“We are having some challenges, and we both feel wounded. We are both deeply committed to getting back on track. But we both agree we need a little boost to help us get there.“
I cannot tell you how much I love receiving those kinds of texts and voice messages. Because clearly they are healing partners. But even healing partners sometimes wound one another, and we all face challenges.
What is the difference between healing partners and other couples? Well first let me define healing partners:
Two people who are fully committed to their relationship, their own personal growth and development, and the personal growth and development of their partner. They come alongside one another with a stance of zero negativity, full accountability, committed to noting the impact of their words, behavior, and decisions on the other and on the relationship. They are present with one another, and invest daily in the relationship.
The definition will help you in understanding the difference between couples who are healing partners and couples who are just “doing their best“ (or less).
- Healing partners have habits that reflect zero negativity. Others Use negativity often to create distance or “fight it out.”
- Healing partners are very aware that their words and behavior can wound their partner, and they practice emotional mastery as well as relationship maturity. Others say what they want to, when they want to, and take pride in “not sugarcoating anything“ and “being brutally honest.“
- Healing partners take full responsibility for their words, choices and behaviors, and immediately begin making amends and/or restitution for those that wound. Others choose blame and excuses for their words, choices and behaviors, and engage in fighting or stonewalling if asked to take responsibility.
- Healing partners are proactive and take preventative action immediately when wounds occur or challenges arise. Others blow up, or store it up to use on the partner at a later time; or deny that there is a challenge and write it off as “not that big of a deal.”
- Healing partners immediately make note of any negative impact from their words, choices and decisions, and not only take ownership of them, but begin to examine what it is in them that would cause hurt or wounds. Others ignore or deny any negative impact or wounds they inflicted on their partners.
- Healing partners turn into one another, making reconciliation the top priority when wounds occur or challenges arise. Others turn out to drugs, alcohol or seeking advice from unqualified candidates (like biased family members, friends at the gym, or people sitting at the bar, etc).
- When healing partners see that their partner is not at their best, they come along side them to help them, and inspire them to higher places. Others criticize, mock, degrade.
Now don’t succumb to the temptation to tell yourself, well this is not an article for me because we are clearly not healing partners.
Perhaps you’re right. But you can become healing partners. How?
- Read the definition above together, and share with one another what you (not they) need to do, or what changes you need to make to fit the definition. Each partner should do this.
- Then when challenges arise, practice the seven things I will share. It may not result in being great healing partners immediately, but it will eventually!
Don’t you dare to miss out because it requires work. I promise you that rolling up your sleeves and doing these things will transform any relationship! And although I may not know you, I know this one thing… It will be the kind of relationship that you’ve always wanted, but did not know how to create!
This article is not simply for people who are in bad trouble. It’s for anybody who has wounds or challenges in their relationships, and I’m pretty sure that’s 100% of us!
Now that you’re committed to this journey, let’s look at the seven things healing partners do when they wound one another or when challenges arise.
1. They acknowledge the challenge, but set it aside to restore relationship first.
Even people who are deeply committed to their relationships, and to one another, get off track when facing an issue or challenge and wound one another occasionally.
They understand that when two people love one another deeply, that it often calls our issues (that are in deep need of healing) forward. When things get off track or wounds are inflicted, they immediately recognize it as a beautiful opportunity for healing. And by the way, that is always the case.
Because they know that challenges and wounds will arise, and that it’s an opportunity to do healing, they immediately set aside the issue temporarily to assure one another that they want to come together and seize it as a healing opportunity.
Don’t misunderstand this as suggesting that you put away the challenge or issue, and then ignore it. That is definitely not what healing partners do. They just come together first, committing to one another to use it as a healing opportunity … then they address the challenge or wound, seizing the opportunity to do so as partners, not enemies or opponents.
2. They each set aside the need to be right in order to make the relationship more important than right or wrong.
Healing partners understand that right and wrong accomplishes nothing. Even if they found a jury of family, friends, or even coaches or therapists to cast their votes and decided who was right and who was wrong. Nothing has been accomplished other than to do damage to the relationship.
Therefore, they have learned to create their own statements about the importance of the relationship in moments like these. Statements such as: “I know we have a challenge to address here, but it doesn’t matter who is right, or who is wrong. I surrender any desire to be right, or to make you wrong. Let’s listen to one another carefully with our hearts. Let’s believe that there is a solution that two of us unified, can and will find.”
I know you could be thinking something like, “Who does that?” My response is: not enough people! But healing partners do.
3. They set an appointment to speak to one another about the challenge, giving time for both to regain a sense of balance and come to the discussion in relationship and emotional maturity.
People deeply committed to one another, their growth and their partner’s growth know that nothing can be accomplished until they are in the place of relationship maturity, and emotional maturity.
Perhaps you’ve never heard those phrases before. Here is the essence of each:
- Shows and expresses love, even in the midst of challenges
- Boards a healing train before addressing issues
- Makes positive, specific behavior-change requests to solve issues
- Invests in their relationship by delivering multiple gestures of love daily
- Requests an appointment for time to share when feeling wounded, and shares those feelings without bashing
- Carefully tends to the partner’s wounds as a healing partner
- Speaks about concerns or challenges with the partner to a therapist, coach, mentor ONLY (not family and friends)
- Ongoing focus on how to become a better partner and enhance the relationship
- Always thinks the best of their partner, seeking to see the great things in them
- Listens to, empathizes with and validates their partner’s feelings
- Makes sacrifices for the partner and the relationship joyfully and willingly, without need to point it out to the partner
- Takes care of self (but not to the point of being selfish) in order to present their best to the relationship
- Keeps promises and communicates clearly and punctually if anything interrupts the promise made
- Communicates changes in plans promptly, and considers partner’s feelings
- Expresses wants/needs clearly (never leaving the partner to mind-reading
- Accesses and feels emotions
- Resists stuffing or ignoring emotions
- Examines emotions (where they came from)
- Manages them in a mature way
- Deals with emotions appropriately
- Makes healthy decisions about how to, or whether to, express emotions
- Expresses emotions in a healthy way
- Notes the impact of their emotions on others
- Maintains values of who they want to be, regardless of emotions
4. They use the communication process designed for processing challenges where one shares their heart at a time, while the other reflects, validates, and empathizes.
