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Relationship Alive!

Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at http://www.neilsattin.com
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Now displaying: August, 2016
Aug 31, 2016

How do you spend time with your partner? Do you put energy and attention on the things that you want to GROW in your relationship? Or does your energy and attention go to problems and other things you wish weren't true? In this week's episode, I'm going to give you a simple gratitude practice that can dramatically shift the dynamic in your relationship towards the positive end of the spectrum. Try it for a week, see how it ripples out into the rest of your life, and let me know how it goes!

It's simple, really. Focusing on what you have, on your gratitude and your appreciation, will highlight just how rich your life and partnership are. Take time every day (it works best to set aside a regular time - I prefer just before sleeping) and share 3 things with your partner that you appreciate about them. They can be big things or tiny details. After each one, pause and allow your partner the opportunity to RECEIVE each one. You can alternate with each other (where you take turns sharing each appreciation), or you can do all three - and then your partner shares 3 things that they appreciate about you.

We'll focus in another episode on some other strategies about how you shift the quality of your time with your partner. This week, though, I don't want to overwhelm you. Try this practice out with your partner (or with yourself, if you're single), and see what else changes. And please let me know. You can always write to me at neilius at neilsattin.com - or you can join our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook. Looking forward to hearing what you notice!

Aug 19, 2016

Are you afraid of love and intimacy? How do we deal with that paradox, that we fear that which we most want? If you get to know that part of yourself, and embrace it - as we’re going to reveal on today’s episode - then it becomes an amazing source of power, inspiration, and connection for you. And if you don’t think you have that fear, then you definitely want to listen to this episode, as it may help you uncover some of the blocks that - well - you don’t even know you have! Today we’re having another visit from Ken Page, author of “Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy” - and his work on how to bring your authentic self to dating and relationship is a powerful tool for you to get to know yourself and your partner (or partner-to-be) better. And to access the power that comes with getting to know this part of yourself really well, and dancing with it.

I also wanted to let you know about Ken Page’s free class - the Five Essential Insights for Finding True Love, happening on August 31, 2016, where you can learn more from him about how to access your Core Gifts in relationship. You can click this link in order to sign up for the free class. He’s also going to be teaching a seven-week course for single people this fall (which he’ll talk about at the end of the free class) - and if you happen to sign up for that, a portion of your course fee will help support the Relationship Alive podcast. And now...onto today’s show guide!

The paradox of vulnerability: Despite common belief and widespread cultural teachings, the parts of ourselves that we are most ashamed of are in fact our most beautiful, tender, and truthful parts! Our vulnerabilities are where our soul lies and where love comes from. We are unfortunately socialized to be ashamed of vulnerability in the name of being cool, witty, ‘independent’ and strong and we learn all sorts of ways to mask, defend, and pretend our way out of our wounds.

Protecting wounded places: The act of finding love is about deconstructing the walls we have erected inside to protect the world (and ourselves) from accessing our vulnerabilities. Every way in which we protect ourselves is a way we are blocking ourselves from the gifts that the wounded place has to offer.  We falsely believe that we are only going to find love once we have built a strong enough fortress, while in fact, the parts we are hiding are the exact parts that the person that is right for us is going to fall in love with. This is true because our deepest wounds reveal our greatest gifts! It is our source of inspiration, knowing, laughter, creativity, trust, potential and passion.

You don’t have to be something other than who you are. Cherish the reality of this concept. Cherish the relief it offers. Treasure your fears and turn your vulnerability into your holy ground- welcome it in with open arms as a guide not only to who you be, but to the love you are capable of giving and receiving. Turn towards your fears and know that the degree to which you accept how you flee love is the degree to which you will become a greater version of you, and your life will fill with more and more love! This is not going to be some polished packaged kind of greatness- it is going to be a gritty kind of human greatness. You may even be crestfallen and disheartened at first authentic contact with your shadow sides, however quickly you will see the beauty of exposed hurt and fear. You will gain a certain kind of dignity- a dignity in how you hold your heart, and others’ too.

