ERP 333: How To Weather A Storm (like an illness) Together In Relationship — An Interview Dr. George and Vanessa Naum

By Posted in - Podcast August 16th, 2022 0 Comments

Marriage entails a commitment to support one another through both good and bad times. The traditional vow goes along the lines of, “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” which means the couple stays together no matter what.

The truth is that most couples hope for a bright future and a long-lasting romantic relationship, but they don’t expect or prepare to go through the worse and sickness parts. In reality, it’s not always convenient and easy. The hormones and attraction wear off, and other problems arise.

In this episode, Dr. George and Vanessa Naum sit down and talk about some significant topics that every couple should consider before getting married; how health issues can affect the relationship; and some doable steps couples can take to strengthen their relationship.

Best Friends Again is a physician marriage coaching company helping physicians and healthcare professionals reignite their marriage through a customized approach based on the unique needs of physician and healthcare professional families.

Dr. George and Vanessa Naum’s own battle-tested physician marriage, generational physician family heritage, and expertise from coaching hundreds of marriages off the ledge have paved the way for their revolutionary program: 90 Days to Clarity and Connection, a blueprint for guiding healers in healing their own relationships, saving their families, and enjoying their careers. They believe that you really can have it all.

In this Episode

6:30 What Dr. George and Vanessa Naum learned from their own experiences and the inspiration behind their desire to help other couples.

12:37 Things that are significant but rarely discussed before getting married.

34:24 Compassionate intuition as an important ingredient in a healthy marriage.

38:33 How acceptance and suppression of emotions affect a relationship and how Dr. George and Vanessa help couples deal with it. 

42:39 The 4 R’s of a committed relationship.

45:36 How health issues can affect relationships.

50:13 Programs and resources for cultivating healthy relationships.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Be compassionate towards your partner. Acknowledge his or her emotions and be there to help however you can.
  • Compromise. Even if it isn’t exactly what you both need, at least you get something that will strengthen your bond.
  • Be open and honest with your partner. Let him know how you’re feeling so he/she can understand what’s going on inside of you. 
  • Make sure you and your partner feel heard and understood by maintaining good communication in both good and bad times.
  • Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to experts if you can’t discuss it with your spouse.

Mentioned

What’s Forever For? A Physician’s Guide to Everlasting Love and Success in Marriage (FREE chapter of Dr. Jeep’s book)

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Connect with Dr. George and Vanessa Naum

Website: BestFriendsAgain.com

Facebook: facebook.com/askdrjeepandvanessa

Twitter: twitter.com/@askdrjeep

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drgeorgenaum

Instagram: instagram.com/bestfriendsagain

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Dr. Jeep and Vanessa, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Thank you so much for having us.

Oh, Jessica, I’m so proud of what you do. We’re just so glad to be on the show with you. 

Well, thank you. I just love the enthusiasm that you both are bringing, and also the wisdom and the experience and just the understanding that you’re going to be offering us here today. I know we’re going to be zoning in on a particular topic. It’s also always worth noting that you help relationships and couplehood and marriage and really assist in many aspects as it relates to relationships. 

Absolutely.

Yes. 

Yes, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that towards the end. Look, Dr. Jeep, you’re a physician, and what that means, both of you write about and talk and teach about when we enter into deep levels of commitment in a marriage, and often in the vows, it’s in sickness and in health. 

Yes. 

And we’re going to be looking at what that actually means and kind of get your perspective on that. But before we turn towards that, I would love to just have people get to know you a little bit more. What brought you into offering support to others in the way of couplehood, and how did this get started for you both?

How it got started was I was previously married. I got married at the age of 21. I really did not spend enough time thinking about the type of person I wanted to be married to and taking into consideration what I would need and want in that marriage. And unfortunately, I married someone very much like my father. And, of course, I didn’t want to be married to a person like my father. 

So, although I tried to make that relationship work for five and a half years, there was addiction in that relationship with alcoholism. And finally, after five and a half years of trying to lead that horse to water, I got him to water, but he wouldn’t drink. We talk about how marriage is a team sport. It takes two to tango. And when one partner isn’t willing to do the dance, it ceases to become a partnership. Right? 

