Iceberg Love

November 17, 2009 | admin

They start talking. Lunch is next, then dating, marriage … then, of course, marriage counseling.

They are both very clear about what they love in the other. Harry helps Alice enjoy life while Alice helps Harry by focusing on their future. They are both similarly clear on what they hate. “He’s always late, and I can never find anything in the house