Are You an Island or a Wave?

Are You an Island or a Wave?

 Soothing Each Others Nervous System in Relationship

by Brenda Sutherland


Winter is a time of regrouping, revisioning, renewing as we are asked to go inwards and assess what is working and what is not, at the same time rest. Over the last weeks I have witnessed many couples fighting more than usual, separating or contemplating separation. One of the key factors missing in staying connected and creating a secure functioning relationship is understanding how to:

1. Keep each other safe                                  2. Stay connected daily
3. Soothe each others nervous system           4. Misreading cues
5. Identify each others attachment styles        6. Protect vulnerabilities
7. Manage Thirds (Competing Forces)    

These are only a few!

The missing information, is its not personal, it is psychobiological.

How do you trigger your partner off? As Stan Tatkin author of ‘Wired for Love’ puts it

“There are No Angels, No Devils in relationships” 

If your partner is an Island (Avoidant) do you give them an escape route when you ask them to connect, or demand they hop off their island immediately? Key: Give them an escape route: i.e. “When you are ready…” “I don’t want to stop you from what you are doing but before you go could you hug me” 

The reality is Islands need an OUT (as they are auto-regulators – I do me) and need an exit route to be available.

If your partner is a Wave (Anxious/Angry-Resistant) and reject your praise, feedback do you retreat or approach them with loving words? Key: Go towards them with loving words, even if they reject them!

Waves (external regulators – you do me) need an IN i.e. loving words, as their greatest fear is to be abandoned and rejected. But here’s the key a wave attachment style will reject the first loving words just to see if you can hold them, then if you approach again they soften.

We are complex yet so simple when we develop a manual, from a psychobiological approach, on each other!

Comment ( 1 )

  • Nicolette Ward

    This truly is the crux of it all. My partner is an island, and after I read this today, the aircon died – I had to take care not to blame him for his ‘tampering’ with the controls, but do something counter-intuitive for a wave like me who was deadly afraid of not having aircon in my study during this heat… I said “I appreciate you are trying to fix this” – so he didn’t feel blamed, and said “We can always use the room downstairs, its cooler”. His reaction was “Oh dear, I think I stuffed it up’.

    The typical conversation would have gone like this: Me to him:
    “What have you done? Why did you mess with the aircon – seriously – can’t you see I am struggling with the heat, even with the aircon on?”
    He would have glared at me, pursed his lips and walked off, not talking to me for a day or two and then would have given me a lecture on how to talk to people, telling me I am not walking the walk as a counsellor (he could be right). He would let me sweat it out for a longer than normal period and then call the sparky whom only he has the number for.

    Thanks Brenda, this is gold!

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