The Couple Bubble: How You Can Keep Each Other Safe and Secure
Creating a couple bubble allows partners to keep each other safe and secure. Together, you and your partner can create and maintain your bubble. You agree do things for one another that no other person would be willing to do, at least not without getting paid. In fact—and this is important, so listen up—anyone who offers with no strings attached to do what partners must do for each other most definitely wants something from you (e.g., sex, money, commitment). If you’re in a committed relationship and someone else seems willing to fill in for your partner, watch out! As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
So, the couple bubble is something you work on together. But also keep in mind that you are responsible for your end of the deal. You keep it up because you believe in the principle, not merely because your partner is or isn’t willing to do the same. It works only when both partners operate on a principled level and not on the level of “You go first.”
The Warring/Loving Brain: How You Can Keep the Love Alive
Partners can make love and avoid war when their primitives are put at ease.
Identifying your primitives in action helps to hold them in check. When a red alert is going off, for example, can you recognize it for what it is?
First simply recognize that your amygdalae are sounding an alarm. This alarm may take the form of your heart racing, palms sweating, face burning, or muscles tightening, or you may notice yourself suddenly becoming weak, slouched, nauseous, faint, numb, or shut down.
Of course, identifying your primitives can be accomplished only by none other than…your ambassadors; specifically, your hippocampus. By definition, if you are able to notice your primitives in action, they can’t have gained the upper hand. If they have, it’s too late; better luck next time. And you can be assured that there most likely will be a next time.
Identify your partner’s primitives and ambassadors in action. At times, especially if your partner’s primitives are large and in charge, you may be able to do this before your partner can. Likewise, your partner sometimes may be able to do it for you before you can yourself. Find nonthreatening ways to let each other know what you have noticed. If possible, do this as close in time as you can to the actual incident.
Know Your Partner: How Does He or She Really Work?
Partners relate to one another primarily as anchors, islands, or waves. You and your partner should become familiar with each others’ relationship styles.
We get to know our partner fully in order to become competent as managers of our partners in the best way. By competent managers, we mean partners who are experts on one another and know how to move, shift, motivate, influence, soothe, and inspire one another. In contrast, partners who are not experts on one another tend to create a mutual sense of threat and insecurity. They don’t enjoy a couple bubble. These partners also tend to wish the other would change, listen to them, or do things the way they do, and ultimately believe they coupled with the wrong person. Sadly, these partners merely recreate the insensitivity, injustice, and insecurity of their childhood, never really knowing what is within their reach “if only … .”
For many people, closeness brings both the promise of safety and security and a threat to safety and security. This raises the question, how do you get what you want and need from a relationship, while avoiding what you fear might happen? This quandary is similar to stealing honey without being stung by a bee. The degree to which we must work to get the honey, while avoiding getting stung, in intimate relationships is the degree to which we feel fundamentally insecure. But here’s the rub: if we feel insecure about close relationships, there is no way to become more secure without being in one. No book or audiotape, workshop, or religion can alter our sense of relationship security. In other words, as far as relationships go, we are hurt by people and yet we can be healed only by people.
Becoming Experts on One Another: How to Please and Soothe Your Partner
Partners who are experts on one another know how to please and soothe each other. This means becoming familiar with your partner’s primary vulnerabilities and knowing the antidotes that are effective for each.
Learn to rapidly repair damage. Being an expert on your partner means you are continually alert to his or her mood and feelings. If your partner is bothered, you know it immediately. It doesn’t matter whether your partner is bothered because of something occurring between the two of you or because of something outside the relationship. In either case, you are enough of an expert that you can speedily make an educated guess about which of his or her three or four bad things has been touched off. There is no reason to let any problems fester. Seeing your partner in distress should be the signal to “stop the presses” before continuing on with anything.
