Couples Counseling Articles

The A.R.E. Trilogy: Accessible. Responsive. Engaged.

Lasting love (attraction, affection, communication, intimacy etc.) isn’t about just one thing. It’s really about three.

Accessibility: Accessibility is simply ‘Are you available?’ Can your partner reach you even when you’re upset or feeling insecure. When you start to spin, can you make sense of your emotions? Can you express yourself and share in ways that don’t blame, accuse or hold your partner responsible for the spin you’re in? When you’re spinning, you’re disconnected from yourself AND your partner.. If the spin stops, you can determine what’s going on inside. You can reconnect and tune in.

Responsiveness: Responsiveness is more complex and harder to pull off. It means your partner can count on you to respond. You get to let your partner know that what’s going on in their world matters to you. Because, when your spin effects him/her, your partner probably goes into what I call their ‘Uh. Oh. Zone’. (“Uh. Oh. Is she/he’s mad at me? Did I do something wrong? Did she/he have a bad day at the office? Did she/he have a car accident? What’s going on?!” Alarms go off and….sometimes it’s hard for your partner to figure out what’s happening……S/he might think, ‘I have to fix something but I’m not sure what it is …. I just want everything to be OK.’ ) If you’re accessible and responsive, you can tune into each other, you can comfort and support each other…..solve problems together. You can engage.

Engagement: This is the hardest part of all. I think it’s because the kind of engagement and tenderness everyone wants only happens when both people show up and share in ways that pull the Beloved close. Each person is responsible for the energy they bring to the table. You cannot go mute, pull away, turn away, leave, yell, shut down or pout and expect that very special kind of engagement you’re looking for. It doesn’t work that way. Engagement is about leaning in and being involved in ways that allow the other person to come close.

Most folks reading this are smart enough to speak volumes about connection and engagement. We all realize couples can buy books, listen to podcasts, make promises, negotiate a truce and schedule fabulous date nights…..yet still be emotionally disengaged.

As a full partner in an intimate relationship, the secret is figuring out which part of the A.R.E. Trilogy you need the most help with and then….. you have to reach out and ask.