While popular media like movies and television might lead us to believe otherwise, this dance, the moving in and out of connection, is a normal process and a part of all healthy relationships. More often than not, we are able to find our way back to one another. One partner will reach out and the other will accept the invitation to move together once more.
But sometimes we get so stuck that we can’t find our way back to one another. The hurt is so strong that we get caught in a negative spiral. She becomes frustrated and pushes for him to communicate his thoughts and feelings. He withdraws from the relationship, spending more time at work or on the computer. The more he withdraws into himself, the more desperately she tries to get his attention and the negative cycle continues. Each member of the couple is left feeling alone and powerless.
For decades therapists have struggled with how to effectively help couples caught up in this toxic dance. Enter Dr. Sue Johnson, clinical psychologist, professor at the University of Ottawa, and founding Director of the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute and the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy.
The ability to reach out, clearly state your emotional needs and respond to your lover’s emotional need for comfort, reassurance and connection is the key ingredient in love.
— Dr. Sue Johnson
According to Dr. Johnson, “the ability to reach out, clearly state your emotional needs and respond to your lover’s emotional need for comfort, reassurance and connection is the key ingredient in love.” In her book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a lifetime of love, Dr. Johnson helps couples go to the heart of the matter. She explains that underneath the surface conflict—the anger, frustration, and criticism—lay sadness, fear and a deep longing for emotional connection. The distressed behaviors are panic driven attempts to answer the most basic questions that we have as human beings: Can I count on you to be there for me? Do I really matter to you? Do you value me and accept me for who I am?
Trust is built when we can share our more vulnerable feelings and respond to our partner with words that comfort and soothe. It is through this safe and secure emotional connection—this new dance—that we can co-create a love that lasts a lifetime.
For more information on Dr. Sue Johnson and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy visit www.iceeft.com