Free Man Standing Beside Woman Wearing White Cap-sleeved Dress Stock Photo

“Marriage is a team sport. It takes two to tango. And when one partner isn’t willing to do the dance, it ceases to become a partnership.”

Yes. 

So, I just took a step in faith and thought, “I’ve spent the majority of my 20s with him. I really want to move on, and I deserve to move on.” And fast forward. I moved to Pittsburgh. I met Jeep. And having gone through a relationship, I knew what I didn’t want. So, he had to really prove himself because I was gun shy. But things went very well for us. We’re similar in a lot of ways. Of course, we’re different, but–. 

Nah-ah.

[Laughs] Our values of marriage and working at it and team sport. And so, we did marriage preparation, fell in love with that concept, and realized that if we catch enough folks soon enough, perhaps they can avoid getting into a relationship that isn’t good for them that won’t be healthy for them, but also, more importantly, to share our story and to really understand what works in a relationship and then model that to our clients.

So, I’ll tell you about me. My dad’s a physician. You could say that I was brought up in a dysfunctional marriage. My dad was a good father, a good physician, not a good husband. And so, I got to see early on what an abusive-type relationship was. A lot of abuse verbally. A lot of abuse emotionally. 

Of course, a narcissist will not admit that they’re a narcissist, but he definitely is one. Still alive to this day. We’ve been able to carry on our relationship since then, but it’s just being able for me to accept that, and that’s how he is and if I’m going to have a relationship with him, but he was just terrible with my mother growing up and never gave her credit for anything that she did around the house. It was all about him being the breadwinner, and whatever she did wasn’t as important as what he did. 

He had to be right about everything. If my mom questioned him about anything, he looked at it as disrespectful. And when she was disrespectful and didn’t come around to his way of thinking, he kind of understood that, that he could go and be unfaithful, which he was several times. 

So, I knew that I wanted to be a physician, but I also knew that something that was equally as important to me was to be married. I knew that I didn’t want to be in a marriage like what I was being raised in. And so, I was determined when I got to a point where I would be able to help that I was going to do that. And so, like Vanessa said, fast forward, she was in a not a good marriage. I had just gotten through a broken engagement. We got together. Like she said, we did an engaged type of preparation. 

And so, after that, when we got married, we got trained afterward to do what we have done for several years. And that’s to help couples, one, understand, is this a right fit for them? Should they be getting married? And then, couples who have gone and have gotten married when possibly they shouldn’t have to help them through and guide them to the goals they have for their relationship.

Well, thank you both so much for sharing a little bit of your background and really where you started and what you were negotiating. It sounds as if you’re both willing to say, look, we’ve been exposed to less-than-optimal relational experiences in our family upbringing and in our love relationships. And so, there was some being awake to what you didn’t want for both of you. 

Absolutely. 

And the different strategies that you did to negotiate that and then arriving at this real clear intention that there can be some preparation and some design in what we are creating and co-creating in a relationship. It sounds like both of you had been around a block enough to know it’s not about just neurochemicals that support the attraction. 

No, no, no.

Right. Right. 

There’s so much more than the attraction and then getting together. It’s really what are the values? What are we designing together? Is that right?

That’s absolutely right. We teach that in our program that you can design the type of marriage that you want as long as both of you are in it together. Attitude is a lot. Attitude is everything. If you want it bad enough, then you will do the work.

And like you said, Jessica, the hormones, the attraction, that wears off. 

Trust me. I’ve gone through menopause. 

You go through. You put the rings on. If there are things that you have not settled, which too often happens in relationships that carry over. Once those hormones start to wear off and real-life hits you in the face, those problems are still there that you have to deal with. 

A lot of the couples that we coach, you would think of asking them questions like, “Have you ever thought about what you want out of your relationship? Have you ever thought about what you need, which aren’t necessarily the same thing, but have you ever thought those things?” 

And you’d be surprised how many people, maybe not, have said, “Well, we just thought it was the right thing to do. We’ve been dating for a while and it just kind of fell into that, but substantive discussions we’re not had before the rings on the wedding day came.”

