Archive for April, 2011

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One of my clients complains that it is almost predictable that when she and her husband have had a weekend that has been unusually close and harmonious, he will invariably start a fight or put up walls to push her away. She recalls how wonderfully he surprised her with a phenomenal anniversary staycation. She was so impressed with his efforts, so touched by his many acts of tenderness and affection-indeed, the weekend was full of positive and unforgettable memories. Then, BOOM! He started a fight with her over some trivial issue that neither of them could remember in session. When one thinks about this phenomenon, it seems contradictory that problems would develop right after good times. Yet I hear similar stories frequently in my practice! So what gives?

I believe that safe and secure bonds make for an intimacy that can stand the test of time. One area of unsafety for one partner may set up a mirror opposite area of unsafety for the other partner. For example, I have a married client who is pursuer. She is always going after her partner for “more.” He becomes reactive to her hot pursuit and then distances even more. And herein lies their troublesome sequence, which escalates the second one partner either makes a further move “toward” or the other partner makes a further move “away.” In terms of unsafety, the pursuer has fears of being “left,” of being unimportant, unneeded, and maybe even being abandoned. The distancer has fears of being swallowed up by the relationship demands, feeling incorporated into the being of his wife, and of losing self. He begins to wonder where he stops and she begins. As Harriet Lerner insightfully notes, “Many of our problems…occur when we choose between having a relationship and having a self.”

There is hope for couples who get “stuck” in this unhelpful sequence. To be able to know how to remain, at times, separate from an intimate other while, at other times, remaining connected to an intimate other is, from my theoretical practice perspective, the stuff of healthy relationship dynamics that can stand the test of time. The effort to master this challenging but rewarding relationship dance takes time and a commitment to practicing theory between sessions. Please visit me at my website to learn more about my model of practice and get some free tips just for stopping: Just go to http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com and look around!
I welcome the opportunity to talk to you to see if it makes sense to book an initial appointment to begin a counseling experience!



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“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Emilie Buchwald

“Physical infidielity is the signal, the notice given, that all the [other] infidelities are undermined.” Katherine Ann Porter

“Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant.” Maya Angelou

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde

“Passion might arise unbidden, but love is a discipline.” Julia Alvarez

“A great marriage is not so much about finding the right person as about being the right person.” Marabel Morgan

“Underground issues from one relationship or context invariably fuel fires in another.” Harriet Lerner

“Character-the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s life-is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion

“Blaming mother is just a way to cling to her still.” Nancy Friday

“Happiness is a goal, not a byproduct.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Dr. Cunningham has a private practice in the heart of Mission Valley and offers evening appointments to accommodate working individuals and couples. To learn more about her model of practice, visit her web site at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com or call 619 9906203 for a complimentary phone consultation.

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