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The one thing money can’t buy

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Let me tell you about some of the billionaires I’ve worked with, plus another thing that’s utterly new about Why Couples Fight.

Their money could get them what they thought of as great partners—beautiful, glamorous, a social asset, educated maybe, rich on their own account maybe—but it could never get them great relationships. And this bugged the hell out of them. Finally, they’d slammed head on into the one thing money can’t buy. No, it’s not love. These relationships had started out with both people feeling they were in love with each other.

Nah, what money can’t buy is a really good relationship. Especially if you’re a billionaire. Sure, money buffers you from a lot of life’s stresses. You never have to wonder how you’re going to be able to afford to pay for something! But have you ever been married to a billionaire? The odds are against it! So let me lay it out for you.

These guys—and they’re mostly guys—are very powerful. Not just because of their money but because of the confidence their money gives them. Having a ton of money makes you feel really smart. Super smart. It makes you feel that people who haven’t been able to make so much money—that’s their spouses and the rest of us—are kind of dumb. (Yes, I know this is a generality and that there are exceptions. Sweet, humble billionaires are less likely to jump into power struggles with their partners. I’m just tellin’ you that sweet humble billionaires are as uncommon as albino alligators.)

So if you’re in a relationship with one of these guys and you want something that’s inconvenient for him or that makes him uncomfortable, he’s going to have no problem saying, first, “Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” and pretty soon saying, “Look, I don’t even want to talk about. You have everything you want! But there’s no way I going to...”

Now believe me!: No one can raise a ruckus like a disempowered billionaire’s wife!! He’s prominent: she can embarrass him. Threaten divorce. You say he can afford to let her go? He’ll still be rich after he pays her off? That’s not how most of these guys work. One guy I worked with was worth just over a billion bucks. At the bottom of the billionaire heap, you might say. After a divorce, he’d end up with half a billion. Me, I’d take that in a New York minute!

But to him, that was like having the skin ripped off his body. Half of his hard-earned money being taken away from him! A tragedy for the ages. So his very terror of divorce gave his wife power. It did not, of course, give them peace or companionship or love. It just kept them trapped in the boxing ring.

What the billionaires—and other super-powerful patients of mine—did for me was give me a great gift, though. No, not a half a billion bucks, sadly, but an understanding that threw the role of power in relationships into relief. What went on in their relationships was a highlighted version of exactly the same as what was going on with couples struggling to pay the rent: turning to power moves when there’s a conflict over needs.

And that points to what’s revolutionary about the solution we offer in Why Couples Fight. It’s the first solution where the active ingredient is the elimination of the power dynamics in relationships, particularly when it comes to you and your partner trying to get your needs met.

Let me underline why this is so important. I’m kind of smart, but if I seem smart it’s mostly because I work hard at learning as much as I can. I’m not really that smart. But the interesting question is, When am I stupid? Which is, let’s say, too often. I am stupid almost always when my impatience or my being stressed out or my frustration or maybe just my being hungry shuts down what I know about not making power moves with my husband. I know what not to do, but I do what’s wrong anyway. Just like someone who’s really hungry who eats something that’s bad for her.

Now if I want to scare the crap out of myself, all I have to do is think about all the folks without my skills and knowledge, or think back to my much younger self before I’d figured this stuff out. Now you have a scenario of people not just losing it when they’re under duress and should know better but people who don’t know better and have no tools to prevent power dynamics from taking over their relationship and their attempts to get their needs met with their partners.

There are tons of relationship books with tons of ideas that are good but don’t get to the heart of the problem. But Why Couples Fight zeros in on precisely the one thing you need to do to put your relationship problems behind you and have the kind of marriages all those billionaires wish they had. Eliminate power moves and follow a simple, three-step process for working out differences.


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