Demon Dialogues: The Trenches of Marital Combat

July 07, 2009

Demon Dialogues:  The Trenches of Marital Combat 

 Competency # 22 Social Wellness and Friendships Reference: Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson.  

When a baby cries, parental adults who have bonded with that child just cannot resist. They do anything to stop the baby from crying.  They bend over and pick the baby up.   They touch. They soothe.  They reassure.  They hold.  It all stops when we develop language and learn not to cry.  Our language becomes a barrier to the communication of our distress to our loved ones to whom we are bonded.  

That’s the key finding that Sue Johnson discovered as she discovered the dynamics and components of “Emotionally Focused Therapy.”  Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we still don’t need the key components of nurturance that a baby does.  We still ache to be held, reassured, soothed, touched. 

 Dr. Johnson asserts that the arguments we have with our loved ones follow three patterns, all relate to one key simple message.  We need attachment.  We are crying for attention.  And attachment anxiety is the one feeling for which ANY response is better than none at all.  As adults, we don’t cry.  Instead, we put out words to our bonded mates to find a way to get a response.  

Unfortunately, we don’t do it very well.  In fact, we do it backward, to our eternal misery.  The words don’t convey our emotional anxiety. 

 Demon Dialog # 1: “Find the Bad Guy” or finding blame.  One person accuses the other of something bad.  The other attacks back.  The first person defends; the second swoops in for further attack.  Neither is right.  It’s all about attachment.  It’s the whole that is wrong.  Both feel more distant from each other and wonder why the other doesn’t just give in and confess their sins.  Both are losing.  

Dialog # 2: The Protest Polka:  One partner complains about the other’s behavior, language, attitude, a glance...the other withdraws.  The first person complains more; the other gets more withdrawn. The Polka goes faster and faster.  Again, both are losing.  

Dialog #3:  Freeze and Flee.  As one and two get worse, the partners go numb and withdraw.  Breakup is on the way… 

 There is a way out.  It’s the whole process that’s wrong.  We look at the details and miss the whole.  Stand back!  Let your ears hear the call for attachment.  Hear the adult’s cry for affection, for attention, for time, for touch, for tenderness.  Your job is not to attack back or defend, but to catch the Dialog.  Next week:  we’ll share those details.  Meanwhile, order this book.  It will save your marriage, your friendship, your partners.. 

 WWW:  What Will Work for me.  This is just too good.  Sue Johnson is a genius.  I’m reading “Hold Me Tight” twice.  I never knew I was such a good dancer.  I’ve got the Protest Polka down pat.  I could give lessons.  I’m tired of being so expert.  I want to laugh more, hold hands more, listen better, hear the cry…

Column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)