Author and life coach Sharon Pearson has been married for 27 years but looks disappointed when asked the secret of a great relationship.
“People always want one secret. It’s never one thing,” says Pearson, who is in Dolce and Gabbana jeans and pale pink silk singlet, has a five carat diamond winking on one finger and the only genuine Birkin bag I’ve seen in the flesh dumped unceremoniously beside her.
“People aren’t simple. We’re complex. I can say women want to be understood, and men want to be appreciated.”
In September, Pearson launched her seventh book Ultimate You at New York’s famous Barnes & Noble store in Union Square. She was in good company – the night before, Demi Moore debuted her autobiography, two nights later it was Patti Smith introducing her latest.
A couple of months on from Pearson’s tour of the US and UK, we’re talking marriage in Melbourne cafe Self Preservation. Sharon met husband John, her longtime business partner, when they were flatmates but “he wanted me before I wanted him,” she tells The New Daily.
“It took me a year to realize the man of my dreams was living with me. Since then, we haven’t blinked. We’ve had our ups and downs like every relationship, but it’s getting deeper.”
The couple couldn’t have children, “so we’ve been empty nesters our whole lives. What kept us together in the beginning isn’t what keeps us together now.”
A Telstra Victorian Business Women’s award winner and multiple nominee, Pearson founded her life-coaching institute when she was 37. Now, according to her website, the business has reached 1.17 million people in 81 countries.
These days, “relationships are what everyone wants to talk about. They want to know how to connect.”
So, how do we connect? Here, Pearson – who calls shallow chat with randoms at cocktails parties “hell on earth” but can “talk bags, shoes, jackets all day long” with friends – shares her four steps:
Commit to both wanting a great relationship
“If both people aren’t on that page it’s really tough to drag someone up kicking and screaming. Both have to really want it and know it’s not going to happen overnight,” Pearson says.
“What my husband and I shoot for it is microscopic truth, to want a level of honesty in the relationship that can withstand anything outside. Say everything and don’t say it to anybody else.
“It’s tiring. Sometimes I think, ‘can’t be f—-d, but then I’ve got to come back to why I’m in this.”
Get comfortable with emotional intimacy
“None of us have got it together, we’re all victims. But if we don’t want our partner to know all that and see the ugly parts, we’re not going to get emotional intimacy,” Pearson says.
“That’s the space where my truth and my stuff can bump into yours and we’re going to commit to figuring it out.”
She does a little role play: “So, you’re the woman, I’m the man, and I’m, ‘I just don’t get you.’ That gets you fired up, then I get fired up by you having a go back – ‘fine, just keep that s–t up, it will work really well’.
“When that happens, you need to say you’re feeling reactive, and your partner needs to care enough to say ‘let’s talk that out, I’m here.’ Otherwise you just get stuck with button-pushing.”
It’s all about acknowledgment
This step is about not fixing anything. Seriously.
“You’ve told me how you’re feeling and I have to say, ‘Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more, tell me more. Is there anything more?” Pearson says.
“No-one’s fixing anything. No solutions.
“Listen, and validate the experience by saying, ‘That must be really important to you.’ It is not correcting them, telling them how they should feel, telling them how they should think, telling them how to solve it.”
If you need to, go back to step one, she says: “Remember the purpose is to have a phenomenally close relationship. Emotional intimacy is being okay wherever someone is at, not trying to force correct them.”
It’s hard to be there for anyone else if you don’t totally understand yourself, Pearson says.
“You have to know your boundaries, know what you need in life, you have to be comfortable with all your emotions. You’ve got to love your fears, happiness, sadness, disgust.
“The more self acceptance we have, the more we can be present for someone else.”