This is a new video on how partners become stuck in the negative, interactional cycle where pursuers are a bit like badgers and withdrawers become more like turtles. A great way to learn about the negative interactional cycles where one pushes for contact and the other avoids connection.
When it comes to arguing couples tend to fall into certain patterns called the ‘Demon Dialogues‘ (click on the link to learn even more). EFT helps us identify where couples become stuck called ‘cycles’ or ‘patterns’. Once identified, it is helpful to understand how we get caught and then slow it down.
As we learn more about trauma from our childhood, recent science studies shows us trauma is passed down through the generations. This is important because safe, loving connections helps reduce the effects of trauma on our psyche and can be healed with EFT Couples Therapy. This article by Scientific American helps us better understand the impact trauma has on us, and on our future generations and how best to reduce it.
Being caught in a relationship where your needs are not being met and where you don’t feel heard or understood, is debilitating. Now there is help in the form of Emotionally Focused Therapy. Couples who successfully complete the process of Emotionally Focused Therapy counseling can expect many of the following results:
- Improved communication
- Feeling supported and understood by their partners
- Finally being able to connect with each other again
- Understanding the types of cyclical, intense, heated, fights they get into and learning how to stop them, thereby allowing them to enjoy their relationship and begin to get closer
- Healing deep unresolved wounds together
A happy and healthy relationship affects all aspects of one’s life. So, depending on how your relationship problems are manifesting, you may experience some or many of the following as a result of a secure and happy relationship:
- Improved sleep
- Improved mood
- Better and more frequent intimacy
- More confidence, decreased stress and more energy
- Improved performance at work
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and or PTSD
- Better physical health and wellbeing
- Feeling cherished by your partner and actually cherishing him/her in return
If you are parents, you will have the added benefit of knowing that you are becoming positive role models for your children, showing them what a healthy, loving, relationship looks like and in turn setting your kids up for success in their future relationships. But, the best part is your kids won’t feel caught in the middle not knowing what to do and feeling so helpless not knowing how to help.
Basically, the goal of EFT couples therapy is to assist you, as a couple, understand the old patterns that hijack your relationship and help you find new ways to alter those emotional and behavioral patterns together. This allows you to feel better understood and no longer feel emotionally out of control in your relationship. Once safe enough to understand your relationship patterns and how you got off track with each other, you will be further aided to create a deeper more meaningful level of connection where you will begin to build a bridge to each other’s hearts and compassionately face one another in new and healthier ways.
If you and your partner are experiencing the following problems, EFT is unlikely suited for you until these issues are resolved:
Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence
In cases where the couple has ongoing and current relationship violence or aggression, therapy may ill advised or may be seriously contraindicated, as this could pose a safety issue. In those cases, it may be best to seek individual therapy with a therapist trained to work with relationship aggression or to go to your local Domestic Violence Shelter. If this information is withheld, during the assessment phase and aggressive behavior occurs, therapy is contraindicated and will be terminated, for safety reasons. That said, if there has been aggressive behavior which occurred years ago, due to discovering an affair or due to a trauma, and the aggression has stopped, that may be a better indicator for a positive outcome with EFT.
If the affair has just been discovered, or is an old wound that goes way back, working on the relationship is very difficult when there is ongoing infidelity. Couples therapy can become extremely complicated and may stall if the affair continues during the therapy. This can result in a waste of time, money and energy because it does not make the process of therapy safe, for either one of you. If you or your partner are still maintaining outside relationships and are unwilling to stop, this creates an impasse that needs to be resolved prior to the start of therapy. EFT Therapy can be highly effective for many couples to heal from the trauma of infidelity, but when the primary relationship is not the focus, therapy may be ineffective.
Ongoing extreme substance abuse struggles
Serious substance abuse issues may exacerbate the couples therapy and the couples therapy may worsen the substance issues initially. Therefore, a thorough assessment may be warranted and if in excess, the therapy may be delayed until an appropriate time. More recent research shows that early trauma and or neglect from primary relationships may be at the root of many substance issues. When children don’t receive the love and connection so necessary to thrive, substances such as alcohol and drugs, become a replacement form of connection as children become adults. Attaching to substances is not a healthy lasting connection, but when partnering at a deeper level becomes safer and more stable the substance can then be replaced by a caring, loving attachment. If however, the substance continues to be the main focus of the therapy, it is best if the partner receive treatment focused on recover while doing the couples work. If they are not willing to seek help for recovery, EFT couple therapy will need to end.
In ‘Rethinking Narcissism,’ Dr. Malkin presents narcissism on a spectrum, too much is problematic and too little, it turns out, is a problem as well. Like most things in life there is a balance. But what really stands out here is that old thinking that once a narcissist always a narcissist, just doesn’t hold up anymore. Narcissism isn’t created in a vacuum and for many folks dealing with this issue, change is possible. Especially with empathy and helping them and their partner understand the consequences of their behavior. By the way, when taking the narcissism test, don’t attempt to take it for your partner, mother etc., this needs to be more further evaluated by a mental health practitioner. I have had couples who have been told by their former therapists that their partner is a narcissist and therefore is not treatable. I often wonder, if the therapist is burned out and feeling helpless in such situations, rather than working to help those with narcissistic traits feel heard and understood.
