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How Much Is Your Relationship Worth?

Ken Pierce is a board-certified clinical psychologist and CEO of The Pierce Institute of Psychology Inc. He has authored many psychological works including seven books and 400 case study web-posts. Ken is considered a human behaviour expert having worked in business, education and private practice for over 40 years.

Executive Contributor Ken Pierce

It is natural and normal for half of all marriages to end in divorce. Yet, we struggle to quantify the emotional parts of our lives. So, if your relationship isn’t worth $10K to you, then, move on because you pay that for your annual vacation! To find out what is going on, read on.

A lady using a phone.

“If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.” – Fritz Perls, Psychologist


“I think he is being unfaithful to me…but I have no proof!”

Tamara called me on a Saturday morning at home just after breakfast. She was clearly upset and distraught about her situation. She told me she was looking for some information on The Pierce Institute of Psychology Inc. and its services.

Tamara had a strong voice with a high pitch to it. She talked fast and displayed a wide vocabulary suggesting both education and experience. She sounded about 30 to 35 years of age.

When I told her of our work with individuals, couples and families she seemed comforted she had found the right place. Tamara told me she was a supervisor at a call centre while her partner, Tom, farmed his family homestead with his younger brother, Terry.

When I asked her how I could serve her, she indicated she had been married for ten years. She and Tom had two young children, Timmy age 8 years and Tara just 9 months old.

I asked her what had motivated her to call me so early on a weekend morning.

She replied, matter of factly,

“I can’t trust Tom! I think he is being unfaithful to me…but I have no proof! What do I do?”


“…you will never be empowered or satisfied with your marriage!”

“Why do you care…you don’t need him in your future, do you?” I asked, challenging her perception of her marriage.

A shocked sound popped into her voice and she said,

“Of course I need him, he’s the father of my children!”

“If you need him then that makes you the underdog in an unstable relationship! You’re giving Tom the role of over-dog…the boss! If that’s the way you let it be, you will never be empowered or satisfied with your marriage!” I replied.

There was silence for a few seconds as she processed this. Then she came back with,

“You’re saying I shouldn’t need him…why not, Ken?”

“To need him suggests you can’t survive without him, which isn’t true. I think, perhaps you mean you want Tom in your future. If that’s the case, then if you treat him that way you will have more power in your marriage and more self-satisfaction as well.”

“So, if I want him instead of needing him, it makes it a more fair relationship…is that it?”


“People don’t change, only the way they follow their values changes over time.”

“Yes, that’s it, exactly!” I replied.

“But, if I can’t trust him, why would I want him in my future at all?” Tamara said, moving to the more important issue.

“I strongly recommend you never trust Tom to have your values because he never had your life experiences, which built those values you have today! Instead, trust Tom to have his own personal values from his own personal past.”

“So that would mean I can’t trust him…right?”

“You can never trust anyone… except to behave from within their own values…and they do it unconsciously…so don’t waste your time blaming them!” I offered.

“If they’re doing it unconsciously that means they aren’t going to change or even be willing to change…” Tamara said, her insight showing in her voice tone again.

“People don’t change, only the way they follow their values changes over time.”

“Ken, that means Tom is never going to be faithful to me…regardless of what I do, right?” she said, alarming herself with her own words.


“Self-esteem is as important to our well-being as legs are to a table. It is essential for physical and mental health…!”– Louise Hart, author

Photo of a sad woman.

“But, you don’t appreciate his forms of valuing your marriage.”

“Exactly right, Tamara! Tom will be faithful to his highest values and he will do it unconsciously…just like everyone else!

“So, what does that mean for me then? Ken, will I ever find someone who shares my highest values?” she asked, despondence filling her voice now.

“I think you have already found someone, but you don’t appreciate his forms of your highest values, yet” I suggested.

“I lost you there, Ken,” she said, getting exasperated with her learning.

“Both you and Tom each have your own set of highest values. My best guess is you share with him a high value on your children and your marriage which is why you are still together.”


“… you don’t trust yourself enough to risk negotiating…”

“I think that’s true. The kids are the centre of our life and I know he wants our relationship to work,” she replied, her voice softening.

“But, you don’t appreciate his forms of valuing your marriage. They are not enough for you. And you don’t trust yourself enough to risk negotiating forms closer to your highest values. Can you see that, Tamara?”

“Sort of…! Are you saying, that if I believed I didn’t need him but just wanted him, I would be able to negotiate a relationship that respected my values, too?”

“Yes, that’s it, Tamara! If you raise your level of self-esteem you will then have the self-confidence to build a stronger, more satisfying relationship with Tom.” I said.

“How do I do that, Ken?” her voice inflection rising with her question

“I can show you exactly how to empower yourself in your life and build the self-worth required to have a strong, balanced relationship!”

I went on to explain the accelerated, focused, learning sessions and the service fees. As I finished outlining a plan, Tamara was silent for too long again. Then, she said,

“Ken, you expect me to find thousands of dollars to learn to like myself more?”


“You’re saying if it is important enough, I will find a way…?”

“Indeed I am, Tamara! There are no beliefs more important than the ones you have of yourself and your future!”

“But, Ken, I have two children and a mortgage! Every cent that comes in from our wages goes right out again on some bill. It’s the same every month and has been for years!” she said, exasperated.

“That sounds like the rest of us, Tamara! But, you are being challenged to rebuild your value of yourself, of your future and of your family’s future, as well!”

