ERP 117: How To Work Together As A Team In Relationship, With Dr. Peter Pearson [Transcript]

ERP 117: How To Work Together As A Team In Relationship, With Dr. Peter Pearson

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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins: Hi, thank you for joining today’s podcast episode. Today’s episode is 117 – How To Work Together As A Team In Relationship With Dr. Peter Pearson.

I love spending this time with you. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to really focus on relationship. Meaningful, healthy, lasting love.

The intention of the empowered relationship podcast is to help support you, help you feel more prepared and equipped to navigate the highs and the lows, as well as sustaining lasting relationship.

So when I talk about the lows, knowing we will be challenged and things might feel difficult at times, and just that we have the skills around how to negotiate that when we feel upset, reactive. And the highs – knowing that intimacy can also challenge us, right? How to sustain and receive love. Some of us reach a place of capacity, like, “This is more than I’ve ever known before” and we somehow want to bring that down by sabotage.

So increasing our ability to have intimacy, to experience that connection and that love. With the highs and the lows, we also want to pay attention to the consistency, the stability and the health and the security of the day in and the day out and the foundation of the relationship.

On this show I answer your submitted questions. I also bring experts in the field of relationship and couplehood on the show, as I interview them. I also share with you my training, my experience, my research in various topics that I believe are really relevant. And I also provide live laser coaching, where someone wants to be on the show and get laser coaching on their particular relationship concern, as well as just being featured on the show.

If you are interested in contacting me or getting access to today’s show notes, you can visit my website, which is drjessicahiggins.com. You can click on Contact to find all the ways to reach me, as well as submitting a question for the show or being on the show. And then to receive the access to the show notes, go to Podcast and you can find all the episodes listed there. Again, today’s episode is 117 – How To Work Together As A Team In Relationship With Dr. Peter Pearson.

The audio for this episode isn’t as great as I would love it to be. This was a phone interview and so the sound quality isn’t as great as I would love it to be… So just kind of have a heads up around that. Also, I’m going to read the bio now. There was some snafus in my reading it with him on the phone, so you’ll hear me read his bio or his introduction now, and then we’ll transition into the call.

In preparing for this interview with Dr. Peter Pearson, he and I had a conversation to discuss the topic for today’s show, as well as for me to get a sense of some of his accomplishments, so that I could introduce him to you today. He gave me his top five professional achievements. Number 5, having worked with couples on average 25 hours a week for over 30 years. Now, as a psychologist, I know that this is rare. Not everybody can sustain that level of work, that many hours as well as that many years.

Number 4, writing books with his wife, Ellyn Bader. One of his books is for therapists, called The Quest For The Mythical Mate. Now, this is a book that really describes their developmental approach with working with couples and as side note, this is a book that I cited and referenced in my dissertation.

Number 3, being on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Morning Show, and being written up in the New York Times as well as many other major news media.

Number 2, training therapist around the world in their developmental model.

Number 1 – I’m gonna quote him here, he said, “I am most proud of the fact that Ellyn and I have lived together and worked together, building The Couples Institute. Individually, both endeavors are challenging. Being married and working together – combining them means you’ve got to practice what you preach and that’s not easy or simple.” Dr. Peter Pearson, welcome to the show!

Dr. Peter Pearson: Hi, I’m really glad to be here and I really appreciate your invitation, thank you for that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes, so today we’re gonna be talking about how couples work together as a team, yeah?

Dr. Peter Pearson: Oh, it’s extraordinary. I think that ultimately, couples who create a great team are the couples who really reach so much more not only of their individual potential, but their relationship potential, and it’s done through teamwork.

But I’d like to start—I would like you to imagine this scene… It’s like, here we are – maybe you, maybe somebody you know have been in this situation. It’s very late at night and you’re tired, really tired and cranky. And your partner says something that really annoys you, and so you just fire back a response and it triggers your partner and they fire back at you. Wham! In a few moments you’ve just started (or they’ve just started) a whopper of a fight. Now what’s interesting is a part of you knows, “Ah, this is going to end badly”, and it’s gonna last a lot longer than you want, but you keep waiting into that fight anyway.

