The Relationship Therapist

Helping individuals and couples improve relationships by working with each person's unique strengths, goals, personality style, and social context.

Helping individuals and couples improve relationships by working with each person's unique strengths, goals, personality style, and social context.

Want To See Your Therapist In-Person Mid-Pandemic? Think Again

Lots of good reasons why I am sticking to online therapy until this pandemic is over! We're stuck with teletherapy for now because viral safety procedures undermine the psychological safety psychotherapy requires.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

It’s common for people to overlook deal-breakers in order to avoid missing out on a relationship. Discussing deal-breakers is a difficult conversation, but it’s better to have that conversation early.

Any issue that threatens the security and integrity of a relationship must be dealt with at some point. The issue won’t go away on its own. It will be better for both of you if you deal with it early on.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Beware of accruing injuries in your relationship. If you and your partner operate in a way that is unfair, unjust, or insensitive, injuries can build up.

All of this can give rise to the biological threat system in the brain. The person who was once your lover, though not physically dangerous, begins to be viewed as a predator by the "primitive" part of your brain.

Nobody wants this in their relationship. That’s why it’s so important to deal with issues right away, aim for win-win solutions, and tend to each other’s emotional needs.

Also, I must say I am talking about little "t" threat here - the type of threat that is normal and should be expected in any relationship, not big "T" Threat. If you are dealing with physical or emotional abuse from your partner, I implore you to seek help right away. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1−800−799−7233.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Conflict is a part of being in a relationship. While I always say dealing with problems right away is important, that’s only part of the equation. How you navigate with your partner when arguments pop up matters.

I created this free 7-day guide to dive deeper into the best ways to resolve conflict in your relationship.

Send me a Facebook message for information on how to receive it.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

A “Third” is anything that draws attention away at the cost of the relationship.

Thirds can be people, work, tv, games – anything that can start to be prioritized over your relationship.

Make a clear agreement with your partner to put your relationship first to prevent thirds from taking over.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

How well can you and your partner soothe each other’s pain? Figure out what calms your partner in times of distress, so you can be an emotional resource for them. Explore using eye contact, physical touch, a soft tone of voice, humor, and your body language to relieve them when they are in distress.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

It may feel uncomfortable, but checking in with your partner’s eyes will allow you to better regulate each other’s emotions. You’ll be able to see how you are affecting each other in real time and repair any injuries you cause faster.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

You may or may not be isolated from your partner right now, but it’s very likely that you are isolated from friends and family. I want to encourage you to reach out to your loved ones over video calls, especially if anyone in your life is living alone.

The Study of Adult Development at Harvard University, which has tracked people since 1938, showed that the key to a long and healthy life is secure relationships.

Our connection to others is just as important as diet and exercise. As you practice social distancing physically, set time aside to connect with your loved-ones digitally.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

We are all learning as we go, and so much of what we need to know is dependent on the specifics of the person we’re with. You and your partner will have to train each other. Learn how your partner works and teach them how you work. ✏️💕

Dr. Stan Tatkin

You can only properly judge your sex life according to what you and your partner want. Are you meeting each other’s needs? Do you have similar libidos? Do you enjoy sex with each other?

Those are the questions that are worth asking. It’s not worth asking if your sex life is as good as your friends or as good as what you see in the media. It’s not a competition. Plus, it’s very likely your friends are exaggerating and we certainly know the media is. 😏

During Covid-19, working with clients via video conferencing.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Nothing against emojis, but you can't count on them to clearly communicate with your partner.

So important to approach arguing this way!

It’s likely that you’ll find yourselves in more disagreements with your partner during these next few weeks. You may be sharing your home as a work-space as you quarantine, you may be under stress after losing work, or you may be directly affected by the virus.

You are different people, with different opinions, and you’re under stress. Arguing is inevitable. What matters is that you approach your disagreements as a team.

Winning at the expense of your partner isn’t winning at all. You win by aiming for a solution that benefits both of you.

China’s Divorce Spike Is a Warning to Rest of Locked-Down World

Don't be like China.

If you are having relationship difficulties during this strange time -- lockdown, quarantine, isolation, social distancing -- you can get couples' counseling online. Filings started rising in March as couples emerged from quarantine.

The PACT Institute

Sustained eye contact is extremely stimulating. If partners are looking to reignite exciting love similar to what they felt when they first met, encourage them to spend time gazing in each other’s eyes each day.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

I’m sure you’ve been with a couple that sucks the energy out of the room when they’re together. They throw each other under the bus, pull other people into their arguments, and take jabs at each other. It’s not only uncomfortable to be around, it chips away at the security of their relationship.

Secure-functioning couples protect each other in public. They have fun with their partner, not at the expense of their partner.

Come up with simple agreements as a couple that will allow you to play well in public. These can be:

- We will not disclose private information about each other.
- We will always have each other's back.
- We will save our arguments for times where we can be alone with each other.

Are there any agreements you would add to this list? 💕

Dr. Stan Tatkin

If you’re working at home or quarantining with your partner, it’s a good idea to come up with a list of agreements to carry you through this stressful time.

