Peter Pearson

Empty couch in earthquake
I live with my wife, Ellyn, over a major earthquake fault line in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s an area famous for past and inevitable future quake distasters. Geological experts predict another big one is coming. Be prepared.

Ellyn and I have stored a few bottles of water and a camping stove. Do you think that is sufficient?

Neither do the experts.

They say if we retrofit the foundation of our home we can withstand almost all but the most severe shake rattle and rolls.

Have we taken advantage of this knowledge? Or do we wait until disaster hits with the violence that could wreck our lives for years.

We wait.

Apparently we suffer from a common human affliction: we procrastinate on things that require planning and effort.

How does this apply to your marriage?

A disaster is lurking for over 500,000 couples this year. And another 500,000 couples next year.

For most couples the disaster will be more devastating than an earthquake turning our house to rubble.

That disaster is called divorce.

This year there will be one million marriages in America. Half of those marriages that started with so much promise will crash and burn.

Most of those divorces will happen within four years of the bride and groom saying, “I do.”

Many of those disasters could have been prevented – just like earthquake-proofing our house. But most couples will not do the work.

They don’t make the effort to earthquake-proof their marriage. They procrastinate until each offense becomes a link in an emotional chain that coils about the marriage with an ever tightening grip. Choking the life out it and ending in divorce.

What happens when people decide to try again? The odds for divorce in a second marriage increase from 50% to close to 70%. That’s scary.

If people enter fray with a third marriage? The odds of coming out ahead in Las Vegas are better.

But I wouldn’t waste your time with a message of completely bad news. Of course I’m writing to offer a solution. And fortunately for the procrastinators, it doesn’t require that you do anything!

For once, I’m suggesting you do nothing to save your marriage!

It’s all about the proper attitude.

And what is it?

A positive attitude toward making a consistent effort to keep your marriage alive.

If both partners have the attitude, “I will do what is required of me,” (instead of asking, “what is required of my partner”) you will begin to earthquake-proof your marriage.

You will reinforce the foundation of your marriage so you can withstand the inevitable shocks, disillusionments, and emotional abrasions that tear apart the fabric of most marriages.

You will be working together – as a team. That means you both focus on helping the marriage succeed instead of trying to succeed individually at the expense of the other person.

How important is this approach? Just ask any of those couples who are getting divorced.


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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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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.