Monthly Archives: September 2017

How Attachment Theory Could Save Your Marriage

The problems in your marriage started way before your marriage.

That’s an important concept to get your head around because so many of us of are convinced that we’ve married the wrong person, or we’re incompatible with our spouse.

But it’s really not about that.

The challenge in your marriage isn’t that you’re incompatible or that your partner is a bad person. The real issue is that you’re being triggered by something in your marriage and reacting strongly. And your partner probably is doing the same thing.

That’s why many marriages get in trouble and people quit. They never really get to the root of the problem.

The real problem is how we’re imprinted.

Meeting Your Needs Early in Life

Our imprinting started the moment we were born. We learned to get our needs met thousands of times in the first few years of life by crying and getting a response that met our needs to a greater or lesser extent. Along the way, we learned what worked and what didn’t.

This cycle of learning continued right up until we became adults, and it became our model for how we get our needs met. It became our imprint.

The problems in our marriage started long before we met our spouse, when our parents sometimes didn’t meet our needs appropriately. Or they didn’t meet them fast enough. Or they didn’t meet them at all.

Nobody’s perfect, and our parents were busy, or missed a signal, or maybe they were imprinted from their own childhood and didn’t react properly.

Whatever the reason, we also learned what it looks like when our needs go unmet—and what to do about it. From this we created a template for what we need from our spouse to feel complete, and how we should react if our needs go unmet.

When Your Imprint Hurts Your Marriage

The biggest hurdle that keeps us all from getting what we want in our marriage is our reactivity to our partner–how we react when we feel hurt or disappointed or angry. Our reactivity is what keeps us stuck.

When we see our needs not getting met, we get triggered. We might react loudly, or we might go quiet and withdraw. We might start a fight, or we might close up and stop sharing. We’re trying to meet our needs the way we learned when we were young, and this takes different forms depending on what we learned.

Our spouse does the same thing. They also react based on the imprint they learned when they were young.

It gets really interesting when we combine our imprint with the imprint of our partner. Now we have the dance, that pattern of behavior that keeps repeating and making us feel confused and frustrated over why things aren’t improving.

The dance is our pattern of reactivity. One person feels disappointed, anxious or angry and sets off a series of reactive behavior that our partner unwittingly engages in as well.

The only way out is learning how to handle our own reactivity. We can’t really deal with what’s going on with our partner, all we can do is learn how to manage ourselves.

Many marriages end because we never really figure out that part. We just quit. We keep waiting for our partner to change, but they’re not going to change. They’re dealing with their own imprint, their own reactivity.

So if we want to repair our marriage, we start with ourselves.

Dancing with Your Partner’s Imprint

Learning your partner’s imprint also is important.

I don’t think you can truly know your partner until you understand their childhood. It is the source of every beginning of needing and wanting, and whether it was met or not, and how it was met or not.

You need this knowledge because your marriage is a dance between your imprint and the imprint of your partner.

You may be a combination of the Avoider, the Victim and the Pleaser imprints, for instance. Your spouse might be a mix of Controller, Vacillator and Avoider.

You have to learn those dance moves to figure out what is causing this pattern of reactivity within you—what is setting you off. You also have to figure out what is setting off your partner, and how you and your partner can show up differently so you’re not triggering each other.

Where to Start Those Dance Lessons

This concept is called attachment theory, and there’s a great book on the topic I’m recommending to everyone right now. It’s called How We Love, by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.

I think so highly of this book! It talks about the core patterns in all of us, and it makes a great start for figuring out what’s really causing trouble in your marriage. I highly recommend the book.

We’re also putting the ideas in the book into practice with our clients, and they’re responding very well. I’m seeing amazing things.

When we help clients uncover their childhood imprint and see the dance they’re doing with their partner, they’re often stunned.

“Wow, that really IS me,” they tell me. “Oh my goodness, that’s what we do!”

The results have been so good, I want to go back and work again with some of our toughest clients from years ago who weren’t making progress. I want to invite them back and use attachment theory this time. That’s how effective this approach has been.

The Yerkovich book makes a great starting point, and you can really get a lot from it that will help your marriage.

But changing decades of patterning and habits is tough. The people who wrote the book say that truly getting a successful turnaround takes two years of weekly therapy.

So you also should consider getting support in addition to reading the book, because discovering you and your partner’s imprints is only half the work. You also need to learn to dance together based on those imprints, and that can be tough.

Give us a call or schedule an appointment online if you would like help with imprints. I really believe strongly in this approach, and I’d love to help your marriage by helping you and your partner understand why you are triggered and how to better meet each other’s needs.

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5 Warning Signs That Your Marriage is in Trouble

By the time a couple comes to counseling, there are often years of painful patterns to undo and past hurts to heal and forgive.  Some research shows it the average couple waits 6 years to get help.