Your path to intimacy is perhaps the most important path you will journey on in your life! Acknowledging our fears around intimacy is a process. So many of us have developed very sophisticated strategies and defenses so as to protect ourselves and the world from truly seeing or hearing our fears. Learning to listen inward is a courageous act that requires self-compassion and curiosity. It can be incredibly supportive to do this archeological heart work in relationship with someone else, be them your partner, your friend, a therapist, a coach, or someone else who can help hold you in a conscious way.

Become intimate with your fear of intimacy.  Begin to practice the following steps as a way to guide you through the process of getting to know and love your fears:

Step 1: Make a paradigm shift. Shift your perspective to the belief that you do have fear of intimacy, you do act out of fear of intimacy, and you do flee intimacy. All humans do! Furthermore, celebrate the knowing that your fears are your gifts- they are true gold, capable of helping you get closer to the love you want.

Step 2: Get curious. Now that you are aware that there is no need to be either ashamed or afraid of your own fears, ask yourself: what am I afraid of? What are my flight patterns? What do I do to push love away? Observe, wonder, watch.

Step 3: Ask these two powerful questions. Alone with a journal, or together with another person, ask yourself the following 2 questions at least 3 times each. Allow your answer to come out raw and unedited. Repeat the questions until you feel a softening of your heart.

Question #1-Tell me about your fear of love

Question #2- How do you shut the door to deeper intimacy?

Breathe into the answers and heed the advice embedded within: The first question reveals not only your fears, but your values and deepest gifts. These fears may include fear of losing the other person, fear that if you are really seen you will not be loved, and fear that if you taste intimacy you will also be hurt when it isn’t there. These fears speak about how truly and deeply you love, how much you desire truth and wanting to be seen for all that you are, and how poignantly you experience intimacy. Always be sure to look for what value and gift your fear is protecting you from. The second question reveals your most significant blocks to intimacy. We all have flight patterns and ways that we choreograph avoiding intimacy- acknowledging and admitting these allows us to uncover exactly what it is we need to do to ALLOW intimacy. Listen closely to your answer to question #2, because embedded within is the knowing for what you can change to have more love in your life!

Resources

Listen to our first episode with Ken Page: Episode #30

Take Ken’s course The 5 Essential Insights for Finding True Love online for free!

See deeperdating.com for links to interviews, learn more, access online courses, and to sign up to receive Ken Page’s free ebook!

Read Ken’s book Deeper Dating

www.neilsattin.com/dating2 Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Ken Page!

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Aug 16, 2016

How does your relationship within yourself help you develop a deeper connection with your partner? How can you balance the skills of inner work with the skills required for a thriving relationship? By now you’re aware that there are all of these parts within us that shape who we are - both how we see ourselves, and how the world sees us. You have these parts, and your partner has these parts. The more that you and your partner can be the “leader” of your parts, and the more you can interact with each other from that place, the deeper your intimacy will become. Today’s guest, Toni Herbine-Blank, has created a practical way for you to do just that. She is the developer of Intimacy from the Inside Out (IFIO) - which combines the wisdom of Internal Family Systems with Attachment Theory and state of the art couples therapy - to help you and your partner deepen your connection while making it more resilient.

Internal Family Systems Recap: For an in depth discussion on the Internal Family Systems model, revisit episode #26 with IFS founder Dick Schwartz. Briefly, IFS outlines that we each contain a Self and many many parts. We have protective parts of our personality (managers and firefighters) which have developed to take on the role of protecting the more vulnerable parts of us (exiles). Exiles are often young parts of ourselves that have been wounded in relationship and have been pushed back and tucked away by the system in order to not get hurt again. Imagine a giant umbrella with two little feet sticking out from underneath. The umbrella is the protective system (sometimes called coping mechanisms, or defenses) covering up the little exiled ones from any harm.

We do not get out of childhood without getting hurt. Whether you have experienced BIG T Traumas, or little t traumas, you, and everyone, have healing to do. We have all been wounded, even those with ideal childhoods, and our systems have responded by creating protective mechanisms. Children are brilliant at creating the defensive strategies- and now these ways of being are so tightly woven with who we think we are, and how we operate in relationship that they can go undetected.

Why think in parts? Seeing ourselves through a parts lens begins to open us up to connection, awareness, and experience of core Self. Self is unwounded, ever-present, and an incredible healing resource. It is our heart space. Without parts languaging, we can get stuck between the protective system and the vulnerabilities, leading to internal and external tension, stagnation, and cycling in ourselves and our relationships. Access to Self brings energy to a relationship from the inside out. A parts perspective also allows for differentiation between what you do and why you do it. As you learn more about your own internal system, you can begin to take responsibility for how you are showing up in your relationship without getting stuck in the shame and blame cycle that so often takes the energy and intimacy out of relationships.

The You-Turn- The You-turn is at the heart of the Internal Family Systems model, and at the core of what develops vibrant intimate relationships. As so many of us know, it is so easy to focus on our partner when we are suffering. We blame them for what they are or are not doing, and hold onto it as though it is the cause of our hurt/grief/disconnection/discomfort. The You-turn is just this- it is a redirection of focus to the internal. Invite yourself to start looking inward with curiosity- what happens inside of you in response and reaction to your partner?

Track internal cycles and sequences: By bringing curiosity towards the internal experience, we can begin to observe the unfolding of our interactions. Noticing in real-time what is happening internally slows us down enough to allow for many more options of interacting! To start learning to do this, begin by simply tracking what IS happening. Are you yelling? Withdrawing? Shutting down? Then begin to see these reactions as coming from parts of you. Bring in curiosity- what are these parts trying to protect? Developing this inner awareness takes practice, safety, and often benefits from the support of a therapist.

Listening for needs: Many couples lose connection due to communication struggles. How are you using language? What kind of language are you using? Notice your patterns in speaking and in listening. How deeply are you listening to your partner? And what is getting in the way of really being able to listen carefully? As you ask these questions, begin to invite yourself to listen deeper, meaning listening for the underbelly of the conversation. Often the content is a variation on the theme of needs. Listen under the surface of what is being said for what needs you, or your partner, are expressing a desire for being met.

Protection evokes protection: Often our conflicts arise from a protector to protector interaction. If you respond to your partner through speaking from a protective part, this causes your partner to react from their protective system, and vice versa. This quickly escalates until both of you are in full defense mode and no connection can be made until safety is reestablished. Using an IFS perspective allows you to see the defensive reactions as a sign that there is a more vulnerable voice trying to be known and heard. There is almost always much more going on in a conflict than the content- in fact, most couples generally have one fight they repeat continuously just with different ‘issues’. Thus, it is not about changing the content but rather about changing your approach to the content/your relationship to the process. You will build intimacy from the inside out as individually and together you are able to explore and understand your internal systems.

Choice equals empowerment. The more protective we are, the less we get what we want from relationship. When we are being led by our protective system our options for behavior become limited to either attacking or collapsing. This plays out in all sorts of unhealthy relationship dynamics- causing fighting, distancing, and tension. When we get triggered and hurt we are no longer clear, and when we are no longer clear we no longer have the space inside to make a decision about how we want to respond. Intimacy from the inside out helps us differentiate on the inside, which helps us expand into much more choice! As we allow more room for Self, and begin to address the underlying fears and vulnerabilities causing such defensive and protective measures, we find that we are able to be more confident, calm, creative, curious, and compassionate in our interactions. We find humor, freedom, playfulness, and new possibilities for how to navigate getting our needs met.

I have a huge heart! As much as intimacy from the inside out is about building a relationship with our vulnerable parts, it is also about reconnecting to Self. Think of Self as this beating heart that sustains life- always there pumping away in the background. Connect with the knowing that you are more than just your parts- you have a HUGE heart that you can access at any point.

