Reconnect. Heal. Love Being Married
Welcome to the first of a three part series on how you can work Reconnect, Heal, and Love Being Married, and how marriage therapy can help.
Every couple gets into difficulties. It is likely over one of the five big issues that couples routinely fight over; parenting/kids, money/finances, sex/intimacy, in laws/extended family, and how to spend leisure time. Some couples tend to fight in loud ways, arguing and yelling. Other couples tend to have one person who wants to fight or engage while the other person withdraws. The third common pattern, or cycle, that couples get into is that both partners withdraw and nobody speaks to one another for hours, days, or longer.
I am here to tell you that it isn’t the kids, money, sex, in laws, or how to spend time that are the problems. The real problem is the cycle, or pattern that we routinely fall into. I will further tell you why couples even have a cycle in the first place. Finally I will tell you the first step to take to make some changes.
Our most primary instinct is to connect to other human beings. We are created for attachment. We can see this in the earliest stages of life. Human beings have a long gestational period, during which the attachment process begins, and we have the longest period of dependency of any other creature on earth. Breastfeeding is a natural means by which mothers and infants attach to one another. However, it is not just through breastfeeding that attachment occurs. The attachment system is built and strengthened through each action of caretaking that parents engage in day in and day out. It is through this loving, consistent caretaking (feeding, changing, clothing, sheltering, snuggling, rocking, soothing, holding, etc.) that secure attachments are built.
Most, if not all human beings, have a secure attachment inside of them. However, because we are all raised by imperfect human beings, who for a variety of reasons didn’t meet our needs perfectly 100% of the time, we may have insecure attachments inside of us too.
It is these insecure attachments inside of us that promote problems in our most intimate relationships. We want our spouses to meet our needs. We want nurturing, consistent love. Remember that is how we were created from the beginning; we are made to be loved, to have our needs met, and through that process learn how to love and meet the needs of others in turn. But, because that process never happens perfectly either growing up or in adult love relationships we have insecurities, and as a result we protest disconnection, or perceived disconnection from our most important loved ones (in this case our spouses).
This protest of disconnection, or perceived disconnection, is the beginning of the cycle.
One of us reaches for love, comfort, connection in any number of ways, and the other isn’t there, isn’t perceive to be there, or isn’t there in the way we desire them to be there. It is important to note that some “issue” is usually at hand. We may reach out because we are concerned about paying the bills, or something is happening with a child. Right now though, the “issue” is not as important because we are interested the process, the cycle. The process consists of the reach from one partner to the other, the response of the partner, and the subsequent interactions or responses, regardless of what the reach is regarding.
It might look like this:
June: Honey, I think we should talk about how we are going to pay for Jane’s cheerleading uniforms this year.
Hank: I am busy right now, can we talk about this later?
June: (Beginning to cry, and raising her voice) You are always busy and never want to talk about spending money when I want to spend it on the kids.
Hank gets up and walks out to the garage, June follows him getting more and more upset. Hank continues to ignore her and June finally goes in the house fuming. The pair does not talk for the rest of the day and even after they do begin talking about superficial things that evening it remains tense for another day and a half. Hank and June never come back to the uniform issue, June just pays for the uniforms out of her next paycheck.
June reached out to Hank about Jane’s uniforms. Hank did not respond in the way June wanted him to, either because he was busy, or not, June protested his response, and Hank checked out. The couple never really got to the bottom of the “issue” or even remotely addressed the feelings that were underlying the entire interaction, if they were even really aware of them at all.
The first step in changing June and Hank’s cycle, or any couple’s cycle, is to recognize that it is even there, working in the background and sometimes in the foreground, affecting how a husband and wife reach out and respond to one another in big and small matters. The good news is that once a couple sees their cycle and begins to understand it, they can Reconnect in an effort to tackle it together (instead of continually going after each other).
A trained marriage therapist using Emotionally Focused Therapy can help a couple learn about their cycle and most importantly how to de-escalate that cycle so that they can more forward toward Healing.
If the cycle in your relationship feels a bit beyond your ability to tackle it alone please call me today to set up an appointment and I can assist you and your spouse in tackling your cycle together.