Relationships have the power to heal trauma! A secure bond between a couple that is nourished and maintained has the ability to heal old wounds. When one or more partners struggle with insecure attachment, couples therapy requires a strong focus on adult bonding. It is through this re-attachment process that couples can survive relationship issues.
Some couples may have had difficult childhoods and had insecure attachments with their main caregivers. Others may have had traumatic events in their early years that have left emotional wounds. Shutting down or withdrawing has been their only source of coping with their emotional pain. If a partner tries to reach out and comfort the other and receives an opposite reaction of withdrawal; this can leave the couple in an emotionally disconnected cycle.
Childhood traumatic events that have led to insecure attachments or fear of getting close to others needs to be addressed in couples therapy. Often it is the fear-based thoughts of the partner that prevent adult bonding. A situation within the relationship can cause one partner to relive “past” thoughts such as “He’s going to leave me like my mom”, “I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve her”, and “I’m not lovable”. These locked up thoughts can be followed by “knee jerk reactions” and withdrawal and shutting down can occur. The emotional disconnections manifest, and the couple do not feel safe or comforted and can find it very difficult to reconnect.
To be able to break the cycle of emotional disconnection is to be able to turn to your partner and notice their emotional pain and reach out and give comfort. There has been multiple studies showing that physical and emotional closeness can relax the nervous system and slow down and eventually stop the “fight or flight response”. However, Sue Johnson (2008) advises reaching out and comforting your partner does not guarantee 100% response back as “mis-attunements” can still happen. She encourages couples to keep turning towards each other, reach out over and over again, and find the emotional connection.
There is hope, when the couple is able to move through their fears, “mis-attunements”, and old thought patterns. It takes courage to be vulnerable and to work together to heal old wounds and traumas. The reward though is a couple that finds solace, comfort, and safety within the other and an attachment that may have never been experienced before.
Danielle Lambrecht Counselling
Danielle Lambrecht, RSW., MC. CCC ©2016
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA