Wonder Couples: Class Two!
*Class Two: May 6, 2020 7:30-8:45 pm PST “Wonder Couples: Wire together!” How to understand the importance of putting our partner’s need first toward building a secure relationship and how our early attachment patterns make this a challenge AND gift.
Goal: Facilitate understanding of how to put your partner’s needs first without sacrificing anything. Practice doing this to create a felt understanding.
Pre-Class: 7:20Jason lets people in and Carolyn welcomes and instructs them to mute and sit and talk together about their hopes for this class. We will start once everyone is here, by 7:35
Introduction (5 minutes) [Everyone muted-stay muted unless they are having technical issues] 7:35
Jason and Carolyn introduce themselves and then talk briefly about the class today. We will be learning how to take care of each other and how this is influenced by our attachment styles. This is the building of a secure functioning relationship.
Tell people that they will have an opportunity to talk in the question and answer period. Tell people that if they have questions during this period they can put them in the chat box.
Remind people that this is not counseling and not a time to talk through difficult subjects but to focus on connection, regardless of all the things that may be going on outside. This is experiential and while we will share concepts, the main emphasis is on EXPERIENCING.
7:35: Review confidentiality/class norms and any changes to class structure
What happens in class, stays in class.
Respect all the types of couples and ways of being in relationship
Understand that we are all under stress and coping and this may be coming out in our relationship, but that we are all doing our best.
This is a place of care and kindness. All people are safe here.
7:40: Today we are covering attachment. This is one of the legs of the stool of PACT, the type of therapy we practice, and one of the ways that inform the development of a SF relationship. A Secure Functioning relationship is the goal, the aspiration of any healthy adult relationship, and is comprised of an equal, mutual, reciprocal relationship where we both focus on taking care of ensuring the health of the relationship first by taking care and protecting the needs of each other. We will talk about this more later , so hold your questions until after the exercises.
Intro exercise: Jason 7:40-7:45
Brief connecting intention setting exercise: Eye gazing is one of the most successful ways to connect with your partner. While it can and often is challenging for some people, it is the way our brains connect and wire, so we encourage this as much as possible.
Look into each other’s eyes and express a positive hope or wish for your partner’s experience tonight: “I want you to feel loved and supported” “I want you to get what you need tonight.” “I want you to feel a sense of comfort or ease.”
7:45 Long Exercise: Carolyn
Tonight we will lead you through an exercise which will give you a FELT sense of what it takes to create a secure functioning relationship, through one of the very foundational beliefs. We aren’t going to talk about, we are going to do it to show you how easy and fast this is. You don’t need to understand WHAT it is, to understand THAT it is. Once you have this felt sense, you will feel more confident in doing the daily work necessary to build it in even the smallest of steps. After this, we will talk to you about what it is you just did and how to replicate that. You will hear a bit about attachment, a bit about neurobiology and more about the founding principles of any secure functioning relationship.
OK, tonight like last time, we will have you taking turns. In this you will swap being the giver and the receiver.In this time of great uncertainty, fear, change in your relationship it can be helpful to to really take turns caring deeply for each other.
Who wants to be the giver first?
So, to the giver. Your job for this brief period is to focus all your energy and attention on providing a positive experience for your partner that leaves them feeling loved and cared for. That’s it. We will guide you through the cues to help you do this so that outside of class you know what to do.
So first, adjust so you are not distracted by your position and you can sit relatively still and focus on your partner’s comfort.
We recommend for this exercise that you provide care to your partner by having them lie in your lap, looking up at you. If that is not possible, you want your partner to be looking in your eyes and seated as comfortably as possible. So take the next moment to get your partner in a position that is comfortable for them.
Settle in. Encourage your partner to relax, take a couple of breaths and get comfortable in letting you tend to them.
Giver, all your focus with your eyes will be your partner: You want to use those eyes to see them clearly and to communicate to them that they are safe, loved and accepted.
Playing with your partner’s comfort level: how do they look? Notice the depth of your gaze, how long you are holding eye contact and the intensity of your focus. Is it enough for them? Is it too much? Open? Boundaried? Satisfied? Playful? Serious? Do they need a break from eye contact? Can you communicate: I am here for you. I want you to have what you need.
Play with physical touch. Do they like having their hair petted, face stroked, hand held softly. Can you notice in their eyes or facial muscles what physical contact feels best? Can you notice when they want you to stop?
How is your partner looking? Relaxed? Guarded? Knowing what you do about their experiences growing up, Did they receive this kind of attention from their parents? As a result of what you know, did they learn how to receive this type of care? Can you express care and understanding for any discomfort they may feel in this position?
As you think of these things, can you create space for them right now to be who they are, and communicate to them that they are safe in your arms. That your care is just for them. That you want to meet their needs and help them feel loved and safe.
Ask your partner: Is there anything that I can change about my gaze or touch?
Without asking them, do you think there is anything they need to hear from you based on what you know about them?
I see you
You are safe
I am here to soothe you.
Your needs matter.
I love you.
You are good enough.
You are worthy.