Yes. It’s quite amazing. It’s quite amazing. Dr. Jeep, you’re talking about the very normal trajectory in the development of intimacy that these neurochemicals and the hormones and all the things start to settle. And by that point, we might have put rings on. And then we kind of look around, and we’re like, “Okay, well, we didn’t really have these conversations, or I just thought.” And then, right, Vanessa? You’re bringing up there are some life things that we go through, like menopause and the impact that those hormonal changes happen. 

And then, one of the conversations that we’d like to have with you here today is when we might be confronted with something we didn’t anticipate, right? Whether or not it’s a chronic illness or something that we’re contending with around illness or sickness or something like that. And that’s not something that we typically have conversations about either. Yet, we might say a vow through sickness and health. So, can we turn towards that? Or do you want to say anything about that?

What I was going to say, just like what you were saying, when you say, you know, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health until death do us part, do you really think about those vows and exactly what they mean? I think it’s just like a ritual that couples go through, but they really don’t think about the consequences of what they are promising to do.

Right. But what we’re saying is that intimacy is hard without any of these hardships. It’s not always convenient. It’s not always easy. And when we’re then faced with something that requires us to dig deeper or deal with the hardship or the upset or the circumstance, that’s something additional.

Yeah. Yes. Yes.

It is. It is. 

Yes, absolutely. 

It is. And it can take a relationship and turn it on its head as far as what I want to mention about health. When I met Jeep, he knew that I suffered from certain ailments that were syndrome-like things. For example, when the weather changes, I would have aches and pains. At that time, I just took Advil. I didn’t know what it was called. It wasn’t arthritis, but I always call it arthritis because it felt that. I figured that’s what it felt like. 

He happened to be doing a rotation in rheumatology and came home one day and said, “I know what you have. It’s called fibromyalgia.” And I said, “Well, what do I do?” And he said, “Pretty much how you have dealt with this and coped since the age of 11.” And I got it from having rheumatic fever. “How you have coped is pretty much the treatment plan for the folks that have fibromyalgia in this clinic. You’re at an age where you can manage it with over-the-counter medications.” 

Well, after having a pregnancy, that totally changed. I dealt with chronic fatigue and more widespread joint pain and those syndrome things that no longer could be treated by over the counter. So, then I had to go with prescription medications. It was no longer Jeep and I, but it was Jeep and I and fibromyalgia because what we also talk about in our coaching program is we’re supposed to give 100% of ourselves, right? But sometimes, my 100% may only be 20%. But if he knows that day that my 100% is 20, then he can understand that I’m giving everything I can, although my capacity isn’t at 100%.

I like to use the phrase compassionate intuition. So, you know what your spouse, what your partner is dealing with. You know that this is true pain, that you know that they’re being vulnerable with you. And then, accept that and accept the fact that they are really hurting and that they’re counting on you. 

Free stock photo of affection, at home, beautiful Stock Photo

“I like to use the phrase compassionate intuition. You know what your spouse, what your partner is dealing with. Accept that and accept the fact that they are really hurting and that they’re counting on you. You need to be there and be present and understand that there are going to be times, certainly more than once, where you are going to be in the same situation, and you’re going to need that from them.”

You need to be there and be present and understand that there are going to be times, certainly more than once, where you are going to be in the same situation, and you’re going to need that from them. It’s so important to keep that in mind when one of you is, to say the least, not up to par where they like to be.

And Jeep, it sounds like that is a wider perspective that allows for more of the relational priority rather than “Here’s what I’m giving. Here’s what you’re giving.” That can, for many, be a breeding ground for resentment. And not to say that your needs are not important, right? And it’s all about Vanessa. Right? That you matter too. Like, that scale can get tipped, so there’s some mindfulness around that that might be helpful to talk about. And that the attitude, right, you talk so clearly about the way and the mindset that we have. What helped you? Did you have that initially?

Well, I have kind of been that way growing up. I’ve always been a giver. 

A very compassionate person.

