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PACT for Couples

If you and your partner are beginning to re-enact, or keep re-enacting the same painful themes in your arguments, or in your patterns of emotional distancing, despite your determination to “do better next time”, there is hope! The very fact that you’ve noticed this pattern and are looking for help means you’ve started to change the course of your relationship.

Why Couples Get Stuck in These Patterns and Why it’s Important to Stop

Partners re-enact their painful themes when, in response to the meaning they make about their partner’s behavior, one partner is consciously or unconsciously reminded of an old emotional wound. This is called being triggered. When we are triggered old defensive patterns are automatically employed. These defensive patterns were formed when we were young (sometimes very young) to minimize the emotional damage we were experiencing then. In developing these defenses we could only call upon the skills and abilities we had available us at the age we were then. They are, by nature, not mature responses, and while they served us when we created them, they don’t anymore. To make things even more challenging, often a triggered partner’s defensive response will remind their partner of their own early wounds, triggering their defensive patterns as well. This creates vicious cycles and explains how two normally rational people, who truly want closeness, are only becoming more angry or distant.

It is critical that you break these cycles because when you re-enact these old patterns together, you are re-injuring and deepening the underlying emotional wounds, strengthening the pattern. Until you learn to break this cycle it will continue to threaten your emotional wellbeing as individuals, and cause you to question whether your relationship is a safe place to be vulnerable. Intimacy suffers and ultimately the relationship is threatened. There is good news! You now have more resources and greater maturity than you did when your defensive patterns were formed. There’s a good chance that you can learn to bypass those painful patterns and instead learn to interact in ways that sooth and heal the underlying wounds.

What PACT and I Have to Offer You

Attachment based couples therapy, such as PACT, can help you 1) learn about your particular emotional wounds and defensive patterns, 2) learn how to avoid re-injuring your own and your partner’s emotional wounds, and 3) begin the process of healing your emotional wounds together. One part of this work is helping you notice and check out the assumptions you’re making in response to your partner’s words, and non-verbal cues. For example, you might come to recognize that “that face” your partner makes reminds you of an expression your Dad (or Mom, or ex, etc.) used to make, but it doesn’t mean the same thing when your partner makes it. With this awareness you can sooth yourself and bypass your automatic defensive pattern. Our inaccurate assumptions and automatic responses can take us on some bumpy and painful detours from what we really want… closeness with our partner. By slowing down and becoming conscious about our assumptions and beliefs, we learn to “read” each other better and to hold our beliefs about our partner’s words, actions and body language with more curiosity. The very type of curiosity that feeds and is essential to intimacy!

This is a great start and we will do this work together, but it’s not enough because as we learn more about how our brains and nervous systems work, we must admit that we cannot always function reasonably and rationally. For example, we now know that once emotional arousal rises to a certain level people are no longer able to access what they’ve learned about themselves or their partners, or to make rational, loving choices. From this hyper aroused state our defenses get triggered. And, if both partners are hyper aroused the old cycle will almost certainly play out. Our PACT based work can help you to notice when you or your partner is headed toward hyperarousal. Then you’ll learn to intervene in this arousal process and bypass the automatic defensive patterns!

With these new skills, and the resulting experiences of deeper sharing, come an increased sense of safety, hope, goodwill, intimacy, and even playfulness. I’d be honored to support you both as you take this next courageous step!

To go to the PACT Institute website and learn more about this approach follow this link, https://thepactinstitute.com/what-is-pact/.

PACT for Co-Parenting Couples

If you are not “a couple” but want to improve your co-parenting relationship, we’ll take a slightly different approach to PACT counseling that can enable you to form and model a healthy, respectful, and supportive parenting relationship for your children. If you are finding it difficult to co-parent civilly, please remember that you cannot make a hurtful jab at your child’s other parent without also injuring your child. They feel the lingering effects of the energetic wounds you inflict on one another, even if they are not in the vicinity when they occur. If you are truly committed to making the welfare of your children your top priority PACT counseling offers a loving way to honor your commitment to your children, and to yourselves, by learning to be truly respectful and compassionate with one another. Bear in mind that your children are much more likely to treat their parents with respect when they see you model respect towards one another. This can save you all tremendous stress and heartache through the years. By learning to co-parent well you all win, especially your children!