Building Strong and Lasting Relationships: The PACT Approach

Successful relationships aren’t built on grand gestures or declarations. What truly makes a relationship strong and enduring is the effort you put into it. It involves developing and maintaining a secure functioning relationship and finding a partner with whom you feel safe and open.

Defining a Secure Functioning Relationship

According to Dr. Stan Tatkin, one of the founders of the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT), a secure functioning relationship is a human system based on the principles of true mutuality, cooperation, justice, fairness, and sensitivity. Partners collaboratively face the external world, protecting each other. A secure functioning relationship acknowledges and celebrates your differences in thoughts, history, and drives. It relies on interdependence, where both parties equally take responsibility and care for each other.

Benefits of a Secure Functioning Relationship

A secure functioning relationship comes with numerous benefits. It means you consistently get support from your partner. True mutuality, in turn, means you are truly seen and understood by your partner.

Hurt is swiftly repaired, benefiting both parties with care. You’ve chosen a teammate for life, knowing your partner will support and protect you when needed.

A relationship built on secure functioning is based on well-defined boundaries. Understanding and respecting these boundaries are crucial for fostering safety, dependency, support, and happiness in both partners.

These benefits lay a healthy foundation for your relationship, enabling it to thrive and achieve long-term happiness.

Establishing a Secure and Robust Relationship

Any enduring relationship requires continuous effort and energy investment. Establishing and maintaining the structure of your relationship is an ongoing task. Whatever boundaries, rules, practices, and habits you establish in your relationship should reflect you and your partner, guiding the foundation of your relationship care.

Here are three key PACT relationship points to help you and your partner build a strong foundation:

Be Fully Present with Your Partner

Amid the demands of daily life, it’s easy to drift away from your partner. You might easily become parallel to each other, playing the roles of a taxi driver or life manager rather than intimate partners. Your energy and communication focus on tasks that need completion rather than each other. For instance, when you’ll be home, when to pick up the kids, and which bills need paying.

Spending time with your partner, fully present in your relationship, is a balance to the busy rhythm of life. Have moments of undisturbed, tech-free time together.

Look into each other’s eyes for at least 30 seconds every day, the longer, the better. The goal is to be fully present mentally and emotionally, having profound psychobiological effects on both your nervous systems, allowing you to calm each other’s nervous systems. This activity also enhances positive feelings towards each other, evoking the feelings from the early stages of your relationship when you might have done this spontaneously.

Promptly Repair After a Quarrel

Even the strongest couples have disagreements and quarrels, but what sets them apart is the decision to quickly repair after these conflicts. When you prioritize repair after an argument, you mend the hurt, let go of resentment, and focus on enjoying life again.

From a psychobiological perspective, quick repair after an argument is crucial. Otherwise, painful experiences and emotions may be encoded into your long-term memory system, making future conflicts and disagreements more challenging to recover from.

How can you effectively repair after a quarrel?

  • Listen to your partner.
  • Use empathy.
  • Validate their feelings and thoughts.
  • Take responsibility for the issue.
  • Apologize sincerely.

The way you express your apology is crucial. Maintaining eye contact, using a gentle facial expression, and a melodic tone help prevent your partner from becoming agitated and defensive. In turn, this aids in their acceptance of your repair.

Further reading

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