Stan Tatkin is the founder of A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy®(PACT). He has worked with couples for more than fifteen years in his clinical practice. He teaches, he counsels, he writes, he does it all!
Stan has authored a few very important books throughout his career, some of them including: Wired for Love, Your Brain on Love, Wired for Dating, and his latest and the driving point behind this interview, We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love. All in all, I am delighted to have Stan on the show. You are really going to get a lot out of this talk!
The Difficulties of Cultivating a Cooperative and Collaborative Relationship
Stan lays the groundwork for a secure-functioning relationship between couples. He says both participants in the relationship share power and mutually govern over each other to balance out the dynamic. Because we are perfectly imperfect as human beings, the dynamic is often skewed to one side. Collaboration is hard and positivity is just as difficult to maintain.
To you who listen along, Stan will also take you down a fascinating neurological path when he explains our survival mechanisms and how the brain takes shortcuts. These facets of our development make it very hard to maintain secure relationships. Our states of mind, the many different perceptions we experience–of which Stan likens to a funhouse mirror–and our imperfect memories, are of many hurdles to overcome. For much more on this uphill climb, tune in.
Threats and Shared Governance
Stan reminds us that the small ‘threats’, the eyerolls, the tone laced with animosity, the cold shoulder, passive aggression, all of it, can compound and show up in a very real biological sense. After time, you will view your spouse as a predator. Not in any malicious sense, but because of self-protective tendencies we have learned over our development, our perceptions can certainly be skewed unknowingly.
Our capacity or tendency to be threatened in ingrained within us naturally. It can also be a result of upbringing as well. Some of it is triggered merely by standing eye-to-eye with one another; In addition, the principle of ‘shared governance’ can cause threats. Stan describes shared governance as shared principles that both parties believe in that will protect one from each other. He also tells us that this is how society works: we share a similar mythology, an analogous narrative is followed that reflects shared sentiments of governance.
Really check out this episode to hear Stan explain it in much more detail.
Putting the Relationship First?
Stan stands by this practice. He says a lot of breakdown in relationships hinges on differences in focus. If both of you agree to put the kids first over the relationship, Stan believes everyone suffers. He doesn’t condone neglecting the child, but just like well-worn maxim of taking care of yourself before others, so too everyone benefits if there’s a strong foundation to work with.
The Couple Bubble
This interesting concept is described as two people protecting their relationship ‘ecosystem’. This system is built on accountability, that is, the push-and-pull of a symbiotic partnership where one action affects the other tangibly.
Stan tells you to think of it this way: the couple bubble can either guarantee mutually assured destruction or mutually assured survival! Keeping the bubble in focus is extremely important.
Much more is said. Do yourself a favor and listen along!
What About Mutually Exclusive Needs?
During the episode, the very crucial question of differing needs arise. What if there are instances, major or minor, where accommodating each other is very difficult. A job interview that necessitates a move, or simply a softball game that cuts into bowling night. Whatever the event, Stan stresses the need for win-win situations to be created. This compromise works well to keep couples engaged and actively working for each other.
When asked if anyone can learn these skills of creating win-wins and of being attuned to the needs of the delicate relationship ecosystem, Stan says it’s not a matter of capacity but of will.
If you are chained to someone, you will work together to move successfully. If you are stranded on an island, you will work with your partner to survive. If you are locked in a room with the only stipulation being that you need to come to an agreement, you will think of something. It is will and not capacity.
Stan’s Take on Sex
To keep this brief, being transparent, communicating, cutting back on self-serving sexual practices, understanding the reasons for performance anxiety, and quickly addressing disagreements before your negative biases compound the problem are all aspects that are discussed in this episode. Check it out!
We Versus Me
Stan closes out the episode by accentuating the importance of focusing on ‘we-ism’ over ‘me-ism’. If you can be mindful of instances in your life where self-serving behavior is harming the overall ‘we’ dynamic of the relationship, then shifting your priorities is essential.
For much more on these powerful concepts, tune into this episode. Very impressive stuff.
Key Links for Stan Tatkin
For Training and Therapy: The PACT Institute
Stan’s Personal Website: https://stantatkin.com/
Affiliate links for Stan’s books (meaning I earn a small commission on your purchase):
We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love: https://amzn.to/2EcDOhN
Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship https://amzn.to/2QL669Z
Wired for Dating: How Understanding Neurobiology and Attachment Style Can Help You Find Your Ideal Mate: https://amzn.to/2EdHsbu
Relationship Rx: https://amzn.to/2SGQH83
Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships: https://amzn.to/2Epptj8