Now, here’s what’s interesting. There is an unexpected way out of that swamp, and it’s going to come from a very surprising, different perspective. I call it “Lessons From The Most Famous Race In America”, the most famous car race in America, the Indy 500. Picture this scene – you’re in a race car, Indianapolis race car. Now, think about how you will handle this scene. You’re driving at 220 miles an hour. It hot, really hot, 101 degrees inside the car. You’re wearing a really hot fire-proof suit, and the heat from the track and the engine just compound your misery. It can literally get up to 125 degrees inside the car, inside the suit. And the noise… it’s deafening. It’s the equivalent of getting about 50 feet behind a Boeing 737 at take-off.

Now think about this… You are following in an open car, trapped following a Boeing 737, 50 feet behind it, and you’re doing it for three hours on an extremely difficult obstacle course, and if you make one mistake, you’re toast.

So you’ve been intensely focused – picture this – for over two straight hours. There’s a car 8 feet in front of you, and it blows a tire. Now, you have less than a 20th of a second to decide, what to do. Try this quick experiment – just blink your eye for a moment. Take a moment and blink your eye. And then, blink it again. One eye blink is a third of a second. You have about a 50th of a second to decide what to do when the car in front of you blows a tire. You have to decide where you’re gonna steer the car, how to brake the car and how to avoid all the cars that are traveling one foot beside you or behind you. So now, let’s connect the dots between a NASCAR driver and your marriage.

Here’s the connection: the same three strategies that let these NASCAR drivers escape a lot of trouble when they spin out of control, find an opening and keep on racing, the same three strategies that let these drivers get out of trouble are the same three strategies that will enable you to create a really strong marriage.

If the three strategies enable you to think and react clearly under pressure, like late at night when you’re tired and you’re cranky and your partner triggers you… So, what are these three unifying strategies that take your marriage into being successful and strong? The first – actually, that applies both to a race car driver and your marriage – is the vision. Race car drivers have a vision of them being a champion race car driver at early ages. They have that really strong compelling vision. For couples, what this means is what kind of marriage do you want to be in? What kind of marriage do you want to create? The kind of marriage that makes you glad to see each other at the end of the day. It’s interesting that when a couple first gets together and they begin to feel the connection and the joy of being together, and they decide to be together, they have conversations about their future – things they want to do, places they want to go, things they want, how they aspire to be… And this really is a terrific stage in the first part of a relationship – you each feel like you’re bringing out the best in each other, and you love learning about each other. But over time, that vision begins to fade into the routine and the demands of everyday life. The vision starts to crumble away, but race car drivers keep their vision. They keep their eye on the goal. Very compelling.

Now, one of the things that Ellyn and I do when they come in is to help couples reawaken their vision about what is it they want to do, how do they want to be, what do they want to have in the different areas of their interdependency. So it’s good to have a vision, but a vision is not sufficient. If I want to become a race car driver, I need to elevate my skills by a lot, and driving on an interstate is not going to do it. I need a higher level of skills in marriage to communicate, to negotiate, to connect emotionally, and especially to be curious under pressure – that is to be curious instead of furious. Now, later on in this podcast we’re going to talk about an exercise that builds the foundation for a stronger connection.

But skills and a vision are still not sufficient because knowledge is not power. You need the third component – the will to apply that knowledge. So that’s the third strategy. We have a vision, it’s necessary; skills, necessary. And then the motivation or the will to apply those skills. And that means, what is your level of commitment to apply what you learn? And that makes all the difference in the world.

If we go back to the revolutionary war, a lot of us will remember Patrick Henry, as the colonists were fighting for the freedom from England. And Patrick Henry said in his eloquent way, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” He is committed, there is no doubt about it. When you’re fully committed, it requires nothing short of everything.

More recently, Martin Luther King said — he did not say, actually… Martin Luther King did not say, “I have an idea,” or “I have a plan.” No, he said, “I have a dream…” Commitment.

A lot of couples make a commitment to stay together, but sometimes it’s just a commitment to endure. A much tougher commitment is the commitment to grow together, and that’s what a great team is. It’s a vision that is inspiring, and the reasons and purpose for going there.

