How Creating a Shared Purpose Unites and Renews Couples

By Beth Newton, LCSW, LCAS
PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
https://newtoncounseling.com/


“Winter Is Coming”

“We Do Not Sow” 

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

“Family, Duty, Honor” 

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you know that each ruling house has a sigil (magical symbol) and motto. The story takes place during a time of chaos with warring houses, harsh living conditions, and the threat of human extinction. The families inscribe their sigils and mottos on shields, flags, and stamps. From Season 1 through Season 7, the main characters repeat their mottos during times of stress, celebration, and danger.

Throughout history, the nations of the world have developed structures to transcend natural and man-made dangers. I am half Scottish from the Douglas clan. When my brothers were in high school and looking for a place of safety and belonging, they learned how to play the bagpipes and drums. Their membership in a bagpipe...

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Staying Connected Despite Your COVID-Cancelled Wedding

by Susan Stork, LCPC, NCC

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador

www.spacebetweencounselingservices.com/


Many once soon-to-be-married couples have had their wedding plans altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You booked your venue, hotel, caterer, and entertainment – and likely spent countless hours and copious amounts of money in the process. Now you’re faced with making a decision with only unfavorable options: do you cancel or postpone the wedding, or do you potentially risk the health of your beloved guests?

Perhaps you’re one of countless couples who have had to reschedule or cancel your dream ceremony and reception. Travel for out-of-town guests and honeymoon have turned into a distant fantasy. Even the closing of some courthouses has made it seem impossible to legally tie the knot.

It’s only natural for couples stuck in limbo to feel disappointed or cheated that the celebration of your union has been indefinitely pushed back on an uncertain timeline....

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Beyond the Valentine Chocolates and Roses: Creating a Long-Lasting Relationship

Clinton Power

PACT Level 2 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
clintonpower.com.au


Some people want chocolates and roses for Valentine's Day, but it's not the small (or big) romantic gestures on special occasions that lead to relationship success. To go from an initial date to a long-term relationship you need to look for qualities in a potential mate that make you feel safe and open with that other person. What you may not know is that these traits can lead you in the direction of developing a secure-functioning relationship.

What is a secure-functioning relationship?

A term coined by PACT co-founder Dr. Stan Tatkin, a secure-functioning relationship is an interpersonal system based on principles of true mutuality, collaboration, justice, fairness, and sensitivity. You and your partner are taking on the world together. You protect each other from the threats of the external, the outside world, and from the internal, each other. A secure functioning relationship acknowledges and celebrates...

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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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How Secure-Functioning Principles Help Parents Who Are Divorcing

By Edna Avraham, LMFT
PACT Ambassador, Level III Therapist
ednaavraham.com

The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) focuses on helping and coaching couples to “secure” each other in order to reduce threat, thrive, and grow closer. While they are designed for couples who want to deepen their connection, PACT principles can also apply to uncoupling or divorcing parents.

Some of the secure-functioning principles are:

  • Thinking in terms of WE, the two people in the couple
  • Making the relationship a priority over other relationships in your life
  • Being sensitive and considerate of each other’s known vulnerabilities, and being able to predict how the other member of the couple may perceive your actions
  • Being transparent and turning to each other for support and comfort.

Following these principles creates a secure foundation for each member of the couple to feel cared for, prioritized, loved, and considered.

Divorcing couples are often in a constant state of...

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Do You Have Your Partner’s “Owner Manual”?

By Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC
PACT Level II Therapist
https://baltimorecounselor.com/ 

In your romantic relationship, paying attention to your partner’s responses and attitudes is especially prudent. Observing impressions and reactions can help you become more in tune with a partner’s likes and dislikes. I refer to this practice as “obtaining your partner’s ‘owner manual.’”

For example, if I say the word rollercoaster, most people have a strong response, whether positive or negative. If I then plan a trip to an amusement park with my partner – and I love amusement parks – that’s great for me, but did I think about my partner and his reaction?

What if my partner hates amusement parks? The above example could be a win-lose situation if one of us likes rollercoasters and one of us does not. Pro-relationship couples promote win-win situations. Therefore, I need to know more detailed information about my partner to increase...

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Looking for the Baby

By Lisa Rabinowitz
LCPC, PACT Level 2 
https://www.baltimorecounselor.com

 

We have all been in situations in which we feel misunderstood by our partner. We might be left scratching our head, wondering why our partner just doesn’t get us. PACT therapists recognize that such misunderstandings or misattunements to nonverbal and verbal cues are similar to what can happen with babies and their primary caretaker(s). We know from attachment theory that if the caretaker is unresponsive, punitive, anxious, or inconsistent, then the baby may fear abandonment or withdraw or overreact, developing an insecure attachment. On the other hand, if the caretaker responds in a consistent and reliable manner, then the baby will develop secure attachment, believing the caretaker will be there for him or her in the future. As adults, this kind of signal-response...

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Moving From Misattunement to Coregulation

By Beth Newton, LCSW, LCAS
PACT Level II, PACT Ambassador
Durham, NC
https://newtoncounseling.com/

Every week I sit in my office watching couples struggle with coregulation. Coregulation is defined as warm and responsive interactions that provide support and that help someone understand, express, and modulate his or her feelings, thoughts, and behaviors (Gillespie, 2015). Through coregulation, children learn how to manage their attention and emotions in order to complete tasks, control impulses, and solve problems (McClelland & Tominey, 2014). This requires them to attune to subtle cues of distress, curiosity, bids for attention, fear, and joy. The concept of coregulation can also be applied to adult relationships.  

As a therapist, I often work with couples in which one or both partners experienced parental misattunments, neglect, or...

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