How to make a YOU-turn:

  1. Conscious awareness-  The first, and often hardest part of making a you-turn is the actual turning towards yourself, instead of the habitual focus on the other. So, with curiosity, turn towards yourself and first name that you are having a reaction/getting triggered. Begin to notice what is happening on the inside by recognizing what is happening in your body (the body is ALWAYS reacting some way or another). Is your stomach clenched? Feeling of anger in your chest? Do you want to run away? Flushed cheeks?
  2. Say Hi- Once you have turned towards yourself, begin a relationship with the parts of you that are showing up. Name them, start separating and differentiating from them. Differentiating and unblending from our parts- possible through naming them and asking them to give some space, is helpful in regulating affect and de-escalating ourselves. When you recognize a part, find a way to say “Hi! I get what you are up to, and I am going to help you”. When parts sense our presence (and feel Self energy) they begin to relax and once a relationship is established between Self and a part we can get to understand it and find it’s purpose and impulse.
  3. Ask the question- Ask your part what are you afraid would happen if you didn’t do the impulse right now? If you didn’t get angry/attack/withdraw/shutdown?’ If the part trusts you are coming from a place of curiosity and not from a judgmental shame/blame part, then you will begin to hear all kinds of ways that your parts are protecting deeper vulnerabilities.
  4. Develop a relationship with the vulnerability. Find ways to be with your vulnerabilities gently and with compassion. Maybe you do this with the help of a therapist, a meditation practice, a support group, a friend, a walk alone, or a creative process. Be with your exiles and let them feel Self energy holding them.
  5. Speak for the deeper vulnerability to your partner. When you are ready, share your exiles with your partner. Teach them about what you are learning about your system.

Sharing your vulnerable parts with your partner: Know that learning to unwrap protective layers and expose vulnerability, although so crucial for intimacy, is a process that will develop slowly. This requires a level of safety and trust that many couples have long lost. That said, be patient with yourself and your partner, while knowing too that it is incredibly worth learning to do! In fact, there will be a lot of relief for your partner as they come to learn how much of your current reactions are originating in a history that came long before them. As you share how your needs are connected to childhood wounds and past hurts, their heart will soften and they will open to you with much more curiosity and compassion. This is true because as you take responsibility for your internal system, they no longer have to defend and protect themselves due to you entirely blaming THEM for your reaction, nor do they have to feel like they are the sole cause of your suffering.

Speak for parts, not from parts: Learning to speak and listen well is a courageous act for all couples. Courageous communication begins with that pause and you-turn. Take those 10 deep breaths, name to yourself what is happening, and then speak FOR your parts, rather than from them. For example, speaking from an angry part would sound like “You aren’t listening to me!”, however speaking for this angry part could sound like “There is a part of me that is really longing to be heard”. Often our parts are just trying to get our core needs met: being heard, being seen, being known, being understood, and being loved. As you begin to unearth the deeper needs and share these with your partner, you begin to engage their curious Self. Parts led interactions are often dysregulated and does not give the space or safety necessary for our partner to understand you. Speaking for your parts, especially for you exiles, invites them in for understanding and intimacy. Furthermore, ask for permission from your partner, such as “I am noticing a part of me that is getting really frustrated and I am wondering if you are available to listen?” This gives your partner permission to check in with their own parts to see if they are open and available for deeper listening.

A temporary moment of maturity (TMM):  If either of you realizes that you are having a difficult time unblending from a part, and are continuing to speak FROM parts instead of on behalf of them, someone in the couple has to have a TMM and be willing to step out of the protector-protector dialogue and ask to pause and return to the conversation when you are both more available/Self led. This can be very hard to do because it is hard to truly hear your partner when you are hurt and it is even harder to put your own stuff to the side to be present. Try to simultaneously unblend from desperate parts (those pesky parts that want to fight and want the last word), while bringing your heart forward. Ultimately courageous communication is about how you hold onto yourself even when your partner is unavailable.

