The Book That Will Change How You Look at Love

I can’t help but laugh at the fact that I found myself in a heated disagreement with my partner just hours after finishing Stan Tatkin’s book called Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship.

If there is one thing I’ve learned it is that simply reading about how to have secure and happy relationships does not equal having one. It certainly does not mean that you will have a conflict-free relationship, either.

Knowledge may be powerful but it is a mere vehicle to go out and explore paths for change, rather than a magic pill. Stan Tatkin’s Wired for Love provides a roadmap for understanding how the relational brain works and what we need to do to create a secure and supportive relationship.

First: are you ready to look in the mirror?

I spent the first decade of dating consistently blaming any relationship woes on the person I was dating. A relationship would end and I would shrug it off, telling myself it was because they weren’t “the one” and when “the one” came around, things would be different.

A decade was enough for me to realize I was wrong.

My love for relationship self-help books stemmed from an acknowledgement that I needed to take a long, hard look in the mirror to understand how I was playing into my relationship patterns. This book provides a thoughtful and gentle opportunity for readers to start or continue this process.

Stan Tatkin helps us to not only understand how our brains work, but to develop a clear understanding of our attachment style and how our innate wiring may be playing into our present-day relationship dynamics.

Exploring and accepting how we are wired for love provides a foundation to then explore more deeply how we can create the partnership of our dreams.

Developing a couple bubble

One of Tatkin’s ideas is that of the “couple bubble.” Essentially, the couple bubble is an agreement to put the relationship first:

“When we recite our relationship vows, perhaps we should say, “I take you as my pain in the rear, with all your history and baggage, and I take responsibility for all prior injustices you endured at the hands of those I never knew, because you are now in my care.”

This is not the first time I have heard of a couple bubble.The counsellor who I wholeheartedly believe helped me and my partner to save our relationship also suggested we explore this idea. I now have complete faith in the couple bubble.

My counsellor actually suggested that we draw three circles on a piece of paper: one for me, one for my partner, and one for the relationship. From there, we were told to write what is important to us as individuals in our own bubbles, and what is important to the relationship in our relationship bubble.

For example, my bubble may contain my friendships, hobbies, and aspirations. Whereas, my couple bubble would hold things such as finances, sex, shared responsibilities for maintaining a household, honesty, and emotional intimacy. A couple bubble sees both people as individuals but also sees the relationship as a living and breathing entity that requires care, attention, and prioritization.

According to Stan Tatkin, the couple bubble is:

“a mutually constructed membrane, cocoon, or womb that holds the couple together and protects each partner from the elements.”

Is it just me, or is that a big ask?

The scary side of love

I am realizing that I have internalized our society’s emphasis on independence as superior to dependence and have spent a lot of energy striving to not need my partner.

Stan Tatkin challenged me to look at relationships differently. The examples he provided of couples who were practicing his guiding principles were so beautiful and tender that they brought me to tears.

There is also something profoundly terrifying about a kind of love that could bring us this kind of care and protection. Developing this kind of bond with someone means that if we lose them, the bubble pops.

In my experience, one of the unconscious ways I tend to deal with my existential fears is to increase the sense of control I have in my life. To put our faith in this kind of bond with another human means giving up the false sense of control we can have when we live life in our lives in a solitary bubble. Although this kind of love is romantic and appealing, I think it is worth accepting that for many of us it can simultaneously evoke a great deal of fear.

Hope for a new kind of love

Wired for Love has challenged me to think of love in a new way. It has pushed me to examine whether the relationship ideals that have left me striving for independence were the bones of the kind of relationship I wanted. Not only is it scary to think of the “couple bubble” but it is a lot of work to put it into practice. One of Tatkin’s principles is that partners should serve as the primary go-to people for one another.

Although this may be nice to be on the receiving end, being the go-to person is far from easy. It requires a conscious commitment to being the kind of lover you’ve always dreamed of finding for yourself. What Stan Tatkin has left me with is a strong desire for a couple bubble yet a skeptical wondering as to whether or not I am capable of that kind of love.

For many of us, this means challenging the models of love that were available to us growing up. It also means taking the time to truly understand ourselves and our partners, and doing the work to redefine and recreate love in our lives.

My stack of books on relationships is steadily growing but this is one that has left me questioning much of what I’ve known. I expected some guidelines and exercises to help me find security in relationships and was left questioning what it means to fully and sincerely love another person.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in how to make their primary relationship feel more like the one I am sure most of us have always dreamed of.

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