Tag Archives: PACT

Get Good at Your Relationship!

About 8 years ago, I had the amazing fortune to watch and learn from Stan Tatkin, psychologist, researcher, and synthesizer of neurobiological information about relationships and connection. His writings and process with couples transformed my work with couples. Couples go from frustrated emotional outpourings and habitual story lines…..to dynamic in-office break-thrus providing deep, relieving connection.

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I’ll be beefing up my psychology tab with several articles that I think everyone will find a nugget in. Relationships are complex, challenging, growing-machines. Face it! I know these articles will give you some fresh tips–and validated your intuition about feeling more secure and how to move toward that in your relationship.

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Here’s a great articles from the psychobiological approach to couples therapy (PACT) by Eva Van Prooyen:

“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.

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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 manage being in survival mode instead of being free to move toward evolution, growth, and complexity.

In general, couples can get tripped up in creating a secure and healthy relationship and end up not liking their partners, situations, or experiences because they don’t know what to do or how to manage them. This can leave them feeling badly about themselves as well as their partner.

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In line with the main treatment goals of PACT, couples are encouraged (and ultimately expected) to both know themselves and know their partner. That is, to know who they are and how they move through the world, and also to understand who their partner is, and how he or she operates. To be clear, that is not how they wish their partner operates, but how their partner actually operates, navigates, and maneuvers through the world. This knowledge, which requires a healthy dose of curiosity and attention, creates a strong foundation of understanding. It pushes forth the secure-functioning principles that “your partner is your responsibility and in your care,” and “you are responsible for knowing how to manage your partner.” Your partner then holds a sacred and honored position no one else in the world gets to occupy. That said, we often joke that actual wedding vows should probably include, “I take you to be my perfect pain in the butt.”

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PACT teaches couples how to manage their partners so they can move and shift them into better states of mind and moods; lower their stress level; and decrease their sense of threat, anxiety, and depression.

The idea of being responsible for knowing and caring for your partner in this way and putting the relationship first tends to be the hard sell for some couples. When you truly understand the benefits of adopting this idea, the stance of “but it’s always about them, it never gets to be about me” loses its power as an argument.

My answer is, “You do this because it serves you and is good for you. You get your needs met by shoring up the vulnerabilities in your partner so he or she can in return do the same for you. You both get the benefits of that investment.

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Love and genuine connection create libidinal energy—life force energy that can be renewed in an instant through a simple act of friendliness, a glance, a look, a moment, and a knowing that “my person likes me.” Part of creating a secure relationship is making sure you are helping your partner perform at an optimal level. To do that, messages that communicate “I’m good at you,” “I’m good at being with you,” and “You are in my care” must be reflected every day.

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If you want to put this into practice, one way I encourage that is to pay attention to everything your partner hears you say about him or her. What messages are you conveying? Another thing you can do is to introduce your partner to other people, when you are together in public, in a way that is elevating.”

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Building a healthy Couple Bubble

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A couple bubble is a power tool.

Everyday, I continue to be blown away at the effects of teaching others–and practicing at home–what a secure couple bubble feels like, and how to care for it. It’s a very basic concept of behaving reassuringly toward your partner (I apply it as a parent and friend too). When 2 people commit to providing this for each other…things change fast.

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Here is Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., from the PACT group to describe elements of a secure couple bubble: “Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy…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.

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Insecurity and insecure attachment negatively affect brain performance. Development can be slowed down because the brain is using most of its resources to manage being in survival mode instead of being free to move toward evolution, growth, and complexity. In general, couples can get tripped up in creating a secure and healthy relationship and end up not liking their partners, situations, or experiences because they don’t know what to do or how to manage them. This can leave them feeling badly about themselves as well as their partner. “….we each have to know our sensitivities and how we move through the world, and also to understand who are partner is, and how they operate. To be clear, that is not how we wish our partner operated, but how our partner actually operates, navigates, and maneuvers through the world.

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This knowledge, which requires a healthy dose of curiosity and attention, creates a strong foundation of understanding. It pushes forth the secure-functioning principles that “your partner is your responsibility and in your care,” and “you are responsible for knowing how to manage your partner.” Your partner then holds a sacred and honored position no one else in the world gets to occupy. That said, we often joke that actual wedding vows should probably include, “I take you to be my perfect pain in the butt.” “…The idea of being responsible for knowing and caring for your partner in this way and putting the relationship first –tends to be the hard sell for some couples. When you truly understand the benefits of adopting this idea, the stance of “but it’s always about them, it never gets to be about me” loses its power as an argument.

