Couples get stuck, Relationships get stuck, Marriages get stuck
Feeling stuck in a relationship is often what brings couples into counselling. We can all identify situations in our relationships where a level of stuckness is to be expected. But when stuckness feels damaging and destructive couples tend to feel they are on a hamster wheel and cant find a way out.
It is important to identify what causes the stuckness in order to move forward.
Sue Johnson the developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) calls them the Demon Dialogues where we cannot connect safely with our partners.
She has identified three basic patterns:
Find the Bad Guy– a pattern of mutual blame and criticism that keeps a couple miles apart, blocking reengagement and the feeling of relationship safety.
Protest Polka – a pattern of Demand-Withdraw or Criticise-Defend. This is a protest against the loss of the secure attachment that we all need in our relationships
Freeze and Flee or Withdraw -Withdraw
Partners feel hopeless and begin to give up and close down to escape the hurt and despair, leaving numbness and distance.
In dance terms Sue Johnson describes this as the most dangerous dance, when suddenly there is no one on the dance floor; both partners are sitting it out far apart from the other.
We begin to see the relationship as more and more unsatisfying or unsafe and our partner as unloving and uncaring.
Using Emotionally Focused Therapy couples make progress by increasing safety and security in their relationships which allows them to listen and respond more to each others needs which in turn helps partners tune into the important feelings and needs and then put those feelings and needs across to their partners in ways that invite positive responses rather than stuckness.
There are times in relationships where a partners past actions were linked to an experience of betrayal and breach of trust. In EFT terms these events are considered Attachment Injuries.
Attachment injuries can appear as relational traumas that affect a couples on-going relationship. It is the impact the action has had on the injured partner and what the action represents ie. abandonment or rejection.
Couples fail to develop deeper trust or risk vulnerability until these attachment injuries have been addressed. Attachment injuries create obstacles that block trust and connection and need to be worked through.
Working with an EFT therapist can help couples identify how their behaviours trigger each others emotions and change the course of negative patterns into positive relationship affirming connections which make for feelings of safety and security.
The stuckness that you and your partner may be feeling shouldn’t me ignored or minimised. As Dr Nicastro points out “stuckness is a source of information that can help you and your partner come together and work for the good of the relationship.