When I meet with new couples, they usually know the topics that trigger arguments:
In-laws. Money. Kids. Housework.
What they don’t know is why both parties get hurt time and time again.
I often hear men say: “I don’t want to say how I feel because I know it will upset her, and then we stop talking for hours and sometimes days.”
Women share: “If I tell him how I feel, he usually wants to fix it for me, and I really do not want things fixed. I want him to understand me.”
Both end up feeling disconnected, distant, frustrated — as if they’ve lost their best friend. And that, really, is the problem.
According to the latest research, human beings are wired to form a few precious bonds with others in order to thrive. When we know a few special people are looking out for us, we are healthier and happier.
When we lose those secure connections with our most important other, however, that triggers a special kind of alarm system in our brains. What happens next is the the familiar “fight, flight or freeze” response.
What I’ve learned from years of training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or EFT is that couples don’t need to learn how to argue better or more persuasively. Instead, all of us have to recognize that we are emotionally attached and dependent on our partners, the same way children rely on their parents for survival and comfort.
In years past, therapists used to teach couples how to better communicate or how to negotiate and divide tasks fairly. This was known as behavior exchange or, “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” The techniques were helpful for a while, then couples found themselves in the same old ruts again.
It is more helpful, I think, to help couples strengthen the emotional bond between them. They’re not children anymore, but they still need partners who will offer support, comfort and reliability. My goal, and the goal of EFT, is to help couples improve their relationships by being emotionally open, attentive, attuned and present. As a bonus, they can say goodbye to hurtful, dead-end fights.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the new Houston Community for EFT website, http://www.HCEFT.com