A Secret Ingredient that Makes Relationships Thrive

At the core of many fights and underneath all the distress, partners are generally asking each other these questions: Are you there for me? Can I count on you? Do I matter to you? Am I valued and accepted by you? Do you need me, or rely on me?

Dr. Sue Johnson, developer of Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT), says when she discovered, “Marriages aren’t bargains- they are emotional bonds”, and these relationships were primarily about a deep primal need for security and an intimate connection, “It was like a door suddenly opened”.

Dr. Johnson tells us, relationships that become healing agents for each other develop powerful love attachment bonds. These bonds provide a map to guide you through the wilderness of an ailing relationship and then to transform it. Research has shown that having a home as a secure and safe place for you and your partner will have immense benefits. These benefits include stronger immune systems, lessened depression and anxiety, and partners are able to face psychological trauma with more resilience.

Sue Johnson explains the key to long lasting love with the acronym A.R.E. What is A.R.E.?


Can I reach you? Today accessibility has been made easy, but being truly accessible is more about paying attention to each other, than just being in the same room together. When life brings something sad or exciting you are truly interested in your partner’s life. You make them feel seen and important.


When your partner is responsive you can rely on them to not only be there for you but soothe you when life is hard. They can celebrate with you when you have successes and when life brings grief, they know how to comfort you.


When your partner is engaged with you there is an assurance that they value you, and you truly matter. Your partner can express empathy and validate your emotions. Knowing someone is on your side is very calming for the nervous system and you don’t have to fight for your survival.

Here are a few of the A.R.E. questions from the book “Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love”, by Sue Johnson.

From your viewpoint, is your partner accessible to you?

1. I can get my partner’s attention easily. T/F
2. My partner shows that I come first for them. T/F
3. I can share my deepest feelings with them. They will listen. T/F

From your viewpoint, is your partner responsive to you?

1. If I need connection or comfort my partner will be there for me. T/F
2. My partner responds to my signals that I need them to give me space or come close. T/F
3. I find I can lean on my partner when I am anxious or unsure. T/F

Are you positively emotionally engaged with each other?

1. I feel very comfortable being close to and trusting my partner. T/F
2. I can confide in my partner about almost anything. T/F
3. I know that my partner cares about my joys, hurts and fears. T/F

The good news about A.R.E. is couples can repair and move towards each other in their relationship.

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