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Power Couples…Activate!

by Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., PACT faculty, Los Angeles CA

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

PACT principles help couples enjoy the experience of being loved for who they are, as well as appreciate all the day-to-day benefits their relationship brings.

Copyright Eva Van Prooyen


  1. this is the best article i have read on this topic to date, thank you. It’s where I want to get to.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lauren McElroy says:

    I was driving yesterday and heard these lyrics on the radio, and thought, “That’s just like what Stan teaches about.”

    Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
    Risking it all, though it’s hard

    ‘Cause all of me
    Loves all of you
    Love your curves and all your edges
    All your perfect imperfections
    Give your all to me
    I’ll give my all to you
    You’re my end and my beginning
    Even when I lose I’m winning
    ‘Cause I give you all of me
    And you give me all of you

    I give you all, all of me
    And you give me all, all of you

    I found out just now it’s by John Legend, whom I’ve never heard of, called “All of Me”.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lauren McElroy says:

    Eva Van Prooyen has done an excellent job of conveying the benefits of PACT and also how it works. I’ve had difficulty over time understanding how accepting my partner fits with the idea of also moving and shifting him. “If I accept him, how does that fit with trying to change his behavior?” Reading Eva’s post, I think I understand it better — accepting means accepting how a partner really * functions *, and I’m still accepting him if I use my understanding to help him feel more secure, helping him to “move toward evolution, growth, and complexity.” Thank you, Eva!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! You’ve got it.

      Thanks so much for your comment, Lauren.

      ‘Accepting’ means whole-heartedly becoming an expert on your partner. When you understand how your partner “functions” and what their vulnerabilities are, you are perfectly positioned to help your partner feel more understood and secure. The more secure they feel, the more they can be present and reciprocate for you and the relationship.

      Chapter 4 “Becoming Experts on One Another” in Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship
 by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT has really helpful information to support this principle, and even offers antidotes that are effective in attending to your partner’s vulnerabilities.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Allison Howe says:

    Thank you, Eva! I really enjoyed your entry. I agree that it can be a hard sell and sometimes I am asked by a couple “aren’t you asking us to be codependent”? I liked how you framed it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Allison! Thank you so much for your post and comment.
      Couples, clinicians, and students ask me about codependency too. I think your comment will resonate with our readers.

      The PACT model promotes a genuinely mutual “two-person” system. Codependency is an insecure “one-person” system where one person stands for ‘something’ or ‘some ideal’ but not strongly enough to take the lead, do it, or act on it themselves. There is an aspect to the codependent dynamic that reveals where someone is not able to ‘self-activate/regulate’, which says, “you do it for me” or “you go first”.

      Just because couples are expected to know themselves and their partners DOES NOT mean they aren’t responsible for themselves/their part and preemptively (when possible) catching themselves stepping into their vulnerabilities.

      Where there is true mutuality, there is no room for codependency.



      Liked by 1 person

  5. Laurie Colson-Young says:

    Thank you for such a great article. It clearly articulated the importance of understanding, loving and being an attachment figure for the person we (hopefully) have invested our heart, mind and soul into-and helping us to recognize the true honor it is to be available for their vulnerability, pain, hopes, and reality of who they are..


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