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Blue Mountains
Blue Mountains

Communication and Emotional Impasses

Couple facing away from each other fighting

Couples typically get stuck in three basic patterns of communication and emotional impasses when they can't safely connect to their partner.  Sue Johnson, creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples, calls these patterns Demon Dialogues.  In Find the Bad Guy, both partners are in an atack/attack mode.  This is "a dead end pattern of mutual blame that effectively keeps a couple miles apart" making it impossible to reestablish a warm connection.  Couples can't keep this up for very long before shifting into Protest Poker.  This is a classic pattern of pursue/withdraw. The more anxious partner's attempts to get understanding/validation/reassurance are met with a withdrawing respose by the other.  This pattern intensifies each partner's response causing great emotional distress and distance. In this pattern, one partner is critical and demanding and other other busy defending and withdrawing.  Protest Poker is called that because underneath all the anger and protests are the hidden cries for emotional connection. It is a protest of the loss of loving contactAt this painful point, in order to survive in the relationship, the couple disengages emotionally. They are in Freeze and Flee. The relationship is no longer a safe place to talk about needs and feelings especially hurt and fear.  Each partner is burnt out, distant and numb.

Issues that Cause Relational Conflict and Insecurity

  • Lack of attention, affection and intimacy
  • Broken promises and disappointment
  • Lack of openness/transparency
  • Addictions (drugs and alcohol, gambling, shopping,  internet, sexual and pornography)
  • Infidelity/Affairs
  • Betrayal and lying
  • Threats of separation/divorce
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