Secure Functioning - The Look & Feel of a Resilent Relationship
Updated: Feb 27, 2019
In my last post, I discussed the Couple Bubble and its importance in PACT therapy. A strong couple bubble = a secure functioning relationship. But what exactly does that mean?
One way to think of secure functioning couples are those who are able to take care of themselves and consider their partner at the same time. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Here's an example: The other day I was really annoyed with my partner. It was his night to make dinner and I took the kids to after school activities. I got home with starving, melting down children to an empty house! I checked my phone - no message, text, nothing! ARGH! Why didn't he just let me know?!? I would've grabbed something easy on my way home!!! Now the kids are melting down and they need a decent meal, not another piece of fruit! I continued to rant to myself and began to assess the fridge when I heard the door close. He walked in the door and I heard him set his things down. I felt like there was just no excuse for not even shooting me a quick text. I could've laid into him SO easily and I wanted to! I wanted to express my frustration! I could've lectured him with a litany of complaints and criticisms...but I turned and saw his weary eyes and tired posture and I knew that wasn't the right move at all. I thought about our home being a safe haven. Would I want to arrive home to him yelling at me? I remembered a phrase I love - "Don't get furious, get curious." I took a breath, softened my gaze and tried to neutrally state that it was late for him to be getting home and asked him what happened. I couldn't totally keep the fact that I was annoyed out of my voice and I saw that he noticed and became slightly defensive. This was ALL non-verbal. He acknowledged that he was late and shared what a crazy day it was - how it felt like everything that could've gone wrong did, which was why he had to stay so late. Hearing him and seeing him made all the difference - I gave him a hug and listened to him. I asked him if he would try to at least get a message to me next time so I could adjust and even help. He apologized and we started to make dinner together.
Believe me that things don't always end that well, however, that IS what secure functioning looks like and that was a "high five" moment. When your couple bubble is strong and you can give each other the benefit of the doubt, when you can consider his/her/their feelings and needs as well as your own, you're on the road to secure functioning.
Secure functioning is attractive, fresh, dynamic, interesting. Have you been around couples who bicker all of the time? Is it enjoyable? No! Do you feel like spending a few hours with them? No! Do you want to run for the hills? Yes! And what about the couples who are always making degrading comments about one another, cutting their partner down or exposing their faults/weaknesses? You sort of cringe with embarrassment for them and often want to get away as quickly as possible. Resilient couples have each other's backs and don't throw each other under the bus - not for a laugh, not to gain status or to get revenge. Sure there may be playful banter, but it's clearly friendly and mutually enjoyable. Secure functioning relationships are built on mutual trust. The partners are SAFE with one another and their home is a safe haven - not dangerous or consistently stressful. They are in a two-person system, rather than only considering their own feelings/needs. This doesn't mean that they don't argue or enjoy time apart. It does mean they are fair and reasonable. They repair quickly when there's been an argument and can speak honestly without fear of retribution or punishment.
When we commit to someone - what are we are actually committing to? I believe we are agreeing to secure functioning as an ideal. PACT can help couples turn that ideal into a reality. It's easier said than done, but it also may not be as difficult as you might think. After all, decreasing stress and increasing safety and security frees up a LOT of resources! See if you can turn a potential pitfall into a "high five" moment and begin to build resiliency and secure functioning in your relationship!