This article was originally published on HealingMomentsCounseling.net
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is hard.
Romantic relationships can be hard work. The challenges you face as a couple can even smother the spark of passion that brought you together in the first place. Whether it’s the stress of daily life, the challenges of raising a family, or simply the passage of time, many couples find themselves struggling to maintain the emotional connection they once had.
As research tells us:
- Dual-income parents with kids spend the majority of time at home devoted to children and household chores;
- 67% of wives experience a decline in marital satisfaction after having their first child;
- Emotionally distant couples separate, on average, 14 years after marriage.
If you’re looking to reignite the passion in your relationship, you may want to consider the evidence-based techniques of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT) with one of Healing Moments EFT Trained Therapists or an EFT Therapist in your area.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is a form of therapy that aims to strengthen the emotional connection between partners. Its primary goal is to foster emotional safety and connection to create a secure relationship for both people in the relationship. EFCT interventions take what is happening between partners and restructures their interactions into more vulnerable and connecting experiences.
Those key moments of deep connection can offer healing!
There is research showing the effectiveness of EFCT in various settings and with diverse couples, including LGBTQIA+. Here are four proven techniques of EFT that can help you bring back the spark in your relationship:
One of EFT’s core principles is the idea that negative patterns of interaction can damage a relationship. These “cycles” can include anything from criticizing each other, blaming each other, or avoiding each other altogether.
“The first stage of EFT involves the de-escalation of negative cycle through exploration of unmet attachment needs the fuel the positions each partner takes in the cycle of conflict” (2017).
By identifying these negative patterns, you can begin to replace them with positive ones that reinforce the emotional connection between you and your partner.
Instead of getting into the blame game of who is the worst partner, EFCT aims to see how these negative patterns block partners from feeling like a team when they face various challenges.
For example, Harper and Logan, a dual-income couple with two toddlers, have recurring conflicts about which one of them is not contributing enough to the household. At the beginning of couples therapy, their fights often looked like this:
Harper: You never help out with cleaning up the house. All you do is spend time on your phone.
Logan: I’m dealing with both the kids all the time. They are a lot of work. You never want to help out with getting them to bed. And after they go to bed, I DO help out. I do the dishes or laundry. You never notice what I do.
Harper: What are you talking about? I’m always helping out with the kids and getting them to bed. All you do is sit on the couch once they are down. Meanwhile, I rarely sit on the couch. I could use that time.
Logan: That’s so far from the truth and you know it. Screw you.
[Logan leaves the room as Harper follows with more prickly words]
Harper and Logan name their pattern “The Overwhelmed Parent.” The next time they find themselves caught in a similar pattern, Harper or Logan simply name the pattern by saying, “The Overwhelmed Parent pattern is here.” To them, that means that they are both at their capacity and are overwhelmed. Instead of blaming each other for not doing enough, they acknowledge the sense of overwhelm within the pattern and connect with one another. As a result, they both report feeling less distress and more connection.
By teaming up against the pattern of blaming each other, Harper and Logan have de-escalated their conflicts and made it easier to connect over topics that often led to harsh conflict and emotional distancing.
The office of a couples therapist is often filled with two versions of “facts” regarding a conflict a couple has been unable to resolve. For Harper and Logan, for example, Harper’s “facts” include their sense that Logan doesn’t do enough for the house, while Logan’s “facts” include a sense that Harper doesn’t do enough with the kids.
In debating these details, however, Harper and Logan become stuck in the negative pattern of seeing one another as the problem. But when the couple makes the pattern the problem, the de-escalation creates a space where softer and more vulnerable attachment needs and fears can be shared.
Harper shares how they fear that they are all alone in the relationship and has to do everything themself. This is an experience that started early in childhood in a family of five siblings. When they shared this vulnerability, Logan, rather than putting up a reactive defense, was able to respond with love and reassurance. Harper felt safer and more connected after sharing this, and Logan had a new understanding of Harper and how to be there for them.
Logan then shared the heavy shame due to a feeling of never being enough to be loved. This too started earlier in life, when Logan’s parents would shame Logan for not achieving better grades. This never empowered Logan into learning and growing but rather made Logan feel smaller and disconnected. Harper was shocked to learn this and realized how the couple’s “Overwhelmed Parent” cycle repeatedly touched this vulnerability. As a result, Harper was able to respond with tenderness and care, something Logan desperately needed.
When each partner shared their deeper vulnerabilities and the other partner tuned into those needs, the couple was able to create moments of healing and connection. They created new ways of interacting that deepened their intimacy and fostered a resilience within the relationship.
EFCT emphasizes the importance of building a secure emotional bond between partners. A secure bond requires more than just navigating difficult moments together. It involves sharing positive memories, expressing gratitude for one another, and engaging in meaningful activities that you both enjoy.
For example, you might set aside time each week to do something fun together, like taking a dance class or cooking a meal. By creating positive shared experiences like these, you can strengthen the emotional bond between you and your partner and create a sense of shared purpose and intimacy.
All romantic partners are aware of the ways that having a date night or doing novel activities together can help maintain a stronger connection. EFCT takes it a step further by encouraging partners to turn toward each other in these moments and share vulnerably how they feel.
On one particular date night, Harper and Logan walked along the Seattle waterfront after a couples therapy session. Logan shared how safe they felt while holding Harper and how Harper made life richer. Harper was moved by this and held Logan closer. On the drive home, Logan later shared how much it meant to spend time together and feel connected. “Feeling connected to you makes riding the waves of this sometimes-chaotic life so much easier to overcome,” Logan said. “You are so important to me.”
Finally, EFCT emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and repair in any relationship. No relationship is perfect, and conflicts are bound to arise. However, by practicing turning toward the hurt and missed connections with forgiveness and repair, you can help create a sense of trust and safety in your relationship.
From the cradle to the grave, human relationships will create hurt, even when it happens unintentionally. And too often, those moments of hurt and disconnection get amplified by not repairing them.
But it’s what we do in the aftermath that will make or break the emotional bond we have with one another.
Even mothers with newborns are not attuned 70% of the time. These mothers still create a secure attachment because when they become aware of the misconnection, they repair it.
A baby who experiences typical mismatch and repair develops into a person with an internal voice that says, I can change things. When people move through mismatch to repair over and over again in relationships, whether as infants or adults, they develop agency, defined earlier as a sense that one has control over one’s life and the power to act effectively in the world. They come to new situations with a hopeful feeling, armed with a positive affective core. But when they carry an expectation of perfection, they miss out on the success of moving through a bad moment to a good one, of bumping the boundaries of their own selves against the boundaries of another.
Ed Tonick notes in The Power of Discord: Why the Ups and Downs of Relationships are the Secret to Building Intimacy, Resilience, and Trust
When these moments occur in Harper and Logan’s relationship, they lean toward each other. The hurt partner shares their hurt in a vulnerable way, and the other partner leans in with comfort, reassurance, and action to prevent hurt in the future. This way of repairing strengthens their bond and deepens intimacy.
If you’re looking to bring back the spark in your relationship, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is an evidenced-based path for achieving this. By identifying negative patterns, focusing on emotions and vulnerabilities, building a secure emotional bond, and practicing forgiveness and repair, you can create a more positive, supportive relationship and strengthen the emotional connection between you and your partner. Remember, relationships take work, but with the right techniques and mindset, you can transform your relationship and reignite the passion that brought you together in the first place.
Connect with one of Healing Moments Counseling Couples Therapists in Seattle or with me (Kyle Benson) if you are in Washington State or Flordia.
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