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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

Wired for Love is a complete insider's guide to understanding a partner's brain and promoting love and trust within a romantic relationship. Readers learn ten scientific principles they can use to avoid triggering fear and panic in their partners, manage their partners' emotional reactions when they do become upset, and recognize when the brain's threat response is hindering their ability to act in a loving way.

Full Description:   

What the heck is my partner thinking?" is a common refrain in romantic relationships, and with good reason. Every person is wired for love differently, with different habits, needs, and reactions to conflict. The good news is that most people's minds work in predictable ways and respond well to security, attachment, and rituals, making it possible to actually neurologically prime the brain for greater love and fewer conflicts.

Wired for Love is a complete insider's guide to understanding a partner's brain and promoting love and trust within a romantic relationship. Readers learn ten scientific principles they can use to avoid triggering fear and panic in their partners, manage their partners' emotional reactions when they do become upset, and recognize when the brain's threat response is hindering their ability to act in a loving way. By learning to use simple gestures and words, readers can learn to put out emotional fires and help their partners feel more safe and secure. The no-fault view of conflict in this book encourages readers to move past a "warring brain" mentality and toward a more cooperative "loving brain" understanding of the relationship. Based in the sound science of neurobiology, attachment theory, and emotion regulation research, this book is essential reading for couples and others interested in understanding the complex dynamics at work behind love and trust in intimate relationships.

