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Embodied Couples Therapy: Case Study & Story

Updated: May 11

You both want connection, but there’s something in between you, pushing you apart. A silent, pervasive something. 


That something is residual trauma - tucked into body memory and cells. It's no one's fault, and it is the underlying reason relationships end.


Couples often seek "better communication" in this case, but communication is cognitive, and trauma is not. Trauma is body-based. This is why my approach is completely different.


I'm here to tell you, you can get through this, and find understanding and connection again. Some of my clients find better connection than they've ever had - even after decades of being in relationship.



CASE STUDY: SHE MOVES FROM SHUT DOWN TO OPENNESS.


Yesterday in a session with a couple, I knew that the woman had done a lot of body-based trauma therapy, and that her husband had not. This is pretty common.


She was angry with him, and they were in a typical stand-still in communication.


I asked her to go into a body-awareness exercise with me where we took her statement, “I feel really angry” and tracked it as bodily sensations. I asked her to stay with me as we went “in” to the inner landscape of her body to allow the body to communicate what the sensations of “anger” were for her in that moment. If my clients don't have this prior ability, I teach it.


We did this in front of him.


In that moment, we didn’t need the word “angry,” it did no good. We needed the felt sensations, and as she tracked them, they included rapid breath, heat in the chest, tightness in the throat, constriction in the stomach, and an upward / rising feeling overall, like everything was about to spin out of control. 


Why was she “angry?” She was waiting for him to initiate. Why wasn’t he initiating? Fear of rejection. This was their trauma-loop keeping them from connection.


And we could talk about anger, emotions, shame, and fear of rejection all day long, but after she and I did the exercise and I looked at him, I saw his eyes and his mouth were both wide open. 


“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “I knew she was angry but I didn’t know what was involved.” Many things came up for him, including his own thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. He also felt a great deal of compassion for her that her body was experiencing that. And when he felt the compassion, he was able to stay present to the situation, whereas normally the fear of being a disappointment would have led him to flee in the other direction. 


Compassion is nearly always a result of this work.


When he could stay, express empathy, and witness her, the next question I posed to her was, “Would you be willing to be with the sensations of something you expressed earlier?"

She said she was.


"You said you desired for him to initiate more of the presence practices with you during the week," I said, “Would you be willing to track and communicate the sensations in your body when you imagine him initiating and coming to you, taking the lead?” 


She tuned into her body and reported that her breath was calm in her chest. She slowed down and was surprised to find that there was an opening in her heart. She described it like clouds parting in her chest and her face was smiling when she opened her eyes. 


“There’s hope,” he said. He knew that the sensations she communicated indicated hope. 


This couple had been in significant conflict for a long time.


All of this was new information for them both. They hadn’t been able to find these words or this understanding before, or even get past the anger and disconnection to know this was underneath. This is embodied couples therapy - which is actually so much better than therapy.



THE ROLE OF RESIDUAL TRAUMA IN RELATIONSHIPS:


A woman’s body is holding the patterns of everything that came before this moment, unless and until she does the trauma-healing work to clear them, and even then, the tendrils of this run very deep. 


I find it very surprising how little men understand what women have collectively gone through and how this impacts our nervous systems. Circumstances women frequently experience - like body shaming, sexual abuse, childhood abuse, and being taken for granted by men - all impact her body and nervous system in intimate situations and relationships with men. 


Every male client I have learns something about the tender nature of his partner's body that is impacted by residual trauma, and perhaps she's been ignoring it with him for years and he never had any idea.


So if you are a man who wants access to a woman’s body, or other resources of hers like her time and attention, it would be wonderful for you to compassionately take the time to understand what her body needs you to know. Because I promise you that the more she ignores and overrides her body’s signals to slow down, stop, just cuddle, have sex if she’s not exactly into it, etc, the more the underlying problems are going to build up and implode. 


True presence with her body is the way through to restored and deeper connection. 


This is the silent divide between so many couples - the unacknowledged trauma in the nervous system. It will impact intimacy, sex and connection on all levels. Of course, men and women both have experienced trauma and messages to ignore the body’s true signals, so this goes both ways. 



THIS COULD BE JUST THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL CONNECTION.


You can learn to notice your body sensations in the present moment, which is not the same thing as talking about your emotions or analyzing what’s happening, and as you and your partner learn to do this, intimacy and connection can increase. And maybe the best part, residual trauma can also heal and leave the body for good. 


You and your partner have the potential to heal with one another in a really awesome, really transformative way that isn’t codependent and doesn’t require emotional language. And men, when you are embodied in your presence, you will watch your woman’s body respond to you. I promise. 



Sarah Poet, M.Ed is many things, including a trauma-informed couples coach, masculine/feminine energy expert, and connection guide. She has developed her couples coaching methodologies based in personal and professional experience, has a course and live couples sessions available, and is a guest speaker for men's and women's groups.

Visit https://www.sarahpoet.com/consciousrelating and reach out with any questions.



couple in connection
Learn to presence with one another's bodies for deeper connection.




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