Thinking About Polyamory? Is Consensual Nonmonogamy Healthy for Your Relationship?

By Carolyn Sharp, LICSW

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador  

carolynsharp.com


 More and more couples who come into my office for therapy are interested in polyamory or consensual nonmonogamy. Some have been practicing it for years and believe it to be part of their values and their self-expression. Others believe it will bring sexual excitement and enhanced intimacy to their primary relationship. Regardless of where you are in your relationship, the decision to introduce other people into your committed relationship carries significant risk and challenge and should be done with a great deal of thought and care.

As a PACT therapist, my process is in helping couples build a secure-functioning relationship, and I have helped both monogamous and nonmonogamous couples build strength and health in their connection. However, it is only through a secure-functioning relationship where I have seen polyamory work well for the couple and each individual.

Why Is Polyamory...

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Mutual Injury: The Challenge of Symmetry

Patricia Hart, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador


We have all encountered that moment of impasse with our couples (and probably with our own relationships) when each partner feels like the injured party. The other is perceived as dangerous, and neither partner wants to or feels able to make a reparative move. Witnessing the struggle that ensues feels like watching a race to the bottom.

These moments remind me of my pothole theory of marriage:

The sun is shining, a soft breeze is in the air, and life is good. You and your partner walk down a winding road. Suddenly, a pothole appears. Before you can stop, you and your partner descend into a large dirty hole. How did it happen? Does it matter? The only important task is to help each other out as fast as possible so you can resume your enjoyment of the gorgeous day together.

If only life – and relationship – were so easy.

Couples locked in the grip of mutual recrimination are dysregulated....

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The Big Win - What Divorcing Parents (and Their Kids) Want  

 

By Aurisha Smolarski, MA, LMFT 

PACT Level 2 Therapist
www.aurishasmolarski.com


 The marriage and relationship have ended, and you wish you could just say goodbye to each other and move on. But . . . you have kids. 

Relating to each other as divorced parents can be as much, or possibly even more, of a challenge than the marriage had been. Feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, longing, and relief may taint your perspective. But whether you experience an amicable or contentious separation, a continuing relationship as parents is necessary. You two are still responsible to each other for the care of your children. 

“Wait, what? I still have to be in a relationship with this person?”

Just because you no longer share a bed or life goals, you are still operating inside a social contract that demands a commitment to the co-parenting partnership moving forward.  

Fortunately, there is no reason why people who can’t be married can’t...

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Using PACT to Fight Fair

By Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, CST

PACT Level 2 Therapist

www.triunetherapy.com


All couples fight. Therapists know this. Couples (most couples) know this. But in the moment, it feels like annihilation for a couple ill-prepared to stay attuned and remain committed to a secure-functioning endeavor. 

Disagreements and fights are healthy, and the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) model works with couples to help them preserve their relationship and fight in a manner respectful to one another and the bond they share. Tatkin (2018) notes the crux of disrupted efforts to remain coregulated and attuned during a fight are the brain’s

  • primitives;
  • negativity biases;
  • insecure attachment patterns.

Primitives

Regressions into fight, flight, or freeze can occur and, if left unrepaired, can become the status quo as partners unconsciously or consciously perceive threats to the sustainability of their relationship.

Insidious old habits related to self-protection...

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Communication 101: Speak and Be Heard, Part 1

By Kara Hoppe, MA, LMFT

PACT Level 2 Therapist

karahoppe.com


As a couple therapist, I’ve learned that relationships are like fingerprints: each one is unique. Even though each couple reaches out for couple therapy for a variety of reasons, they all, at some point during our initial consultation, ask for the same thing – communication tools. 

Communicating with your partner can be downright difficult. Some topics are hard to talk about so partners stay silent, which can create a sour divide in the partnership. Or, topics are so emotionally charged that each conversation becomes a boxing match. This combined with the modern jam-packed, full-tilt, boogie busy lifestyle that many of us occupy, it’s no wonder that couples are struggling with a capital S.

In this and my next PACT blog, I’ll be sharing communication tools you can use in your relationship right now. This post focuses on speaking. The goal is to speak directly, clearly, and kindly so...