So how we handle ourselves under stress, that’s what determines the strength and the future of your marriage, and as Jessica mentioned earlier, you can accelerate the success of your marriage and how you react under pressure, you can increase your ability to react under pressure and think clearly under pressure if you do it as a team. And that’s what excites me about working with couples – helping them to create, to forge a stronger team. Because if you work as a team, it makes it so much easier to bring about those strategies of vision, skills, and will.

We have a definition of couple team, which is “Two highly interdependent individuals who have mutually identified and agreed upon goals, and they hold themselves individually accountable to reach those goals.” They don’t hold their partner accountable, they hold themselves accountable. And I love the quote from Rudyard Kipling, who really captured the flavor between the interdependence of the individual and the group. He wrote a poem on wolves, and he said “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” What an elegant description of the interdependence between the individual and the couple. And the acronym that we like for team, T-E-A-M is Together Each Accomplishes More.

So, Jessica, those are the headlines for a great team. I think I covered a lot of steps in a few minutes… But that’s what it is – it’s working together to create and develop, strengthen your vision, and understanding and learning the skills to bring it about, and the will to do it. Working as a team.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes, and I also wanted to just highlight  a couple of things that I’m also hearing, because everything you’re bringing is really rich and I just want to emphasize that part of the dream is allowing for that growth, that it’s enriched. Like, you’re describing so many couples get caught in just getting through or keeping their head above water, and that there’s actually a vision that could be life-giving. You’re talking about this interdependence that allows for the inner commitment, but also the shared strength in both people participating. I’ve had another podcast where I talk about that as well, but it’s incredibly important. I think it’s a paradigm shift essentially for people to conceive this, and then hearing you I think is inspiring, to name these.

Dr. Peter Pearson: Well, it’s really true that when you are committed to — there’s not a lot of really, really elite teams. People want to be an elite team, but not a lot of people actually get there… And when they do, they have certain things in common, which is a vision a bigger than themselves, and reasons to get there. So they have a shared vision and common purposes and reasons for bringing it about. That’s so different than a lot of couples who come in, and one or the other of them will say “Well, I’m not getting my needs met in this relationship” or “I just want to be happy.” And if there’s any attitude that’s antithetical to being a really elite team member, it’s just looking out for getting what you want.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes, and that their preferences and needs and desires are a part of the vision, but it’s not like they’re supposed  to be sacrificing and not have anything, but it’s that kind of very “I-focused” and not looking at the full system of the couple.

Dr. Peter Pearson: A lot of reasons why it’s hard… One of the reasons that it’s really hard to create a really good team with your partner is because a marriage is the only interdependent relationship that’s non-hierarchical that we’ll ever be in. It’s the most interdependent adult relationship you’ll ever be in. Every other relationship is either hierarchical or under the category of friendship. So we all have to learn how to be in a non-hierarchical relationship, and that means basically one or the other person can bring it to a grinding halt just by not participating in the goals or the objectives.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes, and I think that’s really well-stated, Peter, just to acknowledge that no other  place are we getting this type of experience and that it might challenge us in ways that we haven’t ever encountered, and it’s a good challenge, but it might ask different things of us, which you’re kind of bullet-pointing for us today, to get our minds and our hearts around about what we’re really wanting in a long-term partnership… Because I also agree with you that this is territory that people are pretty unfamiliar with, and when they feel avoidance or fearful of conflict because sometimes they’re not getting their needs met, they’re like, “I don’t know how to advocate, I don’t even know how to ask, because it feels like it rocks the boat” and it’s so [unintelligible 00:20:46.17] and messy that people tend to just want to avoid, but then that obviously leads to a lot of issues, as well.

So this invitation to a real equal, non-hierarchical — because a lot of types of people will defer, right? One person wears the pants, so to speak and I think that can be okay if one person wears the pants in this area and the other person’s the leader in this area…

Dr. Peter Pearson: It’s agreed on, Jessica, and that’s the key. If they agree on that – bingo! Exactly… To have clear roles and responsibilities around all the  logistics around being under the same roof.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes. That’s the real goal – to really share, like you’re saying, and participating in the agreements, that they’re aligned with both of them, and it represents both of them and it feels authentic and that they can both feel motivated.

