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Bring Back the Spark: Transform Your Relationship with These 4 Proven Techniques of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is hard. 

Romantic relationships can be hard work. The challenges you face as a couple can even smother the spark of passion that brought you together in the first place. Whether it's the stress of daily life, the challenges of raising a family, or simply the passage of time, many couples find themselves struggling to maintain the emotional connection they once had. 

As research tells us: 

  • Dual-income parents with kids spend the majority of time at home devoted to children and household chores; [1]
  • 67% of wives experience a decline in marital satisfaction after having their first child; [2]
  • Emotionally distant couples separate, on average,14 years after marriage.[3]

If you're looking to reignite the passion in your relationship, you may want to consider the evidence-based techniques of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT) in Seattle with one of Healing Moments EFT Trained Therapists or an EFT Therapist in your area.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is a form of therapy that aims to strengthen the emotional connection between partners. Its primary goal is to foster emotional safety and connection to create a secure relationship for both people in the relationship. EFCT interventions take what is happening between partners and restructures their interactions into more vulnerable and connecting experiences.[4]

Those key moments of deep connection can offer healing! And that’s one of the reasons Healing Moments Counseling uses EFCT. 

There is extensive research showing the effectiveness of EFCT in various settings and with diverse couples, including LGBTQIA+.[5] Here are four proven techniques of EFT that can help you bring back the spark in your relationship:

1. Identify Negative Cycles and Team Up Against Them

One of EFT’s core principles is the idea that negative patterns of interaction can damage a relationship. These “cycles” can include anything from criticizing each other, blaming each other, or avoiding each other altogether. 

As Wiebe et al. note, “The first stage of EFT involves the de-escalation of negative cycle through exploration of unmet attachment needs the fuel the positions each partner takes in the cycle of conflict” (2017).[6] 

By identifying these negative patterns, you can begin to replace them with positive ones that reinforce the emotional connection between you and your partner. 

Instead of getting into the blame game of who is the worst partner, EFCT aims to see how these negative patterns block partners from feeling like a team when they face various challenges. 

For example, Harper and Logan, a dual-income couple with two toddlers, have recurring conflicts about which one of them is not contributing enough to the household. At the beginning of couples therapy, their fights often looked like this:

Harper: You never help out with cleaning up the house. All you do is spend time on your phone.

Logan: I’m dealing with both the kids all the time. They are a lot of work. You never want to help out with getting them to bed. And after they go to bed, I DO help out. I do the dishes or laundry. You never notice what I do.  

Harper: What are you talking about? I’m always helping out with the kids and getting them to bed. All you do is sit on the couch once they are down. Meanwhile, I rarely sit on the couch. I could use that time. 

Logan: That’s so far from the truth and you know it. Screw you.

[Logan leaves the room as Harper follows with more prickly words] 

This couple is caught in a pursue-withdraw pattern, where Harper is pursuing Logan with an attack and then Logan becomes defensive as a result. In their EFCT session, these interactions are slowed down considerably. The couple begins to see how this pattern is keeping them from feeling like a team and navigating these challenging moments in a more connected way. 

Harper and Logan name their pattern “The Overwhelmed Parent.” The next time they find themselves caught in a similar pattern, Harper or Logan simply name the pattern by saying, “The Overwhelmed Parent pattern is here.” To them, that means that they are both at their capacity and are overwhelmed. Instead of blaming each other for not doing enough, they acknowledge the sense of overwhelm within the pattern and connect with one another. As a result, they both report feeling less distress and more connection. 

By teaming up against the pattern of blaming each other, Harper and Logan have de-escalated their conflicts and made it easier to connect over topics that often led to harsh conflict and emotional distancing.  

2.  Focus on Emotions and Vulnerabilities, Not Facts

The office of a couples therapist is often filled with two versions of “facts” regarding a conflict a couple has been unable to resolve. For Harper and Logan, for example, Harper’s “facts” include her sense that Logan doesn’t do enough for the house, while Logan’s “facts” include his sense that Harper doesn’t do enough with the kids.

In debating these details, however, Harper and Logan become stuck in the negative pattern of seeing one another as the problem. But when the couple makes the pattern the problem, the de-escalation creates a space where softer and more vulnerable attachment needs and fears can be shared.[7]

Harper shares how they fear that they are all alone in the relationship and has to do everything themself. This is an experience that started early in childhood in a family of five siblings. When they shared this vulnerability, Logan, rather than putting up a reactive defense, was able to respond with love and reassurance. Harper felt safer and more connected after sharing this, and Logan felt he had a new understanding of Harper and how to be there for them.

3. Build a Secure Emotional Bond

EFCT emphasizes the importance of building a secure emotional bond between partners. A secure bond requires more than just navigating difficult moments together. It involves sharing positive memories, expressing gratitude for one another, and engaging in meaningful activities that you both enjoy.

For example, you might set aside time each week to do something fun together, like taking a dance class or cooking a meal. By creating positive shared experiences like these, you can strengthen the emotional bond between you and your partner and create a sense of shared purpose and intimacy. 