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If Therapy Is Medicine, How Do We Prevent Overdose?

Allison Howe, LMHC

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
https://allisonhowelmhc.com

 Couples come to our office in distress. They want to feel better. For me, PACT therapy provides medicine for the couple. PACT is an approach designed to alleviate the symptoms that come from an insecure, unfair, insensitive relationship that isn’t operating in a way that works for both partners.

If we define therapy as “medicine,” we need to understand its constitution. What are its active ingredients? How is dosage determined? What does an overdose look like?

Have you ever overdosed a couple? I have. I know what that looks like, and I now know to avoid it.

Therapy as Medicine

If medicine is “the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease” (Merriam-Webster.com), then to me, PACT therapy is medicine.

PACT has the potency – not as a chemical substance but as a medicinal approach – that...

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With Love from Big Sur: Building the Couple Bubble

By Jason Brand,
LCSW PACT Ambassador, Level 2
jasonbrand.com

On a rainy Sunday afternoon in May, we wrapped up the Wired for Love Couples Retreat at Esalen in Big Sur, California. I assisted Stan Tatkin and Tracey Boldemann-Tatkin with 30 couples who came to find out how PACT can strengthen their relationship. This scenario illustrates how couples learn to shift their focus from self-protecting to strengthening their couple bubble. The couple bubble is a mutually constructed and maintained eco-system that provides protection from an often challenging outside world. 

Friday Evening: Shelter from the Storm

After taking the winding turns of Highway 1 that opened onto the expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Annie and Sam put down their bags and went to Esalen’s natural hot springs. This was their first couples retreat and, on the drive, both admitted to being more than a little nervous. The baths relaxed their bodies. Their minds still raced with the stresses at home and...

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Healing Trauma Relationally Through PACT

By Jeff Cohen, MFT

PACT Level III Therapist, PACT Ambassador

JeffCohenMFT.com

 

When Gayle and Paul came to see me, it was clear that Gayle felt Paul was the problem. Paul was taciturn to an unusual degree and could be quick to anger. For her part, Gayle presented as highly verbal, competent, and overtly friendly; adept at managing the tasks of their family and her career.

Though I didn’t know of Paul’s trauma when we first met — he lived in terror of upsetting a threatening stepmother and a physically punishing older brother — his manner and speech suggested that he moved through the world in a very protected stance.  

It might have been easy to view Paul as the one who needed help. He was extremely literal, arguing about the minutia of his upset with Gayle, and for a long time was unable to understand the concept of providing relief first in an argument. From a PACT perspective, when a willing partner is able to help settle the distressed...

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Love Notes from Piano Camp

By Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

PACT Level 2 Therapist

PACT Ambassador

orensteinsolutions.com


Let me start at the beginning of our love story.

My freshman year at Brown University, a resident counselor introduced me to another student because we both had a love of piano. Growing up, when I played for others, they would politely wait until I finished and offer a general compliment. But when the student to whom I had just been introduced heard me play, instead of general platitudes, he offered constructive feedback. I remember being thrown for a loop but also impressed that he truly listened and was authentic in telling me what he thought. Our basis for trust began right there. A few years later we began dating, and for his senior piano recital, we played a duet, Debussy’s “Petite Suite.” That student is now my husband.

Fast forward 30 years.

As new empty-nesters, my husband and I set off for Vermont to attend Kinhaven’s Adult Piano Workshop. The participants,...

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Working with Families – PACT Style

 

By Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
PACT Co-Founder
http://thepactinstitute.com

Two main issues face the PACT family therapy process: Structure and Attendance.

Structure

A challenge within typical family therapy is the structure that holds some family members to their particular family roles. While viewing members within the system frame is valuable, especially when it comes to various roles different members play, it can also restrict the flow of information as some members expand and express while others contract and remain in the background. 

Using the PACT method to do family therapy may be more effective and convenient for both therapist and family. By dividing family members into pairs, the therapist can do “couple therapy” with various dyadic combinations, thereby freeing members from default role constraints and constrictions encountered when faced with the entire family system.

As long as invited members are of an appropriate age and maturity to participate...

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