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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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Couples and premarital: "How Can We Be Happy Again?"

Uploaded: Apr 29, 2021
Dear Chandrama,

How can we be happy again? I try to argue with him to get him to respond, and he goes further and further away, including long hours at work, and then on his devices when he's home.


Dear Help,

Thanks for such a good (and big) question. Over several posts I am going to write about the fundamentals of couples' happiness, and how we can all work on that. I will be writing about attachment theory, which has been around since the 50's, and is the basis of healthy relationships. I will begin by defining secure attachment and what is means to a couple.

John Bowlby first coined the term Attachment Theory as "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194). Mary Ainsworth created a study called "The Strange Situation" that illustrated and helps distinguish the types of attachment bonds between a mother and her child. You can view this on YouTube. Over the years, a great deal more research has been added to this body of knowledge. The definitions and explanations have recently been simplified by Stan Tatkin, PsyD., so I'll be sharing that with you, too.

The premise that relates to your couple is that the "secure bond" you needed as children with your primary caregiver is sought – and needed –- again with your partner. This is an evolutionary, biological drive for connection that affects your brain make-up (neural pathways). Fundamentally: Are you there for me? Do you have my back? Can I count on you?

Secure attachment is defined by five things: You give each other attunement (which is deep listening AND empathy); you have each others' back; you seek comfort from each other; you seek sex from each other; and you create a home that is a haven that gives us strength to do everything you need to in your lives.

The bottom line is that you need to be "securely attached" to one another – as an "anchor" as Dr. Tatkin calls it in his excellent book, "Wired for Love." If you're not an anchor, you're either a "wave" or an "island." These terms are so good because it's easy to intuitively understand what these mean. Waves are anxious/ambivalent in relationship, and tend to make waves, come at their partner, prefer to talk issues out to the point where your mate wants to run and hide. Healthy, kind, calm talk is good -- pay attention to timing (10 minutes, not an hour) and revisit the topic later if it's going nowhere. Islands are avoidant, and want to get away, and (have learned to believe they must) take care of everything themselves.

Waves and islands end up together in relationships all the time. It is very hard to understand why he is making a fuss, starting an argument, or she keeps coming at me when all I want to do is be alone and regroup.

Both waves and islands can learn to become anchors. You can learn to step back and see your beloved acting as a wave or island (which is what you learned as a child in your particular family), instead of deciding that she is doing this or that TO ME. You can gain compassion, and stop reacting. The healing process begins.

Becoming an anchor couple is the same as being a securely attached couple.

Tatkin calls this creating a "Couple Bubble," which he defines as: "a pact between partners  . . . to burden one another with the tasks of devotion and caring for the other's safety, security, and well-being. This mutual burden determines the degree of shared gratitude and valuation you both enjoy."

In a healthy marriage, you both work to build and maintain your secure connection, you begin to rely on the feeling of being known, seen, heard, respected, and valued. You know what it feels like to be beloved. You know what it feels like when this is "off" and you take immediate measures to repair and regain your connection.

Are you an anchor, wave, or island?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by DP, a resident of St. Francis Acres,
on May 1, 2021 at 3:10 pm

DP is a registered user.

Your posts give me hope. Now, can we both get on board...

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