Experiment: Next time you feel badly about yourself or something in your life try to make a you-turn and notice just how quickly a part of you tries to find someone or something outside of yourself to blame for it. We all have such strong impulses to focus outward when we are having intense and uncomfortable internal feelings!

Shaming and blaming: Once you catch yourself pointing the finger outward, pause, take a breath and choose to go inside. Breath and ask yourself: can I just feel into what is happening in here? Remember that if there is a protective impulse, then there is inevitably something more vulnerable going on under the surface. Actually, when you feel a protective impulse coming up, it is time to get excited as this means that you have an opportunity to find out what you really need in that moment and you will then be much closer to getting those needs met! Ask your blaming/shaming parts to step to the side, and check for what that more vulnerable feeling underneath is. A great you-turn question sounds like ‘What am I feeling right now and what am I needing?’ then, ‘can I do this for myself or do I need to go outside and ask for help?’.

Inner critic: Shame is often present in us, though very hidden and well-protected. Many of us were shamed in childhood- whether it was overt and explicit messages from parents or implicit ones from school, family, or friends. When a child is shamed over and over again and there is no repair (apology or acknowledgement) they will develop a part that takes on the role of further shaming- what we often refer to as the inner critic. We quickly learn how to internalized the critical voice by developing chronic negative self talk. The ‘logic’ behind this is that this part believes that if it does a good enough job of criticizing us, we will be motivated to do/be better. Thus the inner critic’s good intention is to hopefully improve oneself. Unfortunately it does not work out that well. Not only do we deflate and exhaust ourselves, we also strain our external relationships. This is true because if there is an internal critic, then there is an external one as well. The external critic parts shame and blame those around us, as a way of trying to do to others what we are doing to ourselves in hopes of alleviating the internal dilemma. No one however, has punished or shamed their way into getting the love they want and need.

Internal attachment. The more you know how to show up for yourself in hard moments the more fully you are going to show up in your relationship! Bring your awareness to both the external and internal critics- The more you can love yourself, honor yourself, and extend compassion internally, the easier it is going to be to do that externally. As you heal the vulnerabilities that the critic is trying so desperately to protect, the negative self talk will quiet, and consequently the external critic will soften.

How big can your heart get? What is your vision? What do you want to create? Intimacy from the inside out creates reverberations felt throughout your entire relationship. Once you and your partner build a relationship with your own internal systems and learn to caretake your own parts (the protective ones and the vulnerable ones), you will move out of protector to protector driven relationship into a Self to Self relationship that is full of creativity, compassion, curiosity, clarity, calmness, and loads of intimacy. Share this heart space together and explore what it is that you want to create together. Build a shared vision. Ask yourselves what is getting in the way of expressing the fullness of your relationship potential. What is holding you back? How expanded can you get? Let your WE expand and strengthen- what a powerful force it is in the universe!

Resources

Read Intimacy from the Inside Out: Courage and Compassion in Couple Therapy

Find more information and Toni’s trainings on her website  

Check out the Center for Self Leadership for Internal Family Systems trainings

www.neilsattin.com/toni Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Toni Herbine-Blank.

Our Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of:

The Railsplitters - Check them Out!

Aug 11, 2016

How do you get inspired in your relationship? Today we know that "novelty" helps keep the spark of your relationship going - and there are MANY different ways to keep things fresh. In today's episode, I talk about a way that's fun, collaborative, and easy to keep going. And the act of doing it generates more energy to do more of it. Curious? Dive in to today's episode on the power of Contribution - and discover what happens when Creativity meets Contribution in your relationship.

