What Our Inner Seven Knows About Those “Little” Compromises  

(Or…Observations from a Former Grave Digger)

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Observations about (one kind of) Marriage from a Former Grave Digger.


(Peter Pearson, one of my favorite dominant Seven colleagues 🙂 ,  is the co-founder of the famous Couples’ Institute in Menlo Park California, and co-author with his wife, Dr. Ellyn Bader, of the seminal book on couples’ therapy “IN SEARCH OF THE MYTHICAL MATE.” I study and work with Ellyn, Pete and their colleagues in the Couples’ Institute Master Mentor Program.)

I used to be a grave digger. College summer job. No heavy equipment. Just two good shovels, pick axe, tape measure, string, and a tarp.

I wasn’t that philosophical then.

I could not have imagined that someday I’d see parallels between that and my current psychology practice specializing in couple’s therapy.

I’m talking about the price that some couples pay to keep the peace in their marriage. The slow, torturous death of continuous acquiescence.

Every couple knows it is important to compromise.

But what happens when conflict avoidant couples carry it too far?

What parts of their relationship get buried when they deny or distort their dreams?

What price is one or both partner willing to pay to be accepted or loved?

Too many people choose a form of death over speaking up for themselves. Not literal death like when I scooped the last shovel of dirt on the grave. But killing off parts of themselves to fit in, be accepted, do whatever it takes to avoid scorn, ridicule, rejection, or failure.

I have done it too often in my own life.

Give up on what makes me feel alive.

These “small compromises” done often enough can lead to becoming a zombie without the fearsome looks.

This process can happen on a larger scale. The psychologist Rollo May said, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

In a different context, Patrick Henry eloquently stated, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry faced a parallel and painful dilemma many couples face today: the slow strangulation of excessive accommodation vs holding on dearly to what makes you feel alive.

Stop digging your grave. Put down your shovels. Talk to your partner about what makes you feel alive. Talk about what you can do to bring out the best in each other.

The good folks I buried could not return from the grave and get another shot at life.

But for your marriage it is not too late.

There can be liberation, freedom, and coming back from the grave if you don’t give up what makes you feel alive.

Till next time.





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The wisdom of scripture is full of important paradox: Death teaches us how to live, Jesus says to gain your life you must learn to “lose” it…..You almost cannot find a piece of wisdom in scripture where there is not this kind of hidden paradoxical wisdom running through it.

When the ego wants to avoid conflict, wants to avoid honoring our callings from God  because it means conflict with our significant other;  it can feel like risking a kind of death to be honest with our spouse or partner.    So, “die” this way (differentiate) regularly.   Differentiate and discover just what that kind of relational abundance that scriptural risk produces.

Even one partner continually choosing to not speak up and to avoid healthy conflict can halt your development as a couple.  That avoidance can also hamper the personal development of both partners in different ways.    Spirit-crushing compromises have no place in God’s plan for your relationship!

Get comfortable with being a loser, with being uncomfortable, with the risk it takes to grow!   Then, when that frightened ego start warning you about what you’re going to “lose” by being real with your beloved, you can quote this New Testament powerhouse scripture right in its face:

Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.  (Luke 17:33)

Anyone who ever wanted to explore new lands needed to accept that they were going to “lose” the ability to see the old shoreline at some point.



Until Next Time, Builders,

Choosing Life Together! 




Dr. Ronna

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Ronna Phifer-Ritchie, PhD is a Professional Relationship Coach, and Enneagram of Personality Expert. Her Specialty is Accelerating Couples' Developmental Journeys by Integrating Personality Development Work Into the Coaching Process. Ronna is the Founder of THE RELATIONSHIP DOCTOR Coaching Service, & Co-founder of the THE RItCH JOY GROUP (HELPMORECOUPLES.COM), offering Professional Trainings for Therapists, Coaches, & Pastors, based on a Theoretically Integrated Model for using the Enneagram Personality System to Accelerate Couple Development and Break Through Stubborn Impasses in Couples Work. She is the Author of the RELATIONSHIP BUILDERS BLOG, a Technical Writer for Several Enneagram of Personality Publications and Training Programs, and a Frequently Requested Retreat Speaker and Workshop Facilitator in the Area of Personality Style Development and Relational Health.

6 thoughts on “Our Inner ENTHUSIAST TEACHES US SOMETHING IMPORTANT ABOUT MARRIAGE: Lessons from a Grave Digger – Notes from Master Couples’ Therapist, Peter Pearson!

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