Do it yourself: Authentic couple relationship and lively sexuality


Between adults who could be equal to one another, the symbiosis pattern has a destructive, unhealthy effect, as it blocks fantasy and spontaneity and thus also eroticism. The tendency to over-adapt to the needs and expectations of the other person – including the erotic ones – intensifies the tendency to suppress one’s own (perhaps “forbidden”) erotic fantasies and desires – for fear of losing the other person as a result. Little by little, mutual sexual attraction is lost. Life loses color and vitality.

Contact, an I-You encounter, is only possible between mature, self-integrated people. The healthy distance enables both to be with themselves, that is, to be authentic. If both can show the other what they really are, then the symbiotic interdependence is replaced by mutual attraction and erotic attraction. That is the binding force for a partnership, an autonomous relationship.

David Schnarch (The Psychology of Sexual Passion. Piper 2009) also describes the differentiation of the self as a central variable in personality development. If both partners succeed better and better in showing the partner who they really are – and seeing the other as he/she really is – then that can change the relationship significantly. This naturally also applies to the erotic attraction and the vitality and liveliness of the shared sexuality.

But how do you manage to develop this “healthy” distance from one another?

Here you will find instructions that enable a couple to re-establish a healthy distance themselves through mutual demarcation. This can help to restore mutual erotic attraction, which enables lively, vital sexuality.

Required props

A scarf and, if possible, a screen or a flip chart – as a symbol of the border, a stone – as a symbol for the burden that has been taken on, and two chairs with a cushion each – as a symbol for your own self, which can also feel complete without your partner . The support of an “assistant” to help the couple with the self- constellation can be helpful.

Limitation: This self-constellation is not suitable for very traumatized clients. You need professional support!

1. Positions, place of self-parts, limits

The two partners face each other at the distance that seems to be appropriate to them. Next, everyone feels how close – or far – they can feel their „true self” in this constellation, the part that can feel completely even without their partner, and places the chair with cushions in the appropriate place.

Now one of them puts the scarf, as a symbol for a border, between himself and his partner.

This makes it possible to differentiate between one’s own and that of the partner, and a separate space is perceptible for each of the two partners.

Does that lead to any relief? Or does the border hurt?

Both can be an indication of a lack of healthy demarcation!

Is there an impulse to increase the distance?

2. Assumed roles in the other person’s room?

The symbiosis pattern is shown in the partnership, among other things, in the fact that both feel responsible in the other’s space – as if it were their own space – and unconsciously take on roles, typically for one parent, for the self of the other, and occasionally also for a lost sibling. This may feel caring and loving, but it prevents the partner from staying in their own space and connected to themselves and from being available as a partner and lover for the other. (“It is not everyone’s taste to go to bed with one’s own father or one’s mother.”) It also weakens the other and it leads to mutual dependence.

Both partners now check, one after the other, whether they have unconsciously taken on a role for the partner, whether they have tried the partner

  • to replace a parent who was real or emotionally absent, or

  • to replace the “true self” – with which the partner himself may not be optimally connected? Or

  • to take on the role of pilot or even captain on his “boat”?

In a parent’s place

A partner starts and takes the place of a parent behind the other person and feels whether he has taken on these roles with his partner.

In this place you experience your partner as small and needy and yourself as big and strong! That gives the relationship a gradient instead of being equal!

If you know the place, then you can decide to “step out” of the respective role with the clarifying sentence: “Maybe I tried to give you what you didn’t get from your father / mother. That may have prevented me from being your partner and lover! I can’t give you what you didn’t get from your mother – your father. I have the chance to be your partner and lover!“

So the other person can feel whether they unconsciously expected their partner to take on this role. If so, he/she can say the clarifying sentence: “Perhaps I expected you to give me what I did not get from mother / father. That is confusing. I am happy when you are completely my partner and my lover!“

As a rule, both partners are involved in this assignment of roles – like „accomplices”.

In the place of the other’s self

This is a very bizarre role, but it is very common for a “sensitive partner” to feel that the other person is not quite himself/herself. And then he/she may think he/ she is doing something good for the other when he/she puts his/her own needs aside and feels “with a thousand antennas” what the partner needs to be really happy and satisfied. It feels very noble and a bit superior, and at the same time so selfless, but it can only fail. The affected partner then has the disappointing experience that he gives his/her best – renounces his/her own space and connection with his/her own self – and only reaps anger and disappointment for this – the absolute loser position.

One partner stands to the right of the other and see if he/she knows this role. If so, then he/she can decide to give up this role, then he/she can support this with the clarifying sentence: “Maybe I wanted to replace yourself for you. That’s pretty crazy. You have your own self and whether and how you connect with it is your sole responsibility. From today I will take care of my own self!”

He/she goes back to his /her own space and feels a new interest in what he/she actually is, in his/her own self.

Pilot (captain) on the other’s boat?

Some can put themselves in the shoes of the other so well that they think they know better than the other. As if they could and even have to be the better pilot or even the better captain on the other’s “boat”. This also feels caring and loving, but it also has something to do with power and control. And it prevents the partner from being the captain of his boat himself/herself. Sometimes the person’s own boat is “in distress” because the captain is not on board, but on “the wrong steamer”.

One of the partners now goes to the other’s place and sees if he/she knows the role just described. If that is the case, he/she can decide to give up this role in order to be completely “captain of the own boat” again.

3. Return of what has been accepted

After both of them have checked these roles in the other person’s room and, if necessary, left them, a further step follows: the return of what has been assumed by the other.

Sometimes one partner feels responsible for the other’s problems, he may think he has to bear the other’s fate, or he may take over his/her views and may believe that doing something good for the other, even if he/she “kneels” himself /herself in the process. For the other, this is usually stressful, maybe that’s why he feels guilty and tries to reciprocate by trying to take something away from the other. This can create a vicious circle, each weakening the other – and himself/herself. Not infrequently, he/she also loses respect – for the other and for himself/herself.

In a return ritual, one can give something back to the other, symbolized by a heavy stone, what he thought he had to take over from the other. He accompanies it with the words: „It belongs to you. Maybe I haven’t always seen your power. Now I respect your strength and your dignity by leaving yours with you again!“

It becomes clear that the adult (autonomous) way of dealing with one’s partner’s burdens is to treat them with compassion – not pity! – to accompany, and to recognize the way with which he/she carries his/her own. At the same time, however, to live your own life with its ups and downs, and to let the other part of it as well.

If a partner is very stressed, it can be helpful for both of them that he/she consciously challenges the other. For example, by handing him a somewhat lighter stone – in accordance with a “reverse return ritual” – with the words: “You had to carry a lot with me, I can’t undo it or make amends. It is a challenge for you and I thank you for accepting this challenge.”

After both have given the other back what they have taken over, the next step is:

4. Connection with oneself

If available, a screen – or a flip chart – should now be set up as a “privacy screen” and border – between the partners in order to enable both to approach their “true selves”. Then everyone takes the pillow that represents their self-part to themselves and merges with this self-part, which can delimit itself, which can also feel completely without the partner without feelings of guilt! With the self-part that is not adapted and “domesticated“.

For some, this true self is far away, or perhaps even unused – still “in its original packaging”. Then the approach and connection needs some patience. The better it succeeds, the stronger a feeling of strength, of joy and freedom arises.

5. Demarcation

After both partners have connected with themselves as best they can, the point is that they both, let’s call them Adam and Eve, stabilize this connection to their own self by each separating their own space from the other.

For this it is necessary that, for example, Eve can distinguish between “Eve” and “Not-Eve”. What is “not Eve” is not evil or wrong. But it doesn’t belong in Eve’s own room. Only what “Eve” is belongs to Eve’s “identity space”. So far there has obviously been little Eve and a lot of “not Eve” in Eve’s room. It could be called a provocative “sham package” because “it doesn’t contain what’s on it”.

On a symbolic level, Eve can now show Adam that his problems and views do not belong in Eve’s space. Adam approaches Eve’s room and she stops him before he crosses the scarf, the limit of her room.

Even if Eve is convinced of the correctness of this demarcation, it may be that she feels an inner resistance, as if demarcation were dangerous, forbidden, loveless, cold and selfish. As if doing so risk losing Adam’s love and attention. This emotional confusion is acquired early, responsible for this “emotional conditioning”. Perhaps as a toddler, weak and dependent, Eve experienced that her “no”, her early attempts to isolate herself, were prevented by her parents with withdrawal of love or violence.

Even if this demarcation feels forbidden, it is healthy, like a defensive reflex. It enables those affected to feel more precisely: “Who am I, what are my needs and my feelings?” This enables orientation and enables them to act. Without this “defensive reflex”, other people’s expectations and needs mix with one’s own, which leads to confusion and indecision.

Adam and Eve are in a dilemma, their feelings tells them that demarcation is forbidden. Their mind says: Demarcation is imperative. Now, in this demarcation ritual, both have the opportunity to decide whether they should continue to orient themselves according to their (confused) feelings or according to their intellect. And you can share this emotional confusion with your partner.

Next, Adam and Eve can experience that they can use their vitality, the aggressive potential here, without hurting the other. If they continue to block this healthy force themselves, then this force becomes destructive and is directed against themself as depression, as illness. In order to experience this power in a playful way, each of the two puts themselves in the role of a predator, e.g. a tiger, which protects its territory from a conspecific.

Tigers protect their territory so as not to starve to death. And when they show the other their limits, it is not meant badly, but healthy. And the other does not have to be offended. This mutual demarcation is healthy not only between tigers but also between adults. When both respect each other’s boundaries, trust and contact develop. However, if you experience the (healthy) demarcation of the other as hurtful, then you come across people who cannot demarcate themselves because they are traumatized themselves. And so you get back into a symbiotic relationship.

After Adam and Eve have taken possession of their space in this way, they reconnect with the self and feel whether there is now more space for what everyone actually is. At the same time, they also experience the other much more intensely and powerfully. This increases the mutual attractiveness.

6. Counter-demarcation

With the mutual demarcation of a couple, Eve’s demarcation from Adam is his experience of a counter-demarcation.

If Adam has “learned” as a child to feel responsible in the space of his counterpart, as if he were only important and lovable then, then he will experience Eve’s demarcation as a rejection, as a loss of belonging. Now he has the chance to understand the confusion of his feelings: he is not responsible in Eve’s room, but in his own room. And no matter how hard he tries to make himself useful – or indispensable – in Eve’s room, he will only reap anger and disappointment. He only has real success where he is responsible: in his own space. And if Eve points out to him that he is not responsible in her room, he could actually be grateful to her. It saves him a lot of trouble, helps him to use his energy where he can be successful – because he is responsible.

If both partners make this emotional confusion understandable to themselves – and the other person – and support each other in breaking these unconscious prohibitions, then they can both dissolve this early “emotional conditioning” that has previously determined their perception and behavior – without them realizing it.

7. The effect of healthy distance on the couple relationship

If a couple succeeds in creating a healthy distance between themselves through this common ritual, then that means that both can perceive themselves more as they really are, and at the same time can see the other more than who he really is, then an encounter between two adult authentic partners becomes possible. It is also liberating to be able to feel and show your own strength better and at the same time to perceive the other’s strength. This experience is very precious, it requires a high level of awareness from both partners, for the other and for themselves. This increases the attraction between both partners. Instead of symbiotic dependency, mutual attractiveness can arise – also and especially in eroticism, in a shared, imaginative and vital sexuality.

Any copying of the contents of in written, printed or electronic form requires written approval.
Violations of the copyright law will be punished legally.