While there is no exact answer to this question, the research shows that Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) has been demonstrated to help couples without histories of trauma, affairs, addictions, and aggression in as little as 15-22 sessions. This means that if you or your partner have a history of trauma, affairs, addictions, aggression (but not physical abuse), EFT may last longer than 15-22 sessions due to the relationship attachment injuries. It is important to note that outcome research for couples struggling with infidelity who seek EFT have reached higher levels of success than other forms of couple therapy, upwards of 70 to 90%. Combined with a caring, compassionate EFT therapist, the relationship can even become more connected than before.
As an Emotionally Focused Therapist who works with couples in distress, I have been recommending this book as an adjunct to the couples work since it’s arrival. I do this in order to reinforce the processes that occur during our emotionally focused therapy sessions. Couples who do utilize this book during our work together, consistently move more quickly through the process and feel more empowered between sessions. Not long ago, one of my clients queried me asking ‘Have you and your husband used the workbook?’ Realizing we hadn’t, we began working together on it Sunday afternoons using the working book during late lunches. It deepened my, and our, process in our relationship and helps me identify where my couples are in the workbook. The only recommendation or change I would make regarding this book is to call it something other than a ‘workbook’ such as ‘Bonding Resource’ because that is what it feels like. ‘Workbook’ doesn’t sound connective, and this book is.
After helping many couples where there has been infidelity, one of the sure fire ways facilitate the early process of reconnection, is for the partner who had the affair to no longer be involved in anyway with the person they cheated with. I realize that sounds logical, but sadly, after many hours of therapy, time, energy and money, some partners continue their outside relationships, expecting things to change inside the marriage. This is not possible and is actually highly destructive.
What is happening here is that the person who became involved with someone else hasn’t unplugged from the affair partner, so plugging into their spouse or significant other doesn’t happen or is seriously impaired. Those who cheated may feel justified in the affair because of hurts sustained throughout the relationship. Therefore they believe they shouldn’t have to change their behavior, so they continue with the outside relationship, expecting their partner to make changes before they even consider giving their significant other a chance. Sadly, this spells disaster for the primary relationship and unfortunately it means very little success for the couple in couples therapy.
It can be very difficult to let go when we fall for someone outside our primary relationship, and may result in a period of grief and loss while letting go. Not letting go creates more agony for the significant other to be hurt again and again and again and may manifest in anger and frustration, causing the partner who left the relationship to be reluctant to reengage because of their partner’s anger. This becomes a negative cycle associated with infidelity and can be worked through with EFT for couples therapy, unless the outside partner is still in the picture. By maintaining the outside relationship and never giving the partner a chance when the partner really wants it to work and is making changes, this can be very painful for everyone and will ultimately doom the primary relationship.
When working on your relationship involving an affair, you can process the letting go of the outside relationship with the therapist and even the partner in therapy. Sharing what was lost for the one partner and processing the wounds of the violation with the one that cheated, creates openness and transparency. Without the outside relationship the couple can heal and build a deeper level of connection and safety.
So the topic of expressing needs vs. being needy came up recently and I thought this was such an important issue that ‘needs’ to be more fully explored and understood. It is not easy letting your partner know your needs, especially when there have been very negative interactional cycles hijacking your relationship and not allowing for safety. We may fear being seen as ‘weak’ or ‘needy’ when it comes to letting our loved one know our needs, so we march on and believe in some way they should just know what we need and not have to tell them. Then again, this could fuel the negative pattern we are caught in because if they don’t know our needs, they won’t be able to be there. All too often we then end up feeling crushed because they aren’t there for us so we respond coldly or angrily, leaving them to wonder what has made us upset now, and further fueling the negative cycle.
Please be advised, asking to have our needs met works best when we are not caught in negative cycles with our partners. This is the first Stage of EFT, and sometimes the longest part and most challenging part of helping couples gradually reconnect. Staying out of negative cycles is not easy, but better yet, understanding them and helping each other understand and guide each other out of them, is what it is all about. To learn more about negative cycles, please go to the menu bar for ‘Couples Therapy’.
Securely attached individuals ask in a healthy way for their needs to be met in times of need, and expect them to be. This is not easy for those working toward earned secure attachment and still stuck in cycles. This may lead to questions such as: Are my needs legitimate? Can you really be there for me or will you let me down again? Will I get stung or rejected, or will you only sometimes meet my needs if I ask for them to be met? Will you outright neglect my needs? All of this is vulnerable and scary as it is unknown territory because we are taking a big risk putting ourselves out there and potentially being hurt, especially if we have been hurt in the past.
The article listed here, by my colleague, explores how ‘neediness vs. asking for our needs to be met’ provides further clarification. So next time you are hoping your partner will get your needs met without you having to ask and then feeling let down when it doesn’t happen, take a moments and ask yourself, ‘Did I let him/her know what I needed in a heathy way that gives them a chance to be there fore me?’
Oh and by the way, understanding attachment, the cornerstone of connection, can help us comprehend why sharing our needs and having them responded to is so important. Attachment, which starts out in infancy (please type ‘Attachment’ in the search bar of my website to learn more about this very important process) indicates that we are hard-wired to connect and that we are more likely to evolve and be fully ourselves when we experience the love and belonging of another. When our significant other isn’t there, or has let us down, it makes sense that we worry they won’t be there for us again in the future. However, once the negative patterns slow down between the two of you, it can become safer to request your needs in a healthy manner and have them be heard. That is, neither hinting sarcastically or overtly demanding, but being able to withstand a loving choice by our partner to not meet the need, is important for us to learn and experience as well.