If you have read much of my work, you know that I borrow this concept from Drs. Helen and Harville Hendrix. It is a respectful communication process that honors your partner and the relationship.
The person who asked for the appointment begins as the sharing partner, and the partner listens not just for words, but also for emotions. And potentially insight into any old or new wounds.
The partner listening with their heart reflects every few moments. Not giving interpretations or their thoughts, but reflecting in summary style what they heard in content, and in emotion. Then ask the partner if they got it right, followed by asking if there is more. This process continues until the sharing partner says there is no more.
The listening partner validates, starting with the stem sentence: “it makes sense to me that…“ Then they fill in the rest of the sentence with an insight they gained in listening with their heart.
Finally, the listening partner guesses how the sharing partner could be feeling beginning with this stem: “After listening to you, I can imagine you must be feeling…” Try to fill in the blank with three feelings you guess they could be feeling. And if you’re sharing an honest guess, it truly is OK if you are incorrect.
It is very healing to hear that someone is trying to walk a mile in your shoes by guess what you must be feeling. If you are incorrect, they can correct you, and you will learn more about who they really are, and how they feel.
5. They each come to the table with at least three positive, specific, behavior change requests.
First, the person who asked for the appointment makes three positive specific behavior change request that could potentially resolve the issue or challenge.
The listening partner grants at least one, and hopefully all three.
Then if the listening partner needs an opportunity to share their feelings and perspective, they ask for an appointment. Which should be granted as soon as possible after a break of t least 15 minutes.
If there is no need for them to share, they go straight to making their positive, specific behavior change requests.
I find that quite often with six requests on the table, there are great solutions at hand!
6. They ask for help before they let the conversation go down the tubes.
If those conversations and positive specific behavior change requests fail to resolve the challenge or issue, they do not hesitate to ask for help.
Healing partners are aware that the best help does not come from friends and families members. Instead, they normally have a mentor, coach, or counselor (that has insight into their relationship) to reach out to.
They know that resolving issues is sometimes difficult, and therefore, they do not refrain from asking for help. Because their relationship and (each of their personal growth) mean that much!
7. They immediately make note of any damage or wounding done to their partner, and begin a consistent, targeted, healing process.
In the past two weeks I’ve written about the seven things that you simply must do if you have wounded someone you love, as well as the seven things you simply must do if you have been wounded by someone you love. (You may click on each to access those articles).
Healing partners understand that when they take the steps to heal wounds in the other, whether small or deep, that their intimacy is multiplied.
Therefore, they never shy away from those beautiful opportunities.
This is a bonus, but not included in the numbered items, but it’s something that healing partners do often. They resume expressing gratitude to one another frequently and consistently. Gratitude is healing in and of itself!
You may be thinking, “I sure wish my partner or my spouse and I could handle things in that way.” I have great news for you! You absolutely can. It does require practice and effort. But I can assure you that the rewards and results are definitely worth it.
If these things are not a regular practice in your relationship, and certainly if it’s foreign territory, begin with this:
- Have a conversation with one another about what you’ve learned here
- Commit to doing things differently
I often hear people say, “Well none of this comes natural to me!” News flash: It doesn’t come natural to any of us. It takes time and commitment, but you can do it!
I recently had one of those wonderful calls from a couple in their early 40s who have been married about 18 years. They said, “Our marriage isn’t falling apart or anything, but it seems that we are just not doing well eough to resolve some issues in a healthy way.“
When they came in, I briefly walked through the process you just read. Although they both appeared overwhelmed, they agreed to set up a three-hour marathon to walk through the process together.
During the marathon, there were several times when one would glance at me with desperation and say, “What am I supposed to do next?” … With a little coaching they would immediately get back on track.
We also hit upon an old wound, so we had an opportunity to walk through the healing process. It ended in a beautiful moment of connection and deep intimacy.
At the end of the session, I asked them to write their feedback about the process and their experience.
The husband wrote: “When we left the first session, I felt like I had been on a visit to a planet I had never even known about before. Talk about foreign concepts! I felt confident that we might resolve the issue in the marathon, but I wasn’t sure that it was a process we would ever use again. The only thing that I wish I had been warned about was that I should buckle my seatbelt because I was going on the ride of a lifetime! Although I believe we have always each loved one another completely, this took our relationship to a whole new depth of intimacy and connection that I don’t have words for it yet.“
The wife wrote: “What we experienced in this marathon was what I have dreamed for our entire marriage. I was very happy in our relationship, but I just felt like something was missing. I was right, and walking through this process took us both to places that I believe make our relationship unshakable and unstoppable! I know that not only will we be using this process regularly, but we will also be teaching it to the other seven couples in our life group!“
They commented as they were leaving that all couples should be required to learn these things before they can get a marriage license. I agreed and told them it’s why it was a major part of the curriculum I use in my pre-marriage counseling groups.
I want you to have this richness and depth in your relationships. Exceeding all that you deeply desire. You can use these basic concepts with your young children, your adult children, your coworkers, and anyone you care about.
Yes, it’s very different than what we see in the media and on movies. But then again, there is rarely a goal to change the world in those settings. Following these rich patterns of healing and connection has the capacity to do just that. Start on the journey today, and pass it on. That is living as a world changer!