Peter Pearson

wedding_cakeThere are only three weddings happening this year at The Couples Institute. And we are being facetious – we haven’t had a wedding of an associate or staffer happen in quite a while!

First, our bookkeeper, Daniel, married his long time partner Hunt in May. They’d been together for 26 years so their ceremony was a celebratory re-commitment of their enduring partnership.

This past weekend, our marketing guru, Shelley, tied the knot with a man she’s known since college; mutual friends brought them back together a few years ago. They’ve been inseparable since, wondering why it didn’t happen sooner.

Then later in November, therapist and clinical assistant in our training program, Michelle, whom many of you have been in touch with before, weds the love of her life, Dan. They make an extremely cute couple together, and wear their love for each other prominently. (To boot, she gets to take on the last name of ‘Joy’!)

Pete and I would love to say that we had any influence on Daniel, Shelley and Michelle finding successful relationships in which to move forward. Whether or not that’s the case, we’re certainly here to support them along the way.

Michelle and Shelley stepped in with a few thought-provoking questions. We wanted to share our answers with you –  those of you who are about to get married, those who might just have been married, or even those of you who’ve been married for years. And years.

See what you can take from this based on your vantage point and give a comment below.


1.  (Shelley) It’s inspiring to me that two completely different people can brave the tumultuous waters of life together, support each other, and make it through to the other side. But how daunting that is to try! Is marriage worth it?

(Ellyn and Pete) YES. Marriage is ultimately really knowing someone else so completely on such a deep and intertwined level – that you really won’t know what that feels like until you’re feeling it. You can’t replace that bond or those experiences. It’s extremely fulfilling to be sure  – but it will take awhile to completely feel that way. You will go through some tough times, and grow many new skills over time.

The legal act of getting married is, for some, the only way they’ll get to that place. That written and legal commitment prevents an easier separation – and it’s through sticking it out with this one person that you get there.


2. (Shelley) With all the divorces and conflict out there, much from couples who were seemingly happy at the start – how do you know if you shouldn’t marry someone?

(Ellyn and Pete) The easy answer is, you don’t. There are some signs that directly point in the wrong direction, such as someone increasing their use of drugs or alcohol as time passes and they feel safer exposing their flaws. Or, in general, where someone is promising to lessen negative behavior like lying or cheating, but isn’t really lessening the behavior.

At the very minimum you should be in a dependable relationship and the above circumstances don’t lend to a dependable relationship.

And in general you can be assured you will get stuck from time to time on points that are important to you and/or your partner. It can get ugly. If one partner is strictly against accepting help from a third party, even a friend or family member, that won’t bode well.

It’s critically important to realize that we all grow personally from conflict with another person. We may not ‘win’ the argument, but each time we have conflict we do win, because we learn something about ourselves and about our partner that builds an even stronger foundation of knowledge and respect.

But if you can’t challenge yourself at ‘stuck’ times, you won’t grow. The relationship can’t grow. And people get divorced without knowing the true and beautiful possibilities of sharing a married life, for life.


3. (Michelle) I always need stimulation and new things in my life.  How can I prevent growing bored with my partner?

(Ellyn and Pete) Boredom comes from passive behavior, when partners don’t initiate new ideas or thoughts or bring anything new into the marriage. Avoiding conflict is another path to boredom in that partners won’t grow personally or together without opening up about their own thoughts and interests about situations happening between them.

The opposite behaviors can prevent boredom, for example, either partner being aware of new learning and growth opportunities and making the effort to bring those into the marriage and act upon them.

A simple example of this is where one spouse is working and one is staying at home. The stay at home spouse may ask questions about the working spouse’s day – but the working spouse takes this to be nosiness, and doesn’t share. The stay at home spouse however could really want the stimulation that comes with discussing the other’s work. And by having that discussion, each can express their ideas, thoughts, and opinions, creating new opportunities for learning and connection.


4. (Michelle) Forever is a long time! What if my partner becomes someone who I no longer want to be with?

(Ellyn and Pete) In extreme cases, for example, one partner might become a serious alcoholic or, if they are bipolar, might stop taking their medication. Those are valid concerns to address with the partner and to engage third party help.

Otherwise, it’s helpful to remember that partners will show different parts of themselves over time. Think about a disco ball with all of its mirrors – as it turns, each mirror reflects light differently. It is absolutely possible that you might experience a few months of not liking your partner – of seeing a few ‘mirrors in the disco ball’ that you don’t really like. Your partner may not be acting like you’d like them to act, or as you expected them to always act.

