My psychotherapy practice specializes in couples therapy. Most of my clients come to me late in their relationship strife and are looking either for a way to get back to the loving relationship they once had or to have some one tell them that they should split up. I will never tell them to do the latter but I do ask them to check with the state of their emotions and the practicalities of divorce before deciding to take the path of dissolution. I am more interested, however, in helping them work things out and it has been my observation that most of my clients are capable of success if they understand that their problem is not that they aren’t close, as one or both partners will say, but rather, they are TOO close. They are like VELCRO, stuck in their patterns, stuck in their interrupted communication that repeats over and over, a circle or cycle of negativity that they never seem able to break.
If you think of Velcro you understand that you must tear the two sides apart. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly like a bandaid off of a wound. Said in another way, each partner needs to step back and listen to what the other half has to say without interruption, with curiosity, with empathy and without reactivity. Reactive responses are the stalagmites and stalagties of Velcro. They keep a couple stuck in a fight rather than have a full clearing of the air, a completion of the discussion that one party has brought to the other. For example when Mary brought her concern that John was spending too much time on the computer and not enough time with her and the children, he would immediately shout her down that she was a nag who didn’t allow him to have his space. Rather than listen to the unhappiness Mary was voicing, John would interrupt angrily by calling her a name (nag). This fight made them into a VELCRO couple, joined forever in their struggle and negativity. Once Mary was able to approach John and John was able to listen to Mary’s unhappiness and once they were able to find a way to get each of their needs met — John would be mindful of spending time with Mary and the family and Mary would allow John the space to be by himself — the couple was able to disconnect the Velcro and develop a balanced closeness that took into account their individuality and relationship rather than the Velcro closeness they’d been living with.
Do you have an example of being stuck like Velcro to something or someone? Tell us about it at Psych ‘n’ Roll Radio. We’ll be glad to help you pull the Velcro apart and get you unstuck and into a positive feeling of connection without being too close.
One note about the music. Make sure you have a look and listen to “So Far Away.” Baby Boomers especially will light up with joy when they see and hear a young Carol King and a long-haired James Taylor. Enjoy!