Emotionally Focussed Therapy (EFT) is a research-based approach to making relationships bulletproof developed and made famous by Dr. Sue Johnson in her legendary book Hold Me Tight.
EFT focuses on one thing; emotions. As you have likely seen by doing the Couply Attachment Quiz (if you haven’t quickly pop over and do it!) we carry over some our attachment styles from childhood into adulthood.
This means the way we express ourselves can be very different from the way our partner expresses ourselves. You and your partner likely already know this! Some people blow up, others retreat, other’s need time and space, others want to talk it out right away. A core part of Couply is helping us understand how we operate, and assuming that our partners partners operate the same way as us is where the miscommunications begin!
EFT helps couples identify and express their emotions to each other in a safe and supportive environment. It's been shown to be effective in improving relationship satisfaction and reducing relationship distress (Johnson, Makinen, & Millikin, 2001).
Now, what we’re getting into today is ARE. which is a core component of EFT, (yeah Sue loves her three word acronyms) and it's all about creating a strong emotional bond between you and your partner.
A.R.E. stands for Accessibility, Responsiveness, and Engagement. Let's break it down, shall we?
Accessibility: Can I reach you?
You know when you need something from your partner, but they don’t answer? Or you try and talk to them but they’re not listening? It’s upsetting!
That's where Accessibility comes in.
Being accessible means being available and present for your partner. It means putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and giving them your full attention. It means being there for them when they need you, even if it's not 100% convenient.
We see this all the time. Feeling dismissed by your partner is the worst feeling, right?
It can happen in so many ways:
- Your partner being on their phone during your date.
- Not responding to you when you talk to them.
- Not fully being “there” when you’re trying to hang out with them.
- Ignoring you while you’re out at an event.
- Not listening to you properly when you’re trying to get a massage through.
To be accessible, listen to what they have to say and next, we will show them how you're emotionally responsive.
It could end up being the best conversation you've had in a while!
Responsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally?
Responsiveness is all about being there for your partner when they need emotional support. It's about commiserating when things don’t go well and celebrating with you when they do.
When your partner comes to you with a problem, don't just nod your head and say "that sucks." Show them that you're emotionally invested by being empathetic, validating their feelings, and (if needed) offering a helping hand.
For example, let's say your partner is feeling overwhelmed at work. They come home and vent to you about all the stress they're experiencing. Instead of just saying, "well, sounds like you should just work late tonight" try to put yourself in their shoes. Say something like, "That sounds really challenging. This is all ending up on your plate?” Keep asking. If you weren’t raised this way to use emotional responsive, use this short cut;
- Repeat the last sentence they’ve said and add something like; “Tell me more about that.”
- “He always dumps this stuff on your plate last minute? Has this happened before?”
- “They wanted a full refund? What does that mean for your business?”
- “She let her kids eat mud? What do you do in that situation?”
By being responsive to your partner's emotional needs, you are showing them that you care. By showing them you care it shows you're committed. When you show you're committed it relaxes your partner’s whole nervous system and then can relax into you.
All of this strengthens your bond.
Engagement: Do I know you will value me and stay close?
Finally, Engagement is all about showing your partner that you find them sexy, attractive and are in it for the long haul. This is the special stuff. The icing on the cake. The flowers, sexy massages, chocolates.
It's like saying "I choose you" every single day. Engagement is about both partners making an effort to spend quality time together!
For example, let's say you and your partner are planning a trip together. Instead of just booking a hotel and calling it a day, you take some time to plan out a few special activities that you think your partner will enjoy. You booked a local cooking class! Or, maybe you planned a romantic hike, or even you called ahead and booked a buzzy well-reviewed restaurant. By engaging in these shared experiences, you've engaged in creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Need more ideas? In our Couply Valentine’s survey we asked people what they really wanted.
- The majority of the ladies chose romantic weekends away and planned experiences.
- The majority of the gents chose a sexy experience from their partner and romantic weekends away!
By incorporating A.R.E. into your relationship, you'll be well on your way to building a strong emotional connection that will last forever.
So, go forth, and show your partner that you're emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaged.
We hope this helps you! ❤️
Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Hachette Books.
Denton, W. H., Martin, D., & Walter, G. (1999). Attachment, communication patterns, and satisfaction across the life cycle of marriage. Communication Quarterly, 47(3), 290-309.
Rusbult, C. E. (1983). A longitudinal test of the investment model: The development (and deterioration) of satisfaction and commitment in heterosexual involvements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(1), 101-117.