I want to take you and your partner on a journey through secure connection - get imaginative and let's see what resonates with you and your relationship.
You wake up, you roll over closer to your partner and exclaim, "I'm so excited to go on this hike together today!" You pack up everything you need for your trip (a tent, sleeping bags, flashlight, first-aid kit, snacks, cooler, bug spray, etc.). Now, you must take the 3 hour long journey to your camp site, and it's the first time you've gone on such a trip with your partner.
During your drive, you and your partner become lost, stranded on a backroad, and you lose signal on your phone, creating challenges with reaching for support or pinpointing the location. In the midst of the stress, your partner makes this remark: "I can't believe you didn't think about printing off the directions. We can't just trust that technology is going to help us get to where we need to go."
You feel accused, and you start to become overwhelmed with irritation. "How could you place blame on me right now!?" Your partner interjects and says, "You were handling all of this, I didn't know to step in and help!"
You and your partner feel entangled in this cycle - In the midst of a mistake, you feel blamed, and instead of repair and vulnerability, both partners feel a sense of reaction towards one another; one with anger, and another with irritation. In this moment, how does this couple find repair? Let's take a look at the shift in the conversation when the couple works together to embrace the situation they're in and begin to embrace each others vulnerable parts.
. . . "So much was coming up with planning this trip, I didn't think about reaching out for help. I thought I did have it all together, but you just came at me with anger, and it makes me feel so much guilt, like I've screwed up."
Your partner takes your hand and responds, "you're right, I understand this was a big decision. I had all the faith in the world that we could make this happen, and we make mistakes. It wasn't okay for me to get angry at this situation and just take that out on you. I'm sorry I did that, we can get through this right?"
"You gave me so much reassurance right now, I think we can do anything if we can keep doing this together!"
In these sudden traps we get caught in with our partners, we must build awareness around our emotions. Like we begin to make a list of what we need for our couples getaway, we must also take into account what's happening in moments we get caught in tough struggles with our partners. It's in these moments that partners can begin to hear and see the effects that negative cycles have on forming a secure bond with one another. As couples counselors, we drive couples to enact these moments with one another in sessions.
Of course, it seems a lot "easier said than done," as we've heard before; but, the couple that gets lost emotionally can build up one another and embrace the other in times of great distress. We get individuals to a place where they feel safe enough to take the journey into vulnerability with their partner -
In the Darkness of the
A Light Glistens Between
You Ask to Take my Hand
The Woods Hide Secrets
Too Scary to Face,
But You Guide Me Forward
At the Safest Pace
This is one of those short poems that has helped me grasp the beauty that is the journey we help partners go on with one another in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. We take all the experiences, like all the items on your camping trip list, and we begin to utilize those experiences to dive deeper beneath the reactions that partners might get stuck in when they're triggered in the relationship. And at times, partners might both end up caught in those reactions, and you experience little to no resolve in this distress, leading to further and further distance between loved ones.
We aim to help couples embrace this model of therapy through taking that journey together. There have been moments where I've been able to move into that hurt with the client and start to unravel raw spots or attachment injuries, from current or prior relationships, and help opposing partners see a different side of vulnerability from their loved ones. This is an integral piece to EFT, a steppingstone to forming a secure attachment with partners. What you were able to take a quick glimpse at in the example above was two partners moving quickly into repair, in a moment they both might've felt stuck and unsure of what direction to go in.
When we shine the light in the dark woods, we help both partners begin to grasp what underlying messages they're sending each other, what's really happening below the surface, and begin to embark on a journey where partners can comfort each other and know that the vulnerability of a secure attachment doesn't stand in the way of the ultimate adventure moving forward.
If you're inspired to do that work with your loved one, please reach out to us. This is the work we value and enjoy doing every day. It's the same reason we've been able to apply the workings of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy to our relationship as well.