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Train Your Partner

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,

In case you haven’t heard me say this before, we come to relationships basically feral, untrained, and barely parented. Therefore, as romantic partners we must train one another to be in secure-functioning relationship. This IS NOT accomplished by whining, complaining, threatening, withdrawing, or avoiding. Rather we train each other head-on with statements made directly into the eyes. Make sure YOUR eyes are friendly and try some of the following or make up your own:

“Put that [insert distraction here] down and be with me.”
“Try that again and this time say it like you love me.”
“Look at me and tell me that you think I’m terrific.”
“Tell your handsome guy/beautiful gal [that would be you] that you’ll always be mine.”
“Protect me and I’ll protect you.”
“Come here and sit by me.”
“Do this with me.”
“Tell me how wonderful I am.”
“Tell me how much you appreciate me.”

If your guy or gal resists, refuses, makes jokes, or does ANYTHING other than give an equally direct and sincere response gently repeat with the prefix, “Try that again.” Do this only once again with friendly eyes and up close. If your partner responds properly thank him/her and make it worth his/her effort. If your partner still resists, just say something like, “We’ll do this again later until we get it right…for both of us.” And drop it.

Always helps to have a bunch of treats in your pocket!

Good luck,

© 2013 – A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy® – all rights reserved

Find Your Mentor Couple

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,

One of my mentors, Marion Solomon, introduced me to the brilliant idea of mentor couples. Also known as marriage mentors and sponsor couples, this concept originated in the church setting but is becoming increasingly popular. Basically, a mentor couple is one you admire and and look to for guidance. I was impressed that Matt and Marion Solomon have at least one mentor couple. Tracey and I proudly claim two mentor couples. One of course is Matt and Marion. Their relationship is the epitome of secure-functioning. They protect each other in private and public; they most definitely maintain a secure couple bubble; they tell each other everything; neither would ever threaten the relationship or be threatening to the other; they take one another’s distress seriously and provide prompt relief to each other; they know each other and most definitely have each other’s owners manual; and they are a lighthouse to other couples. They put relationships first.

Tracey and I have another mentor couple: Jim and Myrtle Pinsky. They are parent-like figures to us, and we aspire to be like them, as we do to Matt and Marion. Jim is 91 (just turned) and Myrtle is short of that figure (by how much I don’t know). They knew both my parents, and like them, belong to a culture of human beings that puts relationships first. Like Matt and Marion, they serve as a beacon of light to others and authentically live by secure-functioning principles. As world travelers, they are like magnets, drawing people from all over to their warmth, kindness, generosity, and modesty. They put relationships first.

I’d like to give mention also to my late cousin, Pat Kaplan, and her surviving husband, Harold, because they, too, exemplified secure-functioning in their long marriage together. Both put relationships first.

The happiest people I know put relationships first. They value their loved ones, their friendships, and their ability to remain loyal and true. Many of us didn’t experience secure-functioning love relationships as we grew up, and many of us never saw our parents take good care of each other. In a great too many families, relationships do not come first.

It starts with the couple. If the state of that union is poor, everyone living beneath the same roof (and beyond) suffers. It always starts with the couple. If we don’t have a good model, we typically look for it somewhere… in literature, film, or those around us. But we may not have thought of looking to a mentor couple. My hope is that this blog post inspires some of you to keep an eye out for at least one mentor couple, and perhaps even endeavor to be one for others.

© 2013 – A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy® – all rights reserved

Picking the Right Partner

by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,

“I always seem to pick the wrong person for long-term relationships. There’s something wrong with my ‘picker.’ I should just give up.”

Many times I have heard this kind of gripe from patients, acquaintances, and friends. While I understand why someone might think his or her “picker” is broken or defective, in truth, it belies a misunderstanding of the human pair-bonding process. Let’s review.

The initial pair-bonding process is psychobiological. You, as you think of yourself right now, are not the same person you were when you first met the love of your life. You were on infatuation “drugs” throughout that initial courtship period. Your body, your lower (and faster) brain, and your neuroendocrine system (endogenous drugs) ran that show. The thing is, nature cares more about procreation and mixing of the gene pool than it does about the success of long-term relationships.

So if you do care about long-term success and all you’ve got is your brain in love, you are in trouble. Of course, if you are over 25, your picker most likely is better than it was during the initial mate selection phase of your life.

However, we tend to forget that mate selection for long-term relationship is a social process involving other people, not something to be done alone. Mate selection for long-term relationship is a vetting process in which family and friends (who, unlike you and your wannabe partner, aren’t on drugs) have a chance to weigh in. If you are among the unfortunate who do not have family who can vet your partner, you need to be creative and find other ways to evaluate your new relationship. Find friends, colleagues, and other mixed gender helpers who can offset your own less sober judgment. If you simply prefer not to consult your social network because you don’t want to hear anything negative, well, good luck to ya.

© 2013 – A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy® – all rights reserved