Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy can help you and your partner break out of old negative patterns for good.
Communication is probably the most common “presenting issue” for couples. Your partner misunderstands what you say, and then minor issues turn into heated arguments. You might avoid talking about certain topics, or hold back from saying how you really feel to prevent a problem. We all know that communication is at the heart of a good relationship, so why is it so hard?
Even happy couples can get into arguments and fights, but they find a way to restore the connection and turn back towards each other after the storm has passed.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy will help you recognize when these patterns are occurring and learn what to do about it.
Here’s a short example of the “demand-withdraw” cycle – the leading predictor of divorce according to expert Dr. John Gottman.
The demanding partner will criticize, complain or make suggestions. They might disapprove, make demands, blame, nag or nitpick.
“Why can’t you put your shoes in the closet?”
The withdrawing partner feels judged, controlled or attacked. They will try to defend themselves. They might try to justify or explain their side or reason with their partner.
“I’m going back outside right after dinner, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
The demanding partner feels like they are not getting through, they feel minimized or dismissed. They get more upset and the argument escalates.
“You know that drives me nuts! I trip on them when you leave them out.”
The withdrawing partner feels like continuing to argue will only make things worse. They go silent, shut down or retreat.
What our partners may not know is that hidden underneath the complaint or criticism, or underneath the avoidance and the stonewalling, there are deeper painful feelings and unmet needs for both partners. Both partners feel disconnection. Both partners feel misunderstood and alone.
Does it feel like you are repeating the same argument over and over again? Maybe your arguments are ending up in yelling matches where one of you walks away? All couples argue, but wouldn’t it be nice to respect each other’s differing opinions? Couples counselling will take you to the core issues underlying your disagreements.
Has the romance died? Do you feel like roommates rather than lovers? Does it feel like you have grown apart? You and your partner can be close again, rekindle the old flame and enjoy each other’s company.
Have you or your partner had an affair? Whether the affair is emotional or physical, the pain and shock of infidelity can cause major distress. You can recover and get the trust and closeness back.
Are you considering separation or divorce? It can be hard to see your way through the hurt and anger. Separation and divorce is painful. You may have children involved as well. Couples counselling can help you work through your mixed feelings and make solid decisions about what to do.
All relationships experience highs and lows, good times and bad times. We are all human and we all long for closeness and connection. Do you remember how connected and in love you felt during the early days of your relationship? This feeling is what I describe as attachment – the emotional bond between two people. It lets us feel safe and secure in our relationship. When there is conflict, our need for connection gets buried under self-protective emotions, like anger, hurt, disappointment, jealousy or coldness.
We all have instinctive ways of reacting…coping strategies. I sometimes refer to them as “family rules”. They are behaviors that we learned in our early relationships, or our family of origin. Some people become overly critical or demanding, while others will withdraw or go silent to avoid further conflict. While you were growing up, these strategies or “rules” helped you fit in with your family’s dynamics, but now they are holding you back from the love and security that you long for.
Our goal then, is to update your “family rules” and find new strategies to help you cope, that will work for you and your partner in the here-and-now. Instead of instinctively resorting to old patterns of behavior that keep you stuck and repeating the same problems over and over, I’ll help you recognize and understand the negative cycle or pattern that’s preventing you from feeling close and connected.
As you begin to notice that this pattern of behavior -and not each other- creates the conflict, you’ll be much more hopeful and willing to work together towards solutions.
Once you give the softer approaches a try, and they actually start to work for you, you’ll be more willing to give up the harsh and defensive reactions that have been helping you manage for so long. You’ll learn to look to each other for the solutions instead of turning away. You’ll be ready to start taking some emotional risks, be more open and less resistant, and know how to ask for what you need without feeling quite so vulnerable.
In the comfort and security of my office you can relax and let your habitual defenses that are keeping you stuck come down. When you can just be who you are and tell it like it is, you’ll become completely engaged in finding the solutions that you are looking for.
I will listen with genuine warmth, kindness and compassion, without judgement or criticism. Our lives are filled with challenges…my goal is to help you change your unique challenges into opportunities and put some peace and joy back into your daily living.