It’s one of the reasons I went into medicine in family practice because I enjoy that. My dad was that, and it was definitely what I wanted to do. So, I was always like that. I would come home from work. And I always knew with Vanessa, if it was a good day, I would see her head above the couch. It was a bad day. I didn’t see the head above the couch. I knew that she was lying down. She was probably in pain. She probably had a lot of fatigue. 

And so, you know, did this happen frequently? It happened quite a lot. And it’s under much better control right now. But there were a lot of years where that wasn’t. And so yeah, I could have gone in, and I certainly oftentimes had a day that was pretty bad. And I could have said, “Well, you know, I had a bad day that was probably as bad as yours. What are you laying there on the couch for?” So, what would that have done? 

I know that she’s not doing this on purpose. This is not for gain. This is legitimate. I’ve seen too much. And so, I took a decision in love to be there to be present, to do what I could do to make her day better. And if that was just sitting there with her and talking and being understanding or giving the kids baths and putting them to bed and making dinner, whatever it was. That’s just the way it happened. 

There have been times when I’ve had bad days or several bad days, and she’s been there for me. It’s just this understanding that between the two of you that you accept that, is this optimal for me right now? No, but in the future, I know it’s not going to be optimal for her either. 

Lots of trusts. 

A tremendous amount of trust.

And, of course, commitment. That’s the bottom line, right? That’s the underlying thing that this is all built upon commitment. And always having that presence of mind in my being aware to not manipulate him through that because both of our desire was to have a healthy marriage. And even when I couldn’t, because of health reasons, he kind of took one for the team. 

Doing that allowed me to be more vulnerable. And that vulnerability led to trust. And the more trust, you know, I get goosebumps talking about it, is he gave me the ability to be me. Positive, negative, ugly, beautiful, 100% me. So, he gets to see my authentic self. And because of that, it’s reciprocated.

In vulnerability, you know, if you’re not vulnerable, it’s difficult for you to have trust. After trust, then you build a deeper connection. And then you have unbelievable intimacy. And intimacy, as you know, is not just physical. It’s emotional. It’s intellectual. There are so many different aspects of that, but those other things have to happen in order to have the type of intimacy and connection that you want.

I am getting this feeling as though there’s such reverence that you both have for your bond together and the care and the priority of that.

Yes, you got it. You got it. 

And the safety that comes from showing up in these moments that are hard. and the acknowledgment of what transpires and transforms in that, both individually like feeling as though he’s got you, he’s not blaming you. 

He’s got me. 

He’s not shaming you. He’s not guilting you, right? Like, it gives you space, like the safety of that.

Absolutely. The safety. And as it turns out, safety is one of my core needs. Definitely, safety. I don’t want your listeners to think that we never argue, and everything is hunky dory 100% of the time because that’s not it. We are human too.

There are ways to argue. There are ways to argue constructively. And in that over time, and we have a specific thing that we teach couples and teaching them how to argue, but one of the big things, Jessica, that in our relationship, and you put it so well, reverence. The fact that we have this reverence in our relationship, our kids have seen that. And they have taken that upon themselves in their own relationships. 

Our oldest daughter got married last October, and it was just a phenomenal day in so many respects. She has that relationship with her husband, and he is towards her. And it’s just so gratifying and so fulfilling that they have taken it and run with it, so to speak.

And that was also important to us at the beginning, too, because we knew that they would catch, so to speak. We can talk and talk and talk, but they’re going to watch us, and they’re going to catch that. And so, we were always cognizant of that with our kids too.

No kidding. The ripple effect around how the expression and what the both of you are modeling through your interactions and the relational care that you have for one another. And it also strikes me, too, that as you speak, Vanessa, on the power and the gift of how Jeep has shown up for you, and how that perhaps impacts you, Jeep, right, just in this what you have experienced with your family, your parents growing up, and just the verbal and the disregard and just that appreciation, and then even seeing your daughter. What’s better than that, right? 