Prevent problems before they arise. Knowing how to repair damage is helpful, but it is even better to anticipate and avoid difficulties. Of course, it won’t be possible to avert all challenges. Life doesn’t work that way. But as experts, there is a lot you and your partner can do to please and keep each other happy. Rather than waiting until you see trouble brewing, be proactive with your partner. Make a habit of saying and doing the things that make him or her feel good. Don’t assume your partner already knows how much you love him or her; don’t figure you’ve already adequately expressed everything you appreciate about your partner. Find new and creative ways to convey the three or four things that make your partner feel good. In this way, you make deposits you can draw on when the going gets rough.
Launchings and Landings: How to Use Morning and Bedtime Rituals
Partners with busy lives should create and use bedtime and morning rituals, as well as reunion rituals, to stay connected.
You both benefit when you put your partner to bed. Although going to sleep together every night would be nice, that isn’t always feasible. One or the other of you may have work to do on a given night. Or, as we discussed, one of you may be a night owl. Nevertheless, you can find the time to put your partner to bed. Make this a habit. And take turns on different nights so both of you have the experience of being put to bed.
Variety is the spice of ritual. Create lots of bedtime and morning rituals for yourselves. For example, sometimes you may like to watch a TV program or movie together, as a way to wind down from the day. Of course, this easily can become an isolating activity (islands, I’m talking to you). Don’t let that happen. Be sure to make contact at regular intervals during the program or movie. Talk about it (you’re not in a movie theater, so don’t worry about disturbing anyone else). Look at your partner during emotional, funny, or stupid moments. Hold hands.
The Go-To People: How to Remain Available to One Another
Partners should serve as the primary go-to people for one another.
Partners who create and maintain a tether to one another experience more personal safety and security, have more energy, take more risks, and experience overall less stress than couples who do not. When you commit to serving as a go-to person for your partner, you open the door for your partner to do the same for you. Then you both can enjoy free and unencumbered access to one another in terms of time and of mind. In this way, you build synergy in your relationship, such that you are able to operate together in ways that are greater than if you each lived as essentially separate individuals.
Make a formal agreement to be available to each other 24/7. Couples often find that formally stating their agreement gives it added oomph. It is easier to hold to an agreement later, in the heat of the moment, when it has been explicitly made and both of you have bought in.
This also gives you a chance to voice any resistance, hesitations, or trepidations. If one of you is an island or wave, you might discuss how you feel about being tethered to your partner. Look both at what scares you and at how you stand to benefit from maintaining this tether. Brainstorm ways to handle any situations in which you might be tempted to withhold yourself.
Protecting the Couple Bubble: How to Include Outsiders
Partners should prevent each other from being a third wheel when relating to outsiders. Every couple will find themselves engaging with outsiders, so your best bet is to rely on a strong and intact couple bubble. When you are solid with each other, the presence of thirds can actually amplify the positive aspects of your relationship.
Always make your partner number one. And say and do things—little ones and big ones—that remind your partner this is so. If your partner feels confident he or she is number one in your eyes, it will be much harder for thirds to pose a threat. The problem is that we often assume our partner already knows they’re number one and doesn’t need reminders. But you know what they say happens when people ass-u-me something, right? They make an ass out of you and me!
Don’t shy away from thirds. It might be tempting to reason that if thirds can cause trouble in a twosome relationship, it would be best to stay clear of them. Obviously, this wouldn’t work in the case of children and in-laws. But it doesn’t work for other outsiders, either. Our friends and other activities greatly enrich our lives. The key is not to avoid them or minimize contact, but to find healthy ways to bring them into your twosome.
Fighting Well: How to Win by Letting Your Partner Win, Too
Partners who want to stay together must learn to fight well. When you and your partner are relating within a strong and secure couple bubble, fights don’t threaten your partnership. You are able to pick up on each other’s distress cues and manage them posthaste. You don’t ignore problems and let them fester. Rather, you quickly error correct, repair, or wave the flag of friendliness.