Also...my fianceé Chloe and I will be offering our online course that compiles the distilled essential wisdom from the past year of the podcast, as well as our own healing and coaching practices with individuals and couples. If you want to find out more about the course (it will be starting in September 2016) - make sure that you take a moment to either grab the Free Guide on neilsattin.com - or text the word "RELATIONSHIP" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions (which will get you the free guide) - and once you have the guide, I will also be able to let you know all the important info for our course. We're really excited to work with you, and will be offering some extra-special incentives for this first version of our course, so stay tuned!!

Aug 2, 2016

How does your attachment style affect your dating life? When you know your attachment style, and that of your partner, how can you use that knowledge to make your relationship stronger? How do you know when it’s time to commit? In today’s episode, we’re talking with Stan Tatkin, author of “Wired for Dating” and “Wired for Love” - and one of the world’s leading experts on how to use attachment theory for the betterment of your love life. This is Stan’s second appearance on Relationship Alive, and we use the opportunity to dive even more deeply into his work and how you can put it to use whether you’re single or...er, attached.

Waves, Islands, and Anchors. These terms describe researched relational and attachments styles. They are constructs that help give metaphor and meaning to ways in which an individual relates to others as a result of early childhood experiences. Our early familial patterns change and shape our autonomic nervous systems, and thus, the way that we engage with those around us. When it comes to depending on another we each have different ways we feel in our body, minds, our memory, and in our bones.

Anchors: Those who are anchors experienced secure attachments. They were raised in a reliable environment where relationships came first, where their needs were attended to, and there was no sense of either being left or being taken over. This infant develops with the intrinsic and extrinsic knowing that it is free and able to grow and learn independence without consequence.

Island and Waves: Unlike anchors, islands and waves were raised in an environment where relationship did not come first, and from a very young age they had to adapt themselves to their environment in order to get their needs met. Both islands and waves want relationship, although they both struggle with trust. Waves tend to hold a core belief that they are going to be abandoned, and so they are less independent and often cling to others. Islands, however, hold the core belief that if they depend on another their independence will be taken away, and they will feel robbed and trapped, thus causing them to be ultra distant and quick to quit.

Patterns not labels. These terms are not meant to pigeon-hole, but rather help describe the psychobiological response to insecure childhood experiences. These patterned responses are also not static- we can adapt, change, and heal. And although relationships are the places in which insecurely attached individuals may struggle the most, relationships also offer incredibly healing potential! Each partner must be willing to get to know their own wiring, and then get curious and learn to understand their partner’s wiring. From an understanding of your own and your partner’s psychobiological needs, you begin to move away from distressing conflict, towards collaboration, compassion, and ultimately, to building a securely attached relationship.

Attachment is fluid- we are hurt by people and healed by people. The only way out of insecurity is through a relationship! You have to do it with another person!

Fully resource each other! Creating a secure relationship takes a commitment to being in the foxhole together. Create a culture together in which you watch out for each other- where you are working collaboratively and mutually. Make your own 10 commandments, and include expectations such as:

We pay attention to each other

We are present with each other as much as we can be

We never throw each other under the bus

We do not keep secrets or hide

We never threaten the relationship or each other

Safety in a relationship is a cultivated state- requiring constant input and attention. That said, the energy you each invest in limiting the stress load and the threats, will create the space and stability needed for resilience, flourishing, and healthy development!

Navigating insecurity while dating: As you enter the dating scene, it is incredibly valuable to learn about your own neurobiological wiring. What was your infancy and early childhood experience? How did your primary caregivers show (or not show) love? How were your needs met or not met? And how have you showed up in relationships so far? Are you trusting? Fear independence? Fear abandonment? On top of an awareness of how your own experience has shaped your reactions to relationship, it is helpful to also examine how cultural, familial, or personal ideals of relationship are impacting you. What expired values and expectations of relationship are you still holding on to that are no longer serving you? All of this questioning helps build a foundation for successful dating that allows you to be your authentic self and find a person who matches not your fears, but your desires. So many people do not do this inner searching, and end up simply heading out on a hunt for the ‘perfect person’, rather than for someone who matches their own sense of what a relationship is, and the shared we-ness of it all.