All romantic partners are aware of the ways that having a date night or doing noble activities together can help maintain a stronger connection. EFCT takes it a step further by encouraging partners to turn toward each other in these moments and share vulnerably how they feel. 

On one particular date night, Harper and Logan walked along the Seattle waterfront after a couples therapy session. Logan shared how safe he felt while holding Harper and how Harper made life richer. Harper was moved by this and held Logan closer. On the drive home, Logan later shared how much it meant to spend time together and feel connected.

Logan: “Feeling connected to you makes riding the waves of this sometimes-chaotic life so much easier to overcome. You are so important to me.” 

4. Embrace Repair and Reconnection

Finally, EFCT emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and repair in any relationship. [8] No relationship is perfect, and conflicts are bound to arise.

However, by practicing turning toward the hurt and missed connections with forgiveness and repair, you can help create a sense of trust and safety in your relationship.

From the cradle to the grave, human relationships will create hurt, even when it happens unintentionally. And too often, those moments of hurt and disconnection get amplified by not repairing them. 

But it’s what we do in the aftermath that will make or break the emotional bond we have with one another. 

Even mothers with newborns are not attuned 70% of the time. These mothers still create a secure attachment because when they become aware of the misconnection, they repair it. As Ed Tonick notes in The Power of Discord: Why the Ups and Downs of Relationships are the Secret to Building Intimacy, Resilience, and Trust: 

A baby who experiences typical mismatch and repair develops into a person with an internal voice that says, I can change things. When people move through mismatch to repair over and over again in relationships, whether as infants or adults, they develop agency, defined earlier as a sense that one has control over one’s life and the power to act effectively in the world. They come to new situations with a hopeful feeling, armed with a positive affective core. But when they carry an expectation of perfection, they miss out on the success of moving through a bad moment to a good one, of bumping the boundaries of their own selves against the boundaries of another.

When these moments occur in Harper and Logan’s relationship, they lean toward each other. The hurt partner shares their hurt in a vulnerable way, and the other partner leans in with comfort, reassurance, and action to prevent hurt in the future. This way of repairing strengthens their bond and deepens intimacy. 

If you're looking to bring back the spark in your relationship, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is an evidenced-based path for achieving this. By identifying negative patterns, focusing on emotions and vulnerabilities, building a secure emotional bond, and practicing forgiveness and repair, you can create a more positive, supportive relationship and strengthen the emotional connection between you and your partner. Remember, relationships take work, but with the right techniques and mindset, you can transform your relationship and reignite the passion that brought you together in the first place.

Connect with one of Healing Moments Counseling Couples Therapists in Seattle here or with Kyle, a Couples Therapist in Tampa. 


[1] Campos, B., Graesch, A. P., Repetti, R., Bradbury, T., & Ochs, E. (2009). Opportunity for interaction? A naturalistic observation study of dual-earner families after work and school. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(6), 798–807.

[2] Shapiro, A. F., Gottman, J. M., & Carrère, S. (2000). The baby and the marriage: Identifying factors that buffer against decline in marital satisfaction after the first baby arrives. Journal of Family Psychology, 14(1), 59–70.

[3] Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2002). Generating hypotheses after 14 years of marital followup; Or, how should one speculate? A reply to DeKay, Greeno, and Houck. Family Process41(1), 105–110.

[4] McKinnon, J. M., & Greenberg, L. S. (2017). Vulnerable Emotional Expression In Emotion Focused Couples Therapy: Relating Interactional Processes To Outcome. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy43(2), 198–212.

[5 ]Hardtke, K.,  Armstrong, M. S., & Johnson, S. M. (2010). Emotionally focused couple therapy: A full- treatment model well suited to the specific needs of lesbian couples. Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy 9, 312–326; Allen, R., & Johnson, S. M. (2016). Conceptual and application issues: Emotionally focused therapy with gay male couples. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy: Innovations in Clinical and Educational Interventions, 16, 286–305.

[6] Wiebe, S. A., Johnson, S. M., Lafontaine, M.-F., Burgess Moser, M., Dalgleish, T. L., & Tasca, G. A. (2017). Two-Year Follow-up Outcomes in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: An Investigation of Relationship Satisfaction and Attachment Trajectories. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy43(2), 227–244.

[7] Dalgleish, T. L., Johnson, S. M., Burgess Moser, M., Wiebe, S. A., & Tasca, G. A. (2015). Predicting Key Change Events in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy41(3), 260–275.

[8] Zuccarini, D., Johnson, S. M., Dalgleish, T. L., & Makinen, J. A. (2013). Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples: The Client Change Process and Therapist Interventions. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 39(2), 148–162.

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About Kyle Benson, LMFT

Kyle studies how partners in healthy relationships intentionally –talk to each other, have passionate sex, stay emotionally connected, and more – to uncover the tools and perspectives that make love last. His work has been featured in dozens of major media channels including The Gottman Institute, Business Insider, U.S. News, The Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, and more.

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