CHAPTER

"What the heck is my partner thinking?" is a common refrain in romantic relationships, and with good reason. Every person is wired for love differently, with different habits, needs, and reactions to conflict. The good news is that most people's minds work in predictable ways and respond well to security, attachment, and rituals, making it possible to actually neurologically prime the brain for greater love and fewer conflicts. Wired for Love is a complete insider's guide to understanding a partner's brain and promoting love and trust within a romantic relationship. Readers learn ten scientific principles they can use to avoid triggering fear and panic in their partners, manage their partners' emotional reactions when they do become upset, and recognize when the brain's threat response is hindering their ability to act in a loving way. By learning to use simple gestures and words, readers can learn to put out emotional fires and help their partners feel more safe and secure. The no-fault view of conflict in this book encourages readers to move past a "warring brain" mentality and toward a more cooperative "loving brain" understanding of the relationship. Based in the sound science of neurobiology, attachment theory, and emotion regulation research, this book is essential reading for couples and others interested in understanding the complex dynamics at work behind love and trust in intimate relationships. Contents Acknowledgments Foreword Introduction: Wired for Love 1 Chapter 1 The Couple Bubble: How You Can Keep Each Other Safe and Secure Chapter 2 The Warring/Loving Brain: How You Can Keep the Love Alive Chapter 3 Know Your Partner: How Does He or She Really Work? Chapter 4 Becoming Experts on One Another: How to Please and Soothe Your Partner Chapter 5 Launchings and Landings: How to Use Morning and Bedtime Rituals Chapter 6 The Go-To People: How to Remain Available to One Another Chapter 7 Protecting the Couple Bubble: How to Include Outsiders Chapter 8 Fighting Well: How to Win by Letting Your Partner Win, Too Chapter 9 Love Is Up Close: How to Rekindle Love Through Eye Contact Chapter 10 Live a Happier, Healthier Life: How Your Partnership Can Heal You Postscript References Introduction: Wired for Love Look around you. We live in a highly complex world. The array of devices, machinery, technology, and processes that make it tick is mindboggling. Just within the lifetime of many still alive today, humanity has come to regard as commonplace travel to the far side of the planet, the instant replay of events around the globe, and the ability to speak to and see just about anyone anywhere at any time, among many other things. We enjoy the advantages these scientific advances have brought us, and we curse them when they break down. And of course they do break down at times. For this reason, we turn to guidebooks—everything from a car owner’s manual that shows how much to inflate your tires, to the instructions that show how much batter to load in your waffle maker. We may hate the thought of consulting a manual (or calling for technical support, except perhaps in a pinch), but can you really operate all these things successfully simply through intuition? Relationships are complex, too. Yet we often attempt them with a minimum of guidance and support. I’m not suggesting you should follow a standard set of 1-2-3 steps in relating to your partner. Relationships will never come with manuals that automate the process. We aren’t robots. What works for one couple won’t necessarily work for another. But neither does it work to fly blind, as many couples do, and expect relationships to fall into place. Hence the need for well-informed guidance that supports your relationship. And what might be considered well-informed in this context? In fact, a large and fascinating body of scientific knowledge and theory with the potential to influence how partners relate to one another has been accruing in recent decades. This includes revolutionary work in the fields of neuroscience and neurobiology, psychophysiology, and psychology. I believe couples can benefit from this wealth of research. You may find this idea intimidating, but don’t worry: I’m not suggesting you need to quit your day job and go back to school. I think you’ll find the basic theories quite straightforward when you hear them explained in lay language. In short, it’s my conviction that having a better understanding about how our brains function—in other words, how we’re wired—puts us in a better position to make well-informed choices in our relationships. Scientific evidence suggests that, from a biological standpoint, we humans have been wired largely for purposes that are more warlike than loving in nature. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that recent research suggests a variety of strategies and techniques are available to reverse this predisposition. We can, in effect, take steps to assure we are primarily wired for love. These strategies can help us create stable, loving relationships in which we are poised to effectively defuse conflict when it arises. So why not make use of them? In the first three chapters of this book, I provide you with general principles, drawn from cutting-edge research, to help you understand what makes a relationship successful and work toward that with your partner. The chapters that follow expand on these principles in practical ways. For example, if you have a clear sense of your partner’s relationship style based on the latest research, it will be easier for the two of you to work together and fix any problems that may arise. In essence, this book can serve as an owner’s manual for understanding yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Now, you may raise your eyebrows at the notion of an owner’s manual. Your partner isn’t property, after all. I couldn’t agree more. However, I like this metaphor because it conveys the level of mutual responsibility and detailed knowledge of the relationship a couple needs to be successful. In fact, I would propose to you that all couples do in fact follow one or another set of rules and principles in their relationship. They may not be conscious of it, but they already have an owner’s manual of sorts. Unfortunately, many couples have the wrong manual. And in the case of distressed couples, they always have it wrong. In my work