So can I go back – I wanna ask a question… I have so many questions, and I just love spending this time with you. So you’re talking about having a vision, you’re talking about developing the skills and you’re talking about having the commitment… And something that I’m feeling as you were talking just now was just people who don’t have good models or don’t have necessarily a good framework,  they’re just developing what you’re speaking to – how do people have faith that their vision will work, or that the skills will work, or to sustain motivation when they might be challenged to try new things? Can you speak to that a little?

Dr. Peter Pearson: It’s a great question. And when you say “How do people have the faith?”, Well, faith is actually based on a lack of evidence, or a lack of strong research. Think about how many companies are start-up companies here in Silicon Valley.It starts with a vision and a lot of faith, and some money, and a lot of hard work. But the difference between a start-up company and a marriage is in a start-up you expect to be disappointed, you expect to struggle, you expect to have troubles in certain areas that you cannot even anticipate. You know, that’s just part of the game.

When couples get together – and this is what kind of sad – “If we love each other, then things should somehow just work out. If we really love each other, we can create a team and we will support each other, even though we don’t have the skills, even though I’m terrified of saying something that may upset you, even though I have pushed my way around in life and I hope you’re going to adapt, and that will mean we’re a good team, because you just give me what I want…”  But it’s actually, Jessica, a leap of faith when you begin that kind of journey.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Okay, I love that. I love that, because I think people like yourself, who are providing a lot of theory and research and information to help people get the insight of what’s possible and encouragement around what are some next steps, it is a leap of faith to let go of what isn’t working and just try something new. As we all know, the unfamiliar is extremely vulnerable, it’s uncertain and it’s a risk. And there’s a lot at stake, especially when we’re talking about a marriage…

Dr. Peter Pearson: Yes, it takes, in fact – just adding on to what you’re saying about the risk… Because every goal that really stretches us into new territory will trigger a different part of us that will feel anxious or nervous or unprepared, unskilled, whatever. And what’s required is not just a leap of faith, but courage. And that’s the common denominator – courage, and faith, when we are tackling topics for subjects or endeavors that we feel unprepared. And almost by definition, any goal that really stretches us, a part of us will be unprepared. So it takes courage, and I like the definition of courage, which is deciding something is more important than our fear.

“Courage is not the absence of the fear, it’s deciding something is more important than our fear.” And then we start to act.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: I love that quote, I love that quote. Yes, so, Peter,  would it be helpful since we’re talking about somewhere you would like to go, but as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking it might be helpful for each one of those categories you named – the vision, the skills and the commitment… Is there any example that you could talk about that helps people feel the practical connection? Because I think many people could resonate with the insight or the idea of it, but I would also love to give people something they can relate to that feels practical. Is that possible?

Dr. Peter Pearson: I’ll give you two things.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Okay.

Dr. Peter Pearson: One is when Ellyn and I got together first, she was living in California and I was living in Louisiana, and then we soon decided, you know, somebody’s gonna have to move. So I moved to California, and we were both psychologists, but I was thinking “Maybe I want to try something new, I don’t know. It’s a time for me to reflect and see where I’m going.” But Ellyn and I would sit in the backyard, over a glass of wine, and we’d start brainstorming ideas about “We’d like to do something together. What would that be? How about a restaurant? No. Why or why not?” And we’d just brainstorm ideas and then go why or why not.

About six months later we were on the way to Australia to do a workshop and we stopped at a [unintelligible 00:27:21.13] Hyatt in Bali. And we were by the pool, polishing our presentation in Australia, and we just had an idea that maybe we would like to work with couples.

At that point – and that was like in the early ‘80s – almost nobody that we thought of or knew specialized in working with couples. And we would tell people that — we thought that would be a good idea, and we got a lot of feedback saying “No, that won’t work”, because unless you want to work nights and weekend, couples can’t come in during the day. You won’t be able to see it, you won’t be able to specialize and you will starve.