Well, you have this idea of marriage when you’re a child and my daughter, you know, before she got married, say, “I’ve dreamed about this since I was a little girl. I never knew it was going to be this way. And you see that dream fulfilled. And I really, I knew what I wanted, had to go through some heartache, but what we have and what we’ve developed with each other, which will be in November, it’ll be 30 years, and we’ve been together 32 years in January. 

I mean, it’s again, like my daughter said to me. It’s a fulfillment of a dream. And it can be that way if you commit and if you work and if you put in the time, even when you think, “Oh, everything’s going okay right now. We don’t really need to talk about anything.” Meanwhile, things are possibly bubbling up under the surface that isn’t being addressed. And they could have been caught if there’s regular communication, which things get in the way. And that happens.

Yeah, life gets in the way. 

Yeah. Never did anyway.

Right. Right. Highest priority. And that, again, when it’s tested through circumstances, like a life or health issue. And that this is a perhaps guiding principle that gives light to what feels as though sometimes we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel like it feels difficult and dark. 

Darkness, yes.

And it occurs to me, too, Vanessa, that the safety also was incredibly healing that contributed to perhaps the place of how much more manageable it is and the stress of having that relational support and the connection and how. I mean, there’s research about this, that connection can be healing that when we don’t have it, the health impacts of that.

Absolutely. In fact, we have a paper on our blog about that—health and stress in relationships. He would see patients. It just so happened that because I had fibromyalgia, and he was reading everything that he could get his hands on at the time because nobody really knew what it was. He started developing a practice. So, then he was seeing a lot of fibromyalgia patients and also saw how some of their spouses just thought they were being manipulated. They did not have the empathy or attunement to be able to give their spouse what they needed in sickness.

There were so many times I would say. And unfortunately, fibromyalgia has a predilection toward women. And so, I would hear stories, they would tell me, and I would say, “Please bring your husband in so I can sit there, and I can explain that this isn’t fake, that this is legitimate, what you’re dealing with.” 

Sometimes, their husband or one of their children would come in, and I would sit and explain it to them about it. But too often than not, “No, I’m not going to deal with it. I’m going to continue to be this rather nasty person and certainly not understanding.”

And right with that lack of awareness of not knowing what’s on the inside for the person that is struggling. So, for the partner to the person that might have the chronic illness or the disease or that something that when they don’t know the inside, or they don’t have access to the attunement or that empathy, it is hard. And especially when we don’t have access to that inside vulnerability, we’re contending with life, and it can feel extremely challenging. And so–.

I’ll give you an–. Sorry about that. Finish.

Please. No, go ahead.

No, I don’t mean to interrupt you, Jessica. I have a bad habit of doing that. Sometimes. 

I do too. 

I’ll give you a quick example of a patient that I had. His wife was in the room, and he was out there. He said, “You need to sit down and talk to my wife. She thinks I’m having an affair.” And I said, “Okay.” So, I went in, and he happened to be on medication, and he was being restricted by the medication sexually. And she looked at that as okay, well, he doesn’t want to be with me, so he must have another woman. And this guy, I mean, he adored her. He would never do something like that. So, I sat down with them both present, and I explained, “This medication that is key to controlling his blood pressure is causing this problem.” 

So, after spending an extra 15 or 20 minutes, she walked out with a smile and understanding, knowing what was going on. Sometimes I would act as a mediator explaining to the husband or the wife, “No, this is legitimate. This is an effect of their condition or their health. You know, some other issue with their health and they would get.” But it takes having that conversation with two, not just one.

Right. And especially when one is contending with all the fears, it can feel almost not irrational, but it can feel as though it’s hard to take in other information. And so, it sounds like you’re really able to help them get into that more clear visibility around what the gentleman was experiencing with a medication that alleviated her worries and fears and concerns, which was incredibly helpful. 

I would love to turn towards, did you ever feel that your needs or what you wanted, that that needed some attention or priority because I know that sometimes the caregiver or the one that’s in a position to help that that can be beautiful and amazing. And then, it’s not always super sustainable. Right? There are times when it’s like, “Okay, I need to fill my own cup.”

Are you talking about Vanessa or a result of a job? 

Yes. 

