Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) has proven to be effective at mending marriages and relationships. Dr. Sue Johnson, the developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, condenses twenty years of experience and wisdom into her book Hold Me Tight. I’ve been curious to learn more about this method of therapy, and finally picked up the book for myself. As a non-therapist, here are some helpful strategies that I learned from this book to stop the cycle of blame and resentment in a relationship and rebuild that trust and security.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Dr. Johnson shows what emotionally focused couples therapy can look and feel like through examples from seven couples. I found the conversations of each couple the most fascinating. We see the gradual process of couples learning to dig deeper, to not concern themselves with the argument on the surface but rather the emotions that are hidden beneath. Here are a few steps that I took away to start forming a deeper connection in romantic relationships.

Check In with Yourself, and Choose Each Other

When you find yourself getting overwhelmed or frustrated at your partner, take a moment to stop and reflect. This can be hard in the beginning. These patterns can be set in practice for months or years without realizing it. You’ll find yourself talking in terms of “me” vs. “you," and getting lost in defensive or critical statements. I have been victim to this pattern many times. Acknowledging the cycle of critique/defense is the first step to breaking it. Recognize that you are both on the same team, and that your partner is not the enemy. Take a step back and ask yourself, “What are we really arguing about?”

Own Up to Your Actions

The next step is to acknowledge your shortcomings. Be honest about what you are struggling with. This can let the other person know that you are invested in being on the same team, rather than who is “right” or “wrong." It is valuable to discuss how fights are triggered without judging each other. When you acknowledge your behavior, it allows your partner to safely go deeper. 

Share Your Feelings

Clarifying and sharing your feelings is the core of great couples therapy. In the beginning, it can feel uncomfortable or even frightening. But sharing your feelings in a safe space will allow your partner to understand you better. It’s okay to admit that you feel angry or isolated. It is okay if the feelings are confusing. Try to communicate how you felt about your partner’s actions. “When you don’t do the dishes, I feel like you’re not hearing me. I feel like you don’t care about me.” That last sentence is the key. When you are upset that the dishes aren’t being done, it can come from a place of past hurt or insecurity. Together, you can work together to validate and provide support from common ground.

Even if you’re not currently in a monogamous, romantic relationship, this book is still deserving of a read. Everyone has important connections with others that need time and care to look after. I found myself relating to a lot of the patterns mentioned, even in my platonic relationships. The word that comes to mind when I think of Dr. Johnson’s message is simply: hopeful. You can feel how much hope and trust she has in any couple that walks through her door.

Start Couples Counseling in Ballard

Do you find yourself stuck in a cycle of conflict and miscommunication with your partner? At Thrive for the People, our licensed therapists can help you re-establish a strong, secure, loving bond in your relationship. Our therapists use Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy as their main approach to working with couples. Together they can help you and your partner create lasting change. If you’re feeling lost, and looking for additional support, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with us today.