June 3, 2024

Attachment Theory and Marriage with Dr. Greg Cheney

Episode 51 Photo


Episode Summary

Welcome to a very special episode of The Communicate & Connect Podcast titled “Attachment Theory and Marriage with Dr. Greg Cheney.” Before we dive in, remember to take our ARE quiz based on the brief accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement scale to assess the attachment dynamics in your own relationships.

In this episode, Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky and Dr. Greg Cheney to dive into the fascinating world of Attachment Theory and its impact on marriage, especially within the context of military life. Dr. Cheney brings his unique perspective as a chaplain and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with extensive experience in the military, offering valuable insights into creating secure and connected relationships.

Together, they explore the importance of safe haven and secure base relationships, the challenges faced by military couples, and practical strategies to strengthen emotional bonds. Join us as we unravel the complexities of attachment in relationships and discover how understanding these dynamics can lead to deeper connections and emotional well-being.

Guest Speaker Bio

Dr. Greg Cheney is a Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) in the US Army, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. He is an International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) certified therapist, supervisor, and trainer. He holds master degrees in divinity and counseling. He also holds a doctorate in Counseling and Counselor Education from North Carolina State University. Greg is stationed at Fort Liberty, NC where he is the Director of both the Watters Family Life Center for Counseling & Resiliency and the Family Life Chaplain Training Program. He is in the process of transitioning into retirement from the Army after over 21 years of service. Greg spent years deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan while assigned to airborne infantry and Special Forces units and a career caring for soldiers and their families upon their return. As a therapist and counselor educator, his combat experience informs his work with combat veterans, first responders, and other therapists working to provide exceptional therapy to this community. Greg is passionate about honoring the sacrifice of these heroes and their families. For more information on Greg, visit him at www.DrGregCheney.com and www.ValiantCouplesTherapy.comThe views presented are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or its components. 

Episode Transcript

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:00:01]:
This podcast is sponsored by Communicate and Connect Counseling, where we have a team of therapists who provide individual, couples, and family therapy services, all tailored to meet the needs of military and veteran families. To learn more about our services, visit www.communicateandconnect.com.

You’re listening to Episode 51, Attachment Theory and Marriage with Doctor Greg Cheney.

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Communicate and Connect podcast. I am really excited because we have Doctor Greg Cheney here to talk a lot about military marriage and attachment. And so let me just tell you a little bit about him. Doctor Greg Cheney is a chaplain, lieutenant colonel in the US army, licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical mental health counselor, and an AAMFT approved supervisor. He’s an international center for excellence in Emotionally focused therapy, certified therapist supervisor and trainer. He holds master’s degrees in divinity and counseling and holds a doctorate degree in counseling and counselor education from North Carolina State University. He’s currently stationed at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, where he’s the director of both the Waters Family Life center for Counseling and Resiliency and the Family Life Chaplain training program and is in the process of transitioning into retirement from the army after 21 years of service. He’s spent years deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, well assigned to the airborne infantry and special forces units, and has had a career caring for soldiers and their families upon their return as a therapist and counselor educator. His combat experience informs his work with combat veterans, first responders, and other therapists working to provide exceptional therapy to this community. Greg is passionate about honoring the sacrifice of these heroes and their families. For more information, you can visit his two websites, drgregcheney.com and valiantcouplestherapy.com. And we need to mention that the views presented are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States army, the Department of Defense, or its components. All right, Doctor Greg, thank you for being here.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:02:35]:
Thanks so much for having me. It’s so funny to hear that little blurb at the end. Always. It makes me laugh. The military lawyers always have us say that.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:02:43]:
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. But I think it’s, you know, it’s good for people to know, too, because they might think that. So. Yeah, well, maybe. I know I read your formal spiel, but maybe you could just share a little bit about yourself, I think. Well, maybe I can just tell everybody who’s listening. One of the reasons that I really wanted you on this podcast is because, like in the EFT world of therapists, I think you really are the person who has the most experience working with military and working with military couples and military families. And you also have the lived experience of being in the military yourself. So I’m just really excited for people to hear about your experiences and how you work with military couples and families from this model. But I’m going on anyway. Tell us about you.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:03:48]:
That’s great. Thank you so much. It’s great to be able to talk to you and what a great audience and community that you have here. Just the heroes and their families, and the families are heroes as well, that sacrifice a lot just to be able to do what the nation has them do. And it’s a privilege and an honor to be able to be a part of this, to help relationships that are involved in that whole spiel that we all kind of experience. So, yeah, a little bit about my background. I was a pastor over 21 years ago in the mountains of northern California, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. And then I heard the army needed young pastors that could jump out of planes, live in the woods, and deploy to combat. And I thought, like, hey, you know what? I can do that. And so it just happened. On the morning. On March of 2003, I raised my right hand and was commissioned into the army as a chaplain. And that afternoon, shock and awe started for the initial invasion into Iraq. And so that was a little interesting experience. I remember driving and listening to the news on the radio going, wow, well, here we go. I guess this is real.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:05:04]:

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:05:05]:
So that just led me into a really fast paced experience in the military. For the first ten years and being on active duty, my wife and I, when we first got in, she was pregnant with our youngest. And then we had a one year old and a three year old at the time. And then immediately a few months afterwards, our youngest was born. And then I was deployed to Iraq for a year. And so in the midst of that, just figuring out how to take care of ourselves, but then also I had this immense responsibility of also caring for the folks that were in my unit and what that looked like. And one of the reasons that I chose the army to serve in was because of the way that they organize their chaplains and that they put them at the lowest level. And their job is to be able to do whatever the soldiers are doing in that unit. You know, for me, it was jumping out of planes, going to the field, of course, deploying with them, and then going on foot patrols, convoys, whatever their mission was just to be a part of what they’re doing so that I can build relationships, but then, at the same time, also care for them and actually understand what they’re going through because I was going through the same thing. So that translated over a long time of just going back and forth, all these deployments, transitioning to different units, and realizing just the tremendous responsibility that was given to me to care for these folks. And I realized really quickly that I would needed some more training. And so on my own, I went out to just get more training and how to better do counseling individuals, couples and families. And that led me into the marriage and family therapy world and that sort of thing. But the part that really has impacted me, that informs the way I work with military couples and families in the way I educate counselors who do the same, is that there’s just this great responsibility and understanding of what service members and their spouses go through in these long separations, whether it’s for training, whether it’s for combat, being able to understand personally what that was like for me and at the same time what it was like for me to try to help people in those challenges and actually some very rewarding times as well. And so being able to understand both of those things even in the midst of tragedy, when I experience tragedy, of what it’s like to be shot at or ambushed or targeted by indirect fire, you know, helping our soldiers as they’re wounded, some that unfortunately are heroes that passed on and dealing with that kind of process in the moment, trying to figure out how I manage that for myself, but then also how do I help other people that are managing that for themselves and their families? And I think one of the key things, too, that I really feel strongly about is that our service members, they sacrifice a whole lot. But at the same time, I want to really make sure we’re seeing the spouses and the families that sacrifice on it equally. And sometimes I feel like as a soldier that has deployed a lot, sacrifice perhaps more in certain circumstances because of just the burdens and the things that they carry by themselves when there’s these long separations. So with all that, that’s really challenged me and just given me this immense passion to be able to help individuals, couples and families that are in that, but also educate other counselors to help people that are in that world as well. And so that’s kind of where that, where that brings me today. I was just blessed to, like, halfway through my military career, be offered an opportunity to specialize in marriage and family therapy. And from about the ten year mark on, that’s what I’ve been doing is leaning into that part.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:09:10]:
Yeah, I think that’s so cool that you got to have sort of both. There are so many times where I think pastors, chaplains, they are kind of in the world of counseling, even if it’s not quite the same of providing the emotional support. And I’ve met lots of people, I think, who have. Have done that. I remember when I worked at the, when I worked at the VA, there was a chaplain that I really loved to work with. His big thing was acceptance and commitment therapy, but he was the most well trained person and acceptance and commitment therapy in our entire hospital. And I think it’s so cool when you’ve got chaplains who are also doing counseling or who you’ve kind of got the best of both worlds there.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:10:04]:
Yes. That’s fun.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:10:06]:
Yeah. So I’m thinking, I guess I’m thinking, like, if military couples are listening to this, what would you want them to know about attachment and how that relates to their marriages, but also in the context of military life.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:10:34]:
