How do people stay in love despite disappointments, challenges, and uncertainties? What are the common problems that couples face that lead them to separate after years of marriage? We have our guests, Ana Gabriel Mann and John David Mann, authors of The Go-Giver Marriage, to share their life experiences, especially in marriage, so we can deeply assess what we’re doing right and doing wrong. They discuss things that we can avoid to preserve our treasured relationships. Join in the conversation and learn how you can keep the fire burning despite all the challenges!
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The Go-Giver Marriage With Ana And John Mann
[00:00:51] Welcome back, my wonderful audience. Thank you for following me every single week, on LinkedIn, for emailing me, for letting me know what you like, what you don’t like, who you want to see and what you want to talk about. I appreciate you all. In this episode, we have a repeat performance with Medician. I have John David Mann coming back to me with his wonderful and beautiful wife, Ana Gabriel Mann. We are going to talk about the next version of the Go-Giver Series. I am so excited. We are going to talk about the Go-Giver Marriage.
[00:01:26] Welcome to the show, you two.
[00:01:28] Thank you so much, Ben.
[00:01:30] We had such a good time last time, John, and I had to have you back. You told me, “We are writing the Go-Giver Marriage.” I said, “Done.” We will find a time. We will make sure it works and the good news is we are going to get this in about 4 or 5 weeks before the book launches. It launches sometime in March 2022. Is that when the book launches?
[00:01:49] March 8.
[00:01:51] For people that are reading this, years from now, you miss the launch date but it was March 8th, 2022. You got to go find it because the book is incredible. I have read the rushes of it and I have talked about it off air. I think this is going to be a phenomenal book. I want to start off with a quote and this is a quote that is on your website. It says, “To say love is what makes a marriage work. It was like saying that it takes oxygen to climb a mountain. Yes, oxygen is necessary but it is not sufficient.” I love this quote. It says a lot. Let’s find out a little bit more about you guys. Give the audience that ten-second view about who you guys are, where you came from, and let’s get into this quote because that is a great place to start.
[00:02:41] I come from a background in family therapy and actual marriage counseling. I have my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. I have been an entrepreneur in business. I cofounded a school many years ago. My primary love is the work of helping people to be their best selves and helping them to negotiate the territory of what does it mean for two people to come together in marriage. What does it mean for them to join and suddenly start bumping into walls, bumping into things that puzzle them, and bumping into the arguments or the places where they don’t agree. Suddenly, the love that they felt when they were in that romance stage is not quite the same. My background is as a therapist.'To say love is what makes a marriage work is like saying it takes oxygen to climb a mountain. Yes, oxygen is necessary. But not sufficient.' - John and Ana Mann Click To Tweet
[00:03:33] I have two prongs of background. First, I’m a writer. I co-wrote all the other Go-Giver books with my friend Bob Burg and I have written many of the books besides. Writing stories is what I do with the first Go-Giver book, which was published in 2008 or end of 2007. Two years before that, so we are going back almost many years, when the first draft of the book came off my desktop printer and I handed it to Ana. She was our first reader. She right away said, “This would make the foundation of a great book about relationships and marriage.” The germ of the idea of this book years ago is taken them until now to write it.
Aside from being a writer, I’m also a guy who has been married and I have had the experience. This is not my first marriage. I was married before. I love my first wife very much but I have had the experience both myself and also by observing others of what it was like to have loved that doesn’t seem to last. You said it well. The quote says it so well. You can fall in love. It is like oxygen climbing a mountain. You need love to fuel a marriage but love alone will not necessarily cause that marriage or allow that marriage to go the distance.
Not go the distance in terms of longevity but go the distance in terms of what Ana was talking about. She said her primary passion is helping people grow into their best selves. That is what we are after. It is not to stay married through the years until you die. It is not a matter of time. It is a matter of qualities to stay married and grow in that marriage and for that marriage to become all that it could. That is what we are here for. That is what the book is all about.
[00:05:21] We have all been married. You get married, you fall in love, and you have an idea of who that person is at that point in time. As we get older, we change. They change, society changes, our friends change, our lives change, and our priorities change. The question is, do they change in unison? Do they change apart? Is there enough congruency and enough to make that relationship last? Communication has to be a big part of it but how do we go about enabling ourselves to get through the hard times?
A lot of people give up. The statistics on marriage are horrific and how do we keep ourselves from being at that point where we go, “What was is not what is. I don’t want to be in this anymore. This is too much effort.” You will get to the point where you sit there going, “I’m willing to change and enable the relationship to change and to see what it can be instead of what it was.” I want you to explore that.
[00:06:31] The first thing I would say is that every one of us brings our complete history. If you want to talk about many suitcases of history, we bring our entire big trunks of luggage with us into the relationship. Let me give you a quick example. If you had a mother or a father, let’s say you had a brutal father who criticized you pretty continually and for whom you could never be enough. You grew up with a tape that said, “I am not enough.” It may have affected your self-esteem. You may also be hypersensitive to any criticism. In fact, criticism may make you react with anger, rage and with all kinds of reactions that don’t have anything to do with the person in front of you but have everything to do with the critical father.
Every one of us had parents that either loved us deeply and were there for us in every possible way and/or every single possible way that they could be dysfunctional. We all grew up underneath it. There is no one who came out of their childhood without wounds. People were bullied. People were ignored by their parents. You could have had a flaming narcissist for a mother or father whose only interest was in their own needs and who pretty much were invisible in the face of. What happens when a marriage comes together and we have an image in the book where there are two circles, and when they come together, there is some inter lapping.
[00:08:06] The Venn type diagram.
[00:08:07] Yes, where the circles meet and there is a section of the circle that is the us. The us is the blend of both of you and you bring all your issues into that space. If you are not able to listen, be compassionate, be generous of spirit and be someone who is giving versus a taker. There are so many ways that a marriage can start to falter and people start to get in that place where they are at an impasse.
When we describe the five secrets to lasting love in the book, in the back of the book, where we have a whole section on how to engage the five secrets, how to put them to work in your relationship is the second half of the book. In that, we also have the opposite of every secret. I will use one as an example. Appreciating somebody and finding authentic ways to appreciate them every day is not a hard thing to do and yet the opposite of it is to criticize them.The voyage of a marriage is one of discovery. It's like each person is an undiscovered continent that you're mapping. Click To Tweet
It is constantly looking for ways to find fault with them. I know plenty of marriages where that is the tone. The thing about therapy is that when you get in a therapy room, often both members of the couple are trying to convince the therapist that they are right and this other person is wrong. You see this dynamic going back and forth where it is like two little kids fighting and yet, we are all adults.
I think that people come to marriages with very different maturity levels and with very different skill sets. If you grew up in a really difficult household, you are going to have difficulty in relationships because you have not worked out the kinks of what it means to be safe, to be truly intimate, and to be capable of being compassionate, giving, and loving. That is all the stuff we bring to it.
[00:10:15] I think one of the most common things all of us hear in couples who have separated or married or not is what we grew apart. That is a very common thing. I had that experience. In my earlier marriage, we grew apart. Here is what is going on. You don’t grow apart. You started out apart. Time only revealed what was already split. What I mean by that is, honestly, at this intersection of the two circles, this part right in the middle here is the us. The us is foreign territory when you first are together. You get married, you are in love, you have this romance, and you have the sparkle. As Ana described in the unpacked suitcases, that is all real but getting married or establishing your relationship is the starting point. It is not the endpoint.
It is the beginning of a voyage of discovery. You are going to have surprises. You will learn things about your partner that you didn’t know when you were at the altar or however your relationship became cemented. For example, you will discover that your partner has certain vulnerabilities that you didn’t realize were there that they have soft spots you didn’t know about. They have areas that bothered them that you had no clue about it. It is not about how you have differences of opinion about things. It is also about all of the little areas we have that you could look them as flaws but they are vulnerabilities, sore spots, and painful issues from the past and so forth.
There are many surprises to unpack. The voyage of a marriage is one of discovery. It is like each person is an undiscovered continent that you are mapping. There has to be a we-feel, a curiosity about the other person, and a genuine desire to investigate. Ana often calls this interviewing your partner. She said, “Do you want to find ways to authentically appreciate your partner every day?” That can require investigation. Let me think about this. What is it I love about her? What is it about her that I think is fantastic that maybe I’ve never put in words or I’ve never articulated? We have been married for many years.
[00:12:24] Do you know your anniversary?
[00:12:26] I know the date.
[00:12:27] As long as you know the date, we are good.
[00:12:28] I did well. It was 08/08/08. We have been married for many years. We have been together for close to a quarter of a century. We are still learning so much about each other and we will still be doing that 30 years from now because every person is such a rich treasure trove of discovery. I think I have said it.
[00:12:46] It is interesting because we talk about these policies, these trunks, and all this luggage that comes with us. I was speaking to a guy and he was joking about his relationship with his mother. He says, “If we had a family crest, it would be an eagle with a baby in its talons that says, ‘we eat our young.’” He openly says that about his own mother. That was the relationship that he had with his own mother. We sit there and realize that whether it is in business and the Go-Giver Marriage has as much to do about businesses as it does to do about personal because it is all about relationships.
It is all about human beings. We are all human beings. We all come to whatever situation we are in with the baggage of our past, present, and how we assume our future is going to be. There are very few people out there who want to talk about their past if it is challenging. We all sit there and we want to bury it, or we want to ignore it. We want to sit there and say, “It was what it was,” but it is always in the back of our mind and in our psyche.Every person is such a rich treasure trove of discovery. Click To Tweet
[00:13:54] Even our present that we talk about. I don’t even want to talk about how I felt this morning. I don’t even want to talk about what my colleagues said to me and how that made me feel. I didn’t want to talk about that. It was even a discovery about forget baggage. It is the stuff we are hiding in our pockets now. It is so many hidden places.
[00:14:11] I have had clients who truly hated their mother and would have had the same family crest that you described.
[00:14:20] I think we could do well if we got t-shirts made up at that crest.
[00:14:23] It is sad because there are families where, in this case, the parent was alcoholic and also very narcissistic. When you have that combination of somebody who is truly self-centered, selfish and also has a drinking problem, the children are left to fend for themselves. There is not anyone giving them any positive nurturing, positive feedback, positive ability for their own narcissistic needs to be met, and children need that.
I love that you said that it is related to business as clearly as it is to marriages because every single person in every corporation across America goes home to a family. They may be married, in a relationship with a significant other, or engaged, but most of them are going home to a family of some sort. It might be that they are going home to two children that they have to make dinner for and do homework with.
[00:15:22] No spouse.
[00:15:23] Exacty. The secrets to love apply pretty broadly. These are powerful secrets in the sense that they have to do with developmental theory psychologically. When you are a baby, if somebody is cooing over top of you while you are kicking, laughing, and giggling, that is the beginning of having your narcissistic needs met of having somebody witness you and reflect back to you that they are totally enjoying you. They might be blowing kisses on your belly or they might be crawling around the house with you on hands and knees, but they are there paying attention. They are there giving you that constant juice and that feedback in a marriage or in a parent-child relationship.
Those are extremely important moments. It might be that your wife had a hard day at work and you are willing to spend twenty minutes with your mouth zipped actively listening. John and I have a joke in our relationship that for a man or a woman, listening to a hard day at work tale that your most important comments are the bastards.
[00:16:33] You don’t say it first. You have to wait a while.
[00:16:37] It is all about timing.
[00:16:38] It is probably applicable to somebody out there.
[00:16:40] Sometimes, when you are coming home and you are telling a long drama tale of what happened at work and how awful it was, what you need in that moment is sympathy. What you need is a listening ear that says, “Let me pour you a glass of sparkling water or glass of wine. Let me get you a cup of tea. You put your feet up now. I’m going to take the kids to the store or out to get us some fast food or something take out. I want you to spend the next half an hour chilling. Maybe go take a bath or whatever but I’m going to take this burden off of you now so that you can relax. I encourage you to listen to a meditation, do what you need to do to let go because I know what you bring to work and it is sad for me that they didn’t see it or that they couldn’t appreciate you.”
[00:17:58] Let me challenge that a little way it says that men and women, in that particular case, when they come home from work. We are talking about typical. I can’t clean everybody with the same punishment as everybody is different but I know how I process challenging times at the office and how my wife processes challenging times at the office are completely different. You are right. Most of the time, she wants me to zip my lip, listen and be empathetic, whereas, on the other hand, my first reaction is, how do I fix this? We need to understand. I’m sure you guys go through this in the book is that we need to understand how we process as men, as women, as different people in a relationship, process thoughts differently and what we need and what our partner needs in order to feel listened to, understood and valued.
[00:18:53] It is so true and common. I think about what is going on at that moment. Let’s say one’s wife comes home from work or from wherever. There was an issue she felt bad about. Your impulse is to fix that. Where does that impulse come from? In my mind, where that impulse comes from is hearing her describe her discomfort is making me uncomfortable. I want to rush it to fix it so I can feel better. It is not for her. It was for me because I don’t like sitting here listening to her describe this difficult situation, which sounds awful. If I take my mind off myself and put it on her, what does she need in this moment and all those things that Ana was describing?Giving has been proven to decrease depression. It's beneficial to the heart. Click To Tweet
Whether it is pouring the sparkling water, taking the kids to the store, or whatever, I will put the dinner on, you get on the couch, or maybe what we need is park the kids somewhere, and you and I sit down. I want to hear what happened, whatever the thing is. The point is, this is like the Go-Giver. We are putting our focus on the other person. We are asking ourselves, “How can I support you now? How can I make this day better for you?”
The amazing thing is my discomfort with discomfort starts to vanish because I’m not thinking about myself. I’m focused on you. Often people have this almost instinctive sense that if I am too generous with you, if I give you a lot of attention, I’m somehow losing out. You are not. It is the opposite. When you put a lot of attention on another person in a way that is genuine and authentic, you say, “How can I support this person? How can I add to their life? How can I make this day better for them?” Your own life brightens up as a result.
[00:20:32] That is documented neurologically. Giving has been proven to decrease depression. It is beneficial to the heart. It affects every cell in the body. It changes the neurons in your brain. It calms down any anxiety waves in the amygdala, people who are generous and giving. I don’t mean generous as in they give to charities. Generous in their relationships and generous in their way of being in the world. Giving them warmth generous spirit lives 7 to 8 years longer than people who are not.
It adds to your longevity. It increases your happiness. These have all been studied for years. Giving in a relationship is a huge key to happiness and each one of these secrets has a different formula but it is like the Go-Giver. You are adding value to the other person’s life and what happens is like a boomerang. It reverberates back to you.
[00:21:39] I’m going to kill this quote, the Zig Ziglar quote, where you can have everything that you want in life when you give other people what they need.
[00:21:46] You help other people get what they want.
[00:21:49] We sit there and focus on whether it is a marriage, relationship with our children, or relationships within the office itself. When we sit there and say, “It is not about me,” if somebody is coming into the office or their marriage, kids, or whatever. They are stressed out and upset or whatever. The question is why? What is going on in the background? It is not the immediate thing that is going on. There are others. Obviously, something that is triggered it but the question is, what is going on in the background that made the straw that broke the camel’s back? If we can figure that out, we are probably all better off.
[00:22:31] This is hearkening back to the use of that about how we have different ways of processing things. I know that one thing that has come out of our marriage is that I came into this marriage not being very good at identifying my own feelings at the moment. If I get upset about something like if I get upset about relation with a colleague, I might get seriously ticked off, may get steaming, may get frustrated, and not be able to untie that. Not verbally or not understand it myself. It takes me time to process. I don’t think on my feet really well. I think, frequently, maybe often or all the time, in a relationship, people have different speeds of processing, emotional things, psychological things or internal things. I may be upset and my wife may say, “Why are you upset?” I may not know the answer to that.
The thing that is great about Ana, for me, she gives me the space, the ear, the attention and allows me to sit in it and figure it out and doesn’t rush me and say, “What is the problem? What is going on? What is it with you?” That is important. I agree with you. We ask, “What is going on here?” Also, to know that we don’t always know. Sometimes, it takes a process to figure that out for us.
[00:23:46] We also need to learn how to articulate that we need time to figure this out.
[00:23:54] I often tell clients that I work with the most intimidating thing that you can probably do to your spouse. It is to put your hands on your hips and say, “We need to talk.” It is what happens. It doesn’t matter whether the man or woman does it. In the case of any couple, which one of you does it? It is a very intimidating thing to insist that we need to talk. Usually, when somebody says, “We need to talk,” they personally have an agenda or have something that they either want to blame you for, shame you for, or it is a difficult conversation.
[00:24:35] I would much rather say, “Are you okay?”
[00:24:38] I usually, if somebody says we need to talk, my first thought is, “What did I do now?” All of a sudden, all the walls go up on both sides.Giving in a relationship is a huge key to happiness. Click To Tweet
[00:24:48] Isn’t that almost a childlike response too, because when your mother calls you and says, “Come home now. I need to talk to you or you need to come home right this minute.” Everyone has got that joking term. Their mother would call you by your first name and your middle name. There is so much nuance to tone and to actively listening, too. You can be listening but what youare doing is thinking about what you are going to say back instead of sitting still and taking in what the other person is saying.
I studied with Dr. John Gottman many years ago. This is why in a lot of therapy circles and all of the coaching circles, they have what they call mirroring, where after you finished speaking, I would say, “If I’m understanding you correctly, I heard you say that you are feeling very difficult about even raising this topic with me.” You would say, “That is how I’m feeling.” It gives people the opportunity to use mirroring to try to get out of difficulties.
[00:26:03] How do you both feel about this statement? It is not what you say. It is how you say it.
[00:26:10] I would respond, “It is not what you say and it is not even how you say it. It is your intention. It is where it is coming from. What is your intention here at this moment?” Which is not disagreeing with you. It is amplifying.
[00:26:23] It is both things, what you say and how you say it, because you can say things in the gentlest terms that are incredibly critical. Passive-aggressive is good at it. If you have ever been around somebody who is truly passive-aggressive can make you feel very small and very insignificant. It sounded like a joke. It is very hard to come back at somebody like that. A true passive-aggressive in that moment will often say, “There you go again. You are misinterpreting what I was saying. You are overreacting. I was only joking,” which is another form of what some people call gaslighting. It is denying your reality.
[00:27:13] You said you have to learn how to articulate it when you are not sure how you feel and you need time, and I agree. I think all of these things we are talking about are learning how not to be defensive, learning how, at the moment, put the other person’s interests first. All of these things are things that you learn like riding a bicycle. These are not things you necessarily need to go to school for, go through years of therapy for, or you had some breakthrough after a meditation on the mountain peak for three months. The little things you do every day are practices. In the book, we say, “Love is a practice.”
It is not a state of being it. It is not like you are in love and now you are going to be in love for the rest of your life. Love is something you build and learn every day. You learn anything like you learn to cook, to write, or to be an architect. It is a practical, daily skill and the skills are all simple. They are all easy. They take your attention and route consistent attention.
[00:28:12] I think that it is so important that we all look at this and say everything in our life is built on practice. Everything that we do in life, we can’t expect to be perfect at anything right out of the gate. We all take time to improve and we are constantly improving, evaluating, trying to get better, and why would not relationships take that same thing? To be able to sit there and say, “I’m not perfect. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t have the right way of doing things all the time but I’m willing to work at it.” That is the challenge that a lot of people are not willing to put in the hard work.
[00:28:54] The work has to be fun and has to be something you enjoy. This is because you are curious about the other person. You don’t love the other person. You would like to know more about this person and get to know them better. It is not work like drudgery. It works like discovery.
[00:29:09] I agree with everything you are saying. I think that it spells another one of the secrets, which is allowing yourself the space to not only discover the places where you are wounded that you personally need to work on but also allowing for the space for your partner to be growing, changing and having new discoveries about themselves and about the way that they interact in the relationship. I have seen couples do massive amounts of healing because they became conscious of their patterns. They were willing to not only offer an allow compassion for the other person but also be compassionate to themselves in their own healing and in their own journey.
People don’t arrive at marriages or any relationship all tied up with a bow and everything is resolved. It is a journey. The reason I love The Mindfulness Movement is that I think that when people are mindful and they are paying attention, not only to the cues that they receive from their partner but also to the things that their partners are working through or the things that they are personally working through. It leaves a great deal of room for there to be grace if you will. It is the opportunity for things to grow and to change.
[00:30:25] That is so important that we all realize that everything in life is constantly evolving. That change is not a dirty word. It is the next state of being and we all need to sit there and say, “What was may not be what is and may not be what will be but let’s figure it out together.” I think that is an amazing thing.Love is a practice. It's not a state of being. Click To Tweet
[00:30:48] What I would add to that is that if you are not personally growing, then your marriage will feel after 15 or 20 years like there is a little bit of stagnation going there and it may not have anything to do with your partner. It may be all about you because growing personally, whether you are taking a cooking class or you are going off and studying painting or photography. You have decided to go back to college to take on a whole new course of study for work or for something that interests you. There is so much in the world. Curiosity is a powerful thing. When people remain curious and continue to learn, they are renaissance people, if you will. There are people who develop many skills and who have a great deal of interest in many things. That is the foundation of a marriage that is multifaceted and that has a true interest.
[00:31:47] I have known guys when their wife or partner starts to develop their professional career to new levels beyond what they have had in the past who get threatened by that. I’m like, “Are you crazy? Are you threatened by that? That is fantastic. That is what you want. You want to both be growing people.” There is a reason. Imagine a tree because we link in marriage to a tree in the book. It is something that grows and it has roots. You have to nourish those roots. The way that you nourish those roots is to grow as people, both of you. The marriage is only going to be as fruitful as the fruit that the two of you bring to it. I second everything that was said there, what a surprise.
[00:32:28] Let’s bring this home. The book is coming out and it is called the Go-Giver Marriage: A Little Story About the 5 Secrets To Lasting Love. May this thing sell another million copies like the original Go-Giver. Do you have some offers, some little gifts to give people between now and the time that the book goes live?
[00:32:48] We do. We have it on the website, which is simply GoGiverMarriage.com. You can see everything about the book and what people say about the book but there is a special pre-order offer, which if you order through the website and put in your name and everything. We are going to be holding a Live Zoom Fireside Chat about a week after the book launches, Q&A format, so that the pre-order special, who come to that get to ask their questions, and we get to go back and forth.
We also have some recorded videos. We have some masterclasses that we have done together on different topics about relationships that only those people will get access to. They are done as a gift for our pre-order people because it is a family. It is a community of people who are invested in the book. Those specials will only be available until March 8th, 2022 when the book itself launches.
[00:33:42] Get it at GoGiverMarriage.com and make sure that you pick up a copy of that. I have one last question that I’m going to ask you and this is a question I ask everyone. I’m going to ask you each individually. When you get in your car and you drive away after a meeting, what is the one thing you want people to think about you when you are not in the room?
[00:34:12] I want them to say, “I’m so glad that we had him at that meeting,” but I want them to say, “He helped us figure that out. There was a problem beforehand and because he was there, we figured it out. It is better now.”
[00:34:29] Ana, you give the last word.
[00:34:31] I want them to come away feeling that they were truly seen and heard and listened to.
[00:34:39] I love both of your answers. I love both of you guys. This conversation has been wonderful. Ana and John, thank you for being such amazing guests. Thank you for what you are doing with this book. Thank you for what you are doing to help people have better relationships.
[00:34:55] Thank you, Ben. I love your show so much. You are such a pro and a consummate professional not only in the interview itself and the questions but the way that you share it with your people. It is an indelible pleasure being here with you.
[00:35:08] I’m honored. Thank you very much.
- Go-Giver Marriage
- The Mindfulness Movement
- The Go-Giver Movement: From Getting To Giving With Bob Burg – Previous episode
- Effective Storytelling: All Great Story Ideas Start From Somewhere With John David Mann – Previous episode
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About John David Mann
John David Mann is coauthor of more than thirty books, including four New York Times bestsellers and five national bestsellers, including “The Go-Giver” (coauthored with Bob Burg), which has sold over 1 million copies and won the 2017 Living Now Book Awards Evergreen Medal for its “contributions to positive global change.”
He is married to Ana Gabriel Mann and considers himself the luckiest mann in the world.
About Ana Gabriel Mann
Ana Gabriel Mann, MA, holds a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and dance-movement therapy from Antioch New England, where she specialized in working with adults and family therapy. In addition to her work in family therapy and 5 Secrets marriage coaching, she has been clinical director for a program for people with Alzheimer’s disease, co-founded New England’s first college of Chinese medicine, and worked as a corporate consultant, speaker, trainer, and coach.
John and Ana have been dreaming about writing “The Go-Giver Marriage” together for nearly two decades. The book will be released in March 2022.