What is hysterical attachment? | POPSUGAR Love & Sex +2023

Have you ever had a relationship before your eyes? One minute you seem on the verge of a breakup, and the next you can’t imagine life without that person, and any mistakes you used to fixate on seem less critical. For Ethan (played by Will Sharpe) in The White Lotus, he hallucinates that his wife Harper (played by Aubrey Plaza) is being seduced by his enemy Cameron (played by Theo James), and it changes the trajectory of their entire relationship.

Before Ethan’s potential infidelity sparked anxiety, the couple, in their mid-30s, stopped having sex at all. Ethan liked to start his day with a morning run followed by porn, and Harper repeatedly accused him of no longer being attracted to her. “When you know everything about each other, when you’ve seen each other on the toilet, there’s no longer a secret,” Ethan tells Cameron over dinner.

But somewhere between Harper and Cameron’s secret kiss and Ethan sneaking off with Cameron’s wife Daphne, the pair eventually get back together in a torrid sex scene in the show’s finale. Creator Mike White shared his take on Ethan’s unexpected shift in sexual interest during the aftershow: “Whatever happened allows him to let go of the jealousy that’s been brewing inside him. And it kind of brings back that initial kind of sexual charge that happens at the beginning of relationships and sometimes fades over time.”

According to experts, your SO may seem more desirable when they are the object of someone else’s affection. “In business, the perceived value of an item increases when you see other people using it and liking it, and it works the same way with people,” he says Suzanne Weissresident sexologist for Bird.

“The show ended with them being on a high note as a couple, but it won’t last unless they learn how to communicate and negotiate with love.”

If you take your partner for granted in your life and worry about losing them to someone else, this jealousy can create feelings of “first crush” or reignite a spark in a long-term relationship. Many people can relate to the concept known as “hysterical attachment” — or when someone’s partner is cheating and they do whatever it takes to win them back.

If this sounds confusing or counterintuitive to you, we spoke to experts to better understand hysterical attachments, why they’re not as uncommon as they were for Ethan and Harper in The White Lotus, and if there are other ways to recreate this Intoxication of lust without introducing infidelity into the relationship.

What is hysterical attachment?

“It refers to a reaction where a person tries to solidify their relationship with their romantic partner after their partner’s betrayal,” he says Jess Carbino, PhD, former sociologist for Tinder and Bumble. Typically, the person is betrayed by their partner and will do anything to win them back.

Hysterical or traumatic/betrayed attachments are a form of unhealthy coping mechanisms, he says Nicole Schaefer, LPC, sex and relationship coach. “Instead of experiencing the usual grief, sadness, etc., some people feel an intense desire to win their partner back and show them why they should be with you again,” she says. “That kind of bonding after a traumatic event (e.g., cheating) will likely feel amazing in the moment, but it will be fleeting and not sustainable.”

But why does hysterical attachment occur? Much of this can be attributed to hormones and anxiety. “When we experience fear, we experience an inherent adrenaline rush as the chemical rushes through our bodies to prepare us for fight or flight,” he says Beth Ribarski, PhD, an expert in romantic relationships and professor of interpersonal communication. The adrenaline rush at the thought of losing your significant other to someone else can release dopamine or crush-like feelings. dr Ribarsky compares jealousy to superglue. “A little bit can bring a couple even closer together. But just a little too much and it ends in a sticky disaster.”

Will Hysterical Bonding help Ethan and Harper on The White Lotus?

In the finale of “The White Lotus,” Ethan and Harper are finally able to have sex, but only after cheating is suspected. “Sometimes you can tell how much you want him when you realize someone else is attracted to your partner,” says relationship expert Chloe Ballatore. “But beyond that, when there is suspicion or fraud, trust is damaged and long-term relationships are built on trust.”

At some point, Ethan and Harper will have to address the elephant in the room – or in this case, the condom on the couch, the latch on the door, etc. If they did indeed cheat, or if the suspicion of cheating is big enough, it can ultimately ruin the relationship. “The show ended with them being on a high note as a couple, but it won’t last unless they learn how to communicate and negotiate with love.”

Hysterical bonding can be very erotic, but it’s fleeting. “You get that dopamine hit right away, and it might last a week or a month, but it won’t last more than two months,” says Ballatore. “Then you are both back where you were before the cheating, except the trust has now been damaged, perhaps fatally.”

Can a little jealousy be good for a relationship?

While hysterical attachment was coined in response to being betrayed, sometimes just the fear of losing your SO to someone else is enough to stoke a fire inside you. dr Carbino says, “While injecting jealousy into one’s relationship isn’t the healthiest approach to rekindling a long-term relationship, it can offer perspective.”

When considering how jealousy affects your relationship, it’s important to distinguish that a partner does not make us jealous. Instead of this, we are responsible for our own jealous feelings, says Dr. Ribarsky. Jealousy is an emotion like any other, and we choose how to respond to it. “Jealousy can be extremely dangerous because it can create obsessive and intrusive thoughts that are inimical to a happy and healthy relationship,” she explains. So be careful how you let it affect your actions and your relationship.

There are many ways to rekindle chemistry without jealousy. If you want to restore that initial spark you once had and maintain a certain level of mystery, “try making some time to yourself,” says Weiss. And when you’re spending time together, you might be looking for more adrenaline-pumping activities, like watching a scary movie or trying an extreme sport. “When we feel adrenaline around our partner, we naturally find them more attractive and more attracted to them,” says Dr. Ribarsky. “Not only does this set off a rush, but it’s also a great opportunity to make sure you stay out of the relationship rut and keep doing the same thing.”

Maybe we’ll see Ethan and Harper jump out of a plane together in the name of love next season.

Image Credit: Photo by Fabio Lovino/HBO

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