Archive for Sue Johnson

Valentines Day Every Day

Most couples dread certain days in the year. New year’s eve, Christmas with the in-laws, etc. But nothing causes more anxiety than February 14th. The hype and expectations Valentine’s day demands doesn’t always equate to a couple’s expectations and, more often that not, the day ends in disappointment, arguments and often, tears.

Valentines Day comes with a heavy burden attached. It tells couples that if the flowers or chocolates are forgotten (or not posh enough) they are not loved. Comparisons are often made with other friend’s relationships, and judgments are thrown at one another as barbed as one of Eros’ arrows.

Learning to be loving and thoughtful on a daily basis give couples the connection that translates into love. As Dr. Sue Johnson says in her book “Hold me Tight”, ‘learning to be open, attuned and responsive to each other enables a close emotional connection.’ Couples are able to feel loved and cared for, even when their partner gives them dyed purple carnations, or a two-for-one voucher for Pizza Express on Valentines Day.
Forget the big gestures. Studies confirm the best way to show someone your love is far simpler than that.

The way we learn to feel loved comes from what we experienced growing up, how we felt loved (or not) in our own families. So it’s not surprising that we all experience feeling loved in different ways. With some, feeling loved means action: tea in bed, fixing the shower or cooking a special meal. For others, it might mean words: taking an interest in your partner’s day and then really listening. It could also simply mean saying thank you, or I love you.

Dr Sue Johnson believes couples need regular bonding rituals of meeting and separation or key times of belonging. These are deliberately structured moments that foster ongoing connections. They can sometimes feel a bit contrived, but it will help remind couples to stay connected.

1. Regularly holding, hugging and kissing on waking and going to sleep, leaving home and returning.
2. Writing letters, or leaving short notes for one another, especially when one is going away.
3. Calling or ‘checking in’ with one another to ask after one another.
4. Creating a personal sharing ritual. It could be dinner together or a daily walk after dinner.
5. Arranging a regular time to spend time together, also called “Date Night”.
6. Taking a class or learning something new together.
7. Remembering special dates such as birthdays or anniversaries.
8. Acknowledging your partner’s struggles and commenting on them. “I’ve noticed how hard you’ve been working; it’s inspiring.”
9. Publicly recognise your partners and your relationship, the affirmation lets them know you’re connected and appreciate them.

Valentines Day is a day to remember why a couple chose one another and what it was that attracted them to each other in the first place. The question helps couples remember the original feelings they had and helps underpins the relationship even when there are issues that keep a couple drifting apart. Feeling loved by one another helps to cement and underpin the relationship. These feelings are worth their weight in Valentines cards.

Shirlee Kay

How to tell if your relationship is in trouble

If you are continually fighting with each other, what does that say about your relationship?

When you need each other the most why can’t you communicate and stay connected rather than turn against each other?

If you find yourself in a relationship where you are continually fighting, this is not necessarily an accurate barometer of where the relationship is.  We can spend a long time in therapy trying to make sense of an argument and what it means but the real barometer when we fight is to be aware of the distance it causes between us.

There are times in a relationship when we feel loved and safe and secure that it’s ok to argue and fight.  But when we can’t connect with the person we love, and we don’t feel very secure – this is scary and creates distance.

When a relationship is in trouble we tend to start a dance which Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples writes in her book Hold me Tight calls the Demon Dialogues.  One person starts complaining and criticising and gets angry and the other starts defending and stonewalling.  The couple get caught up in the dance which takes on a life of its own as it gains momentum and very soon we see the other person as the enemy.

As therapists working with the Emotionally Focused therapy model we can help couples stand back and look at the patterns they are caught up in.

Its about learning how to step out of the pattern, stand back  and reach out for each other to sooth and calm and create emotional safety between the two of you.

By paying more attention and valuing our relationship it is really possible to find a better barometer for understanding our unhappiness and hopefully take care of it sooner.  This makes for a more active approach to marriage.

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Dawn Kaffel