Well, we thought we would try anyway. So it’s because we had a stronger idea, a stronger vision of wanting to do something together, that’s what kept us going until we built the Institute way beyond ourselves. So we have 10 independent contractor therapists who work for us, and Ellyn does online training around the world in our model… So it went from just “I don’t know what we’re going to do” to creating the Couples Institute.

But there’s also in the study guide that you can refer people to it in this podcast – they can get the address for how to download the study guide… That is a study guide for a book called The First Love, Adam and Eve and The Story For The Rest of Us. It’s a real tour de force book on the history of marriage from a cultural, psychological, anthropological, religious perspective. And the author asked us if we would write a study guide to help couples so they could… If they wanted to, they could create study groups even.

So Jessica is going to give you the study guide that you can download, and one of the exercises in the study guide is crafting your vision for the future. It kind of walks you through a series of steps for you and your partner on how to create a vision and what that looks like and what the steps would be involved, and how to respect each other’s differences, which is really important when you are creating a vision. As kind of a side note, I often ask couples if they would like to be married to a personality clone of themselves. Most people say no. One woman said, “If I married a clone of myself, I’d have all my problems times two.”

That means we are with somebody who’s going to be different, and that’s where the pros and the cons come in. It’s like “How do we deal with the differences and build on the similarities?” When you craft a vision, it really requires respecting the differences that each person brings to the table.

So that’s a download so that you can go through that on your own with your partner. I think it can sow the seeds for creating a more compelling vision, so that you’re really glad to see each other at the end of the day. That’s the kind of things we want to bring to couples.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes. I love that you’re providing an actual exercise that’s a huge resource for people to go and download and absolutely we’ll provide the link in just a click. It’s basically your website, which is couplesinstitute.com, and it’s /adamandeve/ and just there’s just a real, like “Follow along these steps”, and a real guide for people to have some practical steps. I love that. And I’m also listening to your personal story, Peter, just about you and Ellyn, and kind of this junction you guys were in and kind of what’s next, and it just sounds like you guys allowed for curiosity allowed for what I love and just what would be interesting, what would be fun, and allowing desire to lead a little, and that’s a real positive in my opinion, opportunity to kind of dream. I think so many of us get caught up in the heaviness of what feels like burdens or challenges of the immediate, and we forget to dream, we forget to have that curiosity of what would feel good, or what would I love if I had a marriage that felt really fulfilling and interdependent and healthy, what would that look like?

Dr. Peter Pearson: Well, you know what’s interesting… I have a friend of mine, a colleague, and she and her husband were kinds of getting tired of the rat race here in Silicon Valley, and they had two kids who were 9 and 11… And they were talking to the kids about living in the Bay Area and how nice it would be to get away.

Well, they kept brainstorming with the kids, that that would be an adventure, and it was really terrific. They sold their house and they bought a big motor home and they spent 6 months just motoring around the United States and doing home schooling while they were gone… And what an adventure is that, huh?

Dr. Jessica Higgins: No kidding! No kidding that we actually have way more possibility and freedom that maybe we think we do when we’re caught in our just everyday kind of grind.

Dr. Peter Pearson: And it turned out to be a priceless trip. And did they have problems? OMG. Did they have problems along the way? They had to work together. You know, at the start of the trip, somebody drove their car in such a way that it burned out the engine on their car… But at the end of it they said they were all glad they did it, you know…

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Oh, priceless!

Dr. Peter Pearson: …and thinking differently. It’s just priceless. So that’s, you know, get your kids involve in this as well…

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes. Great. Okay so you had another one you’re gonna share? What was that?

Dr. Peter Pearson: I have actually an exercise, which you can do starting pretty darn quick if you want to do it. I call it the Top 10. If you do this exercise, almost every couple – and that’s a high, high percentage – almost every couple has profited a lot from this exercise.

So take out a sheet of paper, or an index card or whatever. and just write down 10 qualities, traits or attributes or skills or knowledge about stuff that you think you bring to the relationship. And this is a time when you cannot be modest. Do not be modest. Write down 10 that you think you make a contribution in ways that you make a contribution as a team player, as a partner, as a parent, as a spouse… Write them down. And I just can’t emphasize enough, do not be modest. Oh, my gosh.

