A short story about how EMDR feels during marriage counseling

Jul 21, 2015 | EMDR, Relationships

Passion, Distraction, and Relationship Repair: A Short Story

A couple sits in my office during a marriage therapy session, both partners furious with each other, helpless, unable to budge, contemplating separation. The issue: Do you love me enough to _____? One says, “I need to know you’ll stand up for me.” The other says, “I need you to trust that I love you.”

“But how do I know you love me if you allow your friends to trash talk me?”

“I have no control over my friends. But I love you.”

“But it doesn’t feel like love when you won’t defend my honor.”

“What good would it do?”

“It would set the record straight!”

“But Honey, there’s no record. I love you. They’re jerks. It doesn’t matter.”

“It does to me.”

They sit facing each other, one with arms folded across chest – the other leaning forward, in tears. Then, suddenly, laughter, out of nowhere.


“You’re making that face – sorry.”

“What face?”

“The one you make when you know I’m right but you don’t want to admit it.”

More laughter.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“That one – there! It’s really cute.”

“I’m not making a face” (suppressing a smile).

“Okay, but the issue is…….” (lost thread, stumbling to regain position).

“The issue is you think I think you’re right and I won’t admit it” (suppressing laughter).

“Yes” (more laughter).

“Well, you’re wearing two different socks.”

“I am not!”

“Okay, I must be colorblind.”

Both partners lean over and examine the socks.

“OMG!” Both partners laugh, their eyes watering. One reaches out an index finger to the other and the other responds with their index finger and the two sit like that, touching fingertips, for several seconds.

At this moment, the problem shrinks to the background. Humor supplants it.

The next week, I meet with one of the partners who says, “We haven’t solved anything! I still don’t feel respected or protected!” My client squirms – breathing hard and shallow breaths.

We do some EMDR to target the awful feeling and the belief, “I’m not worth it.” My client’s breath slows and evens.

I say, “How’s your gardening?”

“It’s good. But I haven’t been out there much this week.”

“What needs doing out there?”

“I’m dying to plant sunflowers. I have three kinds of seeds.”

“I LOVE sunflowers! Wish I could grow them.”

“Oh, you can! It’s not that hard, you just have to know the secrets.”

“Ooooohhh, like what?”

“Like the right kind of fertilizer. Composted manure and a granular, slow-release fertilizer. Something organic.”

“I must write this down!” I grab a notebook.

“Yeah, and you have to thin the seedlings.”

I write furiously. “So, I know you want something different with Tom.” I get out my iPad and pull up images of sunflowers.

“Yeah. But I know he’s trying.”

I share the yellow giants on my iPad.

“Look at these…..So, you know he wants to be closer.”

“Yeah. He has a good heart.”

I say, “Go with that,” and we do some EMDR to tap in the loveliness of sunflowers and a lover’s good heart.

Some kind of alchemy takes over the whole situation. My client breathes deeply, scrolls through the fields of green and gold, goes home to the garden, looks at things differently, has great sex after a long hiatus. Things grow out back. The air smells like late spring. A paradigm shifts. And we all live happily ever-after.

For more about how EMDR and marriage counseling can improve communication, check out these posts:



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