Our culture has taught us to label showing emotion as “being emotional”. To label a desire for love as “desperation”. To label a need to be loved as “being needy”. It’s no wonder that knowing what to look for in love, understanding what we need in it, and falling in love can be so confusing.
How We Learn to Think About Love
What we long for in a romantic relationship is actually there long before the courtship gets started. We learn our behavior in relationships even before we turn 2 years old.
As infants, we are helpless. The only way we have to communicate is through our cries. The way adults respond to these cries teaches us early whether we can count on our caregivers to show up and take action on our behalf. Caregivers can build secure attachment and trust with a child or develop insecurity.
If our caregivers are responsive, we learn to internally trust that they will show up and tend to our emotional needs and cries for help. If our caregivers don’t respond, our cries get louder and more intense. These louder cries may move our caregivers to respond, or they may still go ignored. Eventually we learn to internalize that experience and expect it in future relationships. How we adapt to this emotional injury ends up being the strategy we adopt long-term.
When Attachment Injuries Affect A Relationship
Just because we get older doesn’t mean that our needs and longings go away. They show up in adult love and ask to be met. Often this “ask” isn’t verbal. Even when it is, partners may find it difficult to show up and meet those needs because they have their own needs that also ask to be met.
Relationships are hard. It’s difficult to know how to love if you haven’t had the experience of it yourself.
Relationships are hard. It’s difficult to know how to love if you haven’t had the experience of it yourself. Love and relationships require us to show up in ways that we often only somewhat learn to do by trial and error.
Old attachment injuries can draw us into relationships that have a hard time delivering what we need. They can make it difficult for us to deliver what our partner needs too. Some couples go on for months not knowing how quickly even a tiny smirk can ignite a cycle of detachment that is all too familiar and all too difficult to get out of.
In many relationships, what’s missing is an understanding of each partner’s individual attachment styles and how that affects our way of attaching to one another. This can devastate a relationship or marriage, toppling it like a house of cards.
Married couples often get stuck in this negative pattern of disconnection for years before seeking help. The end result of months and years of this cycle can bring growing frustration. We may feel defeated, alone, misunderstood, or unloved. We often withdraw into ourselves, resting parallel to our significant other but unable to cross over to them and express our feelings and needs.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) can be the solution for a couple seeking to understand the negative cycle they get caught in. Through my EFT training, I help couples look deeper into their relationship challenges to increase their bond, understanding, and secure attachment. I hold hope for couples as they learn to hold it for themselves.
EFT can create the security that is often missing between partners who are insecurely attached. This process involves taking risks with one another. I help people share thoughts they feel are too scary or vulnerable to express to their partner alone. In this process I’ve learned so much from my clients, including how to slow down in my own life to create opportunities for good understanding. It’s important to genuinely share one’s heart and words before making assumptions about another’s truth.
As the developer of EFT (Sue Johnson) says, at the end of the day people just want to know, “Are you there for me?” and “Do I really matter to you?” As an EFT therapist, I can surely respect and appreciate those questions. Most of us in a relationship want to know just that.
As a therapist and couple work through the three stages of EFT, partners may feel a bit of relief. However, they will see the best benefits if they complete all three steps, whether they are a premarital couple or have been married for years. A complete course of EFT can help couples create lasting safety in their relationship. Couples can become more responsive and connected instead of detached and alone in their distress.
If you would like to meet an EFT therapist in your area, you can search for a therapist here.
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