The New Science is Here
The New Science of Relationship helps us understand how to prevent arguments and stay connected. One of the most powerful ways to do that is through an exercise developed by Dr. Stan Tatkin: “The Welcome Home Exercise.” With the Welcome Home Exercise, you sync up nervous systems with your partner in order to build a connection at the deeper, unconscious level. Without words, the welcome home exercise gives you both a sense of being tethered and relaxing into each other. That can prevent arguments before they even happen and provide a deep sense of connection.
Most of Our Partner Interaction is Unconscious
The welcome home exercise works on a simple premise. Most what our brain is processing during partner interactions is unconscious (as much as 90%!). Much of that is happening in the simple, more primitive part of the brain that determines safety and threat. The fight or flight system, if you will. When our partner is that close, the brain makes a calculation that they must be safe to us, otherwise they would be eating us like a tiger. Unless your partner is actually eating you like a tiger, then that assumption of safety relaxes the fight or flight system.
Sync up For The Win!
The exercise also relies on another important premise. Our guts have more neurons than the spinal cord. When we hug belly to belly, these neurons start to sync up with each other, literally getting on the same wavelength. When partners take the time to relax into each other, the syncing up generates a real sense of being in harmony with one another. This foundational sense of connection telegraphs safety to the thinking brain, which helps it stay out of trouble.
How to do it
So, in order to do the welcome home exercise properly, these are the important components:
- Hug belly to belly before words are exchanged
- Hold the hug until both partners relax
- Do not let others (dogs or kids) interfere with the process
Basically, you need to take the time to feel your partner relax. You’re waiting for a sigh, or a drop of tension in their muscles. Prioritize each other and the reunion before you turn to others. And wait to talk until the ‘syncing’ has happened. At that point, it can be nice to make eye contact and ask about your partner’s day, etc., or greet the kids. The unconscious brain is already feeling safer and more connected.
Using Physiology Masterfully
The welcome home exercise is just one example of how to use the power of brain science to make life with your partner easier. These are true life hacks. Once you understand how to speak directly to the more primitive part of the brain, you can get important things done quickly, like soothing your partner, helping them feel loved, and keeping a sense of connection between you.
The Transition To Together
You can use this welcome home exercise anytime you need it, and anytime you’ve been apart. For example, if you have been in separate rooms of the house for a couple of hours, do the Welcome Home before you start interacting together in the same room again. It will connect you more quickly and at a deeper level than talking at the usual distance can.
Few people know that when we are by ourselves, even for an hour, our nervous system syncs to itself and we become accustomed to our individual state of being. This can make it difficult to jump smoothly into another person’s space. Transitioning the nervous system to interacting with another person takes longer for some folks than for others, but we all need some sort of transition. The welcome home exercise is one of the most effective ways to bridge that gap quickly and avoid arguments before the thinking brain comes up with them. Have fun with it!
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