Lead With Relief: It's Not Logical, It's Biological

for couples jess cleeves Jan 14, 2022

by Jess Cleeves, MAT, CSW

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....

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Dealing with the Unavoidable Extended Family 

Jon Taylor, LCSW, CSAT, CMAT

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...

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“Happy Wife, Happy Life”… Right?

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.

So then,...

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3 Things Couple Therapy Can’t Do and What It Can

 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...

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Welcoming Baby Bomb

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...

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Real Talk on Betrayal

By Jake Porter, LPC, NCC, CPC

PACT Level 2 Therapist


You’ve been betrayed. Or maybe you did the betraying. Either way, your relationship is on life support, and you’re wondering if the only answer is to say goodbye and pull the plug.

Maybe. Maybe the cut is too deep, the hurt too great, the brokenness too extensive.

But maybe a relationship can survive the trauma of betrayal, and even thrive afterward. I believe this because I see it every week in my office.

Betrayal’s Many Faces

Take Mark and Rachel. After 16 years of marriage, Rachel discovered that Mark had been with more than a dozen other women, two being long-term emotional and sexual affairs. Rachel was devastated to learn that her perfect, fairytale story was a figment of her imagination based on partial truth of her actual reality.

Or consider Liz and Dave, a young couple in their early 20s. They’d been together since they were 16, and Liz found herself pregnant. Now, two children and a...

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From Me to We: When Perspective is Key

Sashi Gerzon-Rose, MA, LPC

PACT Level 1 


In Japanese, the phrase sottaku doji means “simultaneously pecking from inside and outside.” Zen Buddhism uses this as a metaphor for the relationship between teacher and student; the student is pecking from the inside, and the teacher from the outside at the shell of the student’s limited understanding and ability to perceive the true nature of reality. 

With a deep bow to the wisdom of that lineage, I suggest we borrow this image to better understand the process of change and transformation in general. Does change occur from the outside in, using external behaviors to alter one’s internal state? Or, does it originate from the inside out, changing one’s mindset to support choosing new behaviors?

Just as in the pecking metaphor, the short answer is both; we need upgraded, more effective behaviors as well as internal meaning-making shifts. And, particularly in the case of successfully...

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Defining Healthy Dependence

Vanessa Morgan, MS, LMFT

PACT Level 3 Candidate


In an attempt to understand and treat clients, therapists often use terms, such as codependent, toxic, narcissistic. These words then find their way into pop culture and, like a bad game of telephone, can lose their intended meaning or become distorted.

I’ve had clients come in, claiming that their spouse was a narcissist when after a few sessions we were able to uncover that their spouse was simply under-skilled at communicating empathy. 

In another instance, a partner described their mate as bipolar when they were kind and cheery most of the time but struggled to be able to calm themselves down when feeling disconnected from the partner during conflict.

I’ve found people can have a difficult time accurately assessing what behaviors are healthy and unhealthy in their romantic relationships. In our highly individualistic culture, one word gets a particularly bad rap: dependency. 

Dependency

When is dependency...

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On Being Found

for couples stan tatkin Feb 21, 2021

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT

PACT Founder


A study by Nagasawa and his colleagues in Japan (2009) some years ago involving dogs and their owners found that if a dog looked into its owner’s eyes by finding the gaze first, the owner’s oxytocin levels went up. (I suspect dopamine might also be increased). However, if the owner’s gaze found the dog’s eyes first, no increase in oxytocin resulted. This finding has continued to “dog” me as I thought about infant attachment studies and adult romantic relationships. What is it about a dog, a baby, or a lover finding our eyes that leads to an increase in dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, or other neurochemicals related to the reward system?

During early infancy, when the newborn’s gaze is largely undirected, the catching of the mother’s gaze by the infant leads to a dopaminergic rush—a reward that is evident in the mother’s subsequent inviting vocal tone and facial expression. This...

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3 Tips to Help You Reconnect with Your Partner

By Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC

PACT Level 3 Candidate


By any chance, are you feeling like a roommate instead of a partner in your relationship? Have you noticed that you and your partner don’t talk to each other when you are both at home except when it comes to discussing bills and logistics? More than a few people feel hurt when their partner does not even acknowledge them. They might complain that their partner doesn’t care about them and doesn’t want to spend any time together. If this sounds familiar, know that you can reconnect with your partner in simple, positive, authentic ways that can begin to repair and reignite your relationship.

Sometimes couples wonder what changed since the honeymoon phase of their relationship or might think they are not in love anymore. As a therapist, I find it helpful to explain that during the early phase of love, often referred to the honeymoon phase, you and your partner spend lots of time together and share new...

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