Deciding on guidelines ahead of time, when you’re calm and collected, will make it easier to navigate with each other when arguments arise.

These could include agreeing to:

- Keep arguments under 15 minutes (agreeing to return to the subject at a later time if need be)
- Be fully transparent about how you’re making each other feel
- Designated times of the day to be alone

Please share any ideas you have for agreements as well. 💞 I hope you and your partner stay safe and healthy during this time.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Can you make your partner laugh? A shared sense of humor can prevent your relationship from becoming too rigid and brittle.

Figure out what makes your partner laugh. What do they find funny and what do they find offensive? Are they a producer of humor, an appreciator of humor, or both?

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Verbal communication gets us into trouble, because we tend to think we’re better at it than we actually are. We can often assume understanding, rather than truly checking in to make sure we’re on the same page with our partner.

Remind yourself to be mindful of how you communicate, especially if you’re talking about something important. Make sure you are fully listening, being as clear as possible, and that you have your partner’s attention.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Creating clear agreements with your partner on how you want your relationship to operate can safeguard your relationship from avoidable trouble.

The Key to Managing the Stress of COVID-19 in Your Relationship - The Good Men Project

Relationship survival in the time of corona: The anxiety caused by this virus may be creating tension in your relationship because of how you and your partner cope with anxiety.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Secure-functioning relationships are based on fairness, justice, and sensitivity for one another. If one partner holds all the power in a relationship, it will be difficult for the other to feel safe and secure.

[03/18/20]   For those of you in Virginia, I am now offering couples and individual therapy via video conferencing.

It’s a new way of being in relationship—one of you at the kitchen table on your computer, the other in the office, wherever that may be in your home, kids (hopefully) somewhere else in the house doing schoolwork or playing.

For professional couples, both forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to telework, the close quarters can pressurize a relationship that may already have had a few cracks to the point where it breaks.

As a seasoned relationship therapist, I recommend that you spend some time every day connecting with each other physically (with a long hug or two or three) and emotionally (by looking into each other’s eyes and remembering together why you are together.)

At this odd and stressful time, little moments of connection can prevent your relationship from imploding and disintegrating.

If you feel you could use some help figuring out how to make the relationship work, visit my website at or contact me for a free consultation at 703-651-6626.

Opinion | Welcome to Marriage During the Coronavirus

The coronavirus may be the ultimate stress test for couples. Remember: Both of you are right.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Starting your day together can help create a sense of being tethered to a secure base. Try starting your day by gazing into your partner’s eyes, having breakfast together, or embracing each other before getting out of bed.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

No one is pre-trained when it comes to relationships. We all learn as we go and so much of what we need to know has to do with the specifics of the person we are with. Spend time teaching your partner how you work and learning how they work.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

If you and your partner have busy lives, create a morning ritual to start your day feeling connected to each other. Carve out a moment to gaze into each other’s eyes when you wake up, hold each other in bed for a moment before you get up, or have breakfast together. Doing this can help you manage some of the stress of a busy day by making you feel secure in your relationship and tethered to someone who supports you.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

When I encourage you to put your relationship first, I don’t mean that I expect you and your partner to live insular lives. Putting your relationship first is just about making sure other people or things don’t take priority over your relationship.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Putting your relationship first doesn’t mean slacking on everything else in your life. In fact, if you take care of your primary relationship first, everything else in your life will be easier to manage. You’ll find you can be a better parent, employee, and friend when you have a secure base with your partner.

The Tortoise and the Hare

We all process social-emotional material differently. The speed at which we process has nothing to do with intelligence. A slow-processing “tortoise” is no less intelligent than a fast-processing “hare.”

However, if you are a hare that is partnered with a tortoise, you’ll have an unfair advantage on your partner in arguments. You will run circles around them and inevitably, they will lose every fight.

This is bad for both of you. For a relationship to be secure, you both need to be on an even footing.

There’s nothing a tortoise can do to speed up, but as a hare, you can be sensitive to their position and slow yourself down. Give them a chance to express their point of view and beware of your tendency to drive the conversation forward before they’ve had a chance to chime in.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

When we’re under distress, the “primitive” parts of our brain take over and our ability to act rationally is inhibited.

This is one reason why it’s important to learn to read your partner well. If you notice they are slipping into distress when you’re in an argument, pause for a moment and try to relieve them.

If you can do that, you’ll be more capable of moving forward and resolving your issues.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

We learn through our relationships with others. You don’t have to wait until you love yourself before starting a relationship.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

The advice I give here is meant for both you and your partner. It will only work if both of you agree to try to form a secure relationship. You both have to be willing to become a survival team with equal power.

Dr. Stan Tatkin

Think of your relationship as a survival unit. No matter what life throws at you both, you can protect and heal each other.

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44081 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 225
Ashburn, VA

Opening Hours

Tuesday 08:30 - 17:00
Wednesday 08:30 - 19:00
Thursday 08:30 - 17:00
Friday 08:30 - 19:30
Saturday 08:30 - 12:30
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