Sure. One of the reasons why attachment theory and emotionally focused therapy is my main approach is because of this exact thing that you just said that I feel like it fits so well with our lifestyle in the military, because attachment theory, as your audience probably knows, have been listening to all your really good podcasts about this. John Bowley, the originator of it, talks about how there’s relationships that offer a safe haven and a secure base, and military folks really understand what that’s all about, what it’s like to be in a safe haven and what it’s like to be in a secure base. So as we translate that over to what that’s like in a military relationship, what we’re talking about is having a safe haven type of relationship where we can really be a we, where in the context of your relationship, there’s a connection there that brings security. It brings like, hey, I’m understand. I’m understood. I’m safe here. I can relax and I can be connected. And we are a we in this, and then also to have the other part of attachment there. The relationship is also a secure base, and a secure base is a place where we can launch from out into the world and be a me, like a genuinely authentic me, like who I am created and supposed to be internally. And so with both of those together, we can be a we that creates a safe haven in a place where we can feel protected, but then also launch from this secure base out into the world, knowing that I have this relationship that secures me, but I can be out on my own and risk and be authentically who I am, knowing that there’s a safe haven relationship that I can go back to when the world beats us up and things don’t go well, and we can go back to this safe haven relationship. So in the context of the military, where separations and austere environments where we get stationed, even as families, I think that fits really well of being able to understand, like, hey, are we, we’re in the safe haven type of situation right now where we can concentrate on the we and then know, like, hey, wait, we’re launching out into the world now. Whether it’s a training mission, it’s a deployment, it’s some sort of separation. And I can be authentically me knowing that I can still stay connected within my relationship. But that also gives me the context to be able to be the exact person that I’m supposed to be, knowing that I can go back to the safe haven. And what’s really neat about this is, as we over the years have language this for military and army decision makers to help get these programs approved. We don’t really talk about emotionally focused therapy because you get to these folks, especially in the infantry or special forces type worlds. They like, I don’t need my people being all emotional and, but we can talk about what they can understand is a safe haven, secure base type understanding that if the relationship is strong, my service member can be better at their job as a me because they know that there is a safe haven to go back to and they have a secure base relationship. And so when we’re able to language that to military decision makers that help to approve certain trainings or programs, they’re like, wow, that’s exactly what we need, because we just need our service members and our families to be healthy and create a foundation so that the military can do what the nation requires them to do, which is not easy. And so that’s how I feel like attachment theory fits so well with military couples and that it hits us right in the middle of our daily lived experience.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:14:21]:
Yes. Yeah. And I really like your language because I’m thinking of some of, I might steal it because some of the, some of the, I had a couple, just the, like a new couple start where somebody said, like, how are you going to get them emotional? I was like, well, I don’t know that it’s. To get them emotional is the goal, but I like your language of how do we make it really strong so you can feel safe together and can then feel more like you can be yourself in day to day life.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:14:56]:
I also really like the way that Sue Johnson translates what Bowlie talked about there into her are you there for me acronym. Are you accessible? Are you responsive? Are you emotionally engaged with me? And I think that’s just a great question, that we can just promote curiosity about ourselves and then about our partners in a way that helps to create the secure base and safe haven type living, because we can ask that question of ourselves. Am I being that for my partner? And also ask questions of our partner? What do you need from me so I can be accessible and responsive and emotionally engaged to you? What? Just that conversation of curiosity. And I like the way that Sue Johnson language that to get after the same thing that Bowlby did so many years ago.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:15:46]:
Yes. Yeah, we actually. I am. As part of the show notes for this whole series on attachment, I’m using the. The Sandberg, the Bayer assessment. So, like, people can go download that to see, like, how are. Or accessible, responsive and engaged to try to help facilitate that discussion.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:16:09]:
Yeah. What a great tool you’re offering for your listeners to be able to go download that and just kind of get a little. We call the army Nasmyth check or get a little reading on where we are in that. That’s cool.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:16:23]:
Yeah. Thanks. Thanks. I did it in my. I used it in my dissertation research, and then I found, like, I was just like, oh, my gosh, everybody needs this, right? Yeah. But I was. When you were talking, I was thinking about how so often. Well, I think what we’re talking about is the goal of what we want relationships to be and what helps relationships feel really healthy and strong and what helps individuals feel healthy and strong and safe within their relationships and within themselves. I found myself thinking that so often there are times where I hear people say, I don’t feel like I can be really myself or I can’t be myself. Sometimes they say that in their relationship, but then I’ve also heard them say, like, I can’t be myself in the military, but. And then I think, well, you could be yourself with your family.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:17:31]:

