My Marriage Is Like a Bunch of Rhinos

Ellyn and I have a special interest in Africa. We’ve been fortunate to travel there a few times, building classrooms in refugee camps and sometimes even going on safaris. On our last African safari I discovered the correlation between rhinos and my marriage.

It’s embarrassingly true.

I learned a group of rhinos is called a “crash.”

Not a herd or a pack, but a crash.

This might be why: rhinos are extremely nearsighted, meaning they can only see things near them. They are essentially blind beyond 60 – 80 feet. But they run pretty darn fast.

A strong healthy rhino can match the speed of Secretariat, who won the Kentucky Derby at about 37 miles per hour. Also, rhinos can weigh up to 7000 pounds.

So imagine a bunch of them running full speed when it’s near dark, and when they see even less than usual. Well, it gets clear why a group of them is called a crash.

So the connection with my marriage is…

It used to be the case that when Ellyn and I would start arguing, the words traveled pretty fast – like racehorses going down the stretch. But neither of us could see very far down the road. If we knew better, we would have thought, “If we keep this up we’re going to crash.”

And so we crashed.

The good news: Today we seem to be a wee bit smarter than the rhinos.

We can see a crash coming and often do a course correction. We ask more questions, listen to the answers, and reflect on how we each aspire to be as an effective partner under stress. This helps avoid crashes.

So you probably know where I’m heading with this.

Do you have any rhino traits in your marriage? Leave a comment below.

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Katrina Waller
Katrina Waller

Hi Peter , I like you analogy as it’s simple but evocative, one thought from my marriage using the ‘crash’ analogy is that whether we end up in a ‘crash’ can depend who is at the wheel, if it is my calmer, more observant and reflective self then a crash can be avoided and we might infact end up on a fantastic detour and discover something new, if it’s my angry, frustrated and selfish self then we may well end up on road where we crash, sometimes I can notice that it is my angry and hurt self at the wheel and take my foot off the accelerator for smoother journey, so paying attention to how I am being when conflict arises can be really helpful, perhaps been more so than getting into the detail of the conflict – it’s about paying attention to the process rather than content of communication

eric diamond
eric diamond

Yes, I’ve thrown lots of words out there without an end goal in mind.
And heard words that threw me off the track. I choose now to slow down
, say less, and have clear intention.

Ephraim Frankel, MFT, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Ephraim Frankel, MFT, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Thanks, Pete – this is very good for all kinds of personal/professional reasons.
I kinda like Katrina’s final view that it’s attention to the process, not the content.
Early on in my marriage, the “crash” would replicate a major seismic event, leaving us each peering into the abyss from our respective sides. Developing a sensitivity to listen and hear partner’s views and feelings, and take my own finger off the nuclear trigger of my own upset and anger ( yah, I’m mixing metaphors ), but now we’ve achieved a finer connection that satisfyingly avoids Mutual Assured Destruction. What used to be such a threat is now kinda thrilling and lets us laugh at the way we used to be.

Beauty Nhandara
Beauty Nhandara

Dear Ellyn and Peter

I enjoyed this analogy and it is true a lot of marriages are Like a Bunch of Rhinos especially in my country now because of the financial hardships and a lot of other social factors.

I once wrote to you requesting if you would like us to be your branch/agent in Zimbabwe as my husband Charles and I have identified a desperate need for these services. What is hindering us from starting on our own is the finance to support the activities. The way we were looking at it was if it was possible from your end, you could assist us with the setting up, that is, financially, the mode and how to administer, then there after things should be able to flow.

Dr. Peter Pearson
Dr. Peter Pearson

Thank you all for your insights and clarity – now if we could bottle what you all said we would be richer than Bill Gates (should you even want such an objective)

Lee Courtwood
Lee Courtwood

Hi Peter, love your idea of the ‘crash’! As a couple therapist, I have been able to share the idea with couples this week – helping them to see they crash, when the crash begins, and how they can (hopefully) change direction next time. Sheds light on my own relationship too! Thanks for your and Ellen’s wonderful and stimulating thoughts. I had the pleasure of attending a workshop you presented in Sydney a few years ago, and your work continues to be wonderful source of inspiration and support to me. Kind regards, Lee. Sydney Australia

Peter Pearson, Ph.D.

Dr. 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, Dr. 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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