Try a couple of messages and see how they look when you say them. If you find something they like, play with HOW you say it. Softer? With a smile? Firmly?
We are getting ready to switch, so take the last couple of moments to watch and respond to whatever you see and feel that they need. Use your gaze, your body and your eyes to communicate that you are here for them. Share any last wishes for them. And take a few last breaths together before we switch.
Come up, sit up, reset and look around you. Stand up move your arms and legs for a minute and then switch places.
8:00 Jason: Repeat
How was it giving? Was it hard to focus your care like that? Did it feel draining? Did it feel like a long time or go by fast?
Do you feel like you lost anything by doing this?
Person receiving: Did you feel their care for you?
Which position was more comfortable?
As a couple, do you feel better, same or worse?
Did any one notice a difference between space/connection?
This idea of a secure functioning relationship is based on the knowledge that the single most important factor in your health is the health of your relationship. If our relationship does well we do better. If it is not going well, our baseline is more stressed, we are more distracted etc.
To create that secure functioning relationship, the most powerful and effective way to do that is for both of you to put your partner’s needs above your own. Taking care of your partner’s needs first ensures the health and function of our relationship.
You guys just did that. You took turns and made your partner’s needs more important than your own. You focused all your care and attention on their needs.
You can do this anytime you want. You can notice when your partner needs it and do it then. You can notice when your relationship feels off track and you can do it then. You can really challenge yourself and you can do it in an argument.
Finding times and ways to do this every day grows your connection and inflates the couple bubble, and it strengthens the connection between you. It builds safety, security and the sense that your partner has your back.
If you need space, I am on the lookout for this, I offer it to you and you feel calmed and loved.
When you feel calm and loved, you want to show me your affection and care and then you look for ways to meet my needs. And it goes around and around.
This is how you create a two person psychological system. You are both focused and determined to meet your partner’s needs, because when you do well, I do well, and when we are both doing well, our relationship thrives.
Before we make that sound so easy, we want to acknowledge that sometimes it is hard to understand what our partner needs, because a common human tendency is to love our partner the way we need to be loved. If I am sad, I like hugs. If I see my partner sad, I offer a hug…
But when you are really focused on what your partner actually needs rather than what you think they need, should need or what you WANT them to need, they feel truly cared about. And it wasn’t that hard.
Obviously here, we created the space to take turns, so it was not the natural reciprocation, but it was reciprocation. As you learn to do this, setting up opportunities for taking turns helps your brain learn to do this, even if you have been disappointed before.
Also difficult because of our survival instinct which is to take care of our own needs. We are wired from birth to feel safe when we have a sense of feeling securely attached to the person we depend on the most. Based on the kind of care we received when we were young we tend to know that we are being deeply cared for or attached in two different ways. Some want connection and others want space -- we may seek out space and calm, or we may seek out connection. Neither are bad, they can just intersect in deeply committed adult relationships in challenging ways.
As we talk about this, think about your partner’s experiences in childhood. Imagine them at 1-2 years old. You might think of it as finding the baby in your partner. Look through their eyes, using what you learned in the intro exercise about how they like to be seen, soothed and safe, put your mind on the conditions, culture and people who made up their early experience.
So if you have a partner that needs space: You offer space.
If you have a partner that needs connection: you offer connection.
And then watch, the person feels loved and cared for and they want to do so in return. This is how each day, 5 minutes a day, you can work toward inflating your couple bubble, strengthening that connection, creating secure functioning.
8:38 Closing remarks and closing exercise: For those going on to sessions 3-8, we are excited and will see you...May 13. For those of you who only got into sessions 1-2, you have received an email that explains the new drop in classes. Each class will be slightly different, so if you have taken a class, you are welcome to take it again because the experience is about practice. We also invite you to check out the YouTube videos posted and our facebook live chat next monday.
Closing exercise: 8: 40 Carolyn
Coming back into each other’s eyes, take a few relaxing breaths together. Now, switch those breaths to energizing breaths. Today you had the experience of giving fully to your partner and of receiving fully of your partner. In this closing exercise, you will spend a few minutes expressing gratitude to your partner for what they gave you. For their efforts.
You will each take turns. Spend a moment gathering your thoughts for what you want your partner to hear about what they did for you today. For their presence today. For their efforts today. For the gifts they gave you today. And now express your gratitude to your partner.
Receive their gratitude.
And spend the last few minutes in each other’s eyes or arms. Take these last moments before you restart your day together in gratitude for being on the wild ride together. Having chosen each other, spend these last minutes grateful for all the learning and growing you have done together.
Lonely, Overwhelmed, Hurt, Intimidated, Rejected, Sad, Lost/Confused, Let down, Vulnerable, Worried/Shaky, Unimportant, Scared, Hopeless, Panicked, Inadequate, Failing/Ashamed, Humiliated, Small/Insignificant, Unwanted/Dismissed, Helpless.
Based on this list do you think your partner feel more seen, safe and soothed in their early experience and in times of disconnection with you.
Which one hit the spot? Touched them?
Ok. Now let’s do it with I love you.
