What it Takes: Three Tools To Create A Strong Intimate Partnership

A friend of mine and her husband inscribed the inside of their wedding rings with the word “Team,” followed by their shared last name. Years ago, in my own short-lived marriage, teamwork was not our guiding principle and our lives were largely lived as two individuals, down to our separate last names. Having the same last name is not a prerequisite for building a strong intimate partnership, but I now see how not changing my name reflected my inability to create a full partnership at the time. I appreciate my friend’s outward expression and their spoken intention to operate as a team, and have been thinking a lot about how to foster teamwork as a couple.

Recently, I had the great fortune of working with couples’ therapist Stan Tatkin, who is a master at helping couples create strong partnerships. These three lessons were learned directly from Stan, and I highly recommend taking the time to watch his Glue Film and how he and his wife Tracey use these tools in their own marriage.


To be a team means that we intimately know our partner, that we understand each other’s sensitivities and insecurities. The partnership hopefully leads to a deep knowledge of what makes the other tick. This means that we use this knowledge and act accordingly in public and private. If our partner has social anxiety, we can help protect them by staying close by. Stan & Tracey talk about being out in public together, and if one of them carelessly embarrasses the other, they immediately take responsibility for it without trying to minimize it.

Public protection also speaks to how we engage community and talk about our partner. Tommy and Kia explicitly asked their community to hold them individually accountable and help them see their own part in a disagreement instead of rallying the community against the other, which is so often the case. Marnie & Shir agreed to only talk to each other about their gripes versus sharing gripes with family members and friends, this is a form of public protection. This isn’t about secrecy or not being able to talk about issues in the relationship, but the truth is that what goes on between any couple is complex with two sides to the story, and long after the couple repairs, members of the community may be holding the negative story that was shared.

Tommy and Kia
Global Glue couple Tommy & Kia asked their community to hold them accountable and not take sides.


Sadly, when things get rough in relationship, often the advice we hear is to “cut and run.” Part of Global Glue Project’s mission is to remind us all that no relationship is without struggle, it comes down to a choice of working through it or not, but many of us give up too quickly. Protection in private means that behind closed doors we are kind and loving to the other, and offer emotional security.


Too often we try to justify or explain an action when we have hurt our partner, it’s uncomfortable to see that what we have negatively impacted the person we love. As uncomfortable as it may feel, offering an immediate apology is necessary to repair. The key is to offer relief quickly by saying, “I am sorry,” before going into an explanation. When we feel hurt, our systems are agitated and it is difficult to listen to what our partner is saying in that heightened state. If our partner were to immediately say, “You know what, you are right, I am sorry” or “I see that hurt you, I am so sorry,” hearing the apology acts as relief to our system, and we can calm down enough to hear the explanation.

Without the immediate repair, we will stay in an agitated state and often dive head first into an argument of who is right and who is wrong. Our pride and a desire to be right can too easily get in the way of relieving our partner. If we do not immediately own our mistakes we are missing out on connection. Keeping the relationship clean means to quickly repair by truly owning our stuff. The words, “That was wrong of me, I am sorry,” can do wonders for trust.


Many of us focus on a partnership as two self-sufficient individuals and forget our responsibility to our partner’s well-being. What is good for our partner is good for us. When our partner is happy, the two-person system thrives, so it is in our best interest to learn how to elevate our partner, as it brings the entire partnership up. This means relying on each other to take care of each other, and utilizing the others skills and brainpower as well. If you are struggling with something, ask your partner to help. If you see your partner is suffering from something, use the tools that you have learned to calm them down, and if you don’t know how ask them, or try different things.

We individually possess the power to strengthen the partnership by paying attention and learning about our partner, and having the ability to counteract their stress by simply offering a hand on their chest or a few words of encouragement. Part of the purpose of a two-person system, is that we do for our partner what no one else does, because we can and that’s what we sign up for. This ties back into the above example to “lead with relief.” Our partner’s stress is bad for the partnership, so we can help by offering whatever words will calm the system.


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