I looked at the couple in front of me and said, “Boy have I got some bad news for you. What we have here is a wicked problem.”

What’s a wicked problem?

It’s a multi-determined and mult-faceted problem that resists simple solutions.

Couples often seek simple solutions from you.

When couples ask me (Pete) what to do when they describe a wicked problem, I tell them directly they have a wicked problem.

I want to help them understand the magnitude of their challenges by telling them a story about the cobra effect. The story is designed to take pressure off you and off the couple. It isn’t easy to create a simple rapid resolution to a wicked problem.

The Cobra Effect

When India was under the rule of the British Colonial Empire, Delhi had had a huge cobra problem. Cobras everywhere. In the streets. In houses. Slithering through government buildings.

The Brits racked their brains, trying to figure out what to do about it.

“We know! Let’s put a bounty on cobras.”

The reward was generous enough that many people took up cobra hunting, which led to the exact outcome they wanted: a massive decrease in cobra population.

And that’s when things got interesting.

The cobra population fell and it became harder to find cobras. However, enterprising people started raising cobras in their homes so they could turn them in for bounty.

This led to a new problem: Local authorities realized that there were fewer cobras in the streets, but they were still paying for just as many cobras as before.

City officials did a reasonable thing: They canceled the bounty.

In response, the people raising cobras in their homes also did a reasonable thing: They released all of their now-valueless cobras back into the streets.

In the end, Delhi had a bigger cobra problem after the bounty ended than it had before it began.

I say, “Here’s how this story applies to what happens in this office.

Couples come in and describe their challenges. The emotional brain desires rapid relief from the anguish, pain, fear etc.. That is common and understandable.

But most of the time what they describe are wicked problems. And most of the time that means the couple is required to work as a team to overcome the wicked problems. Most of the time the problems were created by both people. And it requires working together to emerge from the distress.

When you collaborate on tackling problems you can bring out the best in each other and emerge stronger from being tested.”

The Cobra Effect is a perfect example of what happens in so many relationships. A quick attempt to solve a problem ends up exacerbating the very problem it was designed to fix. Or it creates even more problems I want us to respect the magnitude of your struggles.

Cabin Fever Couples: Answers to Their Biggest Problems

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When you have a couple with a wicked problem, you need a very different approach from what is intuitive or from what your clients will ask of you.

Your couple will say, “We can’t communicate. We’re going stir crazy. What do we do?”

It's not so simple.

Because once you start hacking away at the “communication problem,” you reveal a host of other problems that need attention.

But when your clients’ emotional brains are scrambling to get relief in a hurry, they put the pressure on you to fix them quickly.

And of course you want to!

You wouldn’t be the great therapist you are if you didn’t truly want to help your couples. You want to give them the relief, the tools, and the help they need to stop fighting and start connecting.

But the problem is, you’re up against a much bigger problem than they want to believe.

Their presenting problem is the 10% of the iceberg they can see. That’s what they want you to fix.

What they need is for you to address the issues that lurk in the 90% under the surface.

But how can you tackle such a huge problem when your couples are impatient, demanding, reactionary, or think they know best what they need?

Especially now when coronavirus has couples shut in together, tensions mount much more quickly. The need for relief is more necessary than ever.

Many therapists come to my wife, Ellyn Bader, and me feeling intense pressure to help their clients quickly. They feel anxious that they won’t know what to do in a session and the client will think they are a fraud. Even worse, many therapists tell us they themselves feel like a fraud! They feel out of their depth when the need for change is being so urgently demanded.

We have worked with thousands of couples. We’ve informally designed, practiced, and tested more experiments than a high school science class. We founded The Couples Institute to specialize in couples work. We created The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy – a model that is taught in over 52 countries around the world.

It took us 65+ years – and hundreds of failed experiments – to create solutions for cabin fever problems that can include couples’ wicked problems. And we want to share our expertise with you.