Don’t just trust your own perceptions! No matter how self-aware and how many hours you have spent exploring your inner landscape, none of us are immune to the love drugs so prevalent in the beginning of courtship. Due to the neurochemicals associated with the honeymoon phase we are blinded. We are silly in love. We are superstars not truly yet showing or seeing flaws. Take care of yourself during this phase by getting your date checked out by family and friends! Share them with your social network/loved ones and have your people sniff them, and the two of you, out. Ask for feedback- how did we seem together? Was I myself? Do they seem genuine? Etc. Not that you have to take their word for reality- but it is helpful in this infatuation phase, to gather as much information as possible.

Audition them! It takes about a year for pair bonding to develop and to really start to get to know someone and shed perceptions. Allow this first year dating to be an audition. Less with the intention to test, but with the openness to stay in curiosity. So many people want to rush right away to comfort, and thus they jump to creating a false sense of permanence, when really getting to know someone is inherently risky and requires the courage to tolerate the fact that it may end.

When does dating end, and a sustained relationship begin? There is no guidebook, unfortunately. Each couple must decide when they deem themselves ready for exclusivity and further commitment. Hopefully as the first year develops, you and your partner have created a culture together in which you have learned how to pay attention to the mechanics of your relating, and reflect on this together. You have created language together and the safety needed for clear dialogue and checking in on your own personal growth, as well as how the relationship is going. If the couple has dedicated the time and energy needed to develop masterful communication skills, then they will more often than not have a mutual knowing, by the end of the first year, whether they are set up for longevity, or if the relationship needs either more work, or is simply not a fit.

Being in relationship means conflict.  Be careful not to assume that just because there is conflict in your relationship or with your date that your compatibility is doomed. Conflict is an inherent part of authentic relating- and it is best to welcome it in the relationship, and create space and home for it. The opposite- the hiding, ignoring, intense minimization, and avoidance of conflict creates much more dangerous dynamics in the long run. The question then, is not if there is conflict present, but how do you, together, manage distress? How quickly can the two of you metabolize a disjoining experience without pointing fingers or making each other the problem?  How well you cultivate repairing states directly impacts your ability to weather the inevitable storms. Ask yourselves- Are we good at attenuating and foreshortening negative feelings? Are we good at amplifying positive feelings and love? Can we generate excitement together? Do we know how to create quiet love together? These questions help examine whether you are creating a psychobiologically safe and secure environment in which conflict can arise without creating a rupture of attachment.

Kicking the can down the road. Many individuals, especially those who have insecure attachment styles, will engage in a kicking the can down the road mentality in which they ignore moments of disharmony and move on without repair. This may look like an argument in which a deal breaker issue arises, and one or the other person looks over the precipice, sees the end of the relationship, and turns back to their partner with a demand or an offer of even bigger commitment. And it makes sense! Breaking up is really hard to do and creates incredibly stress on the nervous system, and most people will sacrifice and compromise along the way to avoid pain. And yet, we know deep down that kicking the can down the road, and remaining in a relationship that is not right or working for you, wreaks havoc on your nervous system as it is constantly in a low to high grade stress state.

Dating waves or islands: While anchors are by nature the most secure dating partners, don’t limit yourself to finding an anchor as most of the population are insecure in one way or another, and it is by no means a requirement for a successful relationship. Furthermore, we attract to people we can understand and relate to, and so it is unlikely that you will find an anchor, if you yourself are not one. Be patient with yourselves and with others, and focus on staying alert and curious about the different tendencies of waves and islands and how this shows up in dating. You may notice that insecure attachment shows up as a lack of collaboration. Is this person speaking in a way that engages me? Do they make it easy for me to connect with them? Relate to them? Is their face flat or are they overly expressive and emotional? And the same goes with yourself- how are you showing up?  

