It’s Valentine’s Day: the day on which we celebrate love with our loved ones. It is also the day to reflect on our current love relationships. How do I actually feel in my current relationship? Where can my partner and I possibly strengthen and improve our relationship?
Sue Johnson, Canadian psychologist and professor, helps romantic couples to make their relationship as safe and close as possible. She uses the premise that love relationships are not rational contracts, but purely emotional bonds. Therefore, if we want to improve our relationship, we must not only look at behavior but especially at the underlying emotions. She uses Emotional Focussed Therapy (EFT for short) to create a safe and lasting bond between partners. How does this work? And what is safe and close love anyway?
Johnson argues in her book that love relationships are mainly related to an innate need for secure emotional connection. What happens between people when they love each other, but they no longer feel optimally safe with each other? When getting in touch is difficult? A lack of connection in the love relationship has a major impact, not only on our mental health, but also on our physical health. For example, the risk of heart problems is greater for people who miss the connection in their relationship.
Connection has been crucial to survival from the very first year of life. This is about attachment between mother and child, also called attachment theory. Once we are adults, this secure attachment is still very important. It enables us to maintain ourselves in the world as an autonomous and assertive person. People with close relationships have a solid base from which to venture out into the outside world and experience their relationship as a safe haven to which they can come home.
When partners no longer feel that safe haven, that connection, enough, relationship conflicts arise. Relationship conflicts and quarrels are often nothing more than a cry for help with which partners indicate that they do indeed need the other. The argument can be about petty things, but the underlying emotion is always a lack of attention, trust, respect, recognition and understanding. And this is often accompanied by anger, pain, sadness and especially fear. That fear is felt by partners in a quarrel. From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense: If the safe haven for a child is not there, the chances of survival are at stake.
Emotional Focussed Therapy (EFT)
Emotional Focussed Therapy (EFT) is an effective method to help people recognize their argumentative patterns and the underlying emotions. With EFT relationship therapy, couples learn, among other things, to express the underlying emotions. To tell each other that they need the other. That they will be there for the other. In the end it is about the basic question in every love relationship: ‘are you there for me?
The word emotion comes from the Latin word ’emovere’, which means to move. We feel ‘moved’ when those we love express their deepest feelings. By showing these feelings, partners move to new ways of responding to each other and break out of the vicious circle. A safer and closer relationship can then arise, in which couples can ‘really look into each other’s hearts’.
The 7 steps of EFT
EFT consists of 7 steps, where each step is the next deepening of the relationship. You can therefore only take the next step once you have mastered the previous steps together. The steps are as follows:
- Learning to recognize the devilish dialogues (the underlying emotions).
- Find the pain spots
- Looking back on a crisis
- Hold me tight – developing involvement and connection
- Forgive hurts
- Strengthening the bond through sex and touch
- Keeping your love alive