Losing is not allowed. Of course, no one wants to lose. I’m sure you and your partner are no exceptions. At times, it may be tempting to assert your will, to try to pick up a few wins for yourself. But honestly, what value will your pro-self interests have if a fight results in your partner being knocked out, on tilt, or otherwise non–compos mentis? Not much. That would be a Pyrrhic victory.
So, you have to retrain yourselves. You have to rewire your ways of fighting. Think in terms of defusing conflict that turns ugly, rather than necessarily resolving it entirely. Most importantly, when you fight, both of you have to win…or you will both lose. And that’s not an acceptable outcome.
Giving up isn’t allowed, either. Smart fighting is not about abdicating your position or giving up your self-interests. It’s about wrestling with your partner, engaging without hesitation or avoidance, and at the same time being willing to relax your own position. You go back and forth with each other, until the two of you come up with something that’s good for both of you. You take what you each bring to the table and, with it, create something new that provides mutual relief and satisfaction.
Love Is Up Close: How to Rekindle Love Through Eye Contact
Partners can rekindle their love at any time through eye contact. You do this by calling on your and your partner’s primitives and ambassadors to intentionally engage in the same ways as when you were first enamored. This may sound deceptively simple, yet the results can be profound. What you are doing is tantamount to short-circuiting your brain’s predisposition to war.
Don’t be shy. Some people are naturally bashful when it comes to someone—even a loved one—looking freely into their eyes. This is especially true of islands, but some anchors and waves also are unaccustomed to extensive eye contact.
push your limits with this. At the same time, allow yourselves to ease into it if one or both of you feels shy. If the discomfort persists, investigate what is keeping you from feeling safe and secure with each other.
Don’t wait. If you wait to try rekindling love through eye contact until a fight has erupted with your partner, it may be too late, at least for that instance. You want to practice ahead of time, when tensions are low. The point is to find ways to rewire so your ambassadors are predisposed to come online before your primitives. Then, when tensions do rise, that more loving response will be second nature to you.
Live a Happier, Healthier Life: How Your Partnership Can Heal You
Partners can minimize each other’s stress and optimize each other’s health.
By adhering to the principles presented previously, you avoid causing stress to yourself and your partner. In so doing, you actively foster physical and emotional health and well-being for both of you.
Manage each other’s stress. In recent decades, techniques for stress reduction have become increasingly popular. You may already be familiar with these—time management, eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, exercising, relaxation, to name a few. However, what’s missing in most approaches to stress management is the key role partners can play. I’m suggesting that, as experts on one another who understand something about how your brains function, you can add the dimension of stress reduction to your owner’s manual. Knowing the three or four things that make your partner feel bad gives you an advantage when it comes to detecting stress and even anticipating it.
You and your partner can support one another in reducing stress by making sure you engage in healthy activities and achieve balance in your lifestyle. If you notice your partner isn’t getting enough sleep, for example, step in and help find a solution. You might volunteer to take on extra household chores until he or she has caught up on needed rest. If your partner is slacking in his or her exercise routine, this might be the time to go to the gym together. Or if your partner had a hard day at work, maybe tonight is the right evening to rent that comedy you’ve talked about watching.
When all is said and done, most of us are doing the best we can, and most of us don’t go into relationships with the intention of messing things up. We try our best to love and be loved in return. Yet despite our best intentions, when we do mess things up, it most likely is because we disregarded, dismissed, or didn’t know about at least one of the principles described in this book.
This should give hope to the reader because, the truth is, you can still be wired for love, if not in this relationship, then in the next one. It is never too late. And there is no one reading this book who can’t ultimately do it right.
Thankfully, relationships are not like baseball, in which it’s three strikes and you’re out. Couples have more options, and more resources at their fingertips. The universe keeps pitching us new opportunities to redo, repair, and reinvent ourselves in relationship to another person, perhaps even the same person. We just need to envision a more principled reason to be together, a more life-enhancing purpose to devote ourselves to another person.