My answer is, “You do this because it serves you and it comes back to you. You get your needs met by shoring up the vulnerabilitied in your partner so he or she can in return do the same for you. You both get the benefits of that investment.”

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Love and genuine connection create libidinal energy—life force energy that can be renewed in an instant through a simple act of friendliness, a glance, a look, a moment, and a knowing that “my person likes me.” Part of creating a secure relationship is making sure you are helping your partner stay connected at an optimal level. To do that, messages that communicate “I’m good at you,” “I’m good at being with you,” and “You are in my care” must be reflected every day.

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If you want to put this into practice, one way I encourage that is to pay attention to everything your partner hears you say about him or her. What messages are you conveying? Another thing you can do is to introduce your partner to other people, when you are together in public, in a way that is elevating…” Go ahead, have a discussion with your partner tonight about securing the couple bubble through these reassuring behaviors. If questions or complaints come up, leave a comment. 😉

Creating A Secure Relationship

Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. Life revolves around them. In intimate relationships, how do we get really good at them? Lots of new studies and science on attachment have some useful insights.

Here are a couple of articles that I’ve blended for brevity and usefulness by Lon Rankin and Stan Tatkin. (First there’s an overview, and then there’s 10 helpful commandments. Italics are mine). “Every species of mammal uses the limbic system—the social, emotional, relational part of the brain—to create strong bonds that provide safety and a felt sense of security.

Adult-child bonding is especially crucial for the development of the complex human brain and nervous system, and the development of an internal felt sense of security in the world—both real and perceived. When parents are too often inattentive of their child’s emotional needs, this bonding does not happen optimally, and the injury of insecurity can prevail.

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Memories, especially negative ones, are extremely powerful in influencing our perception of the world and our behaviors. Our subjective experience is colored by our past. All experiences, at any age, involving fear and threat are “velcroed” into the memory system in the interest of self-protection, but memories from childhood have particular potency. Children do not survive very long without parental attention and protection, and times of parental inattention, misattunement, and neglect are perceived as profoundly threatening. These memories become deeply wired into the brain and imprinted in the mind. (This is the basis for the value of inner child work in modern psychotherapy.) Many people in relationships are reacting from these often implicit and unconscious, velcroed threat memories, and their activation in everyday.

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…understanding the workings of this internal safety and security system, and the importance of this area…couples can move from projected, negative, internalized relational blueprints toward secure functioning within the primary partnership. In moving couples in this direction, partners “hold each other in mind,” especially in these places of old injury. They can take on the mantle of the attending parent in these areas of distress by holding their partner and their partner’s history in mind.

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…secure functioning is characterized by a balance of valuing both self and the relationship. Therefore, we encourage couples to tend their own historical and present-time hurts (through regular, quality attachment therapy), as well as be there for their partner’s hurts. Two strong, secure, internalized partners regulate these past injuries and their repetitive projected activations together. Old hurts are securely attended to in a mutual manner, rather than being allowed to take over and threaten the partnership.” -Lon Rankin

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Here are Stan Tatkin’s fabulously securing tips for smooth functioning relationships:

10 Commandments of a Secure Relationship

1. Thou shalt protect the safety and security of thy relationship at all costs.
2. Thou shalt base thy relationship on true mutuality, remembering that all decisions and actions must be good for thee AND for thine partner.
3. Thou shalt not threaten the existence of the relationship, for so doing would benefit no one.
4. Thou shalt appoint thy partner as go-to person for all matters, making certain thy partner is first to know—not second, third, or fourth—in all matters of importance.
5. Thou shalt provide a tether to thy partner all the days and nights of thy life, and never fail to greet thy partner with good cheer.
6. Thou shalt protect thy partner in public and in private from harmful elements, including thyself.
7. Thou shall put thy partner to bed each night and awaken with thy partner each morning.
8. Thou shalt correct all errors, including injustices and injuries, at once or as soon as possible, and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.
9. Thou shalt gaze lovingly upon thy partner daily and make frequent and meaningful gestures of appreciation, admiration, and gratitude.
10. Thou shalt learn thy partner well and master the ways of seduction, influence, and persuasion, without the use of fear or threat.