Oh, to be honest with you, and this is straight from the heart. I have not wanted anything from her. I have always gotten what I needed. Sometimes it is taken a little bit more explanation as to it, and as she said, you know, we’re not perfect, we argue, and we’re both going through age-related changes with desire and different abilities. And so, this has been something that’s been a little bit more difficult for me to, not to understand, but to stop, and then not only look at myself and what my needs are but to understand where she is through no fault of her own. 

Does that work all the time? No. But most of the time, it does it. But how do you get through that? One is that phrase that I use a lot, compassionate intuition and talking. Talking, talking, talking, and getting to that point where you both understand. I’m a big person about compromise. And it’s about moving. 

Just moving. It could be incremental. It could be a fraction. 

It may not happen right away but put it on a table. She puts it on the table and says, “Okay, this is what it is. This is what the issue is. So, how can we move a little bit closer, so I get some of what I need, and you get some of what you need? It may not be completely what we both need, but we’re at least getting something, and that’s going to bring our connection closer together.”

And we both feel heard. We both feel understood. We both feel cared for. It was a team effort. And so, safe. It feels so safe. 

And it works. Not just in the bedroom, but it works if you allow it to. It works in every aspect of your relationship. We are so blessed. It’s been our mission and our desire to help other couples feel the same way and get to that goal.

Well, I want to just really turn towards what you’re describing because you’re saying talking, talking, talking. You’re talking about compassionate intuition and the talking. I want to just add that the way that the two of you are talking is critical because we can talk for hours if we’re in this individual perspective and we’re trying to be heard. We don’t feel heard. So sometimes we get louder because we want to feel heard, and then the other person doesn’t feel heard. And then it’s this going back and forth defensive criticism sometimes, and we’re trying to have all these attempts and protests to get. 

When the two of you are actually speaking, there’s, again, this quality of relational regard for one another that both of your needs are important that you can put out there that you’re both attending. As you said, we both feel safe; we both feel heard. We’re willing to work together. It’s not always easy. It’s not always comfortable. We’re not always getting it right away. And the process, if we stay with it, that we can arrive at something that works for we’re getting something that we need. The thing I was feeling when you were talking was that we’re allies, right? We have each other’s back, and we know that.

Yes. And what you just said was so insightful. I wanted to speak to that. We teach them how, first of all, to understand what feelings are, the differences between a thought and a feeling, and how to express their feelings. Because, you know, depending on their family of origin, their feelings were accepted, or they weren’t. And when feelings aren’t accepted, they’re suppressed, especially with men. 

Man and Woman Holding White Ceramic Mugs

“Our society doesn’t do a really good job of allowing people to just honor their feelings. So, we teach them a way to get in touch with their feelings and paint a picture of what a feeling feels like to them.”

Our society doesn’t do a really good job of allowing people to just honor their feelings. So, we teach them a way to get in touch with their feelings and paint a picture of what a feeling feels like to them. For example, anger. If I tell him that something he did made me angry, I want him to understand my perception of anger. So, my perception of anger is like what it looks like outside right now. The winds are blowing, there’s thunder, and it’s dark. That’s anger. So, it paints a picture for him to understand, so there’s no misunderstanding. We just spend a lot of time working on that.

So, it’s not talking. You’re not talking about how you see him. You’re talking about your inside parts so he understands your inner world and the reveal if you can, like, give him the behind-the-scenes that he might not have access to.

You got it.

Yes. It’s what he did, but it isn’t who he is. For example, a perfect example is driving in a car, and he did something that scared the living bejesus out of me. And so, I was so afraid. It really does disconnect me, then I get angry. And so, then I have to calm down and later on say, “When that happens in the car, here’s what happens to me. I get very stressed. And when I get really stressed with fibromyalgia, I start to get pain. And then, I get a headache. And then yeah, then the fatigue and the whole thing spiraling. Is it worth that? Is it worth getting all that over?” 

She explains it as a storm. Now, how I would explain anger would be like a volcano getting ready to explode and spew lava. We have our own descriptions and our own feelings about what anger is. You just can’t say, “I’m angry.” Okay, well, what does that mean to you know? 