with couples, I’ve noticed that partners tend to form their own theories about the cause of their problems. They do this out of distress and despair, and out of their need to know why: “Why am I in pain?” “Why am I feeling threatened or unsafe?” “Why is this relationship not working out as expected?” Partners work hard to come up with answers to such questions, and sometimes their answers provide an immediate sense of relief (“Now I know why this is happening”). However, in the long run, these theories generally don’t work. They aren’t sufficiently accurate to help the relationship. They don’t stop the pain. They don’t alter our fundamental wiring. Ultimately, relying on such theories is one way of flying blind. In fact, at times, inaccurate theories further undermine a couple’s sense of security and happiness. More often than not, instead of ending the war between partners, grasping onto reasons and theories only creates more of a fortress. It only supplies more ammunition for the couple to throw at one another. I’ve noticed partners’ theories almost always are pro-self, not pro-relationship. For instance, one partner says, “We argue because he doesn’t like the same things I like.” Another says, “She’s so inconsiderate; no wonder I feel hurt.” Or “This relationship isn’t working because he’s not the person I married.” In each case, the focus is on the individual coming up with the theory. One of the most important discoveries a couple can make is that it is possible to shift into a pro-relationship stance. Theories from this stance sound more like the following: “We have problems sticking to our agreements,” or “We do things that hurt one another.” To make this shift, partners must be willing to throw out their old theories and consider new ones. They must be willing to rewire. Personally, I learned some of this the hard way. For many years, my specialty as a psychotherapist was working with individuals suffering from personality disorders. I became interested in the early prevention of such disorders. As my practice began to focus more on adult couples, I found myself wanting to identify, earlier in the therapy, ways to prevent their problems, too. Around this time, one of the great shocks of my life came to pass. My first wife and I divorced. During the period that followed, my need to understand why my marriage had failed led to a creative obsession, spurring me to more closely investigate the science behind relationships. I sensed that my fellow therapists and I must be missing something, something more we could do to help couples in distress. And could do earlier in their relationship. I might not have been able to salvage my marriage, but I could try harder to prevent failure for others…and for myself in the future. Ultimately, I came up with several key areas of research I believed could point toward the difference between success and failure in relationships. I’m not speaking of research I conducted; these were the fields of study I mentioned earlier that have witnessed enormous leaps forward in the past few decades. The more I studied the latest findings and observed how they played out daily in my office, the more lights flashed in my mind. I realized this valuable knowledge wasn’t being properly synthesized for and focused on adult couples. Therapists working with couples had not begun to connect the disparate dots of various sciences. They were a bit like technical support people working with out-of-date manuals. Their advice only went so far. I became convinced the most important thing I could do with my time and energy was to find the connections between these areas of research and put them to practical clinical use. One of these areas is the field of neuroscience, the study of the human brain. This, I discovered, provides a physiological basis for understanding our strengths and weaknesses, including those that drive our relationships. For example, I am utterly stupid when it comes to math, an ability managed by many parts of the brain, such as the intraparietal sulcus. Fortunately, my work doesn’t depend on math, nor do my relationships with my wife and daughter. But my ability to read faces, emotional tone, and social cues (managed by the brain’s right hemisphere) is a different matter. If I were weak in that area, I would be out of a job and maybe even a marriage (again). As we will see in chapter 2, some parts of our brain predispose us to first and foremost seek security. This can wreak havoc on a relationship if we don’t learn to use the more evolved parts of the brain to override this wiring and exert control over the primitive parts. A second area of research is attachment theory, which explains our biological need to attach to or bond with others, starting with our earliest relationships. Our early experiences form an instructional blueprint that is stored in body memory and becomes part of our basic relational wiring—our sense of safety and security. In a nutshell, some individuals are fundamentally secure in their relationships, while others are insecure. Insecurity can lead us to remain distant from a partner or to harbor ambivalence about relating. However insecurity manifests, as we will see in chapter 3, it has insidious effects on a relationship if we don’t try to rewire the dysfunctional tendencies acquired early in life. The third area of research I found fascinating and helpful was the biology of human arousal. When you hear of arousal, you may immediately think of sexual arousal. But I am referring here to a more general sense of arousal: our moment-to-moment ability to manage our energy, alertness, and readiness to engage. In the context of couples, research in this area suggests how we as partners can manage one another’s highs and lows. We don’t have to remain at the mercy of each other’s runaway moods and feelings. Rather, as competent managers of our partners, we can become expert at moving, shifting, motivating, influencing, soothing, and inspiring one another. Each of these areas of research informs this book. In the past ten years, I have synthesized these ideas and integrated them into my therapy practice. I call this work a psychobiological approach. Along the way, I realized this approach isn’t of value just to couples seeking therapy; everyone who is in or is planning to be in, or even hoping to be in, a relationship can benefit. And I