How can I take care of myself and take care of YOU at the same time? The key is to identify your own tendencies, and to take responsibility in communicating this to others. For example, if you are an island, share with your date/partner that you are likely to be a little more reserved and quiet and that you do not want them to misunderstand that as a reflection of your lack of interest. Let your partner know that you get nervous and fearful when there is a sense that your independence is being threatened. Make it personal so they don’t have to! If you are a wave, give fair warning that you love interacting with people, and that you are prone to emotionality and that if it gets too much they can let you know. Let them know too, that you fear abandonment and that you need a certain level of awareness and care around this. If you know yourself, you are able not only to take care of yourself, but you can take care of your partner simultaneously. Own how you are likely to deal with conflict too. Share with each other how you historically deal with distress, and use each other to catch old patterns, and build new ones.

Become an expert on each other. Pay attention to who your partner is, and what their needs are, and get very very good at differentiating this from who you need them to be or idealize them to be. Observe, notice, question, allow, consider, and check in on how your partner functions and why. Really we are talking about how to tolerate another, different person. Are they a cat, and you are expecting or desiring a dog? If so, how can you catch yourself so that you are not constantly disappointed, or blaming them for their lack of dog-ness, and instead appreciate their cat-ness. Respecting differences is not a passive process- honor and allow differences in your actions and become an active caretaker of your partner’s idiosyncrasies.

Allow your nervous systems to play with each other! Building a secure relationship is not just about how you manage distress and differences, but how well you amplify the positive. Learn to amplify good things. Thanks to mirror neurons, you can co-regulate and co-create nervous system states together! You can co-create exciting love (that dopamine rich infatuation state) by using eye gazing, touch, and novelty. And then, to create the serotonin rich quiet love state, try allowing sweet silences, and parallel relaxation. Relationships need quiet love in order to have time for rest, for processing, for distress relief, and for re-finding equilibrium and stability. These times are necessary so that our autonomic nervous systems can wire around safety.

Moments of connection create integrated systems.  Our nervous systems are built in relationship, and require frequent safe connection with others to regulate. Bring this science into your partnership. When injuries and hurt are not repaired and resolved quickly, we become wired in a way that makes us hyper-reactive and likely to see our partners as threats.  Furthermore, the human brain is 1) constantly scanning for danger, and 2) frequently making things up to fill in gaps. On top of this human communication is pretty flawed, even on a good day. All of this means that without awareness, we can become stuck in limiting patterns of relating that rely on assumptions, and escalate quickly into a fight or flight reactivity- something not conducive to stable love.

Counteract the tendency to automate by checking in! How you perceive your partner, how they look, feel, taste, sound, seem, is hugely altered by the state you are in. When you are in an elevated and mobilized state you are likely to see them as threatening. You may, in those moments, not be able to discern between the reality of your partner and your subjective experience. Come face to face, get eye to eye, check and recheck, slow it down, and pay attention to each other. Gentle eye contact and close yet calm proximity are physiological conditions that help create a sense of safety. You also want to check in eye to eye because this allows you to track the microchanges in your partner’s body language so that you are responding to what is happening in real time. Then, ask, ask, and ask again! Are you upset right now? Your face just went cold/flat, what just happened? Are you okay? Am I doing that thing again? Are you feeling attacked?

Bring mindfulness into your love life. Instead of tracking your internal experience as you would in meditation, track the external experience. Learn to study your partner and your relationship with attentiveness, and non-judgment. If you do not attend to what you see, you lose, your partner loses, and the couple loses. Pay attention. Be present. Go step by step and moment to moment. And allow for whatever arises. This is how we learn to take care of ourselves and our partner simultaneously.

Resources

Read Stan’s book Wired for Dating: How Understanding Neurobiology and Attachment Style Can Help You Find Your Ideal Mate

Check out Stan’s website for more information on his work and for couple’s retreats

Want to know more about trainings for therapists? Check out The Pact Institute

www.neilsattin.com/wired2 Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Stan Tatkin.

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