And why? Why are you angry? What specifically are you angry about and why?

It’s a new concept. They were like, “How come I never heard about this?” Well, you could hear about it now. And it’s the fact that you learn about it now so you can use it, use it constructively when you’re communicating with each other, whether it’s an argument or you’re trying to get the point across that has to do with something else.

Right. And I can see how incredibly helpful this way of communicating can be such a great resource in a terrain where both the couple is negotiating, even if only one person has a health concern that is demanding that together these tools equipped us to navigate a hardship together. Are there any other keys or things that you want to speak to that helped in the journey of negotiating a health concern together as a couple?

The 4 R’s: Realization. First of all, realize what the problem is. Realize that communication is a key in good times and bad. Two is reversal. You’re going to have a reversal, which usually is going to be something. It’s not going to be a good reversal from bad to good. It’s going to be usually from good to bad. You understand that those are going to happen, but they’re not the end of the world. It’s not what happens to you. It’s how you respond to what happens to you. 

Happy Couple Sitting on the Floor with Paint on their Faces

“Realize that communication is key in good times and bad.

Resilience. It’s the capacity. It’s that physical and mental reservoir that you have to deal with the reversals that happen to you. And once you have that resilience and things start to calm down, then you go into what you want to be all the time which is rightness. Rightness is a feeling of well-being and fulfillment. What really is rightness? Joy and happiness.

So, it’s not necessarily right and wrong. It’s the sense of integrity and alignment.

Yes.

Yeah. 

What’s right with the world?

Can you repeat those four again?

Yes. Realization, reversal, resilience, and rightness.

Those are huge guiding principles to work with that helped keep the focus of the bond and the relational health through a journey of health compromise or health issue.

Absolutely. Absolutely. Keep those in mind. Stick with what they mean. Do those, and you’re going to make it through these storms that we all go through. No matter what our socioeconomic situation is, no matter what our education is, we all have these. It’s just having the tools and knowing how to use them and concepts that you need to keep in mind.

I love that both of you have gone through the fire, right? It’s not so much something that you have gathered through theory or even working with other people. You’ve lived this, and you’re alive to tell the story of, like, what’s on the other side. I love that. Vanessa, is there anything you wanted to add around what you want to invite people to consider or be aware of in couplehood where a health issue is at play?

What was really difficult for me, and it took a long time. And that was acceptance of my illness. I mean, it took so long. I was angry. My capacity to live life physically isn’t normal. And so, there was anger, but he helped me with the acceptance of it. Because he did from the beginning, he accepted me. 

Wow. 

And so, I think living with an illness acceptance is huge on both parts.

Vanessa, when we got together, she was broken. I mean, in so many ways, because of the abuse and the treatment that early in life but was just exacerbated by marriage. And so, here I saw this person. And I could see the good in her that she needed to believe was there. The self-esteem was just dragging on the ground. And I’m like, “It shouldn’t be that way.” So, it was a matter of bringing that out and letting her know that it was really there. And that you do matter, and your opinion counts, no matter what has happened before. 

The wind beneath my wings. Definitely.

Love that song.

Beautiful. Was there anything else that the two of you want to mention before we transition to how people can get in touch with you and what you’re offering?

I would say, Jessica, that don’t think you’re alone. Whatever you’re feeling, there are so many other people out there that are feeling it. Have that courage, especially if it is disrupting your relationship and your life. If it’s disrupting your happiness, know that there’s help. Don’t suffer in silence. Talk about it. If you can’t talk to your spouse, talk to us about it. We’ll give you a set of goals and help you reach those goals. That’s what I would like to relate to your listeners.

Free Man in White Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Baby in Blue and White Stripe Onesie Stock Photo

“If it’s disrupting your happiness, know that there’s help. Don’t suffer in silence. Talk about it.”

Anything you want to add, Vanessa? Thank you.

Yeah, I think he did a great job with that.