The sooner you catch marriage issues, the easier they are to correct. 
Sometimes the relationship is on life support, and the couple is on the verge of divorce. I often help couples save their marriage, but the truth is that things could have been much easier and less painful if they had addressed the problems sooner. Prevention is almost always easier than waiting until things get bad.

So how do you know when your marriage needs attention? There are a couple things you can do.

First, you can go to a marriage counselor every six months and clear the attic, so to speak. You can give your marriage a periodic checkup and see if your relationship has problems that are growing unnoticed. You don’t usually know that a cavity is forming unless you see a dentist every six months and have your teeth cleaned. The same goes for your marriage.

The second way you can know if your marriage needs attention is by looking for some common warning signs that trouble is brewing.

Here are five of the most common signs.

1. You’re Not Having Sex

We all go through dry spells where there is less sex than normal.

If you go a week or two without having sex, there’s probably nothing wrong with your relationship. I wouldn’t ignore the issue if you’re going months without sex, however. That’s a big warning sign. Pay attention and don’t be shy about asking for help.

There’s a reason why therapists ask about your sex life. A lack of sex in the relationship for long periods signals a break in intimacy and connection.

Repairing the underlying disconnect might not be hard, but ignoring it for months or years is like waiting until you have an abscess in your tooth before seeing the dentist.

Don’t wait!

2. There’s No Fighting

Everyone thinks that fighting is the sign of a bad marriage. That might be true depending on how you fight and how quickly you make repair. But a relationship with no fighting can be a huge red flag also.

Fighting isn’t necessarily a sign that something is wrong. In fact, it might be a sign of a good marriage. Both partners still care!

If there’s no fighting, there might be no talking.

No sharing.

No exchanging.

No connecting.

No fighting may mean someone has given up.  If one or both of you feel “what’s the point?” then that means there is trouble.

This is way scarier to me than a couple that is going at each other all the time. If there’s no fighting anymore, there’s no attempt at fixing the relationship.

3. Kids are Taking Center Stage

Raising children takes lots of time and energy. I’m a parent, so I get that. But if your world revolves exclusively around the kids, this might be a warning sign that your marriage is in trouble.

The same goes for a job that takes all of your attention. Or an all-consuming hobby. Or friends your spouse sees every night after work.

It is just so easy to replace your partner with something else when you are not getting what you need in the marriage. This is called a misery stabilizer—something that makes you feel better so you don’t have to deal with the pain.

Good marriages can take short spurts of this, but no marriage can take prolonged periods of distraction. So look for this warning sign that trouble is brewing.

4. Problems Are Going Unaddressed

One area I frequently check is whether the couple is good at making repairs in the relationship.

I told you that fighting isn’t necessarily a bad sign, but not making repairs is a big problem.

Are you having a lot of instances in your marriage where someone is short-tempered or disruptive for days and then it stops all of a sudden for no reason? Do you or your partner wake up one morning and suddenly laugh off the problem as if nothing ever happened?

If this happens a lot, take notice. It is a sign that you don’t know how to make repairs and get to the root of the problem. Instead, you are sweeping it under the rug. You are minimizing or denying it instead of dealing with what is really happening.

Unless you deal with problems in your relationship, nothing will change. Time by itself does not heal. So not truly addressing relationship problems is a sign your relationship might be in jeopardy.

5. Playfulness is Gone

A fifth sign that your marriage is in trouble is if you don’t share any hobbies.

If you don’t have fun together.

If it is all work and no play that’s a problem.

When my husband and I are alone, we’re not the same people we are in public. We’re more playful. We speak a language that nobody else would understand. We have fun with each other.

We’re playmates instead of business partners.

Are you having fun with your partner and sharing freely, or are you guarded and mostly talking about taking the kids to soccer practice and the household to-do list?

Not having fun with your partner should be a wakeup call that something is wrong.

Have That Conversation

If you have any of these warning signs, the first thing you should do is talk with your partner.

Are we who we want to be in the relationship?

Do we need to adjust work schedules? Do we need to make more time for each other? Do we need to say no more to outside influences? Do we need to stop caring that our kids are not in every sport, drama club and dance class?

And it is being very intentional and making it a priority that the time together is important enough to have its own thing, its own spot on the calendar. Its own reason to say, Sorry, can’t do that. We’re busy.

You are busy. You might not have an appointment, but you have a date with your partner.

It also is important that you see a marriage counselor if you notice any of these warning signs.

It doesn’t mean your relationship is broken, it just means that you are appropriately addressing issues in the relationship before they become something worse. Being proactive about your marriage can make a big difference both in the quality of your life and the health of your relationship.

So consider this the postcard for your semi-annual relationship checkup.

Is your relationship healthy and free from danger signs? Give us a call or schedule an appointment with us online and we can check to make sure.

Remember: A little prevention in your relationship can go a long way.

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