Dr. Sue Johnson has spent the last 30 years researching romantic relationships and working with couples to develop safe, meaningful, and long-term connections. Her latest book, Love Sense, explores the key practices of maintaining a romantic relationship. Based on scientific inquiry, Dr. Johnson clearly lays out the building blocks of a happy relationship. Our society sometimes portrays romantic love as something that happens outside of us, but every day we make choices to connect or disconnect from our romantic partner. We are biologically wired to bond, as infants, children, and as adults. The paradox of this is the more securely bonded we are, the more independent it allows us to be.
In romantic relationships, the falling in love stage consists of gazing into each other’s eyes, and talking away about everything little thing from our past and current lives.
This connecting process, often called attachment, is one that occurs across all of our relationships but is most notable and powerful in parent-child and romantic bonds. Indeed, in our closest relationships it takes on an importance that approaches the need for oxygen.
The central question in a relationship is “can I count on you?”
Whether it’s a baby crying for a parent, or a spouse feeling overwhelmed about a work situation, we look for the important people in our lives to support us in a responsive and consistent way. Love needs warmth and support to thrive, not criticism and negativity.
If we can turn to our partner and be reassured, this is a good sign.
The therapy co-created by Dr. Johnson is called Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) and uses the attachment model and emotional attunement to heal relationships. Attunement is the process of feeling and understanding what our partner is feeling, and our belief they are engaged in what we are feeling.
Start improving your relationship by taking advantage of the small opportunities to connect and mend the everyday crossed wires that are inevitable. Dr. Johnson identifies the three main elements of a secure bond as being accessible and engaged, and responding to our partner’s emotions with comfort and caring (as in, not texting or watching TV when your partner is upset). These elements, when accompanied by us recognizing and communicating our own emotions can transform communication.
Every relationship worth having is worth working on, and no relationship so positive or negative that it can’t improve. For more information, read Sue Johnson’s books “Hold Me Tight”, and “Love
Sense”. The Building Healthy Relationships workshops in our community are a terrific way to work on skill-building with your partner.
Offered several times a year, the series includes one based entirely on Dr. Johnson’s. Check out buildinghealthyrelationships.net for the workshop schedule.
Marie Amos, MA, RCC, is a Mental Health Therapist with Child and Youth Mental Health of MCFD, Chilliwack.