Now there is a solution that can address many of the problems your couples demand you fix in their cabin fever crisis: communication issues, fights about responsibilities, boundary violations, passive aggressive behavior, hostile fighting, and more.

This takes the pressure off you to deliver simple solutions to complex, multifaceted wicked problems. Even better, it helps take the pressure off your couples who are seeking immediate relief and can now appreciate the size of their challenges.

Cabin Fever Couples: Answers to Their Biggest Problems

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This one solution…

  • Helps your couples honestly and courageously see where they are, even if they’ve lacked self-reflection in the past.
  • Helps your couples accept the work that needs to be done. This is changing their attitude about change, one of the toughest components of couple's therapy...but I’ll show you how to do it.
  • Helps them be patient with you and each other without you having to make intense confrontations or demands.
  • Takes the pressure off you having to work quickly and helps couples feel more comfortable with the time it will take to change
  • Changes your couples’ response to the problem so they work as a team. This is how they learn to bring out the best in each other when times are tough.

Plus, you give your couples the mental set and the skills to get through their problems as a TEAM. Together Each Accomplishes More. And they assume more individual responsibility for change.

In this 90-minute recorded webinar, we do an in-depth training on how to tackle these cabin fever problems that can cover up wicked problems.

We reveal our 2 absolute favorite and most effective exercises that strengthen both the individual and the couple as a team.

We share the 6 diagnostic and intervention questions you need to be asking couples so they can get the most out of their time with you. These questions develop the focus for greater collaboration and shared responsibility for greater teamwork. You won’t feel like the burden of change is on you.

Pete does a role play with a very tough couple so you can see how to deliver this approach and how this method works. You will learn what to say and do.

You’ll also get our Super Negotiation for Couples worksheet.

AND The 7 Step Process to Gracefully Change Your Partner. Because even the best teams have things they want to change in each other.

If you’re ready to stop feeling pressure to solve cabin fever and wicked problems, and have the couple work with you instead of demanding you create miracles, click the button below to get access to Cabin Fever Couples: Answers To Their Biggest Problems.

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Register for How To Work More Effectively With Couples Online webinar

Kind words about our work

“My training time spent in the presence of renowned marriage therapists, Ellyn Bader & Pete Pearson, has launched a new level of professional mastery in confidence, clarity, and control, in my work with couples. And, when couples are in pain, that is the kind of invaluable leadership that catalyzes their most important growth work! And now that I’ve been trained so well by Pete & Ellyn, every couple I work with, feels that, knows that, on some level. The mastery training you receive in Pete & Ellyn’s presence (in-person, online, or otherwise) will support you, prepare you, and change you into a helping professional who truly knows how to take charge of couple work in the most therapeutic way.”

Ronna Phifer-Ritchie, PhD, CLC, Cupertino, CA

"Ellyn and Pete have a rare combination of brilliance, great teaching skills, commitment to their students, and humanity. They are both remarkably clear and precise in articulating the underlying dynamics and possible places to intervene with a couple in a way that I can take with me and implement in my practice….I appreciate their clinical brilliance that much more because it comes with such warmth and vulnerability. I believe that a big part of my success in private practice, and my deep satisfaction with my work has been a result of my training with Ellyn and Pete."

Michael Klein, Ph.D., San Francisco, CA

Today, you can begin to shape your couples’ relationship in the way they hope you can, and feel confident in guiding them toward lasting change.

But there is a cost of inaction. If you miss this training, you’ll...

  • Continue to feel pressure to give profound insights on the spot
  • Feel anxious that change is taking longer than they’re comfortable with
  • Wonder if your couples will stop therapy because they’re not getting the results they want
  • Address the presenting problem, and then reveal the other ones underneath – getting caught in a cycle of chasing down the problem du jour
  • Keep putting painful, unrealistic expectations on yourself to know everything about everything

Cabin Fever Couples: Answers to Their Biggest Problems

Buy Now - $97 Only $77

More kind words