By: Nikki P. Woods
When a couple is told that they need to simply change the way they communicate with one another, the depth of their own identities and their identity as a couple is minimized. Yes, communication is key in a relationship. But marriage is much more then just simply communicating; it is about creating a secure, safe and reliable attachment to another being.
There are times in all relationships where we tend to feel disconnected from one another; where we experience a feeling of insecurity, loneliness and frustration. As a result of this emotional distress, hurt feelings occur and we tend to resort to one of two ways of resolution.
The first is to demand a response – out of fear of our own abandonment, we blame and threaten to try and elicit a reaction. If this is a habitual response, it will ultimately work to push the other person away even further.
The second approach is to shut down, withdraw and fully avoid conflict when feeling hurt. This only strengthens the disconnect and drives a larger wedge between the two individuals.
In couples therapy, we work from an emotionally focused approach, under the belief that we are all social beings who seek out deep, genuine connections to others. Emotional isolation can be debilitating and have damaging effects on the mind and body.
We each need a safe relationship to turn to – a secure place to go that encourages us to confidently explore the world around us. This ‘effective dependency’ is what makes couples thrive – where they have a secure connection to their partner and someone to turn to for emotional support and compassion as they navigate through their own experiences of life. That connection however, cannot be completed until we become more self aware of our own unresolved emotions, traumas and experiences.
Couples therapy is a very dynamic experience from both an individual and a marital perspective. On the surface, we could simply remedy conflict by acknowledging patterns of behavior and trying to alter them. However, those quick fixes do not make for lasting changes. If a person wants to really change their behavior, they first need to understand why it is that they behave in the manner in which they do. So for instance, if a couple were to come Into therapy looking to improve their communication and conflict resolution we would first begin by identifying interaction patterns. Through this process, we recognize common behavioral themes in which we either avoid or address conflict and how we ultimately digest hearing our partners’ opinions and input. Through this awareness we become better equipped to make changes. Then each individual begins their own work trying to understand their triggers what it is about themselves that ultimately influences their behavior. This usually stems back from experiences throughout our lifetime; anxious, insecure attachments to our parents, trauma during vulnerable times in our lives, feelings of abandonment. Bringing to the surface the real core identity concerns how one person feels about themselves, their own true sense of self-worth, self perception, and need for validation. As this process continues, each individual gains greater ability to self-regulate and to understand and acknowledge why certain interactions act as triggers. As a couple, each individual works to gain greater acceptance and understanding of one another; learning how each individual’s life experiences have ultimately shaped them into the people that they are and helping one another to resolve lifelong unmet needs. As a unified team, the couple works to restructure that bond, identifying and accepting their own needs and wants while also facilitating a new approach to communication, problem solving and conflict resolution. As a result, a more secure attachment is formed; ultimately improving the marriage while also helping to alleviate and close past unresolved traumas.