Dr. Stan Tatkin shares insights and techniques to help couples regulate each other- in other words, help each other find balance and calm.
Couples co-regulate- this means as one person calms, so does the other. Or as one person flares and rises their emotions, the other responds too. This cycle is especially relevant during the time of Covid when we are in heightened fear and stress, and stuck in our homes together.
Our style of how we dealt with distress in childhood plays out in adulthood. For example, if you are used to being calmed and regulated by a parent in childhood, the pattern seen in adulthood is you will seek or be more open to comfort from your partner. Others are more comfortable self-soothing. Often partners have opposite styles engrained from childhood, and recognizing them can be help each person achieve what realistically works from them and sets appropriate expectations.
We all know meditation helps as an individual activity. Meditation in a couple can be done by using each other as the object of the meditation, or meditating on phrases or subjects that are difficult in the relationship, and sitting with and becoming comfortable with what comes up, thereby changing and working through your reactions to it in a safe space.
Every couple fights (even Dr Tatkin and his wife, he candidly lets us know). A key to diffusing fights, and achieving the outcome needed by the fight, is to see fights as a problem you are solving together, rather than one person having an issue with the other, or directing anger towards the other. Fights are based around problems, and the context of fighting is reframed when you are not against each other, but both on the same team to solve the problem.
In a fight, do something to indicate you are safe to the other person to defray the fight.
Staring at faces builds empathy and love- look deeply into your partners face.
Validate that whatever you are fighting about, the relationship at the core is safe. The thought that a fight might be threatening to the relationship adds a conscious or subconscious layer of anxiety to many fights, and taking that off the table- validating that the relationship is safe, despite the fact that you're fighting about an issue- improves it.