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:17:33]:
I was also thinking about this idea of, I can be a me, and I can go. Go off. I’m totally spacing. It’s not a safe. Oh, a secure base. Thank you. A secure base. Because I was thinking for the spouses, too. Like, when I was doing research, and it was focused on military spouses, and I was reading about just, like, the impact of deployment on military spouses. And that seems to be one of the really, really hard. Lots of things are hard, but one of the times where it can, like, if I don’t have that then I’m sort of really struggling extra during those times. This may be hard regardless, but I’m thinking I’ve had lots of couples and individuals where, like, I’ve worked with the military spouse while the partner was deployed, where it didn’t feel that way. You know, it didn’t quite feel like, oh, I can. I’ve got this, and I can be me. And so I guess I’m wondering what, what might you say to people who are really not feeling that right? Yeah.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:18:51]:
What we described is something that sounds really wonderful, doesn’t it? And it is when we experience that, but at the same time, when we don’t experience that, it feels very tragic and it feels so alone and it feels like, wow, what’s wrong with me and what’s going on? We find ourselves in these places where we just feel, like, adrift, I think. Well, the first thing I would say is, you’re not alone in that. I think I can reflect on my own experience and separations where I felt like that in my relationship and my wife has felt that way just because of the way life throws things at us and especially the operational tempo of the military and relationships. We miss each other in relationships. We work really hard at trying to do a good job in relationships, but we find ourselves just at times disconnected and find ourselves misunderstood and just not feeling like we can communicate in a way that people understand what we’re saying, especially our most important relationships. So we find ourselves in those places. And I would just say to your audience that there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re experiencing normal reactions to what happens when you feel disconnected in your relationship. And I’d even add one more additional thing to that with the, what we experience in the military is that, like, the vast majority, like 99, I can’t remember exactly, but it’s over. 99% of our society in America doesn’t understand or doesn’t have this lived experience that we do. And so what we’re experiencing is normal reactions to abnormal circumstances. If you’re separated for a long time, if you’re under a lot of pressure, whether you’re trying to keep things at home going well and your spouse is gone or you’re gone and you’re worried about what’s going on at home or you’re having a tough time, wherever you are training or deployed, the vast majority of our population doesn’t have that lived experience, and you’re having a reaction to what is a normal reaction to an abnormal circumstance. So you’re in good company. So I just want to communicate that you’re not sick. You’re maybe stuck in your relationship, but you’re not sick. There’s nothing wrong. So also, what I would like to throw in there is that when we are experiencing this, this relationship, like what you described, Liz, we’re just not feeling ourselves or connected or resourced. It’s usually due to the fact that we’re using a strategy to try to resolve this situation in our relationship that tends to be, at times, the exact opposite strategy of our partner. And we find ourselves in this dynamic that just breeds a momentum, that breeds more disconnection. And one of the reasons why I like the approach that you and I are both involved in and helping people is that it helps make sense, especially in the context of the military, that we do good things for good reasons, but we just are missing each other. For example, there’s usually one partner in a relationship that when things aren’t going well and they’re feeling like what you described, that I’ve got to fix this and I got to do everything that I can, and they start really leaning in and trying to fight for. I like the word fight. Like, fight for this relationship. Like, I need to really do what I need to do, bring all my competencies to bear to fight for and fix this relationship. And that can feel really empowering. But at the same time, the partner, the other partner sometimes doesn’t have that same strategy, and that feels not so great. And so what’s crazy making is that that kind of fighting for a relationship is actually the thing that makes that individual good at what they do, whether they’re the spouse that’s at home, that’s doing all the things to keep all the stuff going, like taking care of kids, doing all the budget, doing all the meals, working a job, being taxi for everybody to all the places, for all the things. That’s the strategy that helps that person do that really well. Or if you’re the spouse that’s not home, that’s what makes you good at your job in the military, is that you can lean in. You’re a go to person. You know how to fight and fix things. But we go into that, but it ends up happening that our partner, our spouse ends up being the one with an opposite strategy. And so you have one spouse that’s working to protect and fight. I mean, working to fight for, and then you have another spouse that’s working to protect the relationship because that’s kind of their go to move. And so which makes sense in the military context as well. When things get big, feel out of control, feel chaotic. Folks with these strategies tend to turn inward and want to make sense of things. Take a step back, be able to see the big picture and be able to come back again better. So that’s how we get missed in this tragic place, when we feel disconnected. And when you ask what do military relationships do when they feel not connected, not, don’t feel like a secure base or safe haven relationship? I think the first step is to realize your strategy to fix that makes a whole lot of sense, whether you’re the fix it, moving in type of person, which we call more a pursuer type, or whether you’re, I’m going to protect this relationship and move away or withdraw or try to calm things down, take the pressure off so I can come back again better. You do those for good reasons because they work for you. It’s just that when you combine them in a relationship, it creates a momentum of disconnection. Because if you feel misunderstood, so we need those folks in the military or at home as a spouse or a partner at home that knows how to step away from things and to let the chaos subside so that they can come at things better. Those are both really good strategies. It’s just that they, when they’re combined together in relationship, it breeds something that is the opposite of safe haven and secure pace. So just knowing that, I think, is a first step to realizing what’s going on.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:25:25]:
Okay, let me just recap what I’m hearing. You say the disconnection is pretty normal, especially with military life, because you’re dealing with a bunch of stuff that most people aren’t dealing with. And so if you’re struggling more, well, no wonder. Okay. And that it’s normal when you feel the struggle or when you’re feeling disconnected to want to fix it. And that oftentimes spouses have different strategies for how to fix it and how to try to feel better again. But then they clash because they’re using different strategies, and then they end up missing each other, which ends up leading them to feeling misunderstood and sort of more disconnected. But it’s not because either of them have bad strategies. It’s just that they naturally miss each other when they’re using different ones.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:26:30]:
Yes. Yes, that’s exactly right. Like, that’s just the. It’s really when couples start to really lean in and to experientially feel and understand that’s what’s happening. And there’s just almost. I watch couples just have a relief, like, hey, there is nothing wrong with me. Or my partner. The problem isn’t me or them. The problem is this pattern that comes for our relationship. And just the way that just. There’s like a relaxation, like a. Like a breath of, like, oh, my gosh. Okay, now we can get after this problem, this pattern that comes, that’s not me and it’s not my partner. So it breeds an opportunity to move forward into figuring out what safe haven, secure based type relationship actually feels like to be accessible, responsive, and emotionally engaged.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:27:21]:
Yeah, I find myself wondering, and I might be putting you on spot here, because I. But if. And so you don’t have to answer if you. I don’t want to, but I’m just thinking, like, this is easier to work through when you are at home, when both people are at home, or maybe if they’re separated and they’re listening to this episode, they’ll have that same sort of feeling of relief. But I’m wondering if you have anything that you would say to a couple if they’re separated, but, like, with a deployment or something and they’re. And they’re feeling that any thoughts come to mind?