On the other side — because so many people are taught, you know, “Don’t brag, don’t puff out, it’s the nail that stands up that gets pounded down, and you’re just selfish or egotistic if you brag about yourself…” – no. You really have to do an inventory about what you bring to the table if you’re gonna create a good team.

On the other side of the sheet, write 10 things you think your partner brings to the table in terms of their attitude or skills or knowledge or qualities or traits. What do they bring to the table that you value? And you don’t have to spot the 10. Keep on cranking if you’re on a row.

Now that’s the first part of the exercise. Here’s part two. Twice a day you say something to your partner about acknowledging what you appreciate, what they bring to the table, what they did today, what they did last week, what they’re talking about, doing, coming up… Tell your partner, “I really appreciate when you do or when you did…”

And now here’s what makes it even more important. Tell them why you appreciate it. And sometimes people or couples come in and say, “I don’t need to be appreciated”, and I’ll say, “No, it’s not all about you.” It’s about you learning more about your partner, about what’s important to them and why.

And then I’ll give a really basic, simple example, like, “Are you kidding? You would thank someone for that?” I’d say, “Yeah. Here’s what I mean…” If Ellyn said to me, “Pete, thanks for taking out the garbage before it overflows” it’s like, “Are you kidding? You thank him for taking out the garbage…?” Yeah. And here what Ellyn could say, “Pete, when you take out the garbage before it overflows, I don’t have to worry should I remind you, and then you’re gonna see me as a nag, then I  wonder, are you gonna take it out or not? Or am I gonna have to take it out because you don’t do it… So thank you for taking out the garbage, because when you do that, then I don’t have to have all this mental chatter in my mind. I can relax and turn my attention toward things that are much more worthwhile thinking about than the garbage pilling up, so thank you for doing that.”

That’s an example, probably the most common everyday example you can think of, that you can find a way to express appreciation, and why. And do this twice a day for 30 days. What that does is starts to build up a cushion of good will, of communication, of trust, and that cushion will help soften disagreements, because now disagreements are not so life-and-death because they have a larger context of being appreciated. And how important is appreciation? Here’s what Mother Teresa said, who probably is the only person in the world who could make this statement. She said “There is a greater hunger in the world for appreciation than there is for bread.” And Mother Teresa, working in those ghettos of Calcutta – she’s probably the only person who could say that with credibility. That’s how important appreciation is.

So twice a day for 30 consecutive days, tell your partner what you appreciate and why. You can them emails, you can text them, you can send them a voicemail, you can send them an e-card, you can bring them a flower or a rose or some treat that they like… Find ways of expressing your appreciation. That builds — I can’t tell you how important that is for building the foundation, and then, Jessica, I think doing that also starts to increase the amount of faith and confidence and courage that we can build something together, because we’re strengthening our connection.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Absolutely. I’m listening to you and I’m — Well, I feel like I’m on the same wavelength, because I’m listening to you and I’m feeling this positivity that’s being generated, that’s nurturing this well of allowing more flow to occur and more love. It’s a positive side cycle where if we’re bought in and the vision is an alignment with what is meaningful for us and what we desire, and we’re listening to what is meaningful to our partner and that’s serving them, loving them, has a secondary benefit for us, since that feels good, and so it’s this positive cycle… But even with the three things you’re naming, I see how it all interconnects.

If I have a commitment that’s aligned into something that’s meaningful to me, I’m gonna be so much more willing to commit to it, knowing that it’s connected to what’s the highest value of mine, and that it will motivate me to take a risk and be brave and try something new and developing a new skill and… Hence to your point about having faith – it all feels like a positive cycle and that it nurtures each aspect of what you’re describing.

Dr. Peter Pearson: That’s really well said the way you just summarized that… So that, you know, success can begin to build on success. So that’s really well said.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: When they support each other, right?