“I understand how important it is. But, I just don’t see how I can do it!” she replied disheartened.

“Tamara, it always comes back to our values. If the why is big enough within our highest values, we will find a way to do it. That’s nature’s way to keep us focused and learning what we need for our future.”

“You’re saying if it is important enough, I will find a way…is that what you mean?”

“Yes, just like you have been doing whatever is necessary to ensure the wellbeing of your children, you also need to do the same for yourself. And, of course, you know, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be there as a mother or spouse or daughter or sibling or employee or anything else.”


“Self-esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman, because it’s conditional.”– Albert Ellis, psychologist

Family picture

 “…your mental health is a vital part of your family’s mental health!”

“Looking at it that way sure hits home for me, Ken. My friend, Tilly, has been off work with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome for the last three months. And, for years I was the one telling her to take better care of herself!” she said, linking her learning and getting wiser.

“Let me offer you another example that might serve, Tamara. Have you ever taken a family vacation?”

“We try to do that every year while the kids are still young. Last winter we took them on a Disney Cruise. We had a great time and the kids loved it.” she said her voice reflecting the pleasure she still experienced thinking about it.

“Tamara, how much did it cost you and Tom to make that happen for your family?”

“Well…we were gone ten days. With the flights, hotels and the cruise itself, we must have spent ten thousand. But, it was worth it, Ken…it was our best vacation so far!” her certainty bursting from my phone.

“I have no doubt! So, you spent about 10K on the best vacation so far for your family! You invested 10K in your family, its mental health and its future. I bet you have no regrets about that expenditure, …is that true, Tamara?”

“Not one, Ken! It was pricy but our family is worth it!” she said with certainty.

“In a real sense, you are in a similar situation. But, this time you are expected to invest in your family’s mental health in a different form…your own mental health is a vital part of your family’s mental health!” I suggested.


“… you are right…a little blunt…but truthful!”

She went silent yet again, digesting this idea that her mental health had a direct impact on her family’s mental health. I reminded her that her health plan may pay a portion of the cost and it could also be claimed as medical expense for income tax purposes in Canada. But, I added, she would probably still be required to find additional financial resources to take care of herself.

And, during her silent vigil, as another caveat, I added how it is a challenge in Canada, which has a public health system funded by taxation, to pay directly for any private health service. Canadians don’t have much practice in paying directly for a private medical service. Yet, at times it can be necessary because there is no better investment than in yourself, it pays off for the rest of your life!

She seemed to be listening carefully to my words. Finally, she said,

“I understand what you’re saying and I agree with it. But Ken, it feels like you’re saying to me,

‘If your relationship isn’t worth $10K to you, then don’t call me!’”

“Tamara, in a way, you are right…a little blunt…but truthful! I am asking you to put yourself before all other expenses because you have to be the most important expenditure in your life…to have the life you want as a mom and spouse and all the rest. They all require you to put yourself is a biological fact and a natural, normal and necessary action for your survival.”


“With that commitment to yourself, it is all downhill from here!”

“Now, it’s your turn to be blunt!” she said, an auditory smile in her tone coming through my phone.

I smiled back with a chuckle,

“Nature challenges each one of us to take care of ourselves first, so we can be there for other people! It is a hard lesson, but each of us needs to learn it to have the future we desire!”

“OK…I need to sit down with Tom and figure out how we will do this. Let’s book my first sessions and I will have a plan worked out by then. How does that sound?”

“Perfect! Congratulations Tamara! You have just taken the first and hardest step in being faithful to yourself, your children, your marriage and your family’s future! With that commitment to yourself, it is all downhill from here!”

“I’m looking forward to it, Ken! Do you have any availability in the early afternoon on Friday?”

Once we had the session booked, I said,

Tamara, like all life’s essentials, self-esteem, like breathing, comes with your birth and must be maintained throughout your life. It is a useful addiction!”

She laughed for the first time and said,

“Wait till I share that idea with Tom! See you next week, Ken!” 

 “The only approval you need is your own.” Amanda Gorman – activist, poet

Points to Ponder and Remember:

  1. You can only trust other people to behave within their values first.

  2. Others cannot put your values before their own values because it threatens their biological need to survive which is encoded genetically.

  3. Your healthy relationship will have a balance of power between you and your partner.

  4. You will engage in daily negotiations to build and maintain a healthy, balanced relationship.

  5. If you perceive an under-dog or over-dog, there is a need to negotiate immediately.

  6. The purpose of your significant other is to help you to rebuild the self-esteem you had at your birth to optimize your future well-being.

  7. Your self-esteem enables you to focus on your future where all your decisions lay.

  8. Your self-esteem enables you to make available the resources you need for your future, your children’s and your family’s.

  9. Your self-esteem empowers you forward with inspiration, gratitude and certainty. 

  10. Nothing is more important than you, your children, your family and your future…it is a biological truth encoded into our genes. 


Ken Pierce, Executive Psychologist, Human Behaviour Expert

Ken Pierce is a board-certified, evolutionary psychologist, human behaviour expert and CEO of The Pierce Institute of Psychology Inc.(TPI) Ken has authored 14 psychological works including seven books and created 400 case-study-based web-posts. He has worked in business consultation, education and private practice for over 40 years serving thousands of people of all ages including individuals, couples, leaders, teams and organizations.daughters and three grandsons. Ken's interests vary widely from quantum theory to energy efficiency to building stone walls.



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