Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan

Secure Attachment and Emotional Safety in Couples Therapy

Becoming More Accessible, Responsive, and Engaged with Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

In your search for a couples therapist, you may have seen mention of EFT or Emotionally Focused Therapy. EFT is a style of therapy that focuses on how you and your partner process and react to emotions in your relationship. It can help you create more emotional safety and a sense of security with your partner.

Today, you will read more about EFT and how it can help you improve your relationship. You will learn why it is important to create secure attachment with your partner and become more accessible, responsive, and engaged in your relationship. Then, you will learn how to start couples therapy. 

Securely Attached

EFT was created by Dr. Sue Johnson, a therapist who suggests that it is normal and healthy for you to yearn for emotional connection and safety with your partner. Think about how parents bond with young children. In Psychology, this is called attachment; if a child can feel safe with their caretaker, they form what is called secure attachment. couples therapy

If you have a secure attachment to your caregiver, you will feel safe to express yourself and explore your world. You will be confident to do these things because you know your caregiver is there for you when you need them. 

Romantic Attachment

In EFT, the same idea is applied to your romantic relationship. If you can create that same feeling of emotional safety and secure attachment with your romantic partner, you will be able to more effectively communicate with each other. You will know that you can express yourself fully and honestly and receive support and warmth from your partner. You can rest assured that your partner will be there for you when things are hard. 

However, this sense of emotional security is not the norm in many romantic relationships. This can be due to many factors, including difficulty connecting with your own caregivers as a child, negative experiences with past partners, and stress. You may relate to this. You might feel stuck and confused about how to move forward and create a sense of safety in your relationship. 

Lack of Connection, Lack of Security

Now, if you don’t have this sense of emotional security in your relationship, you will seek it out. This is where you might notice the arguments and disconnection begin, oddly enough! You might notice that as you seek out this reassurance from your partner, a sort of “dance” begins.

You are both trying to cope with a loss of connection in your partnership. This loss of connection can bring up some big emotions, like anger, frustration, or criticism, to name a few. If you don’t know to watch for these cycles of seeking connection and then reacting, you might start to see negative cycles form in your relationship. You might find yourself saying something like “it just seems like the fights come out of nowhere in this relationship”. These patterns can be hard to spot, and challenging to resolve on your own. (Related article: Creating Emotional Safety by Fixing Marriage Problems). 

Thankfully, things do not  have to stay this way for you and your partner! Secure attachment to your spouse can be cultivated and created. It just takes effort and practice. That’s where EFT comes in. 

Cultivating Connection

So, how do you go about becoming an emotional safe harbor for each other? Throughout the process of EFT, you will both work with your therapist to become more accessible, responsive, and engaged as a partner. Developing each of these characteristics can address some of the common “dances” you might find yourself falling into, and can help create new, lasting connections with your partner. (Related article: What is EFT?)

Let’s talk about what it means to be accessible, responsive, and engaged with your partner:

Accessible- Can I Reach You?couples therapy

If you are accessible in your relationship, you are open to each other and paying attention to your partner. Even if you are struggling to make sense of your own emotions. Ask yourself some of the following: Can your partner reach you? Are you open to connection? Are you listening? (Related article: The Empathetic Partner).  

Responsive- Can I Rely on You?

It’s one thing to be accessible and open to listen to your partner. But what about your responses? Being responsive in your relationship means prioritizing the emotional signals of your partner and responding accordingly. For example, if your partner is sad and crying, a responsive reaction would be to comfort them. This ability to be appropriately emotionally responsive is a powerful tool for building trust and safety in your relationship. Ask yourself: Do you accept how your partner’s emotions influence you? Do you send clear signals of comfort and support to your partner when they need it? 

Engaged- Do I Know You Value Me?

Being engaged in your relationship means to give “the special kind of attention that you only give to a loved one” (Source: Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson). You work to show your partner you are involved and emotionally present. You show them you are attracted to them and you want to be there for them. Ask yourself: Do you seek closeness with your partner? Do you find ways to make them feel loved and seen? couples therapy

Are You There, Are you With Me?

Why is being accessible, responsive, and engaged in your relationship important? The combination of these characteristics can lay the groundwork for the essential emotional safety needed to have secure attachment with your partner. Once you develop these areas of your relationship, you can affirmatively answer the central question of EFT for each other: “Are you there? Are you with me?”. 

Once you establish this foundation of emotional safety, you become more open to your partner’s emotional experiences and perspective. You become more self-aware of your own emotional responses and have more control of your reactions, especially when you are frustrated or overwhelmed in a difficult situation. This self-awareness can help you and your partner break negative cycles in your relationship and improve your bond as a couple

Start Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

If these ideas resonate with you, EFT may be a good fit for you and your partner. In couples therapy, you can work with your counselor to become more emotionally in tune and accessible, responsive, and engaged with your partner. As a result, you can create a more emotionally safe and supportive relationship. 

Start couples therapy in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork, or via Telehealth for anyone in Utah.

Written by Lauren Adkins


Lauren Adkins

Writer for the Center for Couples and Families


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