Q: My fiancé and I are going to have a couples counseling session on the 9th of august but he has abandonment issues with me, due to our past of me leaving when things got to be difficult and I’d shut down. How can I reassure him with action that I’m in this for the long run?
A: Thanks for reaching out and we’re so glad you’re starting couples counseling! Your consistent attendance in counseling is a great start to showing your commitment, but here are some other thoughts.
First, you will want to nonjudgmentally explore what causes you to leave when things get tough so that the pattern doesn’t repeat. This is something you will likely process in couples counseling with your therapist, in the presence of your partner, and you’ll find skills that will help prevent this from happening in the future.
Secondly, you might consider having a regularly scheduled “state of the relationship” meeting, where the two of you check in with each other on how things are going, issues that have come up recently, or just to connect in ways that feel good to you.
Also, being able to listen to and validate your partner’s thoughts and feelings will create a sense of emotional safety that communicates that you’re there for him. Validating means acknowledging what he’s saying or feeling, even with a simple response like, “I know you’re having a hard time right now, and I’m here for you.”
You can always directly ask him what he needs from you in order to start feeling reassured. Try to be consistent and patient, because rebuilding trust doesn’t happen overnight — it can take at least 8-12 sessions on average to start feeling positive changes from therapy.
We hope this helps!
Emily Simonian, M.A., LMFT