have been a prime beneficiary. All the hard work I did paved the way for my current marriage, in which I discovered, and have for the first time been able to enjoy, a secure, functioning family. This relationship became the gold standard by which I could test and measure the principles described in this book. As I mentioned, many couples seek reasons for their problems. Yet the theories and reasons they come up with generally are false. The approach I am offering can, I believe, make the difference. In a nutshell, I’ll help you harness the power of your brain and your partner’s brain for love instead of war, in a scientifically supported way. In this book, I present ten key principles that show you how to avoid common pitfalls that deter or undermine so many relationships. These principles are: Creating a couple bubble allows partners to keep each other safe and secure. Partners can make love and avoid war when the security-seeking parts of the brain are put at ease. Partners relate to one another primarily as anchors (securely attached), islands (insecurely avoidant), or waves (insecurely ambivalent). Partners who are experts on one another know how to please and soothe each other. Partners with busy lives should create and use bedtime and morning rituals, as well as reunion rituals, to stay connected. Partners should serve as the primary go-to people for one another. Partners should prevent each other from being a third wheel when relating to outsiders. Partners who want to stay together must learn to fight well. Partners can rekindle their love at any time through eye contact. Partners can minimize each other’s stress and optimize each other’s health. These principles are based on the latest science, but let me stress again: you don’t have to grasp the technicalities of the science to understand these principles. I have done that for you. In fact, I’ve done my best to make them fun and enjoyable. I promise not to put you to sleep with scientific jargon. As I said, life is complex enough already. If there is a hallmark for this age, perhaps it will be our ability to take the complex findings of scientific research and apply them smoothly and effectively in our everyday lives, to better understand ourselves and to love more fully. Each chapter includes exercises to help you apply the principle discussed therein. You can do most of the exercises on your own, or you and your partner can do them together. Actually, there is a certain irony here. An important premise of this book is that happy couples share a high degree of closeness and togetherness. Yet most people tend to read books—even books about relationships—on their own. So I encourage you to buck this trend. Share what is in this book with your partner. You will get even more out of it. “This book is grounded in the latest brain science, as well as being wonderfully friendly, encouraging, and practical. It shows readers how to stay out of dead-end conflicts and instead light up the neural circuits of empathy, skillful communication, and love. A marvelous resource.” —Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Buddha's Brain “I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it that I can use as a therapist. Stan Tatkin is a great innovator. This book is a must for every couples’ therapist’s library.” —John Gottman, author of The Science of Trust “If you feel lost, confused or alone in your relationship, get this book right now. You will finally make sense out of chaos and pain. This is your map to go from frustration and insecurity to realize the potential of why you initially got together. Stan Tatkin’s insightful book will teach you to work as a team to make your relationship journey safe, engaging, and deeply satisfying.” —Peter Pearson, PhD, couples therapy specialist and cofounder of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA “Stan Tatkin shows how our couple relationships would look if we took seriously what attachment theory and neuroscience research has taught us.” —Dan Wile, author of After the Honeymoon “Wired for Love challenges partners to experience their relationship in a totally new way. Partners will learn how to engage positively as a couple to help each other feel safe and secure by following the relationship exercises suggested in this exciting new book. In clear, concise language, Tatkin describes the ways that partners can understand and become experts on one another. He suggests building a “couple bubble” wherein each partner is the most important person in the other’s life, the one individual on whom the partner can always count.” —Marion F. Solomon, director of clinical training at Lifespan Learning Institute and author of Narcissism and Intimacy, Lean on Me, and other books “Read this book to discover a multitude of new ways to enliven your relationship and end needless conflicts. Stan Tatkin is one of the most innovative thinkers in the couples relationship world today. It's impossible to read this book without learning new patterns to enhance your love.” —Ellyn Bader, PhD, cocreator of the developmental model of couples therapy, codirector of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA, and author of Tell Me No Lies and In Quest of the Mythical Mate “Reading Stan Tatkin’s book makes you want to be in therapy with him. With intense and fearless clarity, he takes you into the trenches of the combative human brain and shows you how to make love, not war.” —Esther Perel, LMFT, author of Mating in Captivity

224 pgs / 6" x 9" paperback

Acknowledgments

Foreword

Introduction: Wired for Love 1

Chapter 1 The Couple Bubble: How You Can Keep Each Other Safe and Secure

Chapter 2 The Warring/Loving Brain: How You Can Keep the Love Alive

Chapter 3 Know Your Partner: How Does He or She Really Work?

Chapter 4 Becoming Experts on One Another: How to Please and Soothe Your Partner

Chapter 5 Launchings and Landings: How to Use Morning and Bedtime Rituals

Chapter 6 The Go-To People: How to Remain Available to One Another

Chapter 7 Protecting the Couple Bubble: How to Include Outsiders

Chapter 8 Fighting Well: How to Win by Letting Your Partner Win, Too

Chapter 9 Love Is Up Close: How to Rekindle Love Through Eye Contact

Chapter 10 Live a Happier, Healthier Life: How Your Partnership Can Heal You

Postscript

References


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