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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

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We want to know our relationship is regarded as important by our partner and will not be relegated to second or third place because of a competing person, task, or thing. These are the key principles and potential pitfalls that deter or undermine so many relationships.

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, Islands or Waves. 

Anchors – securely attached; “Two Can Be Better than One.”

Islands – insecurely avoidant; “I Want You in the House, Just Not in My Room…Unless I Ask You.”

Waves – insecurely ambivalent; “If Only You Loved Me Like I Love You.”


People who are islands often confuse independence and autonomy with their adaptation to neglect.
In order to achieve true autonomy, it is necessary to first experience being loved by and taken care of by another person.  An island is unaware their behaviour is perhaps a consequence of her need to depend and connect having been met with unresponsiveness, dismissiveness, and insensitivity when she was an infant.

Difficulties can arise if one or both partners are addicted to alone time, especially if they don’t know it. Instead of seeking the closeness of a couple bubble, the addicted partner avoids it. Feelings of loneliness are obscured by the dreamlike state generated during alone time.

Islands can feel irritated by their partner’s attempts to get near or to maintain close physical contact. They may feel intruded upon and ashamed of their aversive reactions, and may attempt to conceal it with avoidance, excuses, withdrawal, or anger.

When arguing with an island be reassuring, calming, and rational (“I understand what you’re saying and it makes sense” or “You’re right about that” or “You make a good point”).  A wild island often has little sense of what he or she is feeling and is poor at communicating feelings or picking up the feelings of his or her partner.


Insecurity can appear bottomless, and the need for frequent contact and reassurance can appear unreasonable to his partner. Under stress a wave, may insist too much on verbal assurances of love and
security. This is the reverse of what we see with an island, who is less prone to seek or even care about such assurances.

A wave that goes wild, may appear overly preoccupied with these assurances, and appear overly expressive, dramatic, emotional, tangential, irrational, and angry. Under stress, a wave can be
unforgiving, punishing, rejecting, and inflexible.

When arguing with a wave disarm your partner through non-verbal friendliness. Touch them gently; provide a calm presence. When you do speak, be reassuring and soothing.

For many people, closeness brings both the promise of safety and security and a threat to safety and
security.  As far as relationships go, we are hurt by people and yet we can be healed only by people.

It is entirely possible to become an anchor by spending time in a close, dependent, secure relationship with another person.

Discover your partner, be unapologetically you and don’t try to change your partner. Only through acceptance, high regard, respect, devotion, support, and safety will anyone gradually grow more secure.

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 and 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.

This longing for a safe zone is one reason we pair up. However, partners— whether in a romantic relationship or committed friendship—often fail to use each other as advocates and allies against all hostile forces.

Autonomy – people see themselves as individuals first, and as a couple second.  When push comes to shove, they prioritize their personal needs over their needs as a couple. They may say they are “their own person” and don’t want to let the other one boss them around.  However, each expects the other to behave in an autonomous fashion, but in reality, this is the case only when it suits his or her own purpose. When the shoe is now on the other foot, he or she feels dismissed, dropped, and unimportant. This couple’s sense of independence works especially poorly in situations in which they depend on one another to feel important and protected. They are unaware of this problem when they think they’re maintaining their so-called autonomy, but painfully aware when they feel they are the victim
of neglect.

Remember you & your partner can have different chronotypes – you can change theirs / yours with effort using light at the right time.  Launching & landings – remember to actually say goodbye and greet your partner when leaving / returning – overall house well being could benefit. 

Rather than react out of threat focused on confirming safety and security. 

As a couple you may be two, but there is always a third to be found somewhere. By a third I mean third people, third objects, third tasks, or anything else that could intrude on a couple bubble or make it difficult to form one. For example, third people can include children, in laws, other extended family members, friends, business partners and bosses, and even strangers. Third things can be work, hobbies, video games, TV shows . . . the list can go on and on.

Couples who handle thirds poorly typically do so before they even enter into their relationship. A couple therapist can spot this pattern immediately by noticing how partners talk about other people, and most strikingly, how they talk about each other in front of the therapist. These folks constantly marginalize their primary partner.

Islands may feel safer with their third than relaxing with their partner.  Waves also can fall under the sway of their primitives. They are less likely than islands to engage in parallel play (i.e. hobbies on their own), and more likely to seek out other people as thirds. They may aim to to this to punish a partner whom they perceive as unavailable or rejecting. 

When fighting with your partner realise some things said are simply blah blah irrelevant, when your primate brain is engaged you can’t process complex information. Simply stop say I love you then do what works for them (not just you). 

If the bond between you both is strong you can readily fend off & deal with thirds. Be light hearted rather than feeling threatened or jealous

Couples who fight smart seek an outcome that allows both partners to be winners. They aim for a win-win solution. Remember you are a team

Sticking to the principle of “good for me, good for you” should prevent either of you from keeping a tally against the other.  Couples don’t need to solve all their unresolved conflicts, but they do need to deal effectively with these issues.  Eye contact extremely important to rekindle love

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