PACT Level 3 Therapist
Yolanda and Miguel struggle to talk about sex. Yolanda worries that Miguel is no longer attracted to her and feels insecure, rejected, and confused. Miguel has always had a low libido and more recently has been having difficulty maintaining erections. He is embarrassed, sad, and full of shame about his lack of desire and sexual performance and often withdraws as a result. Miguel’s withdrawal only increases Yolanda’s suspicion and anxiety that he no longer wishes to be with her.
Tao and Arthur struggle to talk about sex. While deeply in love they have always had different sexual wants and desires. Upon mutual agreement, they seek sexual partners outside of their relationship to satisfy the majority of their sexual needs. As time goes on, they worry about how this sexual incompatibility (not having sex with each other) will impact their future together.
Maddox and Penelope struggle to talk about sex. He is...
I have been a therapist for over 30 years, and I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard my individual clients wonder if it’s even possible for a romantic relationship to last.
They look around and see relationships on the brink, under strain, marked by tension and dashed dreams. And if they come from a family where there was divorce or infidelity, they feel even more doubtful. It can be hard to think of a couple they look up to, learn from, or feel calmed or inspired by. They don’t see couples that give them hope. Maybe you don’t either.
We all need to see, in real life, mentor couples, couples who give us hope. One of the many things I love about PACT is that it provides a structure to grow ourselves into mentor couples. And that’s good for all of us.
I have been married for a bit longer than I have been a therapist, and my husband is also a therapist. We have a solid, happy...
Blair Anne Hensen, MS, LCPC, NCC
PACT Level 2 Therapist
As the daylight grows longer and temperatures get warmer, it’s time to get outside! Nature is an incredibly important part of wellness. Stepping out of our human-made worlds and into nature offers presence external to ourselves. Simply taking in the sensations — the sound of birds singing, the deep smell of a forest, the feeling of sunshine warming our skin in the spring — allows our attention to move outward.
Spending time outside as a couple has significant benefits: movement, laughter, play, presence, connection are all stress reducing effects. But sometimes getting outside for activities is stressful. It takes planning, deciding what activity to do and how long you want to be out, gathering the right gear, communicating about skills and possible risks. The list goes on.
Depending on where you live, you may face difficult elements. In Montana, where I live, the weather can change rapidly. Traveling in...
PACT Level 2
PACT Note to Parents: For guided practice and more skills to bring to your partnership, register for Kara’s Win-Win Parenting: Better Partners Make Better Parents, a new PACT workshop for couples, Saturdays online, April 23–May 21.
When I read articles such as “Parenting in 2021? ‘Not Great, Bob!’” (Grose, 2021) and “Every Parent I know Wants to Walk into the Sea Now” (McCombs, 2022), I feel seen. Even “Parents are losing their minds. Time to watch ‘Encanto’ again” (Niazi, 2022) makes my soul laugh. As a pregnant person parenting a small boy during the pandemic and struggling to maintain my sanity — let alone balance — knowing I’m not alone is like having a warm cup of milk for my sleepless nights.
Some days our son Jude is safe enough at preschool, and my husband Charlie and I are able to work, catch up on folding the laundry, do a little...
Renee D. Doe, PhD, LMFT, LPC
PACT Level 1 Therapist
The idea of secure functioning is a main focus of PACT therapy. This focus hones in on creating and maintaining a safe container, where both parties operate in a two-person attachment system free of deception, abusive behaviors, and any other injurious actions that interfere with healthy functioning and fairness within the relationship. At heart, this idea is what could be called salutogenic because it focuses on the capacity you have to construct a healthy life instead of making the management of risk and relational conflict the primary focus.
The injuries that are brought into the relationship can and do impact the relationship. In moving toward the cultivation of secure functioning in relationships, PACT therapy also creates space for some of the challenges and difficulties that you may have had...
PACT Level 2 Therapist
I'm sure this hasn't happened to you (wink), so I'll speak from experience. Before my partner and I discovered PACT, we'd have conflict, just like we do now. Before PACT, one of us would raise an issue with the goodhearted goal of finding a solution. Unlike now, instead of having a calm, decisive conversation, we would find ourselves going around and around, getting more and more agitated. The more we went around, the more I would cry, the more they would shut down - and the farther from a solution we would get.
The more we argued this way, the farther from each other we got.
We knew we loved each other, but we didn't know how to lead with relief. We were fighting from a logical perspective. The part of the brain that rules relationships, however, isn't logical — it’s biological.
By trying to logic our way through our biology, we accidentally sent threat messages to the mammalian parts of each other's brains....
PACT Level 2
“Who is your real family, me or them?”
Figuring out how to deal with your and your partner’s extended families can be difficult. It’s one of the major sources of disagreement between partners. Both partners can have deep feelings and a strong individual preference for handling family personalities and issues, but alignment rarely happens without deliberate work because successfully blending two lives from two different family cultures can be among the most challenging tasks that couples face.
Several factors go into how often and how intensely couples face difficulties related to extended families. Some people never feel liked or accepted by their partner’s family. Every interaction is a showdown. When families live geographically close, one or both partners can feel intruded upon by frequent requests for family time.
Other individuals come from passively hostile families, in which most things look OK on...
By Mark Mouro
PACT Level 1
I don’t know about you, but when I was a young man growing up and trying to navigate the treacherous world of relationships, one adage stuck with me more than any other: “Happy wife, happy life.” Remember that one? Some of you may live by that motto. And while you may see some benefit, the saying also has its downside. Let’s look at how it, along with similar clichés, has the potential to adversely affect your relationship.
As a marriage and family therapist, I specialize in working with couples. Most of my couples happen to have young children, too. Often both partners are busy and stressed. They rarely make time to be with each other. As a result, part of my work becomes helping them identify and positively express their needs.
I’ve lost count now on the number of times the men in heterosexual relationships say they want whatever makes their wife happy. I like to call this the path of least resistance.
By Annie Chen, LMFT (https://www.changeinsight.net)
PACT Level 2 Therapist
The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) centers around a set of principles that are grounded in relationship fairness, mutuality, and safety, what we call secure functioning. Everything I do as a PACT couple therapist is guided by these principles. Time and time again I’ve seen that it’s an effective model for sustaining two people’s needs in a relationship. Secure-functioning principles are also versatile; they can be applied to nearly every type of issue and problem that couples encounter.
I’m often awe-struck at the work that couples do in my office. It makes the difference between joy and misery; between wanting to stay together and wanting to end the relationship.
But like all good models, couple therapy has limits to what it can accomplish. I’d like to identify some caveats and limitations to using this method so that therapy seekers can align...
Welcoming Baby Bomb
The following is an excerpt from Baby Bomb: A Relationship Survival Guide for New Parents, by Kara Hoppe and Stan Tatkin, now available for purchase here.
When Jude was only a few days old, Charlie and I were sitting all cozy on our couch on a winter afternoon, as we’d done many times before—me on my side, Charlie on his. Only now there was a third person, and his place was on me to nurse. Nursing didn’t come easily for Jude and me. It was challenging to learn how to direct his lips to my breast so he could get a good latch. I had to listen for the sound of him swallowing and watch for his little jaw moving, signs that he was nourishing himself. If I didn’t hear swallowing or see his jaw move, it was time to pull him off gently and retry for a better latch. Eventually I came to think of breastfeeding as one latch at a time, and I did that until we became nursing pros. But on this winter day, pros we were not, and nursing was...