3 Days Begins a New Relationship

Personal behaviors and habits rarely, if at all, change overnight. I still struggle with getting up right at 6 amto do my morning exercises.
So, changing how I engage in relationships definitely won’t change overnight. Those habits were bred from fears that continue to fuel the motivations in my decisions.
When my wife and I decided on reconciling our marriage, we agreed that we needed professional help. We had some unhealthy patterns in our marriage for many years.  We brought some patterns to the marriage and developed special ones just for us.
We wanted to change our negative patterns and to develop healthier ones, so we went away on a three day therapeutic journey.
We had tried Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) a few years ago.  I found it helpful but we weren’t ready for it then.  I knew there was something to it that would be hugely beneficial, because in one brief session I learned that my reaction to things happening to me was “normal” given my experiences as a child. “Of course that was your response. What else were you going to do?”
Those words from the therapist reached that hurt child within me. It open the door for me to believe that nothing was really wrong with me. Of course these are my responses to life. What else could I do? This is how I learned to be.
Of course, this wasn’t a Hollywood movie and one revelation didn’t change the course of my behavior.  Though, it did make me believe there was a therapeutic process out there that could help me reach down to my core emotions.
You would think getting to core emotions is what most therapy is about. There is that element to therapy as long as you can get your client to go there.
Emotions are scary. Most adults are afraid of them and they are the ones who are supposed to teach you about them.  I was taught how to deal with emotions by both being told not to express them and observing how not to share them.
Those were good skills growing up in family where there was constant turmoil and change. We moved around a lot.  No relationship seemed safe, so I had to protect my emotional safety and learned to depend on my own self-soothing.
However, those skills do not translate well when developing and maintaining healthy relationships.
I’ve always known I wasn’t good at dealing with and sharing the wide gambit of feelings I experienced. So, when my wife and I agreed to reconcile with the proper professional help, we looked, again, for an EFT specialist.
The three days of intensive EFT therapy was a great stepping stone that helped both my wife and I see our patterns. Most of those patterns were great survival techniques in the households we grew up in; though, they were unhealthy in the household we were sharing.
We were given the task to read Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight.  It gave us the language to use in our therapy sessions. I highly recommend the book for anybody in a relationship. It is specific to couples but it can help people see the dynamics in the relationships they have with anybody in their lives.
In sessions, my wife and I expressed our fears to each other. Our therapist had us slow down, listen, and interpret our partner’s behaviors. We learned the different types of dialogues we had with each other.
Our dialogues stemmed from unhealthy, scary places within us because we were protecting ourselves from the unhealthy, scary things we were showing each other.
Knowing our fears and where they come from is so helpful. Speaking our fears out loud allowed our therapist to interpret for us the meaning of those fears. And allowed us to enlighten each other and ourselves.
Our primary dialogue pattern with each other, according to the book, is the Protest Polka.  This dance is based on my wife asking for closeness and connection. Though, it was being asked in such a way that I misinterpreted as anger or sadness at me. Someone’s anger and sadness towards me causes me to withdraw or try to “fix” it. My wife interpreted that as me pulling away from her or dismissing what she was experiencing.  That triggered in her the fear of abandonment. Her reaction was to intensify the anger. I interpreted that as me not being able to do anything right, which triggered my fear of rejection.
I understand now that her anger was fear that I was distancing myself from her when she needed me for closeness and comfort.  She understands now that my distancing was my fear that I could not be enough of what she needed.
This simple discovery to our unhealthy patterns is not so simple to change. Though, we want to change it. So many hidden fears, big and small, direct our decision making.
I’ve written about fear based decisions on my blog, but I didn’t truly fathom the depths of the emotional ties to those fears.
I like to take a more cognitive behavioral approach to things.  Unfortunately, that leaves out truly knowing my emotional motivation to do or not do something.
I know I cannot think myself out of making fear based decisions because they are tied to my emotions like the blood supply to a tumor. The body feeds the tumor and the tumor becomes entwined in the tissue of the body.
My emotions feed the fears, which have become entwined in why I make decisions.
In our sessions, my wife and I did learn a healthier pattern of communicating our thoughts and feelings to each other. It feels foreign and I am still uncertain how to initiate that healthier pattern.
It has only been three days since we ended the three day therapy session, so I have to give myself time.
We want connection with each other. We want closeness.  The first step is asking for those things we want.  Even when we are most afraid to.
Nate

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