LOVING COUPLE THRIVING TOGETHER
Wired for love : how understanding your partner’s brain and attachment style can help you defuse conflict and build a secure relationship by Stan Tatkin is one of the most practical couple’s book in recent years. Tatkin explains how the brain is wired for different types of people and how the wiring influences how people relate to one another. Here is an overview of the 10 tools he outlines in the book.
- The Couple Bubble is first. Both people must believe the relationship is of primary importance above the needs of each individual. A couple who puts the relationship first knows that they will benefit if their partners needs are satisfied. A happy contented partner means they will be open to making sure your needs are met as well. Thereby both of you benefit from serving each other.
- Manage your primitive brain. We all have a brain response which is activated by threat, commonly referred to as the fight, flight, or freeze response. Tatkin refers to this response as the primitives. We also have a cognitive, thinking part of the brain; he calls the Ambassadors. When the primitives are activated and we are responding to a perceived threat, the ambassadors go offline, and we are unable to access them in the moment. We might become defensive, argue to get our point across, go silent, or want to run away from the situation. Our ability to think, reason and listen is very much compromised. When our bodies calm down after the threat has passed, our ambassadors come back online and we become able to use rational thought and talk through our mis-understandings.
- Know your partner. Here we need to set out to understand who is the person you are partnered with? Are they an Island, someone who needs little interaction and feels suffocated easily. Or is your partner a wave seeking connection every chance they get? Some partners are both waves or both islands, but one person is more of the type than the other.
- Become a specialist on your partner. Make a point to find out the 3-4 things that set off your partner’s primitives. Things you know will lead your partner to a threat response. Then find out the 3-4 things that you could do in the moment, which would calm your partners primitives down and help them feel secure in the relationship. For instance, when my husband’s primitives are activated, if I touch the back of his neck gently, he calms down immediately. He feels criticized (threat) and wants to defend himself (a long standing emotional wound established long before he met me.) If I show him care by touching his neck, it helps him remember I’m on his side and he calms down.
- Manage Launching and Landings. Build an agreement for a ritual you both can count on when you separate and reunite during the day. This might be as simple as a kiss and saying ˜I love you before going to work. Or it could be elaborate, the first person home cooks dinner, and greets the trailing partner at the door with a kiss and warm embrace when they return.
- Be the go to person for your partner. Your partner should be your go to person 24/7 no matter how annoying that might be. You make time for your partner so they can access you anytime no matter how trivial you believe it to be. If it’s important for your partner, it is important for you and the security of the relationship. You will both benefit from this agreement.
- Protect your couple bubble from outsiders. Agree you will be there for each other in public venues. Don’t abandon your partner and assume they are ok, check in with them often in a group of people. You can gaze at each other across the room and still engage in conversations with others. Remember to put you Couple-bubble first when out with others or when parenting.
- Fight well. Here you want to agree to a time that is convenient for both of you to discuss a topic. You actually can set a timer for 4 minutes, and discuss all you need to without having a 4-5 hour blow-out. Anything over 5 minutes will only escalate your primitives to further dysregulation. Agree to the 4-5 minutes to discuss the issue, do a intentional repair from 3 &4 above after the set time. Both of you should be able to function and think about the issue calmly and rationally before coming back to the issue and solving it or agreeing to disagree.
- Rekindling love through eye contact. Try this out; it is through the eyes that we can connect emotionally with another person. We see them, they feel seen, and they do the same for us. It is the ultimate free dopamine rush to gaze lovingly into someone’s eyes. Dopamine is a feel good neurotransmitter in the brain that fuels the reward system. This is the same reward system that get activated for addicts. Only this is a healthy way to feel good and heal with your partner.
- Your partner can heal you, and you can heal your partner. By following the guidelines, you can be a healer for you partner. Each person has some hurts from the past which had nothing to do with you as their partner. Choosing to be a healer with your partner to repair their old wounds will ultimately improve your satisfaction with your relationship. You will develop mutual safety and intimacy in the best possible way.
Written by Teresa Maples MS, LMHC, CSAT, CMAT