Peter Pearson

two questionsYou and your partner formed a relationship likely for many reasons. One of the strongest might have been the desire for a deeper and ongoing connection with another human… a connection that allows you to be spontaneous, real, supported, sexy, and adventurous.

At the time, you hoped you had created a connection that would lead to a richer life.

But it’s possible that you and your partner might have lost your way after the initial euphoria of being together. Many factors are involved in getting lost. One of them is losing sight of your core values in the busyness of everyday life.

It is rare for most people (including me) to reflect very often on core values. That's an indicator that we rarely spend much time thinking about the purpose of our own life or relationship.

It can be a mind-bending question, “What is the purpose of my life?” or “What is the purpose of my relationship?” So it is understandable we avoid it.

But there might be a way of generating clarity with just two questions.

The two questions can expose your core values. And your core values are really your compass, your North Star, and your beacon, while traveling on your life and relationship journey.

Here are the questions:

  1. Who are the people you admire the most? They can be living or dead, real or fictional, ones you know or only have heard about. Make a list of these admired people.
  2. Why do you admire them? List the qualities of each person that are so admirable.

Then look for the overlapping qualities across those people. Reduce the list to the 3-5 most important qualities.

These will give you a pretty good idea of your personal core values.

This is a good exercise for you and your partner to do and share with each other. Think about these qualities on a regular basis and reflect how much you are aligned with them as you go through the day.

When you and your partner get into disagreements, or are faced with big decisions, put them into the context of “How would I apply my core values to this discussion, decision or situation?” If the values are relevant then you will have increased your clarity about how to respond or what to decide.

If you don’t create clarity with these qualities, then redo the exercise.

Is it easy to live aligned with your core values? Of course not. But I think one of the reasons the people on your admired list are there is that they embody their core values in how they live.

There they are – two powerful questions. Who do I admire? And why do I admire them?



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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Jackie Solem
7 years ago

Thanks for your work, yours & Ellen’s. My husband & I, now retired, had a workshop or two when we were in private practice & it was foundational in our work. We still use these skills when family or others are struggling to make a relationship better. Jackie & Phil Solem

7 years ago

Thank you for this excercise and insightful technique to be guided by our core values. I have tried it and will use it because it makes sense and helps us to reflect when we need to make decisions.

Jinet Hamlin
7 years ago

Thank you for your insightful postings.

Katie Cashin Therapy
7 years ago

Thank you for sharing these! What I love most is that these questions sort of relieve the pressure of deep introspection by placing the focus outside of our selves. Unlike I a lot of the (stereo)typical counseling questions- “and how do you feel about that?”- your questions allow for the creative mind to pitch in. And unlike a lot of couples counseling assignments, I would actually look forward to working through these questions with my partner.

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.