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Kid and pets are easy, partners are hard


by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,

This is based on the principle that adult romantic primary attachment relationships are more difficult because of their psychobiological weight — memories, expectations, fears, threats to security, etc. Primary partners tend to become “deep family.” Like it not, partner become proxies for everyone who has come before (historically) the relationship: mother, father, brother, sister, first love, teachers, etc. Kids are smaller systems and can certainly trigger early memories and bodily experiences and the complexity of raising children is certainly no cakewalk. However, they just do not carry the same emotional, psychobiological weight as a primary partner. Pets are easy because they are cute but their brains neither amplify mutually generated positive experiences nor trigger historical attachment injuries (at least not usually).

Alas, it is our adult partners who remain our mightiest challenge to happiness as all our early attachment injuries and hopes for repair likely reside in their ability to make our lives easier rather than more difficult (unfortunately the latter is more common).

What do you think? More later….

Copyright 2012 — Stan Tatkin, Psy.D. — all rights reserved



  1. barefootlotuss says:

    but worth the effort?


  2. well, it is like you say: like it or not, we are all proxies for everyone who has come before , historically…. As a teacher, you make a good difference to everybody else who came before: congratulations. with a smile from Valencia Annette


  3. Great start Stan! Already shared it on FB for all my friends!


  4. Annie V says:

    Australia must have agreed with you!!
    Yes! As a dog owner, there is nothing like unconditional love and quick repair… as a cat owner, affection sought and constant companionship while understanding the need for separateness rules.
    Annie V


  5. Carol Poole says:

    Hi, Stan! I’m glad you’re blogging and look forward to reading more here. About couples–I wonder what you think about this question: does *liking* each other (as distinct from intense sexual attraction) make it significantly easier to work through all the proxies? I think so but haven’t seen any data on the question.


  6. This must be why we place so much expectation on our partner, hoping for “repair.” And why we want them to wear so many hats to meet all our needs. Doesn’t seem fair to them. I guess this explains why conflict is common, we want them to be perfect for us, and, there are no perfect people. So we’re easily disappointed. This sounds like we load all our baggage on them. I don’t see how any relationship could work, with all this stuff. This is why I like your book, it’s much more other-centered. How to mesh our types. It’s a new frame. Love shouldn’t be like two porcupines mating, wish we could all do more about it. Does family of origin proxy equal unconditional love, or fixing what was broken, as opposed to just partners escaping from the world, and enjoying each other for comfort/relief? I agree with barefootlotuss, yes, worth the effort.


  7. Michael says:

    Yes! Having had all three, I would definiitely agree, though I’d love to see you post/write about the relationship b/w partnering and parenting. I think that not enough has been written about how possibly the hardest and most important part about parenting is maintaining your partnership! In other words, having kids is hard not only because it brings out the unresolved issues in oneself (this has been written about of course), but also the unresolved attachment issues in one’s primary relationship.


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