Secure Functioning Couples
What it looks like feels like and how to refresh it.
Secure Functioning Couples – What it looks like feels like and how to refresh it. So who am I? So glad you asked. I’m a professional couples therapist. I mainly work with couples but also work with individuals and families. I am also a teacher and education is the key to betterment. The most important relationships in your life are the first ones of your initial caretakers like your mum and dad and then as an adult your chosen long term relationship. These relationships are so significant in your life that it is important to understand them and how they affect and influence your life.
So I thought it was important to discuss secure functioning couples. This term is from Stan Takins. And if we were to go to another well known couples therapist Julie and John Gottman they may call this Master Couples.
What do secure functioning couples look like feel like? How do you know if you are a secure functioning couple? Do you fight? Yes. Can things get messy? Yes. Do you know how to make up after a fight? Yes. Is there one foot out the door? NO. Is there a thought that the grass is greener on the other side or is there the side glance at someone at work? No. The two pillars of the relationship – Trust and Commitment are rock solid. Secure functioning couples know that in a relationship there are disagreements, there are fights, there are messy occasions but now here is the thing. Secure functioning couples are there for the long haul. They are always willing to work things through. They are more responsive than reactive. They are curious and willing to understand their partner. They are patient and know that it is worth the work, the long talks, the unravelling of childhoods and connecting the dots for the relationship. The Relationship is what both partners are willing to keep nurtured. In a way the relationship is the baby!
This couple may have worked through a ton of stuff or they may be lucky enough to have minimal dysfunction in their family lives. They could be five years, ten or thirty years together. If you asked them about rituals and routines of connections, they might say something like this – “Oh every morning on waking we check in with each other. If we have time we always hug each other before we start our day. Every night we share a meal together and watch our favourite show if it is on together. And then before we go to bed at night we do another check in and spend time hugging again. We try to be intimate whenever we can but we always check in with each other first.” “We know how each other likes their coffee and we know what chores we do around the house.”
You get the idea. This couple know each other really well. They do three things well.
- They manage or co-manage each other’s distress.
- They can re-create exciting love and
- They can do quiet love together.
Secure functioning couples know what to do if their partner is upset or distressed by something. They can co-manage or can easily co-regulate their partners distress sooner rather than later. Quiet love is the capacity to be chilled together. Not having to do do do. They can relax, read a book, or enjoy the view or the afternoon winter sun. They feel really safe just being with their partner. Secure functioning couples will also know what and how to delight their partner.
And this is what I say to my couples a good solid relationship is on the verge of boring. It is super nice most of the time and cosy comfortable and safe. These are great things but these are not what we see in the movies or in sitcoms. TV or even theatre is based on drama, action and tragedy. That is why Alain de Botton wrote his novel ‘The Course of Love’ to show people that love is not like what we watch on TV.
Stan Takin has 3 types of remedies that secure functioning couples can do to refresh their love and relationship and he calls this re-creating Exciting Love – which is the dopamine reward system and it wants to be repeated. They can generate it any time they want. Because they want to.
1.Primary in subjectivity – looking into each other eyes. We fall in love through the eyes. And saying “I love” I’m so happy to have met you.
2. Secondary in subjectivity – using a third object as a way to re-ignite that love for each other. Like the puppy – to turn ourselves on. On we do this when we see new scenery, like going overseas, travelling or painting. This is an amplification affect for the purpose of the relationship similar to how when just met.
3. Personal excitement – for example my husband is watching the football. He is excited that his team is winning and wants to share it with me. However, I’m not into football. So what could my husband do? Instead of saying “hey honey my team is in front.” He could use that excitement and say “hey honey I’m so glad I’m with you.” Now I mentioned this to my husband yesterday. And he thought it would sound contrived. Like all these things you wouldn’t do it all the time. It is just to reinvigorate the love of the relationship. For me to hear my husband to talk to me with that energy would be exciting. He would of wanted to share his happiness about the results to me so he is actually thinking of me, it’s just that if I hear about the football I’ll go “Oh that’s good.” But if he says “hey honey I’m so glad I’m with you.” I’ll actually feel his energy about him being with me more. I can receive him and his enthusiasm. So it can reinvigorate the relationship. Convert your personal excitement to a form to give to your partner.
The secure functioning couple is social and emotional capable and skilful.
Maria Hull Noosa Counselling