s Attachment Wounds As A Therapist

We all have an underlying core need for connection and intimacy. While fluid, the attachments we form early on with our caregivers affect our capacity for this, setting the stage for our adult relationships. Attachment Theory describes the adaptation of attachment patterns, based on our caregivers’ responses to our emotional needs in infancy and childhood.

If our primary caregivers were predictable in showing up for us– loving, attuned and responsive to our emotional needs– we are likely to develop safety and security in our attachments. However, if our experience was that of inconsistency, lack of emotional attunement, and in meeting our needs, we are more likely to develop insecurity in our relationships.

We form attachment patterns based on the nature of these emotional bonds. Attachment patterns are complex, often unconscious and internalized, existing on a continuum. While these are largely influenced by our caregivers’ responses to our emotional needs growing up, they are further impacted by the relationships in our life. The ways in which we are socialized, also play a role in the development of attachment patterns, and may be further compounded by social norms surrounding masculinity and feminiity.

Secure Attachment

These attachment styles are formed when our emotional needs are met, and we feel safe and secure in our relationships. Our caregivers are emotionally attuned to our needs, making us feel seen, valued and soothed when upset. Security in our attachments allows us to navigate relationships from a place of confidence, safety and trust. This allows us to form meaningful and satisfying relationships with deep connection and intimacy. Having a secure attachment style also helps us to be comfortable in setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, as we know our value.

Insecure Attachment

Insecure Attachment Patterns develop as a result of not feeling emotionally safe or “enough” and thus having to adapt or compensate as a result. Self-abandonment is often indicative in those with insecure attachments, as they have been conditioned to believe they need to show up differently in order to be loved. Maintaining the attachment becomes the primary focus, rather than authenticity. Love is viewed as conditional vs. unconditional, therefore they often sacrifice their own emotions and needs to maintain their attachments. This may show up as being avoidant or anxious in their relationships.

Anxious Attachment

A core feature of Anxious Attachment is an underlying fear of abandonment or rejection in relationships. In parallel to these fears, is a strong desire for closeness and intimacy. Those with this attachment style often seek validation and reassurance to affirm their worth and security in their relationships. This is often due to a lack of emotional attunement and security early on with their caregivers. Having a parent struggle with an illness may be at the root of this. As a result, they may have had to closely monitor and be highly attuned to their parent’s affect, rather than their own. Therefore, they may be overly attentive to the needs of others, without getting their own needs met. This may make them feel insecure in relationships with others.

Avoidant Attachment

An underlying fear of those with the Avoidant Attachment style is that vulnerability will lead to abandonment or rejection. Those with this attachment pattern often have difficulty in expressing their emotions and needs, making trust and intimacy difficult. Avoiding vulnerability becomes a way of making them feel safe, even if they are longing for connection. Avoidant attachment is often rooted in inconsistency in their caregivers’ being emotionally available, meeting the child’s core needs to be seen, cared for and soothed. The avoidant attachment pattern becomes a coping or defense mechanism, as the child has to adapt in navigating and developing their own ways to feel emotionally safe. This may manifest as emotional suppression and fear of engulfment or emotional intimacy.

The Complexity of Attachment

As a therapist, I have seen how uniquely challenging our attachment wounds can affect us, especially so for men. Expressions of approval or disapproval around how masculinity is expressed can further compound attachments styles. In fact, research highlights a positive correlation between avoidant attachment patterns and higher endorsement of masculine properties (1).

Attachment patterns are complex and exist on a continuum. There is no shame or blame in the attachment styles we developed. Often, our caregivers did the best they could with the resources they had available to them. What is important to keep in mind, is that these patterns developed for a reason and can be incredibly insightful in how we view ourselves and show up for ourselves and in our relationships. As noted, the ways in which we are socialized and the nature of our relationships throughout our lives, further influence this.

Attachment & The Nervous System

Our nervous system relies on attunement cues and secure attachments with our caregivers to develop properly and self-regulate. Our attachment wounds become activated in our relationships and often manifest as intense emotional responses. This is because our body, particularly our nervous system, has a distinct memory or imprint of this wound. We need to feel safe in order to connect with others intimately so we naturally gravitate to what is familiar unless we have awareness of this.

In my experience, anxiety and depression can manifest as a result of the wounds from our attachments, as our nervous system becomes dysregulated early on. We may also struggle feeling emotionally safe, vulnerable and secure in relationships with others. Often, due to these wounds, core beliefs about ourselves are also formed. We may not feel good enough or deserving of love and fall into the same relationship patterns that mirror these prior wounds from our attachments.

