At The Attach Place we use a variety of attachment-based therapy modalities, including Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), to help couples re-connect and grow close, even after long periods of disconnection and strife. We target the attachment bond between the couple. When people feel safe, accepted, and cherished, they can navigate any issue together. As couples learn to make repair, reach and respond to vulnerability, stay connected even when talking about tough issues, they heal.
The Cycle: Often when couples make the decision to come to couples counseling they are on the precipice of divorce. Maybe that’s where you are. You aren’t sure that you can change or your partner can change or if either of you wants to change. You wonder, “Does my spouse even like me? Will I ever be enough? How will I ever trust him/her again? Do I matter to my partner?” You feel alone and unwanted and every moment in the marriage can feel heart-wrenching and soul draining. Divorce begins to make sense.
Most couples in our office have experienced some of these deeply painful feelings in varying degrees of intensity and none of it is predictive of divorce.
Healing is possible. If there has been an affair or another betrayal, healing is still possible. It’s not easy and you may be at the base of a very large mountain, but there is a way up. Similarly, no matter what has happened to you in your early life, you were born to give and receive love. It’s in your DNA. It’s hardwired. No matter how badly you’ve been hurt or how damaged and broken you feel, love is your birthright.
We work with couples to change the climate of their relationship. You will learn that you are irreplaceable and needed. Even when fights occur, the sanctity of the bond is not forgotten, but ultimately made stronger by the conflict. You have the benefit of the doubt for one another and you accept imperfections and inevitable mistakes. Most importantly, if you feel rejected by your partner or left alone, you know how to reach out for reassurance and make repair together.
- Identifying the repetitive cycle. That cycle is the enemy, not your partner. Everyone feels vulnerable sometimes. Life is inherently troublesome and we are hardwired to need love and connection, which makes us vulnerable to getting hurt. We all have our idiosyncratic ways of protecting ourselves. You might drink too much, or move away from emotions and stay in your head. You might lash out in anger or you might work too much. Your protective mode begets your spouse’s protective mode. You ramp up and then your spouse ramps up. You escalate each other until you forget that underneath the escalation (the yelling, the logic, the shutdown) is the vulnerable heart that is always longing to give and receive love.
- After we identify the cycle and you each understand the ways you both inadvertently contribute to the disconnection out of a misguided attempt to connect—then it’s time to reach for one another. You show your partner the tender and vulnerable parts of your heart. Vulnerability is the gateway to love. Vulnerability has many faces. For example, vulnerability can be found in the phrases:
- I love you.
- I don’t know what to do.
- I feel like I’m failing.
- I’m scared of not making it with you.
- I’m sad.
Then–from a place of vulnerability–you ask for what you need.
- I need you to give me the benefit of the doubt even though I’m not perfect.
- I need your reassurance.
- I need your acceptance.
When we ask–from a place of tenderness–it strengthens the bond. Of course, often we ask for what we need from a place of frustration. Then it registers as a complaint or a demand and we end up more alone.
If it’s an easy thing to say to your partner, it’s probably not vulnerable. Vulnerability feels like a risk. It is a risk, but it’s the only way forward. The bond is strengthened when you feel loved and vulnerable at the exact same time. This is tricky. When the cycle is entrenched, we often need help to get out of it.
By joining forces against “the grinding, repetitive cycle” and risking from a place of vulnerability, the climate of your relationship will change. You begin to feel accepted and cherished. You learn that you are irreplaceable and needed. You have the benefit of the doubt for one another and you accept imperfections and inevitable mistakes. But most importantly, if you feel rejected by your partner or left alone, you know how to reach out for reassurance and make repair together.
Even if you are feeling frustrated, despairing and angry, there is hope. Love matters.