“You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”– Barbara De Angelis
Relationships are complex. Whenever two separate individuals choose to spend a significant amount of time together and share living space, there are bound to be some differences. While in a healthy relationship, most issues can be resolved without major disruption to daily life, there is one question that always needs a ‘yes’ answer. When this one question is answered with a ‘no’ small differences become big issues. What is this big question? Are you there for me? Dr. Sue Johnson developed Emotion Focused Couple Therapy and came up with this powerful question. She uses the acronym A.R.E. to focus couples on the three components that are critical for emotional responsiveness. ‘A’ stands for Accessibility. Can the partners reach each other? When they are accessible they stay open to each other, even when struggling to connect. ‘R’ is for Responsiveness. Can the partners rely on getting an emotional response. Are they tuned into each other? Are they picking up on each others emotional signals and providing comfort to their partner? The ‘E’ is Engagement. Do the partners engage each other and give each other their attention?
In our day to day life it is easy to get side tracked. It is easy to focus on the kids, cooking, cleaning or work, while missing opportunities for connection with our partner. There is no denying that most couples are busy. I often hear that they just don’t have time to focus on each other. The relationship becomes the last thing on the priority list and most days it never gets checked off. One of the things I discuss is that feeling connected and knowing that your partner is there for you, happens mostly in small moments. It can be a knowing glance or a smile. It can be just a few words of support or a question about their day. While often, these small moments are taken for granted, they are important for developing connection. Each little moment is like a stitch in a quilt. The more stitches, the more securely fastened the fabric is. When we miss little moments we start to fall apart. How many small moments can you make today?