Read Wired for Love Online

Authors: Stan Tatkin

Wired for Love

“This book is grounded in the latest brain science, as well as being wonderfully friendly, encouraging, and practical. It shows readers how to stay out of dead-end conflicts and instead light up the neural circuits of empathy, skillful communication, and love. A marvelous resource.”
—Rick Hanson, PhD, author of
Buddha's Brain
“I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it that I can use as a therapist. Stan Tatkin is a great innovator. This book is a must for every couples’ therapist’s library.”
—John Gottman, author of
The Science of Trust
“If you feel lost, confused or alone in your relationship, get this book right now. You will finally make sense out of chaos and pain. This is your map to go from frustration and insecurity to realize the potential of why you initially got together. Stan Tatkin’s insightful book will teach you to work as a team to make your relationship journey safe, engaging, and deeply satisfying.”
—Peter Pearson, PhD, couples therapy specialist and cofounder of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA
“Stan Tatkin shows how our couple relationships would look if we took seriously what attachment theory and neuroscience research has taught us.”
—Dan Wile, author of
After the Honeymoon

Wired for Love
challenges partners to experience their relationship in a totally new way. Partners will learn how to engage positively as a couple to help each other feel safe and secure by following the relationship exercises suggested in this exciting new book. In clear, concise language, Tatkin describes the ways that partners can understand and become experts on one another. He suggests building a “couple bubble” wherein each partner is the most important person in the other’s life, the one individual on whom the partner can always count.”
—Marion F. Solomon, director of clinical training at Lifespan Learning Institute and author of
Narcissism and Intimacy, Lean on Me
, and other books
“Read this book to discover a multitude of new ways to enliven your relationship and end needless conflicts. Stan Tatkin is one of the most innovative thinkers in the couples relationship world today. It's impossible to read this book without learning new patterns to enhance your love.”
—Ellyn Bader, PhD, cocreator of the developmental model of couples therapy, codirector of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA, and author of
Tell Me No Lies and In Quest of the Mythical Mate
“Reading Stan Tatkin’s book makes you want to be in therapy with him. With intense and fearless clarity, he takes you into the trenches of the combative human brain and shows you how to make love, not war.”
—Esther Perel, LMFT, author of
Mating in Captivity

Publisher’s Note

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books

Copyright © 2011 by Stan Tatkin

New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

5674 Shattuck Avenue

Oakland, CA 94609

Cover design by Amy Shoup; Text design by Tracy Marie Carlson; Acquired by Tesilya Hanauer; Edited by Clancy Drake

All Rights Reserved

epub ISBN: 9781608826407

Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as:

Tatkin, Stan.

Wired for love : how understanding your partner’s brain and attachment style can help you defuse conflict and build a secure relationship / Stan Tatkin.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN 978-1-60882-058-0 (pbk.) -- ISBN 978-1-60882-059-7 (pdf e-book)

1. Intimacy (Psychology) 2. Interpersonal relations--Psychological aspects. 3. Cognitive psychology. I. Title.

BF575.I5T38 2012



To my wife, Tracey, and daughter, Joanna, who keep me going and loving life.






The Couple Bubble: How You Can Keep Each Other Safe and Secure


The Warring/Loving Brain: How You Can Keep the Love Alive


Know Your Partner: How Does He or She Really Work?


Becoming Experts on One Another: How to Please and Soothe Your Partner


Launchings and Landings: How to Use Morning and Bedtime Rituals


The Go-To People: How to Remain Available to One Another


Protecting the Couple Bubble: How to Include Outsiders


Fighting Well: How to Win by Letting Your Partner Win, Too


Love Is Up Close: How to Rekindle Love Through Eye Contact


Live a Happier, Healthier Life: How Your Partnership Can Heal You




First I must acknowledge my editor and dear friend, Jude Berman, who has kept me going and writing when my own avoidance and island nature take over. Without her guidance and gentle pressure, this book would certainly not have come to be. I have many mentors in my life to whom I am indebted: Allan Schore, Marion Solomon, Stephen Porges, Pat Ogden, Harville Hendrix, Ellyn Bader, John Bradshaw, and John Gottman, to name just a few.

