In my sessions with couples, it is a special and significant moment whenever a person says, “That’s new to me…I didn’t know,” in response to their partner’s revelation.
The new information might be a feeling the partner has labeled, or an early experience that had not been shared before. It could be welling up with tears, showing their partner that underneath the nagging and criticism is actually a profound longing to be acknowledged and seen.
The revelation becomes an insight, helping them both make sense of hurt, confusion, and misunderstanding. It opens up new possibilities for connection.
Getting to that new information is usually not so easy. EFT and attachment theory tell us that, as humans, we do a whole lot of emotional and cognitive acrobatics to protect ourselves from emotional hurt, abandonment, and rejection. If we suspect that revealing a vulnerable part of ourselves will be met with indifference at best, or shaming at worst, there is no way we will shine any light on that part. Sometimes we even bury those parts so deeply that we do not have actual words…it is a felt sense attached to deeply painful past experiences.
These EFT and attachment theory concepts have been tremendously helpful to me in navigating the relationships of the couples with whom I have worked. I try to keep in mind that what I see on the outside is not always what is happening on the inside. That cool and calm spouse who seems unruffled by his partner’s deep digs may actually be feeling like a deer in headlights, working hard to seem okay. But with EFT as my guidepost, I stay curious and hopefully create the safe and caring environment through which one can reveal those hidden and protected parts, paving the way for renewed clarity and connection.
Contact the Philadelphia Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy to schedule a session with a licensed therapist.