Most couples tell us they want to improve their communication. We hear these things from our clients all the time:
- “We get into huge arguments over little things.”
- “We argue constantly.”
- “I can’t seem to communicate with my partner.”
- “We sweep things under the rug.”
When we work with couples, we first get a full picture of a couple’s communication pattern, and then we help couples to begin to change those patterns using Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT). EFT is an evidence-based couples counseling model that goes beyond teaching couples communication skills.
We know from the research that while learning communication skills is a positive thing that couples can do, it just doesn’t stick in the stressful, upsetting moments that happen in relationships.
The truth is, no one uses communication skills in the heat of an argument.
Worse yet, the research shows learning communication skills don’t improve couples relationships over the long term.
That’s right – if all you learn is communication skills, you will likely fall right back into those negative patterns the next time there’s stress, a disagreement, or you can’t seem to communicate what you are feeling.
EFT works so well by going much deeper and getting to the heart of a couples communication difficulties.
We’ll uncover your stuck patterns, help you understand and express your feelings and experiences to your partner in a way that helps them hear. We’ll work through any blocks or fears that come up that get in the way of caring, close responses.
In EFT, we help you improve your communications by helping you have the experience of communicating in a way that brings contact, caring and closeness.
When you work with us, specialists in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, you can expect we will:
1. Understand the patterns of communication that aren’t working
In EFT, we don’t blame or pathologize one partner over the other – those are actually quick ways to end your couples therapy! Rather, we find the negative cycle happening in your relationship and identify what’s underneath that is really driving it.
Dr. Sue Johnson, the founder of EFT calls the most common pattern “The Protest Polka” in her bestselling book, Hold Me Tight.
The Protest Polka is cycle where one partner pursues for closeness using blame or criticism and the other withdraws out of frustration or worry they’ll get something wrong. Sometimes, there can be a cycle where both partners pursue or where both withdraw. Or, if a couple has been struggling long enough, or there has been a big injury in the relationship like an affair, the roles can reverse.
2. Practice changing your communication pattern
The negative pattern can repeat many times in relationships. Negative cycles happen in pretty much all relationships: newlyweds, married forever, dating, same-sex couples, families, therapist’s relationship and even friendships.
Underneath the negative cycles, people are trying to feel close, get comfort or find connection from the other. Instead, couples end up disconnected, discouraged, scared or hurt.
Emotionally Focused Couples therapists help couples to re-frame their particular pattern as the common enemy. Couples also learn to fully repair after a cycle has happened.
We’ll also look at each person’s behavior in their negative cycle, and how it impacts the other person. Common things we do when we aren’t getting along include nagging, defensiveness, yelling, bringing up the past, criticism, silence, shutting down, blaming and tit for tat.
3. Bring to the surface & effectively communicate what’s underneath
Underneath, we can feel things we are unaware of, and sometimes, we know what we’re feeling, but we choose not to share. Or, we might share it, but in a confusing way by pairing it with another feeling (scared feelings expressed in an angry tone or body language, for example).
In Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, we uncover the feelings underneath and help couples share so their partner can hear and respond.
Many conversations and fights have at least two layers to them – what we’re talking about (family finances, for example), and what is communicated through tone of voice, body language, etc. (frustration and feeling discouraged, for example). We help couples talk about the emotion underneath.
We also slow things down, because so much can be communicated (and reacted to!) in the blink of an eye. This mixture of underneath feelings vs. outside emotions plus communicating so much quickly can get couples very stuck in their communication.
If you see an Emotionally Focused Therapist, you will have sessions that include surprises, new information, deeper understandings, and very different perceptions of what is happening for your partner. You will also have lots of practice at connecting in softer, more empathetic, more vulnerable and ultimately healthier ways. As a result, your communication will improve and your relationship will be stronger and happier.
4. Work on those tricky, tricky perceptions
When you aren’t getting along, it is easy to form misperceptions about the meaning behind what your partner does or doesn’t do, or says or doesn’t say. When there are also underlying feelings that you don’t see or hear, the opportunity to get stuck in a negative pattern is huge. Likewise, your partner most likely has big misperceptions about you and your intentions or feelings.
When you don’t see that your spouse or partner is sad about fighting because the relationship means a lot to them, it makes sense you might conclude they don’t love you if they said something critical in the heat of the moment. When you can describe your perceptions, it helps your partner understand and ultimately respond with more understanding to you.
5. Figure out & share the longings driving the negative cycle
We are hard-wired to want and strive for close relationships our whole lives. Emotionally Focused Couple Therapists see this natural instinct as normal, healthy and good for us. This longing for closeness and security is also relationship gold.
In EFT couples counseling, we use the gold of the attachment longings to give reassurance and a new understanding of why you both do what you do. We’ll help you then share that relationship gold in a way that your partner can hear it.
If you want to stop the negative cycles that have been chipping away at the hope you have for your relationship to work, we want to help.
We will show you how to communicate in a way that will bring about a closeness you may never have felt with your partner, is research-backed, and will yield results that will stick long-term.
Don’t wait until the hope runs out. Call us today at 303-513-8975. Or, use our convenient and secure online scheduler. Schedule Appointment