Dr. Peter Pearson: Sometimes, Jessica, when you talk about support, here is how you can really expand that notion of support. Suppose that for 6 months or 30 days, or something like that, you and your partner were totally committed to do nothing but bring out the best in each other. And if you knew your partner was committed to bring the best out of you, how would you change how you think or what you think about marriage and your partner, and your future if your partner was doing everything they could to bring out the best in you, and vice versa? You gotta ask a lot of questions, to be curious, because you can’t really bring out the best in somebody without being really curious, asking a lot of questions and having a lot of conversations. And that starts to build the foundation for a better future. Being curious – oh, my gosh… Curiosity is so important.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: It’s kind of like a total paradigm shift, and really focusing your mind and your attention on something totally new. And I’m also like, “This changes neural pathways!” Like, it just builds a whole new dynamic that is just, like I said, that positive cycle — yeah, I could go on and we could probably spend another couple hours talking about this.

Dr. Peter Pearson: You know what, I love this stuff, and simultaneously I know it’s not easy to do that. Am I inspired by it? Yes. Is it easy? No, not by a long shot. Because, you know, we have an emotional brain that is geared toward self preservation, self protection and being defensive. And we have to start managing those self protections more effectively so we can think clearly under pressure. And it takes time and practice.

Sometimes the analogy I use for couples is a relationship like it’s like a diamond. And in a way, diamonds and coal are similar, because they’re just carbon. The only difference between a diamond and a lump of coal is heat, pressure and time. Now, we need pencils in the world, but I think diamonds are nice addition as well. But if you wanna become a diamond, it’s gonna take heat, pressure and time to get there. We don’t get handed these visions on a silver platter and say, “Okay, I’ll take one of those and one of those, and I’m good to go.” They’re there to be earned. That’s what makes the journey so rewarding – because we’ve done something we didn’t think we could do, and that what makes the journey so sweet; we’re doing it with a partner. We’re struggling, and we know they struggle, and we help them with their struggles, they help us with our struggles, and that’s what creates a stronger team.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Nice. Oh, wonderful. How can people get in touch with you, Dr. Peter Pearson?

Dr. Peter Pearson: Couplesinstitute.com is our address. There’s a lot of blogs on there, which I write for couples. Ellyn has blogs for therapists, they’re free. A lot of interesting perspectives on relationships and doing therapy, and other resources. So couplesintitute.com is a place that’s really rich for a lot of resources. We have a ton of material there because we’ve been doing this for so many years. So go to couplesinstitute.com/blog you can then go to couplesinstitute.com/adamandeve.

One of the things in the study guide is how to do an apology, because we will commit to major boo-boos along the way of developing our vision and the skills, and so when you hit a major boo-boo, there’s a long article on how to do an apology beyond just mumbling “I’m sorry” – which work sometimes, and sometimes it’s not sufficient. So that’s another thing on the study guide that I think you’ll find worthwhile.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Wonderful. I’m sure we will all go and check that out, myself included. I’ll make sure to have all of those links on the show notes, and also those of you listening that may be in the field of therapy and are interested in possibly working with Peter and Ellyn and doing one of their trainings, they also have couplesinstitutetraining.com, and I’ll make sure to put that link on the show notes as well.

Thank you so much for your time, it’s been such a pleasure… I really appreciate it.

Dr. Peter Pearson: Hey, Jessica, thanks for the ask. The time actually went by really, really fast. And as they say, we just kind of peeled the onion a bit, but I just would like to say again about telling people about courage, because that’s the common denominator of all growth… It’s courage. It’s not the how-to. When we have the courage to take those steps, we will figure out a lot of how-to’s along the way.

So I just want to remind everybody about the part of you that in fact is courageous, and you’ve already overcome so much in your life that you didn’t know how to do at the beginning, but you were motivated to do so and you had the courage to keep on moving ahead. So remind yourself, remember your own courageous moments in your life, and remember those moments as you and your partner talk about crafting your vision and developing the skills to bring it about.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: I hope you have enjoyed today’s episode. Again, the three strategies to creating a strong marriage and working together as an elite team involve 1. Vision 2. Skills 3. Commitment. I hope you have a chance to download his study guide and perhaps choose one exercise to engage in with your significant other.

If you have any questions or want to reach out to me, again, find me on my website which is drjessicahiggins.com, click on Contact and you can find the ways to reach me there.

As always, I have enjoyed spending this time with you, and until next time, I hope you take great care.

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