Foreword by Harville Hendrix

Couplehood has been, from the dawn of human history, the primary social structure of our species, giving rise to larger structures of family, community, society, culture, and civilization. But interest in helping couples improve the quality of their relationships is a very recent phenomenon. What help couples got in the past came from their families or social institutions, primarily religious ones. But given that what happens in the home determines what happens in society, and given the perennial presence of conflict and violence between partners and among groups and cultures, we can conclude that that help was not very helpful. If we operate from the logical premise that healthy couples are essential to a healthy society, and vice versa, then “helping couples” should be elevated from a romantic sentiment—and a professional career—to a primary social value. The best thing a society can do for itself is to promote and support healthy couples, and the best thing partners can do for themselves, for their children, and for society is to have a healthy relationship! This book points in that direction, describing and giving concrete guidance toward a view of intimate partnership that can help couples shift their focus from personally centered needs to the needs of their relationship and, by extension, to the transformation of society.

This radical position—that by transforming couplehood we transform every social structure—has been in the making only in the last twenty-five years or so. I want to briefly trace the emergence of couplehood—and of the evolving notions of “help” for couples—so that couples who read this splendid book can have a sense of their place in the history of this primary relationship. I want to also put
Wired for Love
in context.

We have little information about how prehistoric couples chose each other and how they related to each other, but the informed imagination of cultural anthropologist Helen Fisher offers us some clues that prior to 11,000 years ago, couples formed a “pair bond” for the purposes of procreation and physical survival. She believes this bond was based on an implicit ethic of “sharing” that served mutual interests and needs. Their roles were specific. Women gathered wood for the fires, cared for the children, and gathered fruit, berries, nuts, and roots, which they shared with the men. Men hunted wild game, which they shared with the women and children, whom they also protected from other men and wild animals. While these pair relationships were clearly sexual, they were not very durable and it is probable that they were not very intimate. Estimates are that they lasted about three years on average, or until the children were mobile. Both sexes repeatedly sought and consummated other relationships. Women gave birth to many children from different fathers and men sired many children with whom they most likely spent little time and whom they seldom recognized as their progeny. Most children were reared by single mothers and transient fathers.

That all changed about 11,000 years ago when, according to the same body of research, the hunters and gatherers learned how to grow food and corral and breed animals. No longer having to search for food, they settled down into small compounds and villages, and the concept of “property” that had to be protected arose. This concept may have applied at first only to animals and crops, but since children and women also needed protection, the concept eventually extended to include them. Small social groups evolved into villages, cities, and even empires, adding new layers of importance to social relations. The concept of property ownership gave birth to economics, and who children belonged to and whom they married became critically important components of both social and economic structures. So the second version of couplehood, the “arranged marriage,” was born. It had nothing to do with romantic attraction, personal needs, or mature love and everything to do with social status, economic security, and political expedience. So parents collaborated with other parents, usually without much regard for the preferences of their sons and daughters, to select spouses for their children who would improve or maintain the social and economic status of the family as a whole. Little if any attention was paid to the quality of the couple’s relationship. The couple were expected to honor family values and approved social etiquette irrespective of their feelings for each other, and if one of them transgressed—through abandonment or infidelity or other dishonorable conduct—the transgressor was advised, admonished, and/or punished by family and community leaders—father, brothers, elders, religious officials. The tools of analysis, understanding, and empathy had not yet been invented.

The next incarnation of marriage began in the eighteenth century with the rise in Europe of democratic political institutions, which argued that everyone was entitled to personal freedom—and, by extension, the freedom to marry the person of their choice. The door to marriage was, increasingly, romantic love rather than parental dictates, and this shift gave rise to the personal or psychological marriage designed to meet personal and psychological rather than social and economic needs. However, until Sigmund Freud’s discovery of the unconscious and founding of psychotherapy at the end of the nineteenth century, it was little guessed that our unconscious minds are deeply involved in our personal choices and that our past interpersonal experiences have a powerful impact on our present adult relationships. The discovery that this was so led to the awareness that our choice of a partner, if it is romantic, is influenced by our unconscious minds more than our rational preferences. The partner we unconsciously choose is dauntingly similar—warts and all, and especially the warts—to the caretakers who reared us. Thus the needs we want met in our adult intimate relationship—those that were not met in childhood—are presented to persons who are woefully similar to the persons who did not meet those needs when we were children. The dissatisfaction arising from this cruel incompatibility eventually contributed to a rise in the divorce rate. While divorce was essentially forbidden in the arranged marriage and profoundly discouraged in the romantic marriage until recently, the rising divorce rate, especially after the post–World War II population explosion in the 1950s, gave birth to marriage counseling and marital therapy as professions. Help for couples was expanded from traditional (religious, familial) sources to an emerging mental health profession whose members had varying degrees of training and competence.

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