By Erica Gregory, LMFT & Krista Clark, LMFT
How is your marriage right now... really?
Increased time together, eating home every dinner, not allowed to visit the in-laws house... Its a recipe for a better marriage... Right? The truth is there are a lot of marriages struggling right now. Increased stress, uncertainity, and fear impact our ability to communicate and connect. Rather than more time to spend together, it has become more opportunity to fight.
As a marriage struggles, we feel alone, misunderstood, and lost. Everything becomes harder, everything becomes a trigger. Each time you try to talk, you get into a 'here we go again' fight. Please know that you are not alone in this, many couples are struggling. There is hope to stop the cycle of fights. There is hope to find each other again.
The Soothing Power of Connection
We are biologically and emotionally hardwired to connect. Secure connection or attachment gives life meaning. When we talk about connection, this can be friendships, romantic partners, and spouses. Connection is feeling understood, known, and open. We can share the vulnerable parts of ourselves and we know in our core that it will be accepted. In turn, you understand, hear, and accept the other for who they are. It is powerful when two people can be truly genuine.Research tells us it decreases anxiety, depression, and fosters hope and resiliency- all the things that independence is ‘suppose’ to give us.
The reality is.... We are stronger together, We are more independent when we have a safe secure connection
We feel more confident and take more risks with our career. In moments like these, having someone to share the anger and the fear can help us find hope
As an example, Sue Johnson cites research that followed survivors of 9/11. In her book Love Sense, she says “In terms of mental health, close connection is the strongest predictor of happiness, much more so than making lots of money or winning the lottery. It also significantly lessens susceptibility to anxiety and depression and makes us more resilient to stress and trauma. Survivors of 9/11 with secure loving relationships were found to have recovered better than those without strong bonds. Eighteen months after the tragedy, they showed fewer signs of PTSD, less depression, and their friends considered them more mature and better adjusted than they had been prior to the cataclysmic event.”
This is also true in the crisis we face today: If you are feeling lonely in your marriage, COVID-19 will be harder. If you feel connected and understood, surviving this will feel more managable.
So, what do we do when it’s hard to connect? What can we do to experience the benefits of our love relationships?
Here’s some tips and things to try:
Ask yourself, A.R.E. you there for me? You may 'know' your spouse loves you and cares... but in your core, do you feel them there? In Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), founder Sue Johnson considers this a critical question for couples wanting a secure bond with their partner. The acronym A.R.E outlines three critical components of emotional responsiveness.
A- Accessibility – Can I reach you? Are you available?
R- Responsiveness – When I reach out, do I feel like my partner responds in a way the provides safety and validation?
E- Engagement – Do I feel like my partner is emotionally engaged when we interact? Do I feel valued?
When we’re away from our partner and we have a secure attachment, we’re are able to call upon that felt sense of belonging.
When we’re scared or anxious, sometimes simply imaging them holding our hand or what they would say to us can calm our nervous system. When we know in our bones that someone has our back and that we matter to them, we don’t have to physically share space to tap into the benefits of that relationship.
1) Be-friend your inner world. When we’re able to understand our emotional experience or what happens for us on the inside, we’re able to have more compassion for ourselves and we’re able to share with our partner our attachment needs, fears, and longings.
2) Identify your love language and share it with your partner. We all give and receive love in different ways. Some “love languages” speak more directly to our heart and fill our “love tank” more than others. Are you physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, acts of service, or gifts?
3) Carve out time alone time. Sometimes with busy job or small children, this is no easy feat. It’s important to make time to check in with each other. If you can, have regular date nights or have something that you do together. Maybe it’s reading the same book, cooking together, or hiking together. Sharing activities can create bonding moments.
4) Listen to your partner to understand, not to respond.
Validation isn’t agreeing. It’s simply acknowledging that someone’s perspective makes sense. It’s also letting someone know that their opinion matters, and ultimately that they matter. It difficult to connect when we don’t be validated.
For more help with this, we highly recommend reading Susan Johnson’s Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships.
By: Erica Gregory & Krista Clark; Both Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists trained to offer Emotionally Focused Couple's Therapy.
Does this really resonate with you? Are you feeling alone in your marriage. We are offering online counseling during COVID-19 and can begin in-office sessions as COVID-19 resolves.
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Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling (#JCAC) is a warm and family orientated counseling practice in Alpharetta, Ga. We offer online counseling services in the states of Georgia and Florida. We offer in-office counseling service at our Alpharetta office which is conveniently located to serve Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell, and Cumming, Ga.
The JCAC Counselors specialize in counseling services throughout the lifespan! We offer play therapy, counseling for children, parental support, adolescent counseling, mental health services, couples counseling, premarital therapy, and individual counseling for adults.
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