Mic Drop! Listen In as Stan Speaks Out

for couples Jul 17, 2023

PACT Founder Stan Tatkin has had a busy year promoting the principles and rewards of secure-functioning relationships. 

As a clinician, author, and frequent podcast guest, Stan pours his energy and expertise into caring for the smallest union of human primates — couples. In his latest book and over the airwaves, he dissects the common couple conflicts he has seen partners repeat throughout his career. 

Stan compels us to stop, just stop, look each other in the eye, and find common ground. Of course, relationships can and should be positive and fun-loving, but Stan cautions that for love relationships to last, partners must mutually abide by the key organizational principles that they create to avoid a chronic loop of arguments. 

In these podcasts Stan rinses, washes, and repeats the formula for genuine connection in secure-functioning relationships. He reminds us that as human primates, we constantly misunderstand each other and thus are prone to quick, negative reactions to perceived threat. Stan shows how with a higher level of planning we can sustain loving relationships and protect the couple bubble. He illustrates how principles of self-governance include justice, equity, and fairness for all. He urges us to implement the small agreements we think we can skip because we so want to believe that love conquers all (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). When we put these principles in place, they also have a positive ripple effect on everyone, from our kids to our extended families and even our communities. 

Stan has dropped many a gem into mics across the country. These talks are frank and eye-opening. And yet, Stan is…well…as you might expect, just a whole lot of fun to listen to.

Here are just a few highlights from recent interviews. Be sure to tune into the full podcasts for more. 

The Relationship School Podcast with Jayson Gaddis: “Less Overthinking, Secure Functioning, and 2 Actions for Relationship Success

Rules and principles. The couple is the only type of union that doesn’t operate under other rules of unionizing. We get together because of love…and forget to think about the main things that will sustain us — purpose, vision: “How are we going to govern each other? How are we going to limit and push each other to get things done? How are we going to protect each other from each other, and are we even on the same page with big things?” So we [see] a lot of [couples] who actually don’t have a structure. They never co-constructed anything. They’re living in a house metaphorically that hasn’t finished being built…and it’s going to come crashing down as soon as there’s a big storm. 

A couple needs to address questions and be organized in getting each other on board, deal or no deal. “What am I getting out of this? What will happen if this happens? What if we change? What if you’re suddenly attracted to another person, what do we do?” Because people aren’t working together to constantly mold and shape this thing called a relationship, they just let things happen automatically and automatically what they know will be memory-driven, and we will do exactly what we saw and experienced in our childhood, nothing better. People have to up their level and raise the bar of what they’re aspiring to.

Doing something that changes everything. Agree to allow each other to say, “Stop it” or “Do it.” Push and limit each other in your daily management. Collaborate by allowing each other to say that to each other. Cooperation is simply, “Okay.” First, work as a team. [I tell them,] “I worry that you two are behaving in a way that is not sustainable.” What we’re doing is not personal. It’s purely tactical. 

Recover from personal narratives. Create a bridge across the aisle. A personal narrative is how I justify my pain. My pain is always justified as, “It’s you.” It’s you, and I can prove it because I’ve oriented the data to fit my narrative, which protects my interest zone. All of us do that. So rather than get into that, let’s fix this thing. Lay it out and work the problem, not each other. 

Getting people to orient themselves to a two-person psychological system of we and us, that like a potato sack race, we can’t go anywhere without working together…. So how are we going to do business, not change each other? It’s about how we’re going to do business. And that’s the manner in which we interact. 

Good Life Project: “Love, Danger, Deviance, and Conflict

The higher moral reasoning is for us to find where we are the same and where we agree. That’s what consensus makers know. You and I are responsible for the buildup of this shared mythology called “a relationship”…so therefore we better be on the same page with our image or fantasy about what our relationship is….We have to build the structure so that we know what our culture is….The structure is very important….That is what enables good feelings to emerge.

Earned love…is something we’re doing daily because we’re adhering to our agreements.…We’re doing the best thing that we decided is the best thing, even if we don’t feel like it. So when it comes to a purpose-centered life, it has to be void of whether we feel like it or not. Otherwise it’s the Wild West and chaos. 

