“She was more than my wife and my best friend, she was my Healing Partner.“ He had buried his wife a few months earlier, and we were speaking of what made a 50+ year marriage so successful.
The words “Healing Partner“ resonated deep within me. Later in the conversation I asked him, “Can you tell me more about her being your ‘Healing Partner’?“
He continued, “Our history was not perfect. I had a drinking problem, and when she should have left me, instead, she said, ‘you have a problem with alcohol, but I married all of you, so your alcohol problem is mine and we will conquer it together!’ And we did!“ The stories continued to pour out of him. But his summary statement is what has stayed with me through the years: “What most couples allowed to come between them actually drew us together!”
That has become my definition of “healing partners.” Two people so devoted that what comes between most couples become the things that draw them even closer!”
I told him that day that I was going to adopt the phrase “Healing Partners” for my premarital counseling, my marriage therapy, and my relationship therapy.
The truth was, I was adopting it into my heart, hoping that someday I would have the opportunity to create that kind of relationship.
For 25+ years, I have helped couples understand the concept of being “Healing Partners” and living committed to it, walking in it, and making it their success story!
I would basically summarize the concept like this:
Deep within us, we all have wounds of various types and depths. Working through healing processes together creates the superglue for commitment, and keeps love alive! Love doesn’t have to die!
The challenge is that when these wounds arise, they normally manifest in the form of frustrations with one another. The truth is the nerve of the wound that is already there is touched, but it is more about the wound than the moment. This presents a unique and beautiful opportunity to either create powerful healing and bonding, or to create distance until the chasm grows wide, and both go different directions.
I have no doubt you’ve seen the chasm and decline of the relationship in dozens of situations. Maybe you have personally experienced it. But likely you have also seen relationships where you thought, “I would sure love to have something like they have!”
You can have it, but research shows that in most cases it does not come naturally. It’s a process and way of living that must be learned.
I would like to start you on your journey today to either:
• Prepare yourself to become a Healing Partner if you are single.
• Become a Healing Partner if you are already in a relationship.
And by the way, if your partner isn’t interested or willing, you start it anyway. It is quite contagious!
These are obviously first steps, and although they look simple, they must become the habits of interaction and relating in order to go deeper into becoming Healing Partners.
1. Create a safe environment in your relationship. Most people read that and think, well we don’t hit one another or push one another. Well that’s great because there should be absolutely no physical mistreatment in any relationship.
But creating safety is much more than that. You need to create an environment where your partner is free to be who they are, and still be loved. That means you must “get them.“ Understand what makes them who they are, embrace who they are.
It’s also important that you embrace their hopes and dreams. Their dreams may frighten you, or they may seem small. But before you can express your fears, or help them have greater dreams, you must first embrace those dreams that they have currently.
All of this is about creating safety.
2. Stop all criticism and complaints. Criticism is never helpful to a relationship. Nor is complaining.
Normally when I say this to my clients they respond with statements such as “so you think we should act like everything is sunshine and rainbows?“ Absolutely not. Difficult things can be addressed, but criticism is not the vehicle to get you on a Healing Partner path. (See step five for addressing challenges).
3. Know what makes your partner feel loved and act on it. Regularly and consistently! You may wonder, how am I supposed to know that? Excellent question!
The answer is not rocket science. Ask them! I have couples fill out what I call a “secret arsenal love list.“
It’s simply a list that partners make that contains 100 things that make them feel loved and fulfill these guidelines:
• Requires less than five minutes to do
• Are behaviors (not attitude, conditions of the heart, etc.)
• Cost less than a dollar, if any cost is involved
• Could be repeated multiple times daily
Here are some examples of things I see on these lists.
- Hold my hand when we go for walk
- Wink at me across the table when we are out to dinner with others
- Text me in the middle of the day and tell me what I mean to you
- Leave me notes to find unexpectedly
- Look into my eyes and say “I love you“ tenderly
- Give me a nice long hug
- Put gas in my car
Couples often say to me: “100 things? Are you kidding me?“ My response is usually the same: “You want to be loved, and your partner failed Mind Reading 101. If you want to feel loved, give them the formula!”
It may take some time to complete your list of 100 things. But it is well worth it!
Without it, we end up showing our love to others, doing things that make us feel loved. Although that’s a gallant and honorable effort, if it does not hit their target, it could be considered a waste of your time.
Provide your list to your partner and get your partners list. I tell my clients that this is the formula.
When you deliver 10 things from their list daily, your relationship might hold steady, but might not move forward.
When you deliver 25 or more things from their list daily, you can at least hold your relationship at its current state.
When you deliver 40 to 50 of things from their list daily, you will become irresistible to them, and your relationship is set up to heal and grow exponentially!
4. Always speak to your partner in TREKy talk. TREK is an acronym that I use to describe what the character of every single communication to your partner must reflect.