Now that you are situated. Think of a time that your partner was triggered or hurt, either by you or someone else.
Look for the word(s) that might describe their internal experience:
I will repeat the list and find the one word that stands out the most. It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong just that your intention is to help them.
Now you are going to help them to feel seen, safe and soothed.
Begin with catch and release around the word- often times when we are triggered we first just need to acknowledged that our feelings are okay.
Then go into relax in my arms or through hand holding or gaze.
Find the baby- (I’m just making this one up as I write) Think about when you have seen your partner in pain, think about when you have seen your partner when they are really happy, think when you have seen your when they feel alone. They had these experiences for the first time as a baby, find the baby.
Beckoning (probably does not demo attachment type)
For longer exercise- Introduce the idea of rapprochement as a crucial time in development and for attachment. Tell people that they might have already self selected as Wave or Island. This is going to help them clarify and to explore. First we do Catch and release and then help your partner relax into an embrace.
Catch and Release: Try to let go of the embrace the moment before you think your partner is going to want to be released. If you get the sense that your partner does not want to be released find a way to let them go in a way that shows love and support. Now Switch
Hug until relaxed: Now you are going to practice being home base for each other. Your job is to help your partner completely relax in your embrace. Put your hand on areas where you feel tension. Notice breath patterns. Now switch.
For final exercise- We do a combination of find your partners intro exercise hand and hug until relaxed with co-regulation. Eyes closed, find hand, now move towards embrace (or stay holding hands if that feels better).
Larger exercise: beckoning (so does this demo Atachment type? Or the ways we cannot get our partner to come with attraction not fear?) Maybe this is better as an intro to demo this?
PAI is the best exercise for making this clear, but risky to do over video without care. Maybe we can handpick PAI questions and ask and have them answer different ones?
Closing exercise: Declarations: Based on attachment types, what are the most soothing messages you can provide. (Or declarations during major exercise)
But to properly understand how to care for our partner the way they need to be loved, we need to better understand our partner’s needs. So, today we are going to give you some information to help you learn about your partner’s attachment style and how understanding attachment helps us to understand our partner's needs.
Island: Island partners grew up in families where they learned to take care of themselves. Maybe their parents emphasized independence. Maybe the parents were gone a lot at work or maybe their parents were present physically but absent emotionally, but this partner did not get a ton of snuggling, affection or emotional care. The parents may have been and expected stoicism. The attention they got may have emphasized performance, so that affection and praise was provided contigent achievement. Growing up, this partner learned to take care of their own emotional needs and to not need or express needs a lot.
As an adult, these partners may not be comfortable in long emotionally focused conversations, and may not often identify their own emotions. They may prefer a lot of alone time. They may feel crowded or intruded with questions. They may be highly effective and achieving at work and with household tasks. They may express care through tasks, errands, and other acts of service. They may like it when you are in the room with you but not right next to them and not talking. They may go on autopilot, looking fine and acting fine, disconnected from both their partner and themselves.
Wave: Wave partners may have been raised with a great deal of contact with their parents. Maybe the parents carried this partner around with them everywhere. Maybe the parent and child were together consistently or constantly. The wave may have been the central focus in the family In the wave partner’s childhood. But at the same time, the wave partner may have grown up with a LOT of loud emotion. It could have been yelling, it could have been crying, but the wave may have seen and felt a lot of emotion and may have needed to provide care to their parents. Maybe the wave parent learned to get attention for themself by soothing their parent. Emotion was constant and was big. There was not much room for the wave kid to have alone time separate from their caregiver. As adults, waves can be insecure and need a lot of reassurance. They may fear distance and disconnection and seek contact. They may want a lot of communication and need a lot of interest in their thoughts and feelings.
Anchor partners grew up with enough of a sense that they could go off and explore their world or their own internal experience AND that they could return to a safe place to refuel. Their parents provided mosty a sense of consistent care that was curious and collaborative, or there was enough solid there to get a sense that it was ok to have needs and to be independent. Anchor partners parents were no more or less loving than any other parent, but may have had more time or capacity for their kids. Anchor adults did not have perfect childhoods, nor are they perfect adults, they just have ENOUGH of a sense to have both closeness and independence.
These are emotional stereotypes or caricatures to help you identify and think about what your partner’s emotional experience was in relationship during childhood and how it shaped how they are with you. How safe do they feel being close and vulnerable with you? How secure and steady to they feel in the relationship when not in emotional contact with you. In thinking of these behaviors in terms of emotional needs it can help release us from taking these personally and as burdens, and instead ways that our partner may be seeking safety and security with us and within themselves. But most of us are slightly wavey and slightly island-ish. We may have situations where we do well and others where we need more contact or more alone time.
And again, none of these are problems by themselves, but all require understanding and care. And the most important thing is not your attachment type but the understanding of your needs and preferences to create a secure functioning relationship.
Best way to health is to prioritize your relationship above everything else. The most effective way to do this is put your partner’s needs above your own. Knowing their attachment style helps us do that. Last week we played with your partner’s nervous system, now we play with tending your partner…