In the first marriage counseling session, couples begin by sharing with me the reasons for seeking relationship therapy. Often, one partner feels misunderstood and desires a deeper connection. The other partner may share that his or her partner is too controlling and that he/she believes that no matter what he/she does, it is never enough. He/She wants more space and to begin appreciating what he or she does do. The relationship destructive dance begins.
The couple is trying hard to make sense of their anguish, but they are far away from seeing the real issues in their relationship. I often explain that what they see is the tip of the iceberg, but they are not seeing the 90% that is under the surface. So what is the real problem that lies beneath? Many marriage or relationship counselors would define the problem as a destructive power struggle or acidic fighting cycle and that the couple needs to learn how to negotiate and improve their communication skills. I maintain that those counselors are still not going beneath the surface and are essentially missing the heart of the issue.
The goal of effective marriage counseling is to push below the surface and discover the basic problem of most relationship: couples have disconnected emotionally and they are no longer feeling emotionally secure with each other. Most conflicts between partners are really complaints or protests over emotional disconnection. Susan Johnson writes, “Underneath all the distress, partners are asking each other: Can I count on you, depend on you? Are you there for me? Will you respond to me when I need, when I call? Do I matter to you? Am I valued and accepted by you? Do you need me, rely on me?”
The anger, criticism, and demands are one partner’s expression to feel emotionally connected to the other partner and also to know that he or she will support in times of need. “Can I trust you to have my back when I call?” Unfortunately, these needs for safety and emotional connection are expressed through criticism, demands, and expressions of anger. The response is often fear, withdrawal, and shame that he/she has failed the other. As this partner withdrawals and puts up a wall, the other partner interprets it as rejection and abandonment and responds with more criticism, anger, and demands for change. The destructive dance continues until one or both partners give up hope and leave the relationship.
Our counseling center has marriage and relationship counselors that can help you change the destructive dance and to learn how to safely connect emotionally. Call our counseling center today and begin finding hope that your relationship can be restored.