Book Review · Polyamory · Relationships · Self Improvement

Polysecure Book Synopsis & Review

*I give a summary of the book so there are spoilers.*

Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy by Jessica Fern

Everybody and they mama were referring this book to me, so I borrowed it from one of my partners, created a virtual book club to hold myself accountable, and dove in.

Overall, I really REALLY enjoyed this book. There were a couple of things that had me screwing up my face or side eyeing ol’ Jess, but it is definitely a book I will be referring to not just polyam folks, but people in general. I was compelled to do some deep introspection after this read.

All and all, a great read that I feel can aid EVERYONE on their journey of connecting with EVERYONE in various ways!

Part 1 (Chapters 1-3) is an overview of attachment theory and trauma.

There are four different attachment styles:

  • Secure: This refers to the ability to form secure, loving relationships with others. A securely attached person can trust, love and accept love, and get close to others with relative ease. They’re able to depend on others without becoming totally dependent – they aren’t afraid to vulnerable and do not feel anxious when their partners need time and space away from them.
  • Avoidant/Dismissive: This is ME when my insecurities are triggered! When she was describing this style, what I heard was “strong, independent woman who don’t need no man!” LOL that’s not what she said, of course. Basically, this style is for those who are hyper independent and tend to pull away when faced with disagreements, “clingy-ness,” or their own vulnerability.
  • Anxious/Preoccupied: This attachment style is hypervigilant; when it activates, it tends to cause folks to focus on small, non-verbal cues, constantly monitor the other person’s actions/reactions, and they tend to amplify their needs or “relationship bids” – that is, their need for attention.
  • Disorganized/Fearful-Avoidant: This is when a person oscillates between the styles, usually typical of folks with severe trauma.
Attachment styles chart

What I liked is that Jess gave us a wholistic view of attachment styles – she explained how they were on a spectrum, how they might manifest in childhood and adulthood, how you can have different styles for different relationships, and how your attachment style affects your boundaries. She goes on to talk about how our internal and external worlds can be different – that you can exhibit one style outwardly, but inwardly be another style because you’re repressing or evading emotions. I resonated with that, since I know I present as avoidant dismissive outwardly, but internally I’m fearful-avoidant.

I also loved that she extended the discussion beyond the interpersonal relationships and trauma you might experience to include community and society, because those help shape us as well. She calls this the nested model of attachment and trauma. Although adult relationships are societally directed towards romance (hello amatonormativity), she makes sure to note that siblings and close friends usually function as some of the most important attachment bonds we have, especially growing up.

Nested model of attachment and trauma.

She made a point to not demonize any style OR cast blame on others for what style you have. My favorite analogy in the book was when she talked about how managing relationships is like riding a horse – you’re guiding the horse down the path of life, managing agency/independence/autonomy/choice with the need for closeness/support/connection. Your attachment style is the horses reins: you’re constantly changing and readjusting which rein to pull to keep you on a straight path, and sometimes you overcorrect in one way or another.

Part 2 (Chapters 4-6) give an overview of non-monogamy and the importance of attachment theory in nonmonogamy.

Jessica Fern’s chart of the types of non-monogamy.

She gives a good overview of the different types of ways one can be non-monogamous. She also explains how secure attachment is built on how folks consistently respond to each other, not something that gets created through structure (read: hierarchy), and gives examples of signs that you are relying on structure for stability instead of working through your issues and building your shared emotional experience.

Now here comes the only part of the book I disliked. She KEPT saying that non-monogamy as a relationship style is inherently insecure. As a person who is more secure in non-monogamous relationships than monogamous ones, I really side-eyed this blanket statement.

While I agree with her view that the change/shift in the relationship dynamic can trigger things that monogamy doesn’t, I don’t think that means it is inherently insecure – especially because there are some of us who didn’t come into non-monogamy by opening up a relationship.

The other reason she gave was that people have to learn “how to fit together beside pre-existing structures and commitments with other partners.” However, you have to do that when you’re monogamous too! You have to work around the other commitments in a person’s life: family (especially caring for dependents), work, friends, etc. For all her touting in the previous section that romantic relationships aren’t the end all be all, she kinda falls into that troupe here – assuming that romance is the only big relationship or the epitome of relationships.

Other than that one point, the rest of this section is pretty good. She talks about how trauma can be triggered specifically in the realm of non-monogamy: opening up relationships, unsaid relationship expectations, monogamy hangover, ruptures that can arise from each layer in the nested model of attachment and trauma.

Part 3 (Chapters 7-10) gives guidance and suggestions how to become more secure in your relationships.

Jess notes here that although these strategies can be applied by anyone, she is tailoring them specifically to polyamorous relationships. She talks about being frank and letting folks know that you want to be attachment figures for each other – it is not a given in all relationships and should be an intentional, consensual agreement to cultivate your relationship in this way. She gives examples of and reflection questions for:

  • Commitment
  • Being a Safe Haven
  • Being a Secure Base

We have to be sure to define what each of these looks like and how it is expressed individually for you.

She then gets into an acronym she coined to specifically cultivate being secure in relationships:

    • Here (being present)
    • Expressed delight
    • Attunement
    • Rituals & routines
    • Turning towards after conflict
    • Secure attachment with self

The rest of the book is about how to apply each of these aspects. She makes sure to let you know that this is not about being perfect in each one all the time, but that prioritizing these things at the heart of your relationships in order to find ways to thrive.

One thing I kind of side-eyed a little was the importance of eye contact, tone of voice, and body language, but the other end of that spectrum is not mentioned (other than communicating to your partners *why* you’re not present). Yes, those things mentioned are important for a lot of people, but for folks who are more Ask Culture than Guess Culture or who are neurodivergent, it can be a big ask to make them “play a part” in order for the other person to feel secure.

Yes, if you care for someone you will want to express that in a way they understand and are willing to take measures to do so…but I do think the other person should also make an effort to understand why a person may not be as expressive in the specific they would like. From a personal standpoint, constantly acting, masking, or “being on” in order for a partner to feel more secure (or having that expectation in place) can cause fatigue and resentment when done too much. Keep in mind that understanding and compromise should go both ways!

Other than that, I like the level of detail she goes into, while managing to stay general enough with her questions and suggestions to be a catchall. I love love love that she dedicates a whole chapter to developing a secure attachment with self. She states that “Internal attachment healing is needed for the HEART of secure functioning to become possible and then take root in our relationships,” and drives home that you are the source of your emotional regulation, boundaries, and purpose. In order to heal, she asks that you do HEART with yourself – apply all the methods previously stated internally and gives examples to self regulate within each attachment style.

Finally, she addresses common questions in the last chapter, such as “How many attachment-based relationships can I have?” and “Should we close our relationship when there are issues?” I think she answers these beautifully and wraps everything up nice.

All and all, a great read that I feel can aid EVERYONE on their journey of connecting with EVERYONE in various ways!

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