This is actually a really good opportunity to grow together – by talking about what’s happening, being curious about it, keeping things light where possible, and helping to motivate each other at the right times.


That got a little deep didn’t it? Marriage is a sacred and sober promise of a life to someone else. It’s not to be taken lightly, but is to be taken with eyes open and respect for a person who will be the most significant person to you for the rest of your life.

We wish these three important people to us the best of luck and love!

We of course know something about the stages of love and also of frustration that a newlywed or newly committed partner will go through developmentally. Make sure you also read our article on intimacy here to understand more about what your relationship satisfaction ultimately depends on.

Toasting your own relationship, that it may endure and serve you well,

Ellyn and Pete


Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples

Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader.

Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.

Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

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6 years ago


6 years ago

Three weddings – how gorgeous!!! I love this blog!

Ellyn and Pete are right – it really is impossible trying to explain the journey of living, coming to know intimately, and growing old with the myriad of facets we present to our spouse and they to us across a lifetime of commitment. We don’t know what it’s like until we feel it and I don’t think we ever fully get there – there’s always a surprise to encounter and something new to learn.

I have a number of soon-to-be-marrieds and newly weds in my caseload so this blog is both timely and inspiring. Daniel, Shelley and Michelle I wish you and your husbands many, many years of joy, wonder, growth and deepening love in your lives together.

6 years ago

What happens when one of the partner is not willing to learn new things to make the marriage move forward, thereby creating bored.

Ephraim Frankel, MFT, Milwaukee, WI, USA

This is really helpful and wonderful wisdom clearly borne from years of experience in the trenches with the view to illuminate and strengthen that special marital bond: thanks to Ellyn and Pete for making it available to the curious about to take the leap.

For me, it seems that the deep satisfaction that comes from getting to know your partner, is even the deeper satisfaction of really getting to know oneself. It seems too that as the marital partnership bond grows, the personal growth bond grows, and in a way not likely achieved on one’s own! This seems to take courage and compassion as well as vulnerability and grit.

I like the boredom focus and curiosity question because I think of boredom as the invitation to do something novel, more exciting, so for a short moment, it seems ok to embrace boredom, but only as a launching pad for some new partnership exploration, to go where the partnership hasn’t gone before, which is where the adventure is — Think Star Trek 🙂

6 years ago

Great post! Wishing all couples lifelong loving relationships, with conflict-resolving attitudes and strategies to creare new adventures.

Sue Diamond Potts
Sue Diamond Potts
6 years ago

Thank you for sharing the good news. I couldn’t be more happy for all of you. Daniel, I don’t know you yet, but I’ve met both Shelley and Michelle through my work with CI and can vouch for what wonderful women they truly are. You guys are really lucky! And Pete and Ellyn thank you for modelling what a healthy long-term relationship looks and sounds like. It’s very important and your guidance can’t be overstated enough in my opinion because for many of us, we’ve never really had that before. Happy wedding bells to all!!

joe dagun
6 years ago

Thanks for your blog. I wanted to respond to question one. In my view, it is unrealistic to think that I could know someone else completely. I don’t think it is possible. Even looking at myself, I am constantly finding new things. And, thankfully, I am very different than I was 30 years ago. We have different experiences. As a man I cannot know what it is like to give birth. I can listen and discover someone what you might be going through. I could even share part of the experience of delivery. But I cannot know you.

This does not dissuade me from marrying. It just a recognition of the limitations of “knowing” my spouse.

Ron Potts Sr.
6 years ago

Love all the comments. married 47 yrs. The key for me was communications. Never go to bed angry at each other even if you have to stay awake all night talking it through. Ask the question what about me my actions or behavior really bugs you and visa versa and make comperimises and be true. Always thing in terms of two because life is no longer about I.

Ümit Çetin
6 years ago

Great questions, great answers! I’ve become a firm believer in marriage since my involvement with Ellyn’s and Pete’s training. Through the act of getting married, we make kind of an investment in getting to know ourselves deeply as well as our spouses. Marriage as a lifelong journey, requires lots of self- and other-awareness, and the courage and determination to hold on to an image of how we want to be as an effective partner when getting through the dark times. I wish you all a happy marriage where you can connect joyfully, differentiate safely, and support each other’s personal growth.
Ümit Çetin

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.