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Friends of Six Senses with Stan Tatkin

If you have challenges in your relationship, you’re not alone. People can be the most difficult thing on the planet, according to relationship expert Stan Tatkin. He should know, he’s spent decades studying couples.

During a difficult or new situation, relationship challenges can be heightened so our Wellness Pioneer, Anna Bjurstam, picked Stan’s brain about the best ways to handle these moments.

Our relationship habits start in childhood, Stan began, and based on those early experiences with our first caregivers, we become either good – or not so good – at getting along with others and brokering win-win situations.

In his book, Wired for Love, he shares research from the fields of neuroscience and attachment theory as well as decades of his own experience working with couples to teach people how to understand their partner (or child’s) brains. In understanding this, we can become much better at working with our own and our partner’s “wiring” to move through conflict quickly and cultivate greater connection and positivity.

Part of understanding each other is understanding each other’s “attachment style”. This is our way of relating to the people closest to us and is powerfully shaped by early childhood experiences. For those of us who may have been wounded during our earliest experiences, anxiety can pervade intimacy and cause us to behave in ways that manifest our worst fears – of being abandoned or smothered, for example.

Stan shared a useful exercise for how to become more tolerant of those closest to us when stress and fear can amplify insecurities and lead to unpleasant behaviors. Because our brains are “plastic”, practices like this can help us rewire our brains to be better at love.

Exercise: How to become more tolerant of your partner

How to become more tolerant of your partner

The Key to Repair

A key source of conflict is misunderstanding. Most of the time we are not intending to hurt each other but we aren’t able to clearly hear and understand each other.

Knowing how to repair in the inevitable moments when we hurt each other is an important skill. Stan shared an exercise to move through conflict more quickly.

Exercise: How to repair when you’ve hurt each other

The Difficult Animal

Now that we’ve learned how to be more tolerant and how to address conflict, how do we create a secure-functioning relationship? According to Stan, this is the type of connection where we are in each other’s care, we become experts in each other, and by doing this, we can do more to heal the past than any therapist can do. If we’re smart, we can get to know each other deeply and do the things that shore up each other’s insecurities.

Stan shared that relationships are about learning how to deal with a difficult animal – the human being – and to learn how to work with the animal you chose. How good am I at “you”? A lot of people don’t want to do that, they want to be taken care of.

What about for those of us in long-distance relationships? How can we stay connected?

Stan recommended connecting during important moments like at bedtime and when you wake up. If there are big time zones in between, each person can call and say good-night or send a good morning text. These are ways we can cultivate a sense of being tethered to each other. It sends the message that no matter where I am in the world, you’re in my mind, and we can contact each other anytime.

Although we would never ask for a pandemic, for many couples the extended time together has offered an opportunity to reconnect and nurture bonds. Although there is much uncertainty right now, we can all strive to become a safe harbor for the ones we love whether we are together or apart.

Dr. Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT is a teacher, clinician, researcher, and developer of the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy® (PACT). To learn more from Stan on how to improve your relationship, here’s a link to his course, 7 Days to Better Fighting.

Through Six Senses Visiting Practitioner Carey Davidson, discover your archetype mix so you can engage the power of your mind to ignite your heart during this extended period of living in close proximity with your partner. 

Follow #AtHomeWithSixSenses on our social media channels @SixSenses and @SixSensesSpas or catch up on the latest videos including meditation, yoga, workouts, cooking classes, Alchemy Bar workshops and more via our dedicated YouTube channel.


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