A Great Resource for Building a Strong Marriage

| Jeff McKillop |

Originally published in 2008, Dr. Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight is a wonderful resource for any couple looking to improve and enhance their relationship.

Her book and therapy approach is grounded in attachment theory. Attachment theory argues that the need to have a strong emotional bond with another person (a caregiver when we are young and a romantic partner when we are older) is biologically hard-wired and is as important as food or shelter for survival.

Although attachment theory was controversial when it was first developed, it has now become the standard perspective we use to understand human connection. Attachment theory is both simple and powerful.

The core of Dr. Johnson’s approach is reflected in the acronym ARE. ARE stands for accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement. Put another way:

Accessibility: ARE you truly available to listen to me?

Responsiveness: ARE you truly willing to recognize my emotions?

Engagement: ARE you truly focused and value what I am feeling?

In her book, Dr. Johnson provides a comprehensive number of exercises intended to help couples enhance their connection with each other. I strongly recommend her book.

The Red Cross First Aid App: A Great Resource

| Jeff McKillop |

November is CPR awareness month.  A little bit of training and preparedness can go a long way and potentially save lives.

Red Cross CPR and First Aid courses are available everywhere.  The cost is reasonable and the instructors are fabulous.  It’s true you lose one day (or two) of your weekend to complete your training but it is time well invested.

The Canadian Red Cross has also made a great app available to download onto your mobile devices.  It is comprehensive, provides a careful overview of how to help in most emergency situations, and it is free.
CRC First Aid

The Healthy Relationship: 7. I’ll Take Care of You Because You Cannot Figure Things Out for Yourself

| Karen Scarth |

In the last post of this series, we reviewed the relationship rule: “You have to be completely open and honest, and tell me everything. I need to know what you are thinking and feeling at all times.” This rule may create a profound sense of intrusion and emotional control and those who are asked to abide by this rule may feel that they are not entitled to any privacy of thought or emotion.

The next relationship rule we will focus on is:

  • I’ll take care of you. You are fragile/incapable and can’t be expected to figure things out for yourself.

In healthy development, parents assess when their children are ready to take steps towards independence and autonomy. This decision ideally incorporates information about the child’s abilities and readiness as well as the level of risk within a specific situation. The decision can be influenced by the parent’s own fears, knowledge, and emotional needs. If the parent is too cautious and prevents autonomy when the child is ready and able to act with some independence, this can send the message that the parent lacks confidence in the child’s capacities. An unintended consequence is that a child may begin to avoid novel activities or enters them with fear.

For example, this may arise when a child wishes to choose their own clothes for school, ride a bike in their neighbourhood, do a grown up task like baking or yard work, or play with kids outside the family and a parent resists these pushes for independence for too long. A common and familiar pattern in many households occurs when a parent may manage a child’s homework or do projects for a child because that parent fears their child would fail or do poorly otherwise.

Parents who continue to fix, rescue, and solve their child’s problems beyond the time when this is developmentally appropriate may do so for a number of reasons.  It may serve a parent’s emotional desire to be needed and have a sense of purpose. It can provide some distraction from an unhappy marriage or other areas of personal dissatisfaction. In many instances parents do not want to see their children suffer and will do whatever it takes to prevent this.

Fixing problems may also protect a fearful parent from worry. By taking care of the problem a parent can regain their own sense of ease. Unfortunately however the child may then fail to develop the skills and confidence to fix their own problems and instead develop a sense of dependence on others.

This relationship dynamic may follow children into their adult, intimate relationships such that they come to expect to be taken care of or do not see themselves as responsible agents of change in their own lives. This can lead to some dysfunctional relationship patterns in which the now adult child remains passive and unable to make decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. They may develop patterns in which they fail to be personally responsible and instead blame others for their various dissatisfactions.

hand in hand