Power Couples…Activate!

by Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., PACT faculty, Los Angeles CA
Website:  Eva.VP.com
Email:  [email protected]

Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy. PACT therapists know people feel good when they understand how to be successful partners. We are energized by a secure connection to another person. Our need to be securely attached is so powerful that it can get us through the hardest of times and help us float through day-to-day routines with ease, skill, and grace.

Secure functioning is based on a high degree of respect for one another’s experience. Interactions and shared experiences are fair, just, and sensitive. If your partner feels even slightly unwanted, undervalued, disliked, unseen, or unimportant, he or she will—quite frankly—act weird and underperform in the relationship.

Insecurity and insecure attachment negatively affect brain performance. Development can be slowed down because the brain is using most of its resources to...

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No Pain No Gain

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

Therapy is only useful for changing people who are experiencing sufficient distress. This is not to say that education, consultation, or brief counseling will have no effect. People often benefit from couple counseling for premarital or other short-term work. However, as a matter of therapeutic stance, the PACT therapist assumes the presence of a sufficient level of distress that can only be relieved by pressuring couples to go down the tube of secure functioning. The PACT therapist thus takes a stand for secure-functioning principles. For insecure partners, this requires a big leap of faith.

That leap of faith can be viewed as a metaphor for neuronal action potential (AP) and long-term potentiation (LTP). AP is basically a charge that is sufficient to fire a neuron. LTP is a cellular mechanism related to learning and memory. LTP involves the building up of synaptic strength between neurons, whereby several weak synapses repeatedly fire...

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Be Attractive, Not Scary

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

Having a “couple bubble” helps maintain a safe and secure ecosystem that keeps intruding, destructive elements away. The world inside the couple bubble should be more safe, more secure, more encouraging, and less stressful than the world outside the bubble. That means not only protection from the outside but also from inside. Many couples fail to understand that the primary attachment system, aka the adult romantic relationship, operates on attraction and not on fear, threat, or guilt. We usually come by our partners by way of attraction and it is by attraction that we keep our partners (and ourselves) happy.

If each partner is unable to find multiple ways to cajole, persuade, seduce, influence, or otherwise get each other to come home, come to bed, go someplace, or do something, he or she will most certainly resort to the use of fear, threat, or guilt — a penny-wise, pound-foolish stratagem.

Practice now and find...

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Security Questions Require Security Answers

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

Many of you who know my work or take my training have heard me talk about the difference between security questions/security answers and reality questions/reality answers. However, I do not think I have written about this specifically so here we go….

Many people become confused when considering how to respond to matters of relationship insecurity, especially during periods emotionally dominated by fear, ambivalence, or doubt. Bids for affirmation or reassurance can therefore be met with either a secure (reassuring) response or a reality (dice roll) response. For some, the “reality” principle seems a more “secure” option. That may in fact hold some subjective truth, particularly for those who themselves feel fearful, ambivalent, or doubtful (“I can’t reassure you because I, too, feel insecure about us”). And I suppose there are good arguments against providing a secure response when a reality...

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Sit, Down, Stay!

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

This addendum to my previous post, Train Your Partner, is intended to clarify another important concept in relationship management. So many of us struggle with how to “parent” or “train” our partner when we feel rejected, dismissed, ignored, or flat out resisted by him or her. We often get angry and attack or withdraw and give up. While both reactions are reasonable they will likely be received as threatening (yes, I know…you were threatened first). Also threatening are complaints, especially in the form of questions:

“Why do you always do this to me?”
“Why can’t you just do what I want for once?”
“What is wrong with you?”
“Why do you always take his/her side?”

…and so on. The problem with questions, particularly of these kind, is they require resources in your partner’s brain and it is likely that your partner’s brain is either mostly...

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Train Your Partner

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

In case you haven’t heard me say this before, we come to relationships basically feral, untrained, and barely parented. Therefore, as romantic partners we must train one another to be in secure-functioning relationship. This IS NOT accomplished by whining, complaining, threatening, withdrawing, or avoiding. Rather we train each other head-on with statements made directly into the eyes. Make sure YOUR eyes are friendly and try some of the following or make up your own:

“Put that [insert distraction here] down and be with me.”
“Try that again and this time say it like you love me.”
“Look at me and tell me that you think I’m terrific.”
“Tell your handsome guy/beautiful gal [that would be you] that you’ll always be mine.”
“Protect me and I’ll protect you.”
“Come here and sit by me.”
“Do this with me.”
“Tell me how wonderful I am.”
...

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Scratching the Right Itch

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

Do you ever have an itch on your back you can't scratch yourself? Do you ever ask your partner to scratch that itch only to be frustrated when he or she continually misses the "right spot?" Missing the spot once or twice is forgivable. But what about missing it all the time? Now that's cause for suspicion, isn't it? I mean, how big is a person's back? How could someone possibly miss that spot?!

Well, lots of partners complain of missing the right spot. He buys roses when she loves tulips. She buys low-fat milk when he explicitly tells her he only drinks non-fat. He always tells her that she is sexy when she'd prefer hearing she's smart. She compliments him on what a good father he is when he wants to hear that he's a great husband.

There are countless ways partners can scratch the wrong itch and send a message that either they don't care or they don't know the target. "See! There's nothing I can do to satisfy you!" Paul screams at Cheryl...

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When it comes to repair, the fastest wins.

maxims repair stan tatkin May 28, 2012

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

Our brain is biased toward making war than love. Our brainstem and lower limbic structures are always on the lookout for threat and danger. And painful memories are more easily made than pleasurable ones. This bias serves the human imperative "thou shalt not be killed." Memories are formed, at least in large part, by glutamate (neurotransmitter) and adrenaline (hormone). Strong or intense emotional experience, aided by glutamate and adrenaline, will help long term memory formation, particularly if the emotional intensity is protracted.

When one person hurts another, intentionally or not, the injured party seeks relief. If relief is not provided in a timely manner, that hurt will likely go into long term memory. When partners ignore or dismiss injuries or make unskillful attempts at repair, the offending partner is CREATING a bad memory in the injured partner -- something that will certainly come back to haunt.

Remedy: Fix, repair, make right,...

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Kid and pets are easy, partners are hard

maxims stan tatkin May 28, 2012

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,
stantatkin.com

This is based on the principle that adult romantic primary attachment relationships are more difficult because of their psychobiological weight -- memories, expectations, fears, threats to security, etc. Primary partners tend to become "deep family." Like it not, partner become proxies for everyone who has come before (historically) the relationship: mother, father, brother, sister, first love, teachers, etc. Kids are smaller systems and can certainly trigger early memories and bodily experiences and the complexity of raising children is certainly no cakewalk. However, they just do not carry the same emotional, psychobiological weight as a primary partner. Pets are easy because they are cute but their brains neither amplify mutually generated positive experiences nor trigger historical attachment injuries (at least not usually).

Alas, it is our adult partners who remain our mightiest challenge to happiness as all our early attachment injuries...

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