In part 1, we looked at the one of the big reasons why you two may fight, your protective self vs. your authentic self.

Now I want to talk about the great Terry Real, best selling author and founder of the Relational Life Institute, who coined the term “core negative image (CNI)” as it relates to the core negative image you may possess about your partner. This thought-provoking-game-changing-nugget has really helped me on my journey and this gem may help you too.

Your partner’s CNI of you isn’t really you, but an exaggerated version of you at your worst. It’s your evil twin that often shows up in a disagreement or conflict.
“She is so cold, controlling, and manipulative!”
“He is nasty, withdrawn, and passive aggressive!”

CNI awareness is great, but learning how to work with each other’s CNIs, according to Real, can be the single most transformative aspect of relationship empowerment work.

In his book, “The New Rules of Marriage”, Real has an entire chapter/exercise on working with CNIs.  Essentially it comes down to this simple  reality. In a fight, when you are presented with your partner’s CNI of you, I guarantee that you will react combatively, citing the obvious distortion of their image, “You are crazy, I am NOT like that at all“. We defend, deflect, and diffuse.

But remember, the CNI is the you, when the most immature wounded parts of you are driving the ship. So instead of battling or refuting it, the true power comes when you stop denying the truthful aspects and instead accept that a few grains of truth might exist. Being defensive will not help.

When couples enter into this classic Texas gunslinger standoff of “I’m right. No, I’m right!” the only winning answer, according to Real, is “Who cares?!”

Do you want to be right or happy? You can’t have both.

Your relationship needs some heroic leadership sometimes. You can be the one to lay down your armour and sword, disarming your protective self, thus taking the high road to happiness, not the well worn trail to righteousness. Stop slamming doors, withdrawing, or trying to control your partner. You can only control yourself.

Feeling brave? Here is the takeaway this week.

1. When you and your partner are in a good place, be vulnerable and try asking about their core negative image of you.
2. Again, don’t refute or build a defense, just listen and learn from the brutal, loving honesty.
3. Be aware of the CNI you have of your partner and what role it plays in your disagreements, conflicts, and day-to-day living. How easily can you dial it back from the extreme back to the midrange? Stop being so dramatic! Your partner isn’t THAT bad!

Moving forward, how will this new CNI awareness change the rules of engagement??

Between your rediscovered “authentic/protective self” and this new core negative image idea, I hope these ideas will deepen and strengthen your relationship this week!

Until next time…

Please be brave and share your CNI of your partner….


fatal attraction