First marriages ended in divorce
This is a second marriage for both of us. We each married and had children in our early twenties, only to discover that we lacked sufficient skill and self-awareness to bridge the differences we had with our partners. Despite loving our first spouses—we remain close with them—we were unable to resolve a whole series of conflicts and differences, resulting in divorces when our children were young. At the time, neither of us fully appreciated what that would cost. Difficult years of hurt, disappointment and disillusionment followed.
Felt we had found our dream partner
When we met each other, the attraction was immediate and intense. We both felt we were being given a second chance with the partner of our dreams.
We both imagined that moving in together would be amazing. We were surprised to quickly discover a whole series of incompatibilities. It was a shock to realize how different we are, from sleeping with windows open or closed, to cleaning the kitchen, to how to raise our children.
Michael was a survey engineer at the time, focused on speed and precision in the fast-paced, highly demanding world of large construction projects. Robin had helped to found the local Waldorf school and was working with high-risk adolescents in the public school system. Our world views and instinctive reactions to challenges could not have been more different.
Over the years more troubles followed, intense disagreements, exacerbated by traumatic life events and unexpected changes. Splitting up crossed both our minds more than once.
Looking for help
Robin decided to enhance her skills as a therapist by seeking additional training as a relationship coach and counselor. Michael felt he needed to go with her, mainly out of concern that not sharing what she was learning would make their relationship even more challenging. I had no idea how much that experience would affect me.
Starting in 1994 we began training with the national PAIRS Foundation, one of the most respected organizations in the field of relationship education. Both of us eventually completed the 24 days of training and significant other requirements necessary to become PAIRS Master Teachers. This was a life-changing event for both of us and eventually led to a career change for Michael. We both suspect it is unlikely we would still be together without the skills we learned in PAIRS. We eventually became lead trainers and curriculum designers for PAIRS Foundation.
We have spent the last 25 years teaching couples simple and effective tools for creating happiness, including how to constructively work with conflicts and differences. We have continued to study with other leaders in the field of relationship education in a constant process of honing and refining the best, most useful and clinically-validated techniques—testing and distilling the most effective elements from more than a dozen programs.
Loving what we have
We have come to recognize the gifts in our differences—both personally and professionally—as we continue to work through deeper levels of what it actually means to come together as a couple. Having always loved each other, we are grateful to have found the support and mentoring that has allowed us to stay together and thrive, as lovers, as business partners, as parents and grandparents. We believe it is this ongoing work on ourselves that most qualifies us to support other couples—and to do so in unusually effective and efficient ways.
Audio from an interview we did with the podcast Elephant Talk about the evolution of our relationship, including how we dealt with some serious crises.
Our Relationship Journey