Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. Life seems to be full of them. In intimate relationships, how do we get really good at them? Lots of wonderful new study and science on attachment has some useful insights. Here are a couple of articles that I’ve blended for brevity and usefulness by Lon Rankin and Stan Tatkin. (First there’s an overview, and then there’s 10 helpful commandments. Italics are mine). “Every species of mammal uses the limbic system—the social, emotional, relational part of the brain—to create strong bonds that provide safety and a felt sense of security. Adult-child bonding is especially crucial for the development of the complex human brain and nervous system, and the development of an internal felt sense of security in the world—both real and perceived. When parents are too often inattentive of their child’s emotional needs, this bonding does not happen optimally, and the injury of insecurity can prevail.
Memories, especially negative ones, are extremely powerful in influencing our perception of the world and our behaviors. Our subjective experience is colored by our past. All experiences, at any age, involving fear and threat are “velcroed” into the memory system in the interest of self-protection, but memories from childhood have particular potency. Children do not survive very long without parental attention and protection, and times of parental inattention, misattunement, and neglect are perceived as profoundly threatening. These memories become deeply wired into the brain and imprinted in the mind. (This is the basis for the value of inner child work in modern psychotherapy.) Many people in relationships are reacting from these often implicit and unconscious, velcroed threat memories, and their activation in everyday.
…understanding the workings of this internal safety and security system, and the importance of this area…couples can move from projected, negative, internalized relational blueprints toward secure functioning within the primary partnership. In moving couples in this direction, partners “hold each other in mind,” especially in these places of old injury. They can take on the mantle of the attending parent in these areas of distress by holding their partner and their partner’s history in mind.
…secure functioning is characterized by a balance of valuing both self and the relationship. Therefore, we encourage couples to tend their own historical and present-time hurts, as well as be there for their partner’s hurts. Two strong, secure, internalized partners regulate these past injuries and their repetitive projected activations together. Old hurts are securely attended to in a mutual manner, rather than being allowed to take over and threaten the partnership.” -Lon Rankin
Here are Stan Tatkin’s fabulously securing tips for smooth functioning relationships:
10 Commandments of a Secure Relationship
1. Thou shalt protect the safety and security of thy relationship at all costs.
2. Thou shalt base thy relationship on true mutuality, remembering that all decisions and actions must be good for thee AND for thine partner.
3. Thou shalt not threaten the existence of the relationship, for so doing would benefit no one.
4. Thou shalt appoint thy partner as go-to person for all matters, making certain thy partner is first to know—not second, third, or fourth—in all matters of importance.
5. Thou shalt provide a tether to thy partner all the days and nights of thy life, and never fail to greet thy partner with good cheer.
6. Thou shalt protect thy partner in public and in private from harmful elements, including thyself.
7. Thou shall put thy partner to bed each night and awaken with thy partner each morning.
8. Thou shalt correct all errors, including injustices and injuries, at once or as soon as possible, and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.
9. Thou shalt gaze lovingly upon thy partner daily and make frequent and meaningful gestures of appreciation, admiration, and gratitude.
10. Thou shalt learn thy partner well and master the ways of seduction, influence, and persuasion, without the use of fear or threat.