“We are never so vulnerable as when we love.”
- Sigmund Freud
Since my last post on relationships seemed to strike a cord among many people, I’ve written another post that touches on the ever-debatable topic of love.
For this post, I will explore the topic of love through the therapeutic lens that I tend to use: the Emotionally Focused Therapy approach.
In contrast to many therapeutic approaches that place emphasis on changing behaviours, Emotionally Focused Therapy, among many other things, seeks to transform a relationship by re-establishing a positive emotional connection. In other words, this approach brings to light each partner’s vulnerable emotions in hopes of gaining insight and new understanding into the relationship. This entails understanding a negative behaviour (i.e.: yelling or withdrawing) for the vulnerable emotional that it really is (i.e.: fear, loneliness, etc.).
Once your partner understands that, for instance, when you lash out and yell, it is actually a cry for help because you feel unheard or unimportant, fights will likely deescalate quicker and general tension in the relationship will begin to disappear.
This change in dynamic will ultimately lead to a renewed sense of closeness and intimacy in the relationship. With the fear of arguing and isolation greatly lessened, couples can more easily express and respond to each other's needs. This, in turn, leads to feeling supported and more prepared to move forward as a couple.
This may all seem very technical or overwhelming. As a starting point, here are a couple of Emotionally Focused Therapy derived tips to help change the way you interact with your partner, thus helping re-establish a positive emotional connection.
Observe what happens when you find openness with your partner difficult: do you withdraw, shut down, yell, pick a fight? Communicate this with your spouse. Talk about how he/she impacts your behaviour.
When you feel off, take a moment to reflect on why, and try to share with your partner what you need the most at that moment: do you need to hear “I love you,” do you need to be comforted, or do you need quality time. Keep your request short, sweet and simple.
Once a day, openly ask your partner for their attention and affection: this is not clingy or needy. On the contrary. Attention and affection are wired-in desires that make up our survival code. Own it!