The Authentic Couple
What Makes a Couple Relationship Authentic?
12-Steps on the Journey Towards an Authentic Couple Relationship
These are the 12 steps towards an authentic couple relationship. These were developed by Barry and Janae Weinhold who had brought their own unhealed trauma’s into their own marriage, recognized and acknowledged each other’s unhealed traumas, and learned how to turn those initial deficits into strengths and healing.
1.Recognize and acknowledge each other’s unhealed traumas and unmet needs.
This requires self-reflection and skills in self-correction—both byproducts of reclaiming projections. It’s so much easier to be a victim and project our problems on others. Posturing, denial, projections and other defense mechanisms are part of the False Self and the False Life.
Taking responsibility for your own life is work, but it brings truthfulness, integrity and legitimacy to your relationship.
The more you can express empathy and compassion to your self and each other, the safer it becomes to be vulnerable and authentic. Including healed developmental traumas and unmet developmental needs in a couple relationship contract as a “higher purpose”, is a direct path to an authentic couple relationship. Without this framework, it can feel too risky to expose your wounds to your partner.
- Help each other do deep healing work. This begins by shifting your relationship from a competitive to a cooperative model in which real healing can happen. This step requires mutual understanding, compassion, and empathy skills, and creates a deeper and larger context for your relationship. Begin by agreeing to cooperate with each other in a healing process. There will be times when you both get “triggered” at the same time. These moments require negotiating to determine whose unmet needs are the most pressing and gets addressed first. Your healing agreement includes a clause that you will take turns asking for and getting what you need, not trying to overpower.
- Be willing to ask for what you want and need 100% of the time. Rather than being indirect or complaining, each partner must be willing to ask the other directly for what he or she want. This doesn’t mean that you must ask 100% of the time, only that you are willing.
- Be willing to tell the emotional truth about your feelings, needs, and behavior 100% of the time. This also requires the risk of being emotionally vulnerable, which removes deep barriers to experiencing intimacy. The best policy is telling the truth even if it might create a conflict. It’s having the love and patience to handle the conflicts effectively that’s needed. This kind of mutual trust is essential for an alive and evolving relationship.
- Close all the exits. You must both agree to stay engaged during deep conflicts. A no-exit agreement makes it safe enough for hidden fears and traumas to surface, as it eliminates old avoidant behaviors such as withdrawing, busyness, or blaming. Exits can take many forms—working long hours, overeating and drinking, sleeping, or other distancing options that create False Self and False Life patterns. This no-exit agreement includes clauses that prohibit each person from threats of walking away in the middle of a conflict, or escaping into addictions or another relationship. If your partner refuses to create a no-exit agreement, then it is not safe for you to be attempt deeper healing work. In such situations, focus on working internally on your issues to gain a better understanding your own traumas and unmet needs. You can also talk with a trusted friend or a counselor in an effort to find your True Self, and about your challenges in the relationship, while taking steps with a counselor to create the open and safe environment.
- Practice equality of power, opportunity, and responsibility. Couples can mutually evolve and mature, only with a firm foundation of sharing in all areas of the relationship. Those with economic, social, political, and psychological equality can successfully create a spirit of cooperation, mutual trust and respect. Creating equality in a world based on inequality is difficult without a conscious commitment. Couples also must commit to using cooperative, partnership approaches that are not just based on equality, but on the principles of balance between areas of shared power, opportunity and responsibility.There can be no winners and losers, only winners.
- **Redefine intimacy to include all mutual experiences, including conflict. Choose to define everything that comes into your relationship as “intimacy.” This includes the intimacy of recreation, the intimacy of regressing, the intimacy of healing developmental trauma, the intimacy of being separate, and the intimacy of passionate conflict. Intimacy also includes the holding and comforting each other, sexual connection, and the intimacy of being interdependent, regardless of temperament.
- Respect each other’s psychological and physical boundaries. Communicate clearly about how to share your common space. Identifying your boundaries and areas of freedom within your shared space is an important way of maintaining your independence while also respect each other’s uniqueness. This is a place where it is essential to tell the truth 100% of the time. It’s important to note that calling your “walls” boundaries is not acceptable. You will need to be truthful and honest in this process to tear down walls and establish legitimate healthy boundaries.
- Develop regular common spiritual practices. These practices can take many forms. They may vary from more formal activities such as prayer, meditation, reading together interactively, or attending church together, to informal practices such as walking or exercising together. Be intentional in your relationship to God and each other. The outer world stops during these regular connections and helps you sustain the exchanges of unconditional love. These precious moments nourish your souls and support coping with the stresses of daily living together.
- Keep relationship agreements and renegotiate changes. Whenever circumstances in your agreements change, it is important to renegotiate it directly with your partner. Broken agreements undermine the trust and good will in a relationship, especially if this happens often and unilaterally.
- Resolve intractable conflicts at their source. This is one of the most powerful and affirming components of an authentic couple relationship. It brings tremendous intimacy and trust to the relationship. This can be a huge barrier to any forward movement if not established as a rule of engagement. Agree on a “raising the white flag” when a disagreement threatens to end in a stand-off as an example. Agree on how you will resolve the conflict; for example, out of the emotional moment, and during a planned, regular time of meeting.
- See each other as separate persons, becoming one, with both positive and negative traits, different temperaments, and personal stories of brokenness that partially define each of you. This is the benchmark of an individuated, authentic relationship. Accepting your partner as he or she actually is, rather how you want or fantasize them increases intimacy. It also helps resolve your relationship conflicts.
These are very powerful and practical steps that can integrate in following God’s perfect plan for healthy and fruitful relationships, such as outlined in Ephesians 5. Without a genuine, God empowered foundation, these steps will work to a degree, but cannot build the lasting, eternal foundation that God designs.
Seek help in working through any and all relationship issues and difficulties. There is a process that will work for you.
Adapted/ Barry and Janae Weinhold/BH