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:28:03]:
Yes. Yes, exactly. I think at times, unfortunately, there it is. I don’t know if it’s. Maybe it’s just human nature. We feel like we need to put our relationships on hold when we are deployed, or there’s these long separations. And I think sometimes even others may even recommend that. I would say that there’s strategies to not have to put your relationship on hold, in fact, that just the. The forced circumstance that you’re in and the separation physically is an opportunity to do communication a little bit differently than we would do when we are at home, and often may even slow the process down to be able to help communicate in a way that you might feel more understood and heard than you have in the past. So, one, I’ll just go back to, again, your great assessment that you have that people can download to figure out where they are on this accessible, responsive, and engaged paradigm and then have intentional conversations. Even when you’re not in the same place, you’re separated because of deployments or training about what that looked like for each of you. So then you’re having a conversation about. It’s fascinating to me, and I’ve experienced this in my own deployments, how connected we can be if we choose to. I mean, even in the most specialized places, there’s ways that when the circumstances are right, you can connect face to face, even over things where you can see your partner. And that offers a place to, hey, we are intentionally going to talk about stuff and connect, and maybe we can talk about this thing when that happens. We can talk about the are assessment and we can talk about where we both are. And so I think that might be a first step. And over all these recommendations I’m going to give, I think the theme that goes across all of them is just to be curious. And I think the are assessment is one that helps us do that. It helps us to be curious about ourselves so we can turn into and look internally and be curious about what’s happening for us in those accessible, responsive, and emotionally engaged way. But it also allows us to be curious about our partner and to ask good questions, well formed questions about what that looks like and what they’re experiencing in their world in relation to that are. I think that’s one suggestion I would make. The other one is that when you’re deployed or separate for training, I guess I’m going to speak from the service members point of view at times. Maybe it’s different in the other services, but in the army, they’re really great at getting you all ready to do something. Then you got to wait forever for things and you’re not in any place where you can, like, talk on the phone or do FaceTime or go connect somewhere. You’re just sitting there literally doing nothing for a very long time, which breeds in us this way of a whole lot of patience for just nonsense, I think because we’ve just lived it our whole experience in our career. But I might offer that that gives another opportunity to just do something really old school, like break out the pen and paper and do a snail mail type letter. You know, anywhere where you’re separated, even if when you’re in the states or even overseas, there’s these apo addresses that we get that work really well and just actually takes a little bit longer. But you can still send snail mail back and forth. And I think that even though it’s not as quick as email or a chat or, you know, texting, I think it provides the opportunity to slow down again and to be curious about what we really want to intentionally communicate because our world moves so fast. And if we are writing at times I get frustrated because I know I can type a thousand times faster than I can write. But when I force myself to handwrite something, I really have to slow down and have to really. It offers me the opportunity to intentionally think about what I’m communicating. And I think that could be really helpful in these separations, to really think through and write what we really want to communicate and then send that off snail mail, like old school stuff.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:32:31]:

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:32:32]:
So that breeds another opportunity, I think, to get curious about ourselves and also be transparent and have intentional conversations about our relationship. And I think, lastly, what I would throw in there is that there’s the secure base type living, and then there’s these jobs that we do, whether as the service member or as the spouse, that feels very disconnected because we have to do all the things or be very hyper focused on our tasks to be able to make life do well, work well, or be able to do well at our job in the military. And I would just throw out there is try to take in that there’s a possibility, and the very good possibility that you can do both. You can be very hyper focused and very laser pointed on what you do, whether you’re the partner at home, taking care of all the things, or whether you’re gone in your job, you can be hyper focused in those tasks, but yet you can also step out of that into a very connected, safe haven, secure based type relationship. You can do both. And if you’re good at one, doesn’t mean that you’re not good at the other. I think sometimes our world, especially the military, teaches us really well how to do all the things, but doesn’t help us step into, like, hey, you actually have this other capacity to be able to step into a relationship and go back and forth. And I think that’s really important that to help settle into, you can be a both and type person. Yeah, because I joke when I joke, especially just because of the nature where I work here at Fort Liberty, you know, formerly known as Fort Bragg, you have all the very specialists specialized are the special operators here. And when I work with them and they’re talking about their emotional world, I help them settle into this exact thing of like, listen, when you need to go on the objective to do what the nation requires you to do, you can take all these fields and, like, stuff them down into the darkest corner of your soul like the military has taught you to, and lock them away and do whatever the government wants you to do. But yet you’re experiencing now that you can come back from that and go and unlock that place and be connected in an emotional way with the people that matter to you the most. And when they start to step into that competency and realize that they can be a both and type person, man, it’s just to watch the excitement that comes in that relationship is really exciting.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:35:06]:
Yeah, yeah, it sounds so nice. And I find myself thinking well, I’m thinking a few things because I’m also aware of the time and I know I have to get you to your next thing. But I’m also thinking, that sounds so lovely. And people who are listening, they might be thinking like, gosh, I want that. And so I was hoping you could share a little bit about how people could find you if they wanted to work with you.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:35:35]:
Sure, they could find me@valiantcouplestherapy.com. myself and the people that on my team there are connected to the military and have lived experiences in what we’re talking about. And so if you’re in North Carolina, South Carolina or Florida, we can serve you and probably Tennessee here soon. So if you’re looking for something like that, and if you’re a clinician and you’re looking for more help in how to provide exceptional care to service members, drgragcini.com and you can find me there. The other thing that I would just throw out there is that I teach this all the time and we have these great conversations like we’re having. But it’s very possible that I’m going to leave this podcast and go out this afternoon and screw it up with my own wife. You know, even though we know a lot about this stuff, we know what the experience can be like in a great relationship. We’re still human and we’re still going to mess it up. And I’m still going to be in this place of realizing I’m doing my strategy, that’s not so helpful in my relationship, and I will still do it anyway, just because we just are driven by that for some human way, we’re wired. But knowing that we can step out of that afterwards and repair and fix and go back to, hey, you know what? I’ve messed up. You know, get curious again. And just because things aren’t going well doesn’t mean that your relationship’s going down the tubes. It just means that you’re human. And being accessible, responsive, and emotionally engaged is an opportunity to just come back again better next time.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:37:10]:
Yeah. I so appreciate that you shared that, that it’s not about removing the moments of disconnection, but finding a way to how can we find each other when we have been missing each other, right? Yeah. So wonderful. Well, thank you for being on the podcast. I have really, really enjoyed our conversation.

