ASK THE EXPERTS
I am so excited about this series! The Motherhood Musings series was really a beautiful tribute to the women around me who are going above and beyond. They explored where they were at and shared some incredible insights along the way.
But there are many more realms of our experiences that are left unanswered. You all sent it some great questions! And while the experts won't have a chance to answer them all, they will get to tackle a few.
What's the most crucial element of a healthy relationship? You asked! And Dr. Fred Piercy answered.
But first, let me tell you about Dr. Fred Piercy....
Dr. Fred Piercy is an outstanding author, academic, researcher, editor, father, grandfather, and husband! When I travel to conferences people flock to Fred just to say hi and make connections. If there was ever the notion of a celebrity MFT, Fred is one of them.
He has traveled internationally in service and community capacities. His work in Indonesia after the Great Tsunami of 2004 has broadened the reach and impact of MFT internationally. He has worked in marriage and family therapy (MFT) doctoral programs at East Texas State, Purdue, and now Virginia Tech. At Virginia Tech he has served as department head, associate dean, and now full-time faculty. He’s received college, university, and national teaching awards and his students continue to publish and win research awards. Fred has authored or co-authored over 183 articles and book chapters, seven books, and 45 funded grants.
Of his accolades, Fred has received the AAMFT 2007 Outstanding Contribution to Marriage and Family Therapy Award, the 2013 Kathleen Briggs Outstanding Mentoring Award from the National Council on Family Relations, and the 2014 American Family Therapy Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Honestly, I feel silly listing all these achievements. Anyone who knows Fred knows that he loves basketball, his dogs, and his family. He is a personable guy and an outstanding teacher. I feel humbled to have been his student for the past two years.
I hope this post gives you a little taste of his expertise, his wisdom, and his personality. Enjoy!
What's the most crucial element of a healthy relationship?
My wife once said “low expectations.” I think she was kidding.
My answer is a little different. Unfortunately, many couples treat their relationship as if it was a zero-sum game, where if one person wins the other one loses, and that there’s only so many cookies to go around. Actually, just the opposite is true. The more you give in a relationship, the more you receive.
Most couples who go to a therapist don’t think about changing their own behavior. They want their partner to change. The problem is that it’s hard to change someone else. Their real ace in the hole is your own behavior. After all, you have control over what you say and do. You can start an entire positive chain reaction in your relationship by making the first move toward closeness, tenderness, and understanding. Think of it as a free-will gift that will help you both win.
What I am advocating is the opposite of “scorekeeper” relationships, where couples keep mental track of every real or imagined debit and credit in the emotional ledger of their relationships. When the accounts do not balance evenly -- when each overture is not “properly” repaid -- they feel hurt, resentful, angry.
Do just the opposite. Jumpstart your relationship by giving to it without expecting an immediate payback. I suggest that you try a little experiment that I sometimes assign my students. Without telling your partner, try tripling the number of caring words or actions you show him or her. Don’t explain what you are doing, or why; and try to keep it up even when your partner does not respond in the same way. Watch how your partner reacts, and how you feel.
My guess is that after a week -- if you can hang in that long -- three things may happen: 1.) Your partner will begin to feel better about you; 2.) You will feel better about your partner; and 3). You will feel better about yourself.
Give it a try. Either that or just lower your expectations.
Fred, thank you for posting and sharing a little piece of wisdom with my followers. Your way with words is encouraging and entertaining. I'm honored to be a student of yours! :)
If you are brave enough to jumpstart your relationship, like Fred suggested, I encourage you to do so. Fred maintained a private practice for 25 years and has worked with countless couples. Ya'll are too lucky to get this insider scoop. Thanks again, Fred!