Our closest relationships have the power to hurt us deeply – but they also offer profound opportunities for healing. According to psychologist Stan Tatkin’s PACT (Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy) theory, the wounds we carry from early attachment injuries can be mended through healthy, secure adult relationships. The latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows how we can rewire our brains for love and break free from old patterns. Let’s explore the science of attachment and what it means for your relationship.

The Roots of Attachment Injuries

From birth, humans are hardwired to seek connection with others. The emotional bond between an infant and their primary caregiver, usually a parent, forms the foundation of the child’s ability to feel secure, safe and loved. But when a child’s needs for comfort, soothing, and attunement are not consistently met, it creates an “attachment injury.”1

These early ruptures in the parent-child relationship can leave lasting scars, shaping how we relate to others as adults. Attachment injuries are linked to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, as well as difficulty forming stable, trusting romantic relationships later in life.2

How Attachment Styles Show Up in Adult Relationships

Our adult attachment styles often mirror the patterns we learned as children. Someone with a history of attachment injuries may be anxiously attached, craving constant reassurance and worrying their partner will abandon them. They may interpret even small slights as rejection. On the other hand, an avoidantly attached person may be uncomfortable with intimacy, preferring to keep their partner at arm’s length emotionally. In the dance of intimacy, they take one step forward, two steps back.

These attachment styles tend to get activated during moments of disconnection and conflict with our partner. An anxiously attached person might become clingy and demanding, while an avoidantly attached person withdraws and stonewalls. It becomes a vicious cycle that keeps the relationship stuck in painful patterns.

Rewiring Your Brain for Secure Attachment

The good news is, our brains have an incredible capacity to change throughout our lives – a concept known as neuroplasticity. Research shows that a supportive, loving adult relationship can help heal attachment injuries and create new, healthier patterns.3

In his book Wired for Love, Tatkin describes how couples can use their relationship as a vehicle for developing “secure functioning.” Through repeated positive interactions with a stable, reliable partner, we can actually rewire our brains and earn secure attachment.4 It’s like installing new software for love and connection.

Some key practices for building secure functioning include:

  • Being emotionally present and attuned to your partner’s needs
  • Responding with comfort and reassurance when they’re distressed
  • Repairing ruptures and disconnection quickly
  • Maintaining a strong friendship and sense of togetherness
  • Supporting each other’s growth and independence

From Insecurity to “Couple Bubble”

One of the hallmarks of a secure functioning relationship is what Tatkin calls the “couple bubble” – a safe, stable bond between partners that protects the relationship from outside stressors. Like a sturdy boat, the couple bubble helps you weather the inevitable storms of life together.

Securely attached partners have each other’s backs. They know how to quickly reconnect after a fight and soothe each other’s insecurities. According to Tatkin, they operate as a “two-person system” rather than getting stuck in a “one-person psychological system” focused on self-protection.5

We are built to heal each other – and to heal in the arms of another.

Stan Tatkin- Wired for Love
Inside the Couple Bubble

In a secure functioning relationship, partners create what Tatkin calls a “couple bubble” – an invisible forcefield of safety, understanding, and mutual support. Inside this bubble, both individuals feel seen, heard, and accepted for who they truly are. External stressors may put pressure on the bubble at times, but the couple’s commitment to nurturing their bond keeps it intact.

Imagine a same-sex couple, Stephanie and Nicole. When Stephanie has a bad day at work, she knows she can count on Nicole to offer a listening ear and a comforting embrace. Instead of getting defensive or dismissive, Nicole tunes into her partner’s distress and shows empathy. She may say something like, “That sounds really frustrating. I’m here for you, and we’ll get through this together.” This kind of consistent responsiveness helps Stephanie feel soothed and builds trust in the relationship. The couple bubble acts as a buffer against the outside world, a safe haven where they can let down their guard and find refuge in each other.

Strengthening the Bubble

Couples can intentionally strengthen their bubble through small, everyday acts of turning toward each other. Gottman’s research found that successful couples have 5 positive interactions for every negative one.7 It’s the seemingly mundane moments – a morning kiss, a midday text check-in, an evening cuddle on the couch – that fortify the bubble over time.

In our example, Stephanie and Nicole might have a weekly ritual of cooking dinner together while catching up about their days. They may leave little love notes for each other, or plan regular date nights. When they have disagreements, they make repair attempts, like offering a genuine apology or finding a compromise. By prioritizing their connection in ways large and small, they keep their couple bubble strong and resilient. The cumulative effect of these interactions is a deep sense of what Tatkin calls “felt security6 – the embodied experience of knowing your partner is there for you, no matter what. This felt security is the antidote to attachment injuries, helping the relationship thrive.

The Path to Earned Security

If you have a history of attachment injuries, earning secure attachment is a process – but it’s a path worth taking. With commitment, patience and the support of a loving partner, it’s possible to break free from old blueprints and author a new relationship story.

Some steps you can take today:

  1. Learn about your attachment style and how it shows up in your relationship. What triggers your insecurities?
  2. Practice being emotionally vulnerable with your partner. Share your fears, hopes and dreams. Respond to each other’s bids for connection.
  3. Make repairs after arguments. Reconnect through physical touch, reassuring words, and quality time together.
  4. Support each other’s individual growth and maintain healthy boundaries. A truly secure bond allows for both intimacy and independence.

With every loving interaction, you’re building new neural pathways and expanding your capacity for connection. As Tatkin writes, “We are built to heal each other – and to heal in the arms of another.”6 Our relationships have the power to break the cycle of insecure attachment and create a legacy of love for generations to come.


[1] Johnson, S. M. (2009). Attachment theory and emotionally focused therapy for individuals and couples: Perfect partners. In J. H. Obegi & E. Berant (Eds.), Attachment theory and research in clinical work with adults (pp. 410-433). Guilford Press.

[2] Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2016). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.

[3] Coan, J. A., Schaefer, H. S., & Davidson, R. J. (2006). Lending a hand: Social regulation of the neural response to threat. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1032-1039. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01832.x

[4] Tatkin, S. (2012). Wired for love: How understanding your partner’s brain and attachment style can help you defuse conflict and build a secure relationship. New Harbinger Publications.

[5] Tatkin, S. (2016). We do: Saying yes to a relationship of depth, true connection, and enduring love. Sounds True.

[6] Tatkin, S. (2012).

[7] Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. Harmony.