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But sometimes, I suddenly become so raw and vulnerable that the universe instantly narrows down into what feels like a life and death struggle. I react harshly to create some sense of control, to limit my helplessness. All my husband sees is my hostility. Then we press the mental rewind button and replay the incident. They feel the ground shaking sooner and they are able to escape it faster.

They develop confidence in their ability to take charge of moments of disconnection and so shape their most precious relationship. It will take a while though before most couples develop the abbreviated, almost shorthand, de-escalation language of Auntie Doris and Uncle Sid. Kerrie and Sal provide a detailed example of the ins and out of the de-escalation process. They have tried negotiating about this but deals get made and broken. They have been sniping at each other for about ten minutes in my office.

I ask if this sniping is the usual way they relate to each other. Usually I just stay real calm. I prefer politeness. And I go off into my head when he does his aggressive thing.

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But just recently I have felt more and more cornered, so I just come out swinging to get him to back off for a while. They agree.

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Sal, an articulate corporate lawyer with a touch of gray at his temples, launches into a diatribe about how deprived he is in this marriage. He is offered no affection, attention, or sex. He is not listened to. He is mad and he is entitled to be mad. Kerrie raises her eyes to heaven, crosses her legs and begins to wave her red high-heeled clad foot up and down.

I point out how the pattern is occurring right here. He is getting mad and demanding attention. Kerrie breaks the tension here, openly laughing as she recognizes her own strategy. Kerrie of course hears only that she is the problem and must work to fix her deficiencies. The tension returns. We talk a little about attachment and love and how our primal programming dictates that when Sal feels disconnected, he will aggressively reach for Kerrie, and she, seeing only his anger, will defensively withdraw to try to calm herself and the relationship.

Each began to fit their fights, rifts and everyday hurts into this pattern. But there was something missing. It is clear that Kerrie sees Sal through a narrow prism of distrust. She does not really understand the impact her distancing has on him in the here and now and how it pulls him into their cycle.

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Okay, so there is this wired-in need for contact and I can be kind of cool, that is my style. But I have been a pretty good wife to you.

This is a real issue with us. It comes up all the time. Sal starts into an elaborate set of points about how he is not really so demanding. Kerrie is off in some other world before he finishes his first rational sentence. We need to change level of dialogue here and get a little more emotional engagement.

I ask him if he remembers how he feels, waiting for Kerrie to come to bed. He takes a moment and then retorts. Wondering if and when she is going to deign to turn up! You sound angry but there is a bitterness here behind the sarcasm. What does it feel like to be waiting for her, feeling that she does not care how long you wait or may not come at all?

After a long silence, he answers. So I turn it into straight anger. But what does it feel like to be waiting? Kerrie moves her head back in surprise. She furrows her brow in disbelief. She fits me in the cracks in her busy schedule. We used to always be close before going to sleep. If I try and talk about it, I just get dismissed.

Lying in bed by myself, I go into feeling so unimportant. It feels like I am all by myself here. I remember listening to him talk in the first session about his lonely childhood, mostly spent in expensive boarding schools, while his diplomat parents traveled the world. I remembered him telling me that Kerrie is the only person he has ever felt close to or trusted and that finding her had opened a whole new world for him.

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As I reflect these thoughts and his own words back to him, I legitimize his pain. Then I ask how it feels right now to talk about these difficult feelings of being pushed aside. But you feel hopeless. It is scary for most of us when we are unsure of our connection, when we cannot get the person we love to respond to us. It is scary. She can take her time. And this time when I look at Kerrie, her eyes are wide open. She has leaned forward towards her husband.

I ask her how she is reacting to the things her husband is sharing. You are. You feel alone? I have never ever seen that in you. We talk about how strange it is for her to hear about how her being less accessible impacts him and that he now lives in a world where he misses her and is scared that he has lost his place with her. Kerrie looks like she is struggling here. Her husband is not the man she thought he was. That it mattered to you so much that I come to bed. When we fight it sounds like it is all about how you want more sex. I just thought you wanted to be in control.

And then his anger is too much for me and I run away more.

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And then we are stuck. I never got that I had that impact on you. That you might be feeling alone in the dark. Kerrie and Sal are really beginning to see the power they have over each other on an emotional attachment level. He protests her distance. She protests his aggressive ways of trying to connect with her. Sal and Kerrie start to see, in a concrete way, how they hook each other into their negative pattern.

This fabulous book will be of great benefit…to couples trying to find their way to better communication and deeper, more fulfilling ways of being with each other. Harville Hendrix, Ph. Sue Johnson has … created a whole new way of helping couples cope with serious relationship issues that has proven time and time again to be highly successful. Sue Johnson has finally written the indispensable book for every couple in love. Powerful message! Every relationship has a chance to succeed as long as each person is understood and heard.

I would recommend the book to anyone who is trying to build deeper relationships in their lives. I learned a lot by reading this book and have continued to refer back to it when feeling stuck in a bad pattern in a relationship.

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Better than any relationship book. For people who really want to LOVE. Realizing that we are all broken in different places, the author uses other couples dialogue to guide us back together. This book helps in all interpersonal and group relationships. When we can see ourselves clearly, we can then validate others! Give this as a gift to as many people as possible and the world will be a better place. Hold tight to this book. This book may change your life.

A guidebook for every couple. This should be required first reading for every couple in trouble. Maybe even required reading for anyone considering a committed relationship in or out of societally defined marriage. Practical, useful and proven approach for couples. Johnson has at last put words to the latest research into happy marriages for the average person. I read the first few chapters, bought three more copies one for my spouse , and gave the other two to friends who were in stressful moments with their own spouses.

One couple now reads from the book to one another each night, and like I did recommended it to two other couples before they got through the first 3 chapters. The other couple bought a 2nd copy so that they could each have it available to them every day, and are now each avidly reading on their morning commutes.

And rest of the book was even better than the beginning. Readable, useful and timely. If you are in love, but puzzled by it, this book will help you understand the puzzle. If you want to be, now you will know what to look for. And if you are in love, and everything is fine, you will learn how to keep it that way. The writing is for married couples, all manner of couples thinking about marriage or partnership, families and those larger groups in society who care for and tend to one another. The practices and exercises are simple and direct.

Johnson says that these may done without professional help but one cannot help but think that they would be more effective with some objective, trained guidance.

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Johnson gives us the science behind the feeling and then helps us unravel how we get stuck in aloneness and fear. Being in a loving relationship should not feel so separate. Our fast paced, independent and competitive based society leads us into developing entitlement that heightens our sense of being hurt and abandoned. Then self-perpetuating interlocking loops of pursue and defend; demand and withdraw separate us even more from the one we long to feel safe and close to. Thank you Sue Johnson, for publishing the map that guides us through this maze of confused emotions.

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