Well, it occurs to me, and we could probably spend a whole another episode on this, but it occurs to me that there’s such strength, and you spoke about resilience and being able to recommit over and over and over again. And you have these practices that you both engage in that continue to support the health of your bonding, but there is something that I feel that you both are very deeply connected to, that resource. I don’t know if that’s your faith, or if that’s just your recommitting, is there anything you want to speak to about that, or does that feel like a whole other topic?

No, that’s very perceptive.

I can tell you from my aspect, and I think for Vanessa’s too, that faith is important.

Yes, very much so.

Couples have their own ideas about that. And certainly, we don’t push ours on there, but it certainly is. You say you can see it. Well, it’s definitely a part of who we are.

Yeah. Whether it be religion or spirituality or higher power, whatever it is, for that person, for that couple. Yes, to draw on as a resource.

I think it’s an influence that really helps. It adds cement to the connection that’s already pretty deep.

And also the reason we named our business, Best Friends Again. He is my absolute best friend, and I know that I’m his. Yeah, there’s a joy and safety in that.

Beautiful. Well, thank you both for sharing your stories here today as well as the keys and principles that you teach. And how would you encourage people that are interested in learning more? What would you point them towards?

If you’re interested in learning more about us, of course, you can go to our website. Its www.BestFriendsAgain.com. Our style of coaching is probably different than anybody would ever think. For example, it’s not about airing grievances. If a couple doesn’t even want to dig deep and tell us anything, they don’t have to. What we’re doing is we’re teaching principles. We’re teaching tools and keys like you mentioned and using ourselves as an example. So, we are the ones that get very personal about what we’ve gone through to show them that what they’re going through is normal. This is normal marriage. It’s not like the wedding day, every single day until death do you part. It’s not that.

I think in us, basically baring our lives to them and teaching them the tools that we teach them, it encourages them on their own to take that deep dive, where they really know where they are. 

And there’s something about the magic. They see us interacting with them. They see our commitment. They see us negotiating in front of them about something, and this is caught. They catch it over time. And it just put that to use in their life. It’s really magical for them. 

It is.

Beautiful. I can see it here today. There’s so much openness that you both share and a willingness to be playful together. And also, be humble about your process in your journey, and that it’s not always pretty, but also really using yourself as an example in the sharing. 

As a tool. Yes.

Yes. Great. So, on the website, what might people find?

They can actually go to the bottom of the page and download a copy of a chapter of his book, which is What’s Forever For: A Physician’s Guide to Everlasting Love and Success in Marriage. They can get the free chapter on communicating, teaching them how to get started with that. And also, if anyone wants to contact us to reach out, we offer a complimentary, you know, the first session is just no obligation. Just talk to us. If we can’t help you, we will point you in the right direction.

Awesome. So, it sounds like you offer coaching, you have the book, and you have many other resources on the website. Thank you for what you’re both doing. Do you want to add anything, Dr. Jeep?

Well, I know that I want to do another podcast with you. We’ll do. We’ll talk about resilience when you’ve got time in the future for sure. But no, we use the book in our coaching program, which is part of the assignments that they do and the issues that we cover. 

I mean, I’ve always been able to write, but never did I think that I was ever going to write a book. But I did, I sat down for three months and had it in my head what I wanted to talk about, and I purposely made it in a way that, again, no matter what your socioeconomic background or education was, it was understandable. I imagined that I was sitting in front of a patient and explaining it.

With no medical ways. 

We’re trying to make these concepts as understandable as possible. And people that have read the book, they’ve told me that I’d achieved that. It was an Amazon Best Seller for a while. I’ve won a couple of awards, and this was my first time, so it was a labor of love, and I feel really good about that.

Beautiful. I’m glad you felt acknowledged, too, and the success with it and what you’ve been able to accomplish. And it also sounds like the feedback really translated into your intention around making it accessible and relatable and really distilling things down in a way. I think that one of the best testaments to really knowing the work is to be able to teach it in a way that is really digestible. So wonderful. Well, it’s been an honor and a privilege to spend this time with you both. Thank you.

You’re welcome. It’s our pleasure as well.

It’s been our honor too. It really has been. We feel a connection, and it’s definitely something that, in the future, hopefully, we can do again.

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching