“People are just sort of blown away by the idea that marriage needs preparation and training and constant work” with Tod Jacobs and Peter Lynn

People are just sort of blown away by the idea that marriage needs preparation and training and constant work — no different than any of life’s other great endeavors — but with far higher stakes. The idea that it’s based on giving. That one partner can save a marriage. Very powerful concepts. As part of my series about “How […]

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People are just sort of blown away by the idea that marriage needs preparation and training and constant work — no different than any of life’s other great endeavors — but with far higher stakes. The idea that it’s based on giving. That one partner can save a marriage. Very powerful concepts.

As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Tod Jacobs, MA and Peter Lynn, MAPP. Tod currently lives with his family in Jerusalem, is Director of the David Robinson Institute for Jewish Heritage which he co-founded in 2005. Prior to his current role teaching and counseling his students and alumni, he enjoyed a distinguished career on Wall Street as a leading authority in the telecommunications industry. As a managing director at JP Morgan and previous partner at Sanford C. Bernstein and Company, Tod acted as a frequent commentator to leading newspapers, magazines and TV networks, which he testified several times before the U.S. Congress as an expert on telecom and media policy. His credits in journalism where he worked prior to Wall Street include, nominations for both the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism and the Emmy Award.

Peter Lynn, MAPP has served as Dean of Students at the David Robinson Institute for Jewish Heritage since its inception. He holds an MA in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania, and is Founder and Director of the Greatness Within Seminars, where he helps empower individuals and organizations through the application of Positive Psychology. He’s an accomplished athlete and Ironman finisher, Peter was captain of the US World Duathlon Team. He currently resides in Jerusalem with his family.

For more than 13 years, Tod and Peter have worked together in the area of marriage.Their primary objective is to help students develop a mature and idealistic vision of marriage as the primary vehicle to create wholeness, meaning, purpose, and happiness in their lives along with working to perfect the character issues that lie at the core of a successful spouse — giving, empathy, focus, staying power, and a strong desire to help build each other. Their work combines practical and mystical Jewish wisdom with modern theory and techniques along with experience accrued through years of real-world implementation and practice.

Thank you so much for joining us! When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story?

For me, it was probably Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment — an amazing book that tests the limits of whether one could live without spirituality and “live up”, so to speak, to his own professed atheism. In the book The Protagonist reasons that, if there is no G-d, there is no morality. Which then goes on to prove that onto himself by committing a senseless murder. He spends the rest of the book grappling with his tortured conscience and ultimately concludes that inner sense of right and wrong comes from somewhere. I had my own crime and punishment moment in Europe shortly after reading the book. I was in an art shop in Salzburg up in the castle on the mountain and I decided to take a small painting. I reasoned that if there was no spiritual reality then the only risk was getting caught. So I took it and left and went back down to the town. Then, I was overwhelmed by a sense of guilt and shame. So I returned the small painting to them. That was a real aha moment in my life, and a real pivot point towards embracing the idea of a spiritual reality and ethical system. That was a game changer — nowhere more than in the area of relationships, by the way, which 30+ years later spawned this book.

What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

This book was born in 2016 in a cafe on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was sitting with Yuval, alumnus from the post-graduate program I co-founded where Peter and I have taught since 2005. Yuval — late 20s, talented, socially adept, heart of gold — was about mid-way through his second year of marriage. “Why is it,” Yuval asked, “that marriage is so hard? We love each other, we’re attracted to each other, we have similar values — but we often fight, and we always seem to be questioning the future of the relationship. Why can’t we get it right?!”

I thought about it for a moment. “It’s because you don’t understand what marriage is,” I answered. “You don’t know how to define it. And if you can’t define it, you don’t know what a healthy one looks like, and you don’t know your goal. How can you expect to get it right?”

The student pushed back: “What do you mean? What am I missing?”

I thought back to a sharp piece of wisdom I’d heard years earlier from a well-known South African rabbi[1] and replied: “You think that marriage is a partnership. You have your rights and obligations, and I have my rights and obligations. So, like most partners, I spend my time convinced that I’m doing my job perfectly, but always disappointed in her for not holding up her end of the bargain. And of course she’s making the exact same set of assumptions from her end. My dear, marriage is not a partnership.”

Yuval sat stunned for a few moments. “You have to write a book on marriage, with exactly that title!” he exclaimed. He then thought for another moment and asked, “So… if it’s not a partnership, what is it?”

That question led to a fruitful discussion with Yuval about what marriage is, and how it works. That marriage, above all, is life’s greatest platform for constant giving. That a husband or wife can take full responsibility for making the relationship work and for making the other happy, irrespective of whether the spouse is giving in kind. That great marriages are made, not received. I tried to paint a picture in which a husband and wife view their ultimate role as acting the way that the spouse needs. And how, ultimately, when we approach marriage in this way, we can generate a lifetime of happiness and well-being, literally becoming one with our soulmate.

After that conversation I phoned Peter Lynn and suggested that we write a book together. Since 2005, Peter has partnered with me in a post-graduate study program that, post my Wall Street career, I co-founded in Jerusalem.The David Robinson Institute for Jewish Heritage brings together gifted and idealistic young men with leadership qualities who wish to spend a year or two immersed in not only classical Jewish legal and philosophical texts, but in the intensive study of character and relationships as well. The aim? To prepare these future businessmen, doctors, lawyers, artists and teachers how to successfully juggle life’s great challenges of career, marriage, raising children, community leadership and spiritual growth.

Since that time, we and our colleagues have helped hundreds of young men develop their potential and become people of personal integrity, greatness, and stature. In that work, Peter has proven a critical resource to our students and alumni, combining real-world experience, phenomenal intuitive knowledge of people and relationships, and formal training in Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Together, we have spent many hours teaching our students the theory behind building a great marriage, and countless more hours in the trenches with these young couples, counseling them as they grapple with the real-life challenges and promises of married life.

What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?

Year after year, we see that for even the most sophisticated and accomplished men and women — some of whom have been married for years — basic questions about marriage have gone unanswered and, shockingly, mostly unasked:

● What exactly is a marriage?

● Beyond the somewhat outdated traditional justifications of financial and physical security, or a desire to raise kids in a stable setting, is there any deeper purpose in creating a legal framework for our relationship?

● Isn’t a series of great romances and intimate encounters preferable to a lifelong commitment to a single person?

● Even if this person seems worth committing myself to now — what happens when things change? What if an illness arises, and I have to assume the role of caretaker? What if the money we expected to materialize simply doesn’t? What happens when the good looks start to fade? In short: Why stay married if it’s no longer good for me and surely not what I initially bought into?

● Why take the risk, given the rather daunting odds of failure?

● What does a healthy marriage look like?

● Can a person in this generation — where there are few successful role models — navigate marriage based upon little more than gut instincts? Would she do that with her career? Would he do that even with his diet and exercise program? The contrast would be humorous if it weren’t so terrifying in its implications.

Somehow, when it comes to marriage — possibly life’s most challenging endeavor — we enter with literally no preparation. No training, no instruction manual, no clear vision of the goal or pathway. Sometimes we have little more than a vague set of expectations derived from a lifetime of novels and Hollywood fantasies about love and romance (all of which end with the young couple falling madly in love, just as the curtain should in fact rise on the real work of building a marriage).

In the chapters that follow, we have attempted to define what marriage is — and what it isn’t — and then to lay out practical steps that can bring the theory to life. Properly done with care, thought, tenacity, and above all, giving. We can transform marriage into a living source for the love, warmth, security, and sense of wholeness that we crave and deserve.

Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?

Yes. We truly feel that the book answers the questions in a clear and methodical manner.

What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.

The book is only now being launched so we’ll have to wait and see. But the approach of the book has been battle tested in real-life marriages for the past 13–14 years by students we’ve taught and helped through the process.

What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?

People are just sort of blown away by the idea that marriage needs preparation and training and constant work — no different than any of life’s other great endeavors — but with far higher stakes. The idea that it’s based on giving. That one partner can save a marriage. Very powerful concepts.

What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?

Every time we hear from a spouse that their marriage is improving from the adoption of a mindset or technique of the book we are blown away.

Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?

Maybe the only thing is feeling ready to deal with the potential backlash that comes from whenever you try and help people make a paradigm change. It really flies in the face of the way people have come to their relationships in many cases.

Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?

Hearing a talk or going to a class can be very powerful and awakening. But a book forces you more into the mode of concentrating for longer periods. It allows you go stew in the idea, to share it as its written, to go over it, and to process it. It will sit there in front of you as long as you allow it too.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

We aren’t YET a bestseller since we just launched — but it’s a combination of having a very clear picture of what we wanted to communicate and a living laboratory of married couples to stress test the ideas.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?

Have a clear picture of what you want to communicate. Speak over the idea to others. Find time to think and time to write. And hand it over to trustworthy editors and listen to them!

The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?

How to bring reading and thinking back; how not to fall prey to simple ideas just because others assume them to be true. Let’s bring back thinking!

From this book, we hope to get people not only understanding what marriage is but also how powerful it is, and the beauty that it offers. After many years of almost worldwide marriage turmoil, we hope this book gets readers back on one of the most special relationships a person can ever enter. That marriage, rather than being seen as this dead institution, revives itself for it truly is, an impactful, flourishing and life changing experience which no other can compare.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please follow us on https://www.facebook.com/notapartnership also check out our blog at https://www.notapartnership.com/blog

Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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