Why Relationships Are Difficult Explained by Stan Tatkin – S3E48

Why Relationships Are Difficult Explained by Stan Tatkin


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The nerd in Drey has him turning to science for episode 48. Stan Tatkin is a Doctor of Psychology and Marriage and runs his own Family Therapist clinical practice in Calabasas. 2 years ago, he explained why relationships are difficult on TEDxTalk. The theory is that we have 2 different levels of cognitive decision making, which are ambassadors and primitives. Ambassadors are the logic, reason, high level organization part of the brain. Primitives are simple decisions that we can make on autopilot. For example, knee jerk reactions and/or fight or flight kind of decisions are primitives. As we gain knowledge through our lives, the things we learned are move from ambassador to primitive. We do the same thing when we fall in love. Once the honeymoon phase is over, anything that deviation from our understanding is viewed as a threat by our primitives. That is how fights begin.

Why Relationships Are Difficult Explained by Stan Tatkin Outline

  • What are you first reactions to this theory?
  • Reflecting on your past relationships with this idea in mind, can you think of any situations where you felt this happen?
  • Have you ever gotten into a fight with the person that you are dating and do not know how the fight got blown out of proportion?
    • Dr. Tatkin believes that primitives and ambassadors work concurrently to fight. Primitives begin their fighting stance. Ambassadors are then pushed into decision making too quickly without all the rational information to make an informed decision. What are your thoughts on this?
  • Our primitive mind is simplistic and categorizes things as benign or a threat. If it is benign, we just keep moving along because there are no danger signs. However, if it is a threat, the body and mind want to react. This is why Tatkin says, “Human relationships can survive fights. Human relationships cannot survive the loss of safety and security.” Do you believe this is true?
  • How do you prefer to have an argument with your partner? By text, video chat, phone, or face to face?
    • Stan says the best way to fight is face to face. The reason for this is because eye contact helps to regulate and diffuse neurological synapses–it calms each other down. Your visual indicators, eyes, help your mind determine whether the person is actually a threat or giving you a false positive. Do you feel like arguments work out better when you are face to face versus the other methods?
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