We’re in each other’s care. Secure functioning doesn’t mean that I change as a person or you change as a person. It is simply about how we do business. That’s it. So I have to accommodate to you. You have to accommodate to me….If you and I go off the cliff every time we get into a discussion about money or anything, it’s on both of us because either of us could have grabbed the wheel and steered it away from the cliff, and we didn’t. Only one of us needs to do something different during those periods when we’re in that fight state of mind and we’re automatic and we can’t think. Only one of us has to do something to change that entire trajectory. That’s what’s beautiful about two people instead of one.

Put your emphasis on relationship first…because if that doesn’t work out, does anything else work well?…If you feel like I yelled at you, then I did. It doesn’t matter what I think….“I hurt you” is more important than what I think I did. And so I rise above my need to be right and my need to form my own justice at the same time, and I yield. I fall on my sword for the relationship fully because I would like you to do that, and that’s the culture I want.

Rikki and Jimmy on Relationships: "Relationships Are Elegantly Simple"

You are your partner’s whisperer. It’s your job, and theirs, too. Protecting your partner means knowing their vulnerabilities, fears, concerns as well as what makes them happy, safe, secure, appreciated, respected, loved, and wanted…our lives depend on it. It’s not a luxury, and I keep trying to get that across. It’s a necessity.

Depend on each other. Two people can always do better than one, if they have a shared vision, shared purpose. They constantly look to where they are the same and where they agree, and use their differences as the superpower….That takes raising the bar in terms of orientation and culture. We’re accustomed to either being pro-relationship and surrender the self, or simply pro-self and you’re on your own. But the real task is being both at the same time.

We misunderstand each other most of the time. We’re mostly misunderstanding each other much of the time. Memory is unreliable….The problem is that human beings, myself included, believe that everything they say, everything they think, everything they see and hear is actually accurate in reality, and it isn’t.

We think love is all there is. And love? It’s not enough. Love can actually cause people to do terrible things. It has to be driven by terms and conditions, like all other unions, and we just don’t do that. There are entitlements in love relationships that there aren’t in other relationships, and that’s what makes it tough.

The relationship is cocreated. It’s a shared mythology that we cocreated. If the relationship doesn’t come first, it will fragment and will eventually accrue threat….What people lament the most at the end of life is the relationships that they messed up. All that seems to matter to us basically are our deepest, closest, and cherished relationships. There’s a reason why we put them first…we want coherency. We want cohesion. We want harmony. We want to hold onto each other in all relationships best we can as long as people are good-faith actors. 

Helping Couples Heal Podcast: “In Each Other’s Care

We automate everything to conserve energy. That’s the biological principle of energy conservation. It makes life easier, but it also creates more problems because we stop paying attention. We stop being fully present, and we make too many errors between communication, memory, and perception by using pattern recognition and memory as a way of not only recognizing good things but recognizing things we find or remember as threatening. Very little of our day is just using critical thinking…especially at home.…We take shortcuts. We think we’re listening. We think we’re clear, and none of that’s true. 

We shoot first and ask questions later. I’m looking at why I’m in pain. “Of course it’s you.” I’m not looking at what I’m doing to cause this. This is one-person thinking…but…our heart rates…[and] blood pressures go up a certain level. We start to produce glucocorticoids in our brain. That changes the brain from one of sympathy, compassion, and empathy to one of gathering my energy to protect myself from you….We’re victims of our own human nature. This is everyone, by the way. If we don’t understand how this works…we’re going to lose our closest relationships because we keep justifying our actions based on the primitive need to preserve ourselves from what we think is a threat coming from the other person. This is sort of the bane of human existence. 

Stan’s greatest takeaway. Secure functioning is absolutely doable…All we need is to find where we are the same and where we do agree. That’s been always the solution of bringing people together…I think I’m scared about what’s going on in the world, like everybody else, and I think that’s part of the urgency because we’re all burdened now with all these existential crises and fears….We need something now, at least at home, that keeps us together, so that families and partners are not coming apart during this time.

…So this is why I appeal to couples, because couples are the smallest unit, I think, of a society that operate under a kind of social justice….If it’s governed properly, and they are able to see correctly that they are the leaders of the pack, that they are the exemplars for their children, how they operate as a couple is how the children will operate in their life — they are watching….We are talking about relationship ethics….It’s got to start from the top. Otherwise, it doesn’t filter down at all.

For a hands-on manual that can help you and your partner cocreate a secure-functioning relationship based on shared principles and values, check out Stan’s new book, In Each Other’s Care: A Guide to the Most Common Relationship Conflicts and How to Work through Them,


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