Couples today expect their relationships to be satisfying, to fulfill their needs, including the emotional ones. Different even from our parents’ generation, people stay in relationships mostly out of choice instead of out of need. Therefore, since there are more expectations and the option to leave is much more accessible, relationships take more work and commitment. The good news is though, that they can also bring more happiness.
Marriages are among the most deeply satisfying of all human relationships. Unfortunately however, while research shows that relationships are the main source of happiness, they can also bring a lot of pain to people’s lives. Why does that happen? How is it possible that even though two people love each other very much, they can also be who hurts each other the most? As I tell my clients, because it is not a matter of love.
There are more complicated underlying issues getting in the way. Most people come to therapy thinking they have “communications problems.” And in fact they do, but communications skills or lessons are not going to solve the problem. Why? Because communication is not the problem. The communication is just one symptom of a deeper core relational problem: our attachment style.
What is that and why is important? It is the way we connect, how we bond with other people and it is developed throughout our lives and influenced by our experiences and relationships. It is our unconscious relational map and influences our needs, expectations, triggers, wounds, interpretations and values. Attachment theory is a map to the landscape of love.
Research shows that about 50% of the population presents a secure attachment style, which means more capacity for a balance between being intimate and being independent, which means more flexibility and capacity to resolve arguments and normal disruptions in relationships. About the other half of the population have an insecure attachment, which means they tend to have more problems when in relationships and at the same time, they have more stress and fewer skills when trying to resolve them. (Levine & Heller, 2010, Attached)
The good news is that therapy can help. Professional help can provide you the understanding you need to figure out your own role and triggers in relationships. Then, by changing some patterns and learning certain skills, you can move towards secure attachment and be able to establish healthy connections. Most of us did not learn that in our families of origin but it is never too late. You can learn it in therapy.
If you are in a marriage or a relationship, but it is on the rocks or it is not what you think it could be, answer the following questions to find out if you can benefit from therapy.
- Would you like to re-connect with your partner and be able to understand each other more easily?
- Things are “ok” for the most part but there are areas where you don’t get each other and are the source of constant friction and frustration?
- Do you feel that your partner is not “there for you”?
- Do you feel that your needs collapse with each other’s in a way that can’t be solved?
- Do you find that all of the sudden you are constantly fighting or that your partner is not the person he/she used to be?
- Do you find that there is no “safe haven” at home for connection and love?
- Are you tired of feeling you are the only one caring or doing anything for the relationship?
- There has been an affair but you both want to learn from it and give you and your relationship another chance?
Sometimes people feel intimidated by the thought of therapy, because they think is a big deal, it means they failed or something is wrong with them. The opposite is true. The desire to feel connected, secured and loved is part of human nature but sometimes it is hard to get our needs met. We can all benefit from some education and understanding of the science of love and connection. The sooner you come the better. Most couples can improve their relationships but sometimes they wait too long.
I draw from the most advanced research on adult attachment and have extensive training on the most effective couples counseling strategies to help you and your partner create the healthy relationship you need, and get the love you deserve. Some of the theories i use in my work are:
Imago Theory– Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. (Getting the Love You Want), looks for ways that your current difficulties might relate to what you learned about relationships during your childhood and early adulthood and how partners can help each other to complete those “unfunished businesses,” so they can then relate from their adult selves while completimg and healing each others’ childhoods.
Emotionally Focused Therapy- Sue Jonhson, PhD. (Hold Me Tight), or EFT draws on attachment theory, which asserts that humans are hardwired for strong emotional bonds with others. According to EFT, couples have relationship problems when they’ve “experienced emotional disconnection with their partner at key moments, which then leads to struggles” with negative cycles of criticism and anger (among other emotions and reactions). Therefore, the aim of EFT is to help couples overcome these negative cycles, re-establish their connection, and strengthen their emotional bond.
Relational Life Therapy – Terry Real (Relational Institute), teach the principles of Relational processes in order to help people address relational and psychological health in three critical relationship areas: parenting, coupling, and workforce effectiveness. This model teaches clients healthy relating, helping them perform the modest miracle of personal transformation on a permanent process level.
PAIRS – Dr. Lori Gordon (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills), it is a program that provides a comprehensive system to enhance self-knowledge and to develop the ability to sustain pleasurable intimate relationships. It teaches useful behavioral techniques such as 1) emotional literacy; 2) communication skills and conflict resolution and 3) conjoint partner skills for building and enhancing intimacy.
DARe– Diane Poole Heller, PhD. (Somatic Experiencing-based attachment repair program), groundbreaking approach that integrates interpersonal neurobiology and adult attachment theory. It provides the keys to the mystery of healthy relationships by teaching you how to compassionately free yourself from the patterns of early attachment wounds that influence your adult relationships negatively.
These approaches don’t only teach techniques, they use strategies for overcoming the fight/flight response in relationships and for rewiring the brain towards a more secure attachment. Therefore, recondition the brain for greater empathy and more intimacy. The newest Neuroscience of Attachment and brain development is drastically influencing our understanding of how to bring about healing and influence our relationships toward more fulfillment.
I specialize in relationships by helping people gain self-awareness, emotional balance, and control of their own lives to develop a fulfilling lasting love life. In a positive, non-blaming, male friendly, insightful and solution-oriented approach I help you understand and change your role and style in intimate relationships. I finally help you clarify what you really need from your partner, and how to give it to each other.
95% of marriages fail and many of the people in them are far away from being happy. Falling in love is easy, maintaining it is a conscious decision.
I also specialize in inter-racial marriages since I believe people from different cultures need extra support in building a common ground relationship and in taking full advantage of the opportunity to create a richer life that coming from different background provided. Psychotherapy in Spanish is also available!
To learn more about your attachment style, take one or more of the following quizzes:
You can also read more on this topic here:
Freud – “We are never so vulnerable as when we love”
Sue Johnson, Ph.D – “We know that love makes us vulnerable, but we also know that we are never as safe as strong as when we are sure we are loved.”
The latest research in neuroscience points to the critical need we all have to feel safely connected (attached or bonded) with others. (Steven Porges’ polyvagal theory: stephenporges.com/ and Dan Siegel’s interpersonal neurobiology: www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/, and his book The Developing Mind, Second Edition: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are.