Book Review: “Hold Me Tight” by Susan Johnson (review by Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT)

Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFTToday, one of our therapists, Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT, is sharing her review of the book “Hold Me Tight” by Susan Johnson

I just finished re-reading what I consider to be some of the best information about couples and relationships out there, Dr. Susan Johnson’s “Hold Me Tight: Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” (2008). Dr. Johnson is the founder of Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy and her book explores the attachment principles behind human connection, specifically within intimate partnerships. For many people, this book serves as a complete reframe of conflict within couples. We often try and tackle relationship conflict with tools and skill building. While these things are important, they often miss the mark.

In the book, Dr. Johnson beautifully illustrates how the basis of all human interaction is rooted in emotional connection and attachment. The way we feel safe or not in our partnerships mirrors the way we felt safe our not as infants with our caregivers. If we have a secure attachment with these fundamental people then research finds that we both give and seek love more readily. As it is put in the book, securely attached couples “roll with the hurts better.” These couples are also found to have healthier balance of separateness and togetherness, and tend to even like themselves better.

When we fight with our partner, we are essentially protesting the fact that we feel emotionally disconnected from him or her. Tools and skill-building in this case just won’t cut it. They may help temporarily, but they are kind of like taking pain relievers for chronic headaches that are caused by needing to wear eyeglasses. Learning more skills won’t hurt, but it also certainly won’t solve the problem.

Dr. Johnson describes couple interaction as a dance, “The more I –fill in the blank–, the more you—fill in the blank–, which causes me to continue to—fill in the blank” and the cycle continues over and over again. This is why it feels to couples like they have the same argument over and over again. One week it might be about the dishes and another about parenting responsibilities, but it is the same exhausting fight and the same hurt feelings. They only way to solve the couple conflict is for both people to understand the dance in which they are trapped in its entirety and what their individual steps in the dance look like. Then the couple can unite against the dance they are caught in (which is the problem) and move past it.

Although this is quite a paradigm shift for most of us, I believe it is a hopeful one. If we can master our understanding of the cycles we are caught in, then we can change them. And even more exciting is the fact that once they are altered, the purpose of the fight is diminished. The hopelessness so many couples feel can be transformed into feeling safe and secure so that when issues arise, they are much less of a blow.

~ Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT

Kendra is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Interested in learning more about Kendra or booking a free consultation with her? Kendra Doukas, M.S. LMFT can be reached by calling the Catalyst Center main office at 720-675-7123 or by emailing us directly at


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