Emotionally focused couples therapy is the most well researched and validated couples therapy.
It’s based on attachment theory and the idea that the foundation for all functioning relationships is a secure bond that provides both people with a sanctuary of someone who values, accepts, supports and protects them.
If there is a crack in this foundation, the entire house will eventually fall.
Therefore, emotionally focused couples therapy focuses on finding the initial cracks and restoring the foundation.
Once that is done, all the practical and logical issues become easy to solve.
Humans’ behaviour and actions are not as logical as we might think.
Our core emotional states primarily drive it.
We know that if someone has brain damage to the limbic (emotional) part of the brain, they can’t make decisions because emotions drive all our choices.
This is why resolving the underlying emotional wounds, or the dance as we call it in emotionally focused couples therapy, is the first step to transforming relationships.
It’s based on the idea that from birth until death, we need others to attune, respond and accept us.
These needs do not change as we become adults.
Co-dependency is when we don’t feel safe in our autonomy and are dependent on the other.
Independence is when we separate ourselves from fear of intimacy.
Interdependency is when we feel safe on our own but also open to connection.
When people come to me and want Emotionally focused couples therapy, they tend to tell me all the things that are wrong with their partner.
What transforms these relationships is seeing the dance they are stuck in and how each person’s attachment style causes this dance to go off beat.
Each is like two people with good intentions who keep getting out of rhythm and stepping on each other’s toes.
As they see this dance, the couple can see it as the enemy and not each other.
Then we explore the core emotions behind their hurt and, in many cases, some key attachment moments, which is a moment of high stress where your partner was not there for you and continue to cause issues years after they happened as the crack is still there.
Once these can be heard and acknowledged, healing can start.
As the emotionally focused couples therapy progresses, the core vulnerable emotions and needs are expressed, and a new sense of safety and support is established.
Emotionally focused couples therapy is like the builder coming in to stabilise the building again. Once that’s done, it’s easy to add flowers, paintings and even an extension to make it your cosy home.
I often get asked why I selected to train in emotionally focused couples therapy, and my answer is simple.
Of the different modalities, emotionally focused couples therapy is the only couples therapy that has been scientifically proven to work consistently. More than 70% of couples report long term changes and improvements.
That’s incredible, considering most people come to us at the end when they are at their worst and ready to split up.
No other couples therapy can boost such a success rate of the scientific scrutiny that emotionally focused couples therapy has been through.
Some great book to read before going to emotionally focused couples therapy is a book called “Hold me tight” by Sue Johnson.
She is the founds of emotionally focused couples therapy, and her book will give you a great idea of how you can use these tools, and it will help you get more out of couples therapy.
The 3 daemon dialogues that tend to play out in relationships are:
This is attack-attack conversation couples have that has no end to it.
They rattle off accusations at each other while standing at their separate corners, pre-empting the next blow.
Both partners focus on being “right” instead of understanding the other’s perspective.
This tends to escalate stress, conflict and distance between the couples.
This is the attack-withdraw pattern.
This is the classical anxious and avoidant attachment clash.
In this pattern, one partner will pursue by making demands, controlling or criticising.
The other partner often finds themselves trying to defend him or herself until they feel helpless or overwhelmed, at which point they withdraw.
This makes the critical partner feel unheard, so they tend to chase more and become more vital and resentful.
The cycle of criticism and withdrawal continues until they both give up getting what they want, and the next stage tends to follow.
If the Protest Polka or the attach-withdraw pattern has been going on for a long time, both partners may begin to feel hopeless and give up.
The third pattern of withdraw-withdraw starts to emerge.
This is where both partners step back to escape from the hurt, devastation and despair.
No one is reaching out, and no one is taking risks.
They are barely connecting at all.
This is the stage most people come to emotionally focused couples therapy; however, it’s also when it’s hardest to rescue the relationship as little emotional goodwill is left in the emotional bank account.
If you find yourself stuck in any of these 3 daemon dialogues, I would recommend emotionally focused couples therapy sooner rather than later.
The longer you wait, the harder it will be to fix, and few things are more painful, time-consuming and costly both emotionally and financially than a marriage breakdown.