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When it comes to loving our partners and family members, we have the best intentions, yet somehow, we often say or do the wrong thing. It’s as if our brains have a mind of their own! Our Wellness Pioneer Anna Bjurstam and world renowned therapist Dr. Stan Tatkin and his wife, Dr. Tracey Tatkin discussed how to invest in happier and healthier relationships and offer evidence-based ways to fight well, repair quickly, and have more fun in love.
This is undoubtedly a challenging time, where we’re spending extra time knocking into each other, whether working or schooling at home. So how can we keep our brain wired to love?
According to Stan and Tracey, we have a biological mandate to attach but love is not the prevailing reason why relationships prosper. Long lasting unions are based on a shared purpose and shared power, operating on the principle of fairness and pre-agreed governance or principles to keep you both pointing in the same direction.
These principles will help you argue well because they act as your guardrails. Humans are naturally moody. Pre-agreeing your principles means that in the heat of the argument you don’t corrode the relationship. The principles are organic so you can add to them or refine them over time.
For example, if during an argument you tend to shout or use facial expressions that may be deemed condescending such as eye rolling, one principle is to agree that if this is the case (you may not realize), you promise you will remind each other so you can yield.
During a fight, as soon as our heart rate goes up, our brain starts scanning for threats and reminders of previous threats. The best way to regulate each other’s nervous systems is to maintain eye contact. As primates we are visual animals; we fell in love through the eyes. When we look into each other’s eyes, we notice details and bring ourselves into real time with our real partner, not the automated version we hold in our heads. It is harder to lie, obsess or be afraid when you have eye contact. It also rekindles a lot of feelings … including love.
Over the next week, spend a moment every morning writing three things you are grateful for about a loved one and, at the end of the week, read the list to them. Our brains are unhelpfully wired to remind us about that things we don’t have so gratitude is a way to bring us back to reality and count our blessings.
1. Find moments to reconnect throughout the day, even if it is just a quick kiss if you’re together or text message if you’re apart. This will help you remain tethered.
2. Maintain a morning and night-time routine and close the night even if one of you is staying up. It’s unhealthy for us not to know whether the relationship will exist tomorrow so, even if you go to bed angry, touching your feet signals you’re ok.
3. Be open and honest: if you agree that safety, security and trust are fundamental principles, keeping secrets or withholding information (unless agreed) will kill the relationship. If someone is unwilling to be transparent and you are not happy with this, it’s time to question whether you want to go forward.
4. Continue to be curious about your partner. If you are curious you cannot be depressed because you stay outwardly focused.
5. Repair right away, even if you are really angry. Setting principles forces you back into being the people you agreed to be!
Dr. Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT is a teacher, clinician, researcher, and developer of the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy® (PACT). Stan and his wife, philanthropist and humanitarian Tracey Boldemann-Tatkin, PhD, created the PACT Institute in 2010 to train mental health professionals to successfully integrate a psychobiological approach in their clinical practices.
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Six Senses is pushing beyond traditional boundaries of well-being into less visible fields such as sacred energy and connection. What is our sixth sense, and how does it benefit us? Alberto Villoldo PhD tells us more.