Dr. Greg Cheney [00:37:34]:
Yeah, I’ve enjoyed it as well. It’s great to be able to connect with you. Great service that you’re offering here for service members and their relationship is really neat. Very exciting.

Dr. Elizabeth Polinsky [00:37:44]:
As part of this special series on attachment in relationships, I created the ARE quiz. ​ This quiz uses the brief accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement scale, which I used in my own dissertation research and I use with each couple when I start working with them in couples counseling. This quiz helps you and your partner know how secure your relationship is, the level of distress you’re in, when you should be considering marriage counseling, and what sort of behaviors you both can work on to help promote the security of your attachment bond. Make sure to check out the show notes to download a copy of the quiz. While I am a therapist, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not considered therapy, and it should also not be a replacement for therapy. If you think you need a professional of any kind, you should definitely of go find one. Until next time.


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    About Author

    Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.


    My podcast, blogs, videos, newsletters, and products are general information for educational purposes only; they are not psychotherapy and not a replacement for therapy. The information provided is not intended to be therapy or psychological advice; and nothing I post should be considered professional advice. The information provided does not constitute the formation of a therapist-patient relationship.

    I cannot answer questions regarding your specific situation; you should consult your doctor or mental health provider regarding advice and support for your health and well being. If you are experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, you should call 911, report to your local ER, or call the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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