Have you ever noticed how quickly emotions can go from zero to ten with a roll of the eyes, a snort, or a change in facial expression? We can all think of little things that our partner does that gets our blood boiling. All it takes is one simple thing and we are fighting. The difference between couples with a secure bond and couples seeking therapy is that distressed couples seem to find it harder to bounce back after a fight. Partners with a secure bond are often able to apologize after a fight and may even be able to joke about how silly the fight was. Couples seeking counseling seem to find themselves stuck in negative interactional patterns and don’t know how to get out of them. Fights may last for days before there is resolution. In this article I will discuss three types of negative interactional patterns that we see in couples. Emotionally Focused Therapy refers to these as: pursue/withdraw, attack/attack, and withdraw/withdraw.
When we see couples in therapy, we begin to observe these underlying emotions or what we refer to as primary emotions. Oftentimes the couple will only see the secondary emotions, those surface level feelings, and not really understand what is underneath those feelings. For example, Victoria sees that Tony is mad when they fight, but she may not realize that deep down Tony is feeling abandoned by Victoria because she is not there for him when he needs her. Tony also may not recognize that when he yells Victoria freezes up inside and doesn’t know how to react to his anger, so she just sits in silence. Inside Victoria believes she can’t do anything right. The couple may go years without ever knowing how the other feels, until they decide to end their relationship or reach out for help as a last resort.
Whichever negative interactional pattern you and your partner are experiencing, it is important that you seek help. By seeking a therapist who specializes in Emotionally Focused Therapy, they can help you determine what your pattern is and learn how to notice it when it appears. By reaching out for help, you can learn healthy ways of interacting and have a stronger attachment bond with your partner. Emotionally Focused Therapy has been shown to be successful in 70-75% of couples. Whether you would like to strengthen your relationship, or would like to try to salvage your relationship and bring back the love you once had, Emotionally Focused Therapy can help. So what are you waiting for? By calling today you can begin to work with a therapist who will walk beside you on your journey and help you to create a stronger, more secure bond. With your loved one.