This striking piece of insight comes from the work of Stan Tatkin, MFT, PsyD, and founder of the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy Institute. Most people are surprised to hear it. It’s the kind of counter-intuitive thing that science does a good job of discovering. You’d never guess your way there, but research protocols can reveal it.
In session, I have my couples face each other in and look into each other’s eyes. Even better, I’ll ask them touch knees or hold hands. Touching floods the body with oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone”. It’s hard to keep fighting, or even start fighting in the first place, when you’re feeling cuddly with your sweetheart.
Touching also anchors you in the present. So instead of your brain not-very-helpfully digging up past experiences and applying them to your present moment, you’re able to actually hear what your partner is saying now. And a conversation experienced in the “now time” is your opportunity to do something different.
So if you’re driving somewhere, riding on public transit, or even just watching TV at home, and you start to feel a conversation go south, remember this discussion could be very different with eye contact or touching involved. You don’t have to go down the rabbit hole and maybe end up saying things you’ll regret later—or hear your partner saying things that are hurtful. This is especially true for subjects that you’re all-too-familiar with.
Take a deep breath and re-route. Come back to the topic later. You might be surprised at how different the outcome can be.
Please share this graphic with your friends!