This is largely unconscious for most of us. Gaining insight into our attachment styles and wounds, supports increased understanding and compassion for ourselves, and how we show up for ourselves and in our relationships. It is also important in recognizing that our attachment styles were at one point adaptive, serving the purpose of helping us to feel safe, while compensatory. Moreover, our attachment styles developed as a way of coping, often serving as a defense mechanism in “attempting to keep us safe.”

Attachment Wounds & Romantic Relationships

Gaining insight into one’s attachment style and how it was shaped helps us to shift our perspective from thinking something is wrong with us, to one of increased awareness and empathy. It also helps us to make sense of our relationship patterns how we respond or react emotionally in our relationships. This can also help us better understand where our issues come from allowing us to work on it, leading to more satisfying, in-depth relationships with ourselves and with others. It can also help us to make gradual shift towards more secure attachment style, which means acknowledging we deserve better if we are in an unhealthy relationship. Working on this can also support us in recognizing and expressing our emotional needs.

In both my clinical and personal experience I have found that we often play out our deepest attachment wounds in our intimate relationships. This is also rooted in Attachment Theory and supported by the research. It also makes sense from an adverse childhood and trauma perspective. For instance, if we had an emotionally unavailable parent, we may be more drawn to this quality in partner. This is largely unconscious and often internalized from our childhood. While it may seem counterintuitive, it makes sense from a neurobiological perspective. Simply put, our nervous system will initially gravitate towards what is familiar, even if that is dysfunctional for us. Further emotional wounds in subsequent relationships can also further contribute to the adaptation of insecure attachment styles.

I’ve worked with men with both secure and insecure attachment styles. In my experience, men with insecure attachment tendencies fall more on the avoidant spectrum, however also exhibit anxious tendencies. While early attachments are at the forefront of this, gender and social constructs can further influence this. Emotional wounds or trauma endured in subsequent relationships also largely affect this.

A man may already fear being vulnerable in relationships due to their early attachments, and in conjunction with how masculinity was portrayed and conditioned for them. If they experience an unfaithful partner, this can further elicit insecure tendencies. Anxious attachments can also manifest due to feelings of inadequacy, or unworthiness. This may be present due to attachment wounds, as well as portrayed social constructs of masculinity. Unpacking some of these layers, and recognizing these connections that resonate, is important in shifting towards more of a secure attachment style.

Mindfulness & Integration

Attachment styles exist on a continuum. Where we fall on this spectrum is influenced by various factors, and can be modified. Gaining awareness to where our attachment wounds stem from and how they are show up for us is the first step in working towards more secure attachments. This also helps us to gain a better understanding of our underlying unmet needs, and how we can get those needs met in more adaptive and constructive ways that support our well-being.

Being aware of how our attachment styles are shaped by gender norms and our conditioning around this, is also significant. While traditionally men have been conditioned to remain rather stoic in their emotions, it is actually very healthy and attractive to convey vulnerability in your relationships. However we need to feel secure and safe enough to do that.

Leaning into vulnerability and authenticity in ways that feel safe for us, are significant in healing our attachment wounds. This can start off by simply being aware of how you are feeling, and recognizing they are valid, and exist for a reason. Being aware of your needs is also important, and not being shameful of them. Identifying the parts of you that you felt you had to modify in order to receive love, is also a great way to further shift towards healthy and secure attachments (2).

Working towards more secure attachments requires leaning into new ways of relating to ourselves, and others. It is important to communicate how we feel in our relationships and what our needs are, and even past wounds so our partner is aware. While this can feel scary, it is totally worth it for our mental health and for the quality of our relationships.

Remember that at our core is connection, and we are all deserving of that.


  1. Weber R, Eggenberger L, Stosch C, Walther A. Gender Differences in Attachment Anxiety and Avoidance and Their Association with Psychotherapy Use-Examining Students from a German University. Behav Sci (Basel). 2022 Jun 22;12(7):204. doi: 10.3390/bs12070204. PMID: 35877274; PMCID: PMC9312160.
  2. Hudson, N. W., Chopik, W. J., & Briley, D. A. (2020). Volitional Change in Adult Attachment: Can People Who Want to Become Less Anxious and Avoidant Move Closer towards Realizing those Goals? European Journal of Personality, 34(1), 93-114. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.2226
About Author

Lauren is a functional nutritionist and licensed therapist who takes an integrative and functional approach to mental health and overall wellness. Lauren has worked as a clinician/therapist, researcher, and writer in the mental health and functional nutrition space.

Lauren takes a root cause approach to well-being— looking at the body, mind, and responses to one’s environment in influencing health. Lauren recognizes the various factors that impact well-being– including attachments, trauma, ACEs, individual differences in biochemical makeup, genetic predispositions, and largely nutrition, lifestyle, mind-body modalities, and healing relationships.

She is passionate about empowering others to become their own expert relative to their health and overall well-being. Lauren has worked in outpatient and inpatient settings with both men, women and children.

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