I recently returned from an amazing training hosted by Sue Johnson, one of the world's leading experts in healing relationships. She has been studying relationships for almost 30 years and has found some remarkable information. Her work is based on attachment theory, which is basically that we, as humans, are wired to be connected to each other and when we are connected to those closest to us, we are happier, healthier and even more courageous.
Research has shown that people who undergo open heart surgery actually recover faster when they have their partner involved in their care. Louise Hawkley, of the Neuroscience Center at the University of Chicago, discovered that loneliness raises blood pressure to the point that a person is two times at risk for a heart attack or stroke. There is more and more evidence that shows that having connections in our lives is crucially important to our overall health and well-being.
And yet, the divorce rate in our country continues to hover around 50 percent. An increasingly high number of individuals are choosing to remain single rather than get married. There are many hypotheses as to why these are happening. My theory is that people are trying to avoid the pain of being hurt in relationships.
It is inevitable that two people in a relationship are going to hurt each other. They both come from different backgrounds, have different points of view, have different life experiences and have different wounds. And then when these two get together, they will likely say and do things that end up poking the other person's wounds. Oftentimes, it is unintentional. As this poking continues, the couple find themselves in a pattern of destruction.
Usually, one member of the couple begins to retreat or withdraw in order to avoid getting hurt. The other member in the relationship usually senses the withdrawal and feels left alone. This will often provoke feelings of anger. This person begins to express their dissatisfaction about being left alone, usually by telling the other person what is not liked about that person.
This causes the other person to withdraw further and, consequently, they enter into a death spiral that leads to both feeling isolated and alone. Many therapists work with couples in trying to improve communication. That is important, but it only addresses the surface level of the issue.
Research has shown that if couples can identify the cycle they get caught in and then reframe it in terms of the underlying feelings and attachment needs, bonding moments are created and connection deepens.
It is often difficult for those in relationships to see themselves in the cycle without some outside help. It often helps to have an objective party help the couple find ways to deepen the expression of attachment emotions and needs.
Couples interested in finding a therapist who has been trained by Sue Johnson, should go to www.iceeft.com.
Troy Love is an adjunct professor at Arizona Western College and the president of Courageous Journeys Counseling and Consulting Service. He can be reached at 276-9535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.