What if you saw the vast power you have to heal and satisfy your partner? Would you dare to use that power?
Here is a common pattern I see in my couples (of course, genders can be reversed): she moves closer to him in a warm way, he responds in a guarded manner, she feels rejected so she protests, he feels criticized and gets defensive, she feels hurt and angry and accuses him of not caring about her, and the cycle worsens. When he first experiences her offer of love, this touches his “need for love” place AND some old wound from a failure of being loved. Picture the “Battleship” game in which you place a boat on a grid at certain coordinates, such as B-3 and C-3. Our brains are similar in that a particular need can be seen as residing at a particular place in the brain. That “place” will be touched, whether by that need being met or that need being frustrated. So, in our example above, the man’s wound (from a lack of love and attachment) was touched by his partner’s offer of warmth and love. That is the “place” in his brain where his original need (for love and attachment) resides and therefore where his trauma from childhood also resides. Ironically, the pain from the old wound can be reactivated either by a hurtful behavior that replicates that old rejecting behavior or by a loving behavior that offers to meet the original need!
Stan Tatkin, author of Wired for Love, teaches that each spouse serves as a proxy for those who most deeply hurt their spouse. As a proxy, it is your job to enter into those places in your partner’s experience where their wounds reside and to bring a healing love to your partner. But as a proxy you must be prepared for being experienced as the original perpetrator of hurt. You must be persistent with your love. Your partner expresses “I’m not good enough” and you respond, “You’re great just as you are.” Your partner expresses, “No one could love me” and you respond “I love you.” It is your job to figure out how your partner needs to be loved and to risk expressing that bold love. Healing will occur when the person can experience the original pain within the context of their partner’s current love.