Understanding Secure Attachment with Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT

‘Secure functioning relationships can make our life gorgeous!’ exclaims Jonathan Van Ness, Creator of the Getting Curious Podcast and Grooming Expert on the Netflix series, Queer Eye. And it’s true. ‘Your job in a relationship is to make life easier on the inside than it is in the outside world,’ Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT adds.

For centuries, interpersonal relationships have developed and existed out of necessity for survival, however modern relationships have shifted focus onto the idea of finding our ‘soulmate’. So, why has finding and maintaining a romantic relationship become so complicated? Tatkin credits an improved quality of life, variety of dating options and mediums, and simply having too much time on our hands. ‘American culture doesn't have an ethic and culture of interdependency. Instead, we believe in radical independence; we pray to alter of autonomy and see codependence as a weakness.’

What Tatkin believes truly defines a successful romantic relationship is two people deciding to commit to each other. ‘You can’t possibly have a secure functioning relationship without two people wanting to play. Think of your relationship as a team sport. Putting the welfare of the relationship first, being open and honest with communication: your wants and needs. If it's not good for your partner, you just do not do it. We must do everything we can to work together. If we agree, it doesn't matter if other people agree. Everything revolves around us taking good care of each other, because it we don't, we're f-cked.’

This is about being a grown-up,’ Tatkin says, adding ‘Understand people are imperfect. Good enough should be perfect so long as you are in agreement to commit and work together for the greater good of your relationship. Of course, you'll move through existential fears as you move through time - this is big, but this is totally normal.’

Everyone is a pain in the ass, but what pain does your nervous system want to deal with? We say this: as your partner, I’m going to expect that I’ll be the only one to put up with you, because who else will?’

When you make a commitment, it focuses you. Whether it's your career or another person, it creates discipline and ultimately makes us better humans. Moreover, we tend to feel more energetic and willing to take on larger, more educated risks when we have someone or something in your corner.

Did You Know? Having at least one secure functioning relationship will keep you alive for years longer, while interpersonal stress and contempt can ruin health and increase your risk of ailment and disease. This is because a supportive, secure functioning relationship gives us emotional and mental strength that is often wasted in strained relationships.

Jonathan asks, ‘What about addressing our dealbreakers? If a partner has one, is it over? Is that not secure?’ Tatkin reassures us, ‘Not at all. All you have to do - which seems like a big, tall order - is take it off the table for good. You have to agree to this commitment. Partners have to be honest with each other and it cannot come back to bite anyone. And if it does, you have to restart the commitment process.’

Relationships are like a three-leg potato sack race: if you go to fast, you both fall. If you go in a different direction, you don't go anywhere. You have to continually learn to work together or suffer the consequences.

tatkin’s Principles of a Secure Functioning Relationship

  • Protect the safety and security of a relationship above all else.

  • Base relationships on true mutuality: all actions and decisions must be in the best interest of both individuals.

  • Do not threaten to leave or end a relationship. This causes unnecessary fear and anxiety for both partners in the long run.

  • Turn to partner's first before reaching out to anyone else for support or guidance.

  • Smile and greet one another with kind eyes. This resets your partner's alarm system, as well as our own.

  • Protect one another from potentially harmful situations in public and private, including hurtful words or threats that put the partner or relationship in jeopardy.

  • Coordinate wake-up and bedtime schedules so that partners are going to sleep together most nights and waking up together most mornings. Protect your bedtime rituals with positivity and intimacy.

  • Acceptive and forgive. Correct any injustices or harmful exchanges as soon as possible without placing blame on who started it.

  • Gaze lovingly at one another daily, make meaningful gestures of appreciations, use your words to share your admiration and gratitude.

  • Learn how to influence, persuade, and romance one another without using fear or threats. Ask for what you want and need clearly. Speak your mind without fear of abandonment.

Feeling Alone? Anyone that's isolated isn't well situated in terms of mental health. There should always be ventilation of social support in and out of our lives. In the absence of anything, we go negative - this is how our brains work. It's easy for them to go to war. If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of isolation, is in need of emotional support and/or lacks a secure functioning relationship, Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for you or your loved ones.