The answer is very simple...
You cannot "fix" your wife.
- "OK, that's why I'm coming to you. You're the therapist here. Think of something!"
Listen, man, I cannot "fix" my own wife, let alone yours.
The reason is, that neither my wife nor yours, are "fixable". And not because they're too far gone. No. It's just that I'm not an object to be fixed, and neither is she.
Instead, couples therapy can help you both create a closer, more loving bond with each other. This is the foundation upon which everything else will look different: your conversations with each other, the way you experience each other's words and gestures, even your fights will get better. They won't knock you both off your emotional equilibrium for a week. Maybe just for a short while.
Sounds like utopia? Not sure you can believe me? That's understandable. If you've been used to your way of doing things for such a long time, it's hard to imagine anything different.
But I've seen the magic happen time and again and it's very real. Rock-solid-scientifically-based real. Check out my previous post on the research in the field which has boomed in the last 20 years.
So, what exactly is a "secure emotional bond" and why do we all desperately need it?
According to Dr. Sue Johnson, one of the developers of the EFT model of couples therapy (see more here), we need to view marital relationships as emotional attachment bonds, similar to the strong bonds created between a baby and her parents.
This theory has now been validated by a lot of research over the last two decades. What it shows is that we need another human being to regulate our emotions. Someone we can depend on to be there for us when we are faced with stress, to calm and soothe us. To be able to go through life's hardships and survive.
We need this when we are vulnerable babies and kids. We have known that now for decades. But later research has shown that as adults we need it as well, and my partner can become that person for me, just like my parents were!
This kind of idea runs in the face of more traditional psychological wisdom that has mostly focused on our need to separate and individuate. Individuation underlies our western culture, with increasing individuality being cheered on nowadays more than ever.
Don't get me wrong. Of course, we need to separate, individuate, and differentiate ourselves from our parents, family, friends, etc. That's a healthy part of developing our sense of self.
However, this idea, that every person should reach a point where he or she is completely self-sufficient without the need to – God forbid – depend on others, is now reaching it's devastating limits.
People are becoming ever lonelier because of it. Loneliness is a pandemic no less bad than COVID-19, as according to research increasing percentages of the population are suffering from loneliness. Including married people. And it is leading to very real illness and death.
Yes, here in Israel things are not as bad in that sense. We are more family and community-oriented. But we are still part of western society and certainly affected by this wave of loneliness because of individualism.
Bottom line: what we need today more than ever is to wake up and realize that we've gone too far. That couple-hood, family, community, and a sense of being "a part of", are an emotional lifeline for us as humans.
Our brains are wired for connection with others and we simply cannot survive if we become too self-reliant and self-sufficient and independent.
And at the core of healthy dependence, is our marital relationship. When it works well, our marriage can be an immense source of emotional strength and wellbeing. This is the bond we must strive for like our life depends on it, because… in fact, our life really depends on it!
But how do I even begin to get there when everything seems to be falling apart in my relationship?
Stay tuned for my next post, I'll promise to answer your question there!