In our intimate relationships we are able to get closer to another person than in any of our relationships in our life. Our repressed emotions often begin to surface in these relationships.
It is said that there are at least 6 people in the bedroom when we are making love…the two of us and two sets of parents. I would say there could be a whole host of others as well…our siblings, relatives, teachers, preachers, neighbors, etc. There could be remnants of anyone who has ever harmed or frightened us lingering there.
With Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), following the initial session with the couple, there are individual sessions with each person in order to take a personal history. This session includes the person's attachment history… for example, “Whom did you go to for comfort as a child?" This history will help determine the patterns and behaviors that each person is bringing to their relationship…how they relate to the other…their pre-set thoughts, beliefs and behaviors related to love and relationship.
We look at those patterns and beliefs and see how they are working for each person in their current relationship. If the pattern isn't serving the person in a positive, productive way, we go into it further, unpacking its origin so it may be understood and released from the person's repertoire and replaced with something else that serves them better. The process is respectful, gentle and non-judgmental.
For example, if we had a cold, cruel mother growing up, who was difficult for us to connect with or feel safe with or be seen by or feel loved by, then we search out this love and acceptance in our relationships. It only seems natural that we would do this. But if we have a bundle of beliefs about why we didn't get those messages from our mothers and have a backlog of feelings around not having felt loved, we also bring those into our relationships and may even sabotage our own possibilities for a healthy, mature loving relationship in the present. We may feel we weren't worthy of love or that we are flawed or that it was our fault that we didn't get what we needed as a child. We think, “It must be me."
Often we act this out in our current relationships. It takes a while to recognize and understand those old patterns and shift them from destructive to productive. It is all learned behavior, which can be unlearned and replaced by other, more satisfying ones. Couples find great relief in knowing they can steer their relationship in the direction they want it to go in…one of happiness and passion and love vs pain and destruction and suffering.
One of my clients said she had difficulty whenever her husband left town for work. She would start to pull away emotionally, days before he left. She would also act cool and aloof upon his return. A few days later, she would gradually warm up until the next departure when it began all over again.
As we explored the pattern, she said she didn't know whether to feel sad, glad or mad when he left. Part of her felt abandoned when he left, part of her felt angry at him for leaving her and part of her felt glad when he left because she could have time for herself, to do what she wanted and visit with her friends.
Recognizing all these parts jumping around, vying for attention in the moment, loading the departure and reconnections with her beloved was very helpful for her. She could laugh at all the inner emotional activity happening in the moment, embrace it and be the partner she wanted to be…warm, loving and mature…while holding her inner collection of feelings.
Once we develop self-awareness, we are able to “refresh or reboot" our relationships. We realize we have the freedom to design 'how' and 'who' we want to be in relationship.Once we shed old, destructive patterns that are not letting love in or expressing the love that we have inside of us, we are able to create the space to explore new, subtle ways to experience our partners. The exquisite uniqueness of who they are and who we are rises to the surface.
We are then able to create a loving, vulnerable, deep, rich relationship, where there is safety and an invitation to be all that we are, both as individuals and as a couple.