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Making Contact

Updated: May 9, 2021

Like storms on the sea, when they lose sight of land, sailors are looking for a source of light to guide them back to shore.


Watching couples transform their relationships in therapy is extraordinary. As therapists, we have the upmost privilege guiding couples into safer and richer conversations about vulnerability within their relationships. While we understand how attachments can pull us apart, they are also the glue to our very healing. Dr. Sue Johnson (2008) tells us, “The drama of love is all about this hunger for safe connection, a survival imperative we experience from the cradle to the grave. Loving connection is the only safety nature even offers us.” We embrace those that will validate or comfort us in times of great distress.

Check out Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love (for couples):

Like storms on the sea, when they lose sight of land, sailors are looking for a source of light to guide them back to shore.

That beautiful lighthouse holds such great power. In Emotionally Focused work, we are a beacon of light for couples struggling to connect with one another on a more intimate, emotional level. Sometimes tides cross as we watch couples sending a similar message to one another, but prior neglect or trauma hinder their ability to resonate with one another. On another hand, couples might be rearing in various directions, because while one partner steers the wheel towards their needs, another partner fights to steer it in their direction. We create calm waters through this process, making space to validate and understand the underlying messages that partners are struggling to tap into, or helping another partner rise to the surface and swim alongside their partner.

In our everyday work, there are moments I like to call “making contact.” When one partner gets to see something, which they haven’t watched their partner tap into before. These are transformational moments in EFT. We focus on one partner’s struggle, slowing down the current process (where another partner or loved one might see anger, frustration, resentment, annoyance) and lesser of a sense of vulnerability. In these moments, we dive deeper into the dark water, and we peel back layers of neglect or trauma, and we watch the light guide the individual closer to shore.

I live for the moments I get to see my clients make contact here. When one partner watches as we focus deeper into their partner or loved one’s past or previous experiences processing emotions, they see struggles rise to the surface in session. During these times, we might see:

1. The other partner or loved one scoots closer to their partner’s side.

2. Someone who might struggle to be vulnerable reaches for a pillow or their loved one’s hand.

3. An individual (whether in individual or couple’s counseling) might curl up or look away from the therapist.

4. A partner might lay their hand on their loved one’s knee or caress their shoulder.

5. A partner might even lean into the comfort of the chair or couch in the office.

When we see moments like this happen in session, we want to reinforce and integrate moments of real emotional comfort. If we were to simply bring to light deep and vulnerable parts of someone’s life, and leave them be, we could cause further damage within themselves and their relationship(s). Ultimately, I make space for these moments by processing what’s happening in the moment and reaching to this individual to ask, “what’s happening when your partner leans in to grab your hand right now?” At times when the individual has felt safe to express the comfort and great relief, even in times where they feared reaching to someone else in their past, they are able to recognize someone cares to move along the surface with them.

It takes continued effort and vulnerable work, both within and between sessions, to create this intimate dance. We know there will be individuals in a relationship that also try so hard to reach for their partner, to provide empathy in their ongoing struggles, and have also been pushed aside in their relationship.

When we focus on these individuals or loved ones, we can also watch to see how another partner or individual moves away from the hurt their partner feels, because they might be so accustomed to moving away from their own pain as well. We are a guiding light for both tendencies in an attachment with someone else. We want to make space for those who have pushed so hard to feel seen when they show up, as well those that have been pushed away so much when they wanted to be comforted and were not.

In this post, I’d like you to take space to see what resonates for you in your primary relationship(s). As therapists in this model, we love seeing clients grow in this secure and loving way. It can bring us our own tears of joy seeing couples, who might’ve longed for more connection and weren’t sure how to cultivate it, turn to one another in new and very vulnerable ways, processing other patterns that have pushed them away from one another.

If you’re seeking a guiding light, and you need some support “making contact” in your relationship, let’s work together and cultivate this for you. Reach out and schedule an appointment with us. Thanks!

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