Erika and Shay Forbes-Wilson on Building ‘The Real Power Couples’

Shay and Erika Forbes-Wilson photographed by Erika Land

“Fall in love, stay in love, using the power of your love.” That is the motto of Reverend Erika Forbes-Wilson and Shay Forbes-Wilson, founders of the San Antonio-based endeavor The Real Power Couples.

With marriage equality now a reality, officiants Erika, an ordained interfaith minister, and Shay, a personal trainer, are on a mission to help couples become their best selves.

Starting our conversation on a humorous note, Erika spells out their last name and Shay chimes in, “Like in Forbes 500, baby.” Erika follows her exclamation with, “a global empire, that’s it.” Wanting to ride the wave of their future projections, I ask if they might be building a Fortune 500 life together — but without money being the goal.

“Yes!” Shay affirms. “We want to help couples live a ‘Forbes 500’ life, but it’s not about the money.” The energy that was subtly permeating the room suddenly begins to explode. Erika and Shay are both full of excitement and the love between them shows. Their passion and intensity cannot be ignored.

The separate energies of Erika, who came out 25 years ago, and Shay, who came out about 15 years ago, converged in July 2017, when they tied the knot at the Witte Museum. After spending two years in a relationship, they chose to marry because they see marriage as “the most powerful affirmation of love and dedication to one another.”

Erika and Shay launched The Real Power Couples as part of an effort to help others navigate the hard times relationships can present — including arguments and other “relationship killers.” They want to help couples “grow through it, not just go through it,” so they can improve throughout their life journeys and ultimately share positive relationships.

Erika offers a more expansive view of their collaborative mission: “We are in the better-your-life business. The Real Power Couples brand explores what it means to be in real power — not pseudo power, not publicity-filled power, but real power — which is how you live your life, how you live in relationships, and how you impact the world.”

A MARRIAGE OF BRANDS

Before joining forces, Shay and Erika maintained their own businesses that just happened to coalesce.

Shay Wilson Fitness is a self-titled brand focused on whole-body spiritual motivation — from the inside out — that combines motivational speaking and physical fitness for individuals and corporations. “If I can get you moving, then I can get you feeling, and then I can get you healing,” Shay explains. “I am a hands-on personal trainer. I grow with my clients — past feeling sorry — into a place that will lead them to greatness.”

As an interfaith minister, Erika counsels couples and individuals, focusing on implementing tools that will help them transform their lives by moving past hurt, loss, fear and other factors keeping them from reaching their full potential. “My [counseling business] focuses on spiritual and physical awareness, because you can’t separate the two,” Erika explains. “As a couple, we’ve created a brand that shows how much greater you can be together.”

As Shay puts it, “The Real Power Couples is about us coming together. We were doing our separate videos that were motivational, inspirational and spiritual, and decided to come together and talk about what it means to be a ‘real power couple’ in this day and age.” Upon hearing this, Erika lifts her head from Shay’s shoulder and kisses her on the cheek.

“In the past, being a power couple was about power and money,” Erika says. “But another aspect of being a real power couple exists in harnessing the existential power of being in service together within your community … really tapping into what it means to be a real power couple — a modern-day power couple — and the healthy way to work through various issues as you try to build an empire for yourself.”

BALANCING THE PUBLIC AND THE PERSONAL

On the topic of relationship issues, I ask the two if they see any personal risks arising from putting themselves out there in a public sense.

“Well nothing is guaranteed,” Shay begins. “But we understand that once you take a risk, you open yourself up to potshots — all kinds of criticism that comes when you step out of the crowd — so we try to stay focused on our goals. Furthermore, it’s a love and respect thing. No one is ever going to make us disrespect each other, loving is our first business.”

Erika appears so passionate about their work together that she sees only the bright side. “The possibility to transcend what we know relationships to be is extraordinary,” she says. “Now that gays and lesbians can get married, it’s time to redefine what the potential in a relationship is. No longer are the role models the same. We really don’t have to be defined by our past. You can get up in the morning, erase the board, and say, ‘I’m going to be this’ [or] ‘What do I need to do to be that?’ The stereotypes no longer hold true and that’s also what makes relationships exciting in this day and time. When you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t pigeonhole you, it allows you to grow, transform and release more light into the world.”

Shay sums it up by saying, “Real power couples are regular people trying to be extraordinary.”

ON THEIR PLANS FOR THE REAL POWER COUPLES

Beyond a collaborative endeavor, the duo hopes The Real Power Couples will become something of a movement or a “force” — one that brings couples together to redefine their relationships. “[We want to help] real power couples, all over the world, understand that staying together and accessing their authentic power is greater than divorce or bigger than relationships ending out of crises,” Erika says. Shay claps her hands as if to say “hot damn,” even though she probably wouldn’t. (Erika is the swearer in this relationship.)

“We want people to have relationship intelligence,” Shay says. “Just because you can have a wedding doesn’t mean you should get married.”

“Very true,” Erika agrees. “And there have been times [in] premarital counseling that I advised [couples] not to get married. Everything that we do as a real power couple involves relationship building, whether it is a healthy relationship with yourself, your spouse, or people you work with … People come into your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime … We try to break through the myths of what a relationship is supposed to be or how someone is supposed to be, in general. For instance, people have this idea that they don’t want anyone with baggage when everyone has baggage. So we focus on how to clean up your baggage, work through your issues, and if you’re triggered negatively in a relationship, how to work through those issues and become better. We don’t pretend, and we don’t sugar-coat things, we get down to the real deal with people.”

“We try to keep things transparent,” Shay interjects. “We explore what happened and how to get through [it]. The world has a lot of negative things going on right now, but the beauty of it is that we are living in a time where we can be exactly who we want to be, and be as true to ourselves as we want. Right now, in this era, no one can define us. There are no more social constraints and we want people to live truthfully and beautifully.”

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