Rescue Your Relationship

Have you ever thought about it?  Julia Roberts on the fire escape.  Richard Gere, with his wonderful line “I’m here to rescue you. She replies with the rather insightful “I’ll rescue you right back” The scene rivets love, hope, sex and fantasy…the making of a classic movie moment and is the heart of what many of us want; “ the whole package”.

 I’m of a very curious mind, a relationship scientist so to speak.  I walked in the fog for many years; not knowing that I didn’t know.  Know what?  The first level of learning is that unconsciousness part.  Walking like a zombie?   All of us are familiar with this state of mind whether we know it or not. Our actions may mystify us.  “Why did I do that?” And now what?  Most of our behaviors have their roots in our genetics and in our experiences.  The emotion of love is complicated and worth understanding.  The lure of that whole “happily ever after package” is powerful thanks to DNA and our culture.  We have desires from the beginning of our life to connect and feel safe in a relationship.  .  Suddenly  (puberty) something happens (hormones) and our focus is rewired.  It’s amazing neurologically.  That’s where an interest in neuroscience comes in handy.  I have seen scans of the brain in love – is it really true that it mimics the brain high on cocaine?  Yes.

Nature has a mind of its own so to speak.  But what most of us want is that feeling of being loved and accepted (bonding) with the excitement of stimulation both physical and mental.  When our relationships fail to measure up to our expectations we start to act out or have symptoms such as feeling unhappy, irritable, lower interest in sensuality  (combination of affection and touch) addictions of any sort, and shutting down from interactions (more screen time) and less communication.  Emotions such as resentment, defensiveness and frustration can quickly erode through the couple.  Without corrective action the relationship will fail whether or not they stay together.  Statistics from the US Bureau of Statistics report a 50% survival rate and 25% that don’t divorce report significant dissatisfaction.  60% of remarriages with or without children end in divorce and 73% of 3rd marriages fail.  Those that remarried had a 50% greater chance of divorce than those without.  So says the reports.

Does your relationship need a rescue?
Do you have feelings of resentment that last longer than a few seconds?  That is said because resentment can be triggered by many things not related to our current relationship.  Sometimes it takes a few seconds to sort that out.
Are you feeling sad about your relationship that sometimes results in drinking/eating/gambling/anything like that too much?
Are you frequently puzzled that your relationship hasn’t reached your expectations?

Is it possible to Rescue your relationship?
Do you want to?
Do you really want to?
Ok, there is intention.  That is a big part of the rescue.
Next step.  Inventory your relationship.  Most couples I see in therapy want to know how where they stand – how healthy their relationship is.  There are excellent resources out there to help.  Sue Johnson in her recent book Hold Me Tight looks at 3 things:

  1. How accessible is my partner?
  2. How responsive to me is my partner?
  3. How emotionally connected to I feel to my partner?

All are vital to meet human emotional needs.  These are vital signs of relationship success.

Relationship coaching – Changing behaviors means changing your brain

If you’ve decided that your relationship is worth it, change is the key word.  Tell that to your muscles when the decision is made to “get in shape”.  I recently worked with a personal trainer to challenge the scientific discovery that our brain is plastic and can be rewired.  My middle aged mind had my body convinced of it was let’s just say “not very strong” and prone to numerous aches and pains; that it was risky at my age to push it. (Build muscle)  After 10 weeks of “careful” ignoring of my brain’s worries and alarms and good physical form from my coach I have unlearned and learned new, more adaptive ways to live.  The freedom from these old chains is priceless and the experience proved to me the brain can change both psychologically and physically. Like physical bodies, our relationships too can be re-designed.   Relationship coaching can be an excellent way to re-create your relationship.  Finding a therapist to assist you in this process is sometimes the way to go. 

The rescue is a decision.  The recovery is the assessment, communication and emotional skill building stage, the unlearning and re-learning.  Through this process comes a renewed relationship and commitment to each other.    Imagine this kind of energy fueling your relationship.  Passion is natural in this relationship. Imagine this kind of energy fueling the world. (I had to say it)   Imagine your relationship and turn “just hoping things will change on their own” to “With intention, change happens.”  


November 2008
Stadter Psychiatric Center, Grand Forks, ND     Seminar on Attachment Theory and Emotional Focused Therapy.  This was a  2 hour presentation with Zelko Leon MD, Psychiatrist at Meritcare Hospital, Fargo,  ND.


March, 2009
Grand Rounds, Fargo, ND   Lecture on Attachment Theory and Emotional Focused Therapy with Zelko Leon, MD


May, 2009 
NASW Spring Conference:  Social Work:Purpose and Possibility;  Presentation on Attachment Theory and Close Relationships  with Zelko Leon, MD


About Attachment Theory and Couple Relationships:
These presentations focused  on the impact of our early experiences/emotional attachments to our primary caretakers and how they  influence our choices in the types of relationships we seek out to meet our emotional and physical needs.  Extensive research has been done over the last 20 years examining the issues related to why marital/couple relationships fail.  Healthy relationships enhance our well being, strengthen immune system,  provide emotional safety and sense of creativity and play that is often lost in the unhappy relationship.  The blend of knowledge and communication skills is a powerful combination.  Science and Love – learning ways to “really understand and feel accepted” is possible even in the most troubled relationships.   I present research completed by Sue Johnson PHD and reference her new book, Hold Me Tight.     Dr. Leon examines the science and history of love and attachment in a format that is understandable and thought provoking.


Interested in hosting seminar?
Tina Johnson and Dr. Leon are available for workshop/presentations on this subject matter in addition to other topics:
  • Depression/Bipolar Depression
  • Anxiety and Stress
  • Relationships and Mindful Living