No matter what the circumstances are, no matter how difficult the topic, It can be dealt with in TREKy talk. I tell the couples I am privileged to work with: “No TREKy … no talky!”
If you are in a “less than your best” position, take a break until you can regain emotional maturity. If you cannot go to your partner wanting healing and restoration more than being right, put yourself in a self mandated “time out” until you regain your emotional maturity!
Just this past week, I worked with a couple in great turmoil. Her opening statement was, “You are so stone-hearted and mean, I need to protect our children from you.“
His opening response was, “Well you are so controlling that the kids hate you.”
Of course they wanted me to become the referee. Instead I told them that we were going to press pause and learn about TREKy talk. And that we would not continue the conversation until they could deliver anything they had to say to one another in TREKy talk.
I encouraged them each to consider what they were trying to say and to translate it into TREKy talk. After a little more instruction, when we restarted the conversation, her TREKy talk statement was: “Sometimes I am concerned that you are harder on the kids than you need to be, and I wish they could see your calm and tender side more often.“
His statement was: “I would like for us to learn to communicate better and to encourage one another to be the best parents possible to our kids.“
Big difference, right?
TREKy talk opens the door to powerful and productive communication. Healing Partners must have that kind of communication in order to heal and grow together.
5. Practice identifying secret desires and making positive, specific, behavior change requests. I know… What on earth does that mean? Let me walk you through it, because this is the first step into transforming into Healing Partners once you have created the right environment in the first four steps.
Anytime something hits a nerve with you, whether you’re frustrated, feel criticized, whether you are hurt or afraid … you need to immediately press pause to consider your secret desire.
When something hits a nerve, we typically react. Whether we yell, hurl insults, go in a funk, go stone cold, or any of the other tricks we have all mastered, those are all reactions.
Although it requires some emotional maturity, press pause. Put yourself in a brief time out. But don’t just sit there and stew.
Ask yourself, “What would I most like to have happen or what am I most wishing for at this moment?”
Rather than speaking from raw emotion in the moment, speak from your secret desire. Once you know what your secret desire is, think of one or two positive specific behavior change requests (PSBCR) that would get your secret desire met.
Let’s break down the PSBCR:
- Positive – Many of us habitually state what we don’t want, instead of saying what we do want. For example after a challenging interaction, we might say “Don’t talk to me that way around our kids.“ That leaves your partner guessing how you are wanting them to speak to you in front of the kids. A positive might be “Could you speak to me with respect and admiration?“
- Specific – Vague requests receive vague responses. Be specific about what you want. In the above example, you might add, “Would you be willing to speak to me with respect and admiration around the kids by smiling, looking at me with a sparkle in your eyes and taking my hand?” That is specific.
- Behavior Change – It cannot be about a change in attitude or a change in heart. Because you have no way of assessing that, other than reverting to judging, which is never a good idea. So if it’s a heart change or an attitude change that you desire, you need to put those into behavioral terms.
For example if you believe your partner’s heart is stone cold, rather than asking for them to warm up their heart, list behaviors that would indicate a warm heart to you. Perhaps it would include things like, “Would you be willing to show me your tender heart by taking my hand when I’ve hurt your feelings and say in a tender voice, “I knew something must be going on with you, can you tell me about it?” That’s a behavior change.
- Request – Then go to your partner with a “Would you be willing to …“ statement. It is not a demand, or a “you should”. It is a request.
That is why I teach my couples to open with the statement, “Would you be willing to…“ It breaks the habit of saying “you need to…”, or “you should…”
Then I tell the partner receiving the request, that unless the question is immoral, illegal, or outside of your value system (and it usually is not any of those!) … You should grant the request, and grant it consistently, as often as possible.
Why? Because granting someone’s request is the secret sauce of becoming Healing Partners.
You may think, but those are such big changes to how we do our relationship. Exactly!
Remember I said early in this blog that this does not come naturally to most of us. It requires forming new habits and doing things differently.
The reward? I call it a “heaven on earth relationship!“ Is it worth it? Without a doubt!
Let me give you one last hint. If you will begin practicing these things in all areas of your life, it will become natural more quickly.
I began practicing it with my awesome office staff many years ago. My beloved “Sis” (Deb) and awesome Gangsta (Denise), who have served me so faithfully over the past 25+ years were kind and patient with me as I developed these habits. Even though there were many stumbles along the way. I had to learn to “ride the bike” of new habits and way of doing life just like everyone else!
Practice these things with your partner, with your kids, with your coworkers, with your neighbors, with your friends, with your extended family.
These five steps come with one guarantee: your relationships will be richer! A Healing Partner quality opens a beautiful blooming in your marriage and/or relationship. In addition, relationship research indicates that it will boost your immune system and even extend your life!
I believe we can change the world, one heart at a time, by adopting these five habits. Would you join me? Will you start today with your partner? Your friends? Your family? I know you will! Together, we will transform one heart at a time!