In the book, Hold Me Tight, one that I highly recommend for couples that are struggling with maintaining a loving relationship, Sue Johnson, the founder of EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) describes couples' "Demon Dialogues". They are Find the Bad Guy or the blame game where couples place fault for problems on each other rather than owning their respective responsibility. The second one she names Protest Polka or pursue-withdraw where one partner is feeling an unsafe disconnection from their mate and is noisily pursuing reassurance while the other feels just as unsafe but is pulling away. The final demon dialogue is the most debilitating and the one that couples are most often stuck in when seeking marriage counseling. It is Freeze and Flee or withdraw-withdraw where both partners have put their emotions in a self protective deep freeze. John Gottman, an eminent marital researcher refers to this as "stonewalling", where the other partner is emotionally "walled out".
Almost all couples experience episodes of demon dialogues. Ever since Adam blamed God and Eve for his eating of the apple, deflecting personal responsibility and blaming someone else is a reliable ploy. Protesting, even angrily, is a normal response to feeling disconnected from the one you love. We need emotional security and it comes in the form of our intimate other. The "protest" in Protest Polka is also referred to as "anger of hope" because we hope someone will hear us and respond. When we are hurt and feel misunderstood it is not unusual to pull away and lick our wounds. It becomes critical when we stay emotionally closed and sealed believing our partner is like an enemy. Most couples are able to recognize what is going on and pull back from totally disconnecting, especially when it begins to threaten the marital bond. If the Freeze and Flee pattern continues, divorce is usually not far away.
How safe and responsive is your mate or loved one? Maybe you do not even think about your relationship is these terms but you should. When we make ourselves vulnerable to someone in the name of love we expose our being or heart to the pain of rejection. Every one of us asks the fundamental human question "Am I loved". The answer determines much of the course of our life, especially our relationships.
There are two basic responses to threats to our emotional vulnerable selves. One is to avoid emotional engagement; the other is to anxiously demand safe attachment. We have either made a decision to stay away from emotional connection or we are critically demanding it. These "Demon Dialogues" are born out of threats to our emotional well being and once that threat is communicated, we need to drop the demon in dialogue. And it is amazing what happens when we learn to recognize our "demons" and let them go. Which demon are you most likely to participate in?
We all long for connection and safe place where love is real. Do you believe that? If you are asking the basic question "Am I loved?" don't you think your partner is too? We all need the same thing when it comes to relationships and the power of believing that and acting as if it is true is amazing. A friend of mine that has great wisdom once said to someone who was complaining about how unwilling people in her life were to be vulnerable and close, that if she became safe for others they will be safe with her. How true this is.