Island Girl

I met a new Life Coach last week.

When she asked why I wanted to work with her, I listed the following:

  • I want help navigating the transition as I move toward an empty nest.
  • Why do I struggle to “naturally nurture’ my immediate family…especially my husband?  (I’m not one to naturally hug an adult who is in distress).
  • My libido is below ZERO – Can she guide me to discover why?
  • I want better communication skills.
  • Is this all tied up in the loss of my Dad?

She asked some great questions and then suggested I read this book for homework:

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With all the learning I’ve done about how the brain is wired for alcohol, I was primed for more information about the brain and relationships.  As I’ve learned, the brain is an amazing machine and is capable of rewiring itself for a better life.

Stan Tatkin investigates the science behind relationships.  First and foremost the brain is predisposed to seek security.  He offers suggestions that will help “harness the power of your brain and your partner’s brain for love instead of war” (p5).

He presents ten key principles:

  1. Creating a couple bubble allows partners to keep each other safe and secure.
  2. Partners can make love and avoid war when the security-seeking parts of the brain are put at ease.
  3. Partners relate to one another primarily as anchors (securely attached), islands (insecurely avoidant), or waves (insecurely ambivalent).
  4. Partners who are experts on one another know how to please and soothe each other.
  5. Partners with busy lives should create and use bedtime and morning rituals, as well as reunion rituals to stay connected.
  6. Partners should serve as the primary go-to people for one another.
  7. Partners should prevent each other from being a third wheel when relating to outsiders.
  8. Partners who want to stay together must learn to fight well.
  9. Partners can rekindle their love at any time through eye contact.
  10. Partners can minimize each other’s stress and optimize each other’s health.

The book pointed out things that we have been doing well for decades, and some areas that I need some attention.

The Couple Bubble is “an agreement to put the relationship before anything and everything else.  It means putting your partner’s well being, self-esteem, and distress relief first.  And it means your partner does the same for you.  You both agree to do it for each other”.  It requires the motto:  “We Come First”.

Recommendations for supporting the bubble:

  • Know what matters to your partner and make him/her feel safe and secure.
  • Don’t pop the bubble.  Don’t have one foot in and one foot out of the bubble.
  • Mutually maintain the bubble.  Two-way streets on agreements.  One can’t be in agreement while the other breaks the principles.
  • Plan to use the bubble.  It’s a safe place. Plan ahead when going into social situations.  Stay connected.

Our bubble needs a tune-up. And it’s not tough to connect the dots that alcohol does not mix well with the couple bubble. 

Primitives and Ambassadors.  Our primitive brain is our survival mechanism.  The Ambassador part of the brain helps us be rational, social, and civilized.  Ambassadors can keep the peace.  Identifying primitives in action can help us hold them in check while our Ambassadors need recognition of when I keep my shit together.

Three Style of Relating. The big revelation in this book is that my attachment style identifies me as an Island. It looks like my DH is a Wave. The good news is that everyone has the ability to become an Anchor.

Strengths of people who relate in this style:

ANCHOR:  Secure individuals; willing to commit and fully share with another; generally happy people, adapt easily to the needs of the moment.

ISLAND:  Independent and self-reliant, take good care of themselves, productive and creative – especially when given space, low maintenance.

WAVE:  Generous and giving, focused on taking care of others, happiest when around other people, able to see both sides of an issue.

Looks like I’m also a Wild Island.  As noted, I have heightened primitives and wild ambassadors. I rely too much on talking to work out issues rather than using nonverbal touch and eye contact for resolution. This doesn’t bother me, because as an island, I like to be left alone.  Under stress, an island can be “overly terse, dismissive, and inflexible, or too silent or too still.”

During the conflict, an island can focus on the future and avoid present and past.  Words (or withholding them) can be used as weapons.  I sound like an ambassador, but I’m only interested in primal survival.

“A wild island often has little sense of what he or she is feeling and is poor at communicating feelings or picking up the feelings of his or her partner.”

And my guy is more of a Wild Wave, who needs lots of verbal assurances of love and security. (Not in my toolbox to give).  The reverse of an island, the Wild Wave may appear overly dramatic, emotional, irrational, angry and when under stress can be unforgiving, punishing, rejecting, or inflexible.

He pushes…I retreat to my island.  I like it there.  The more he crashes my shores the more I go to hide in my hut.  I feel intruded upon and trapped.  Islands have fear of intimacy and being blamed.  The Wave fears abandonment, and separation, and gets uncomfortable being left alone then feels like a burden for their needs.  Our styles are sort of in conflict when we are under a lot of stress…and we have had plenty of that this year.  {I’m thankful my body had Sessions of Sobriety or this could have really been a mess}

Now that I know all this (have awareness) I can understand his behaviors. The book does give some very good strategies for becoming an expert on each other’s attachment style and how to give to each other to get and give what we need.

This 177-page book is easy to read.  Gives good information (Principles 1-4) and then good suggestions (Principles 5-10).

Goal for this week:  Principle #9 – Eye Contact.  I don’t look deeply into my partner’s eyes.  I especially loved the reminder that the eyes never age.

{I actually took note a few months ago that I don’t make eye contact with many people at all – including my kids – I watch mouth movement when people are speaking to me- i don’t feel it is a shyness factor or inability to look people in the eye- it’s just harder for me to pay attention to what they are saying – another communication area I am exploring – how to be a better listener}.

Again, I can’t help but note that alcohol didn’t help in this area of life.

I drank through most all of my formative social interactions in high school and college.  I doubt I looked anyone in the eye… maybe I figured people would be able to read how drunk I was… interesting…something to ponder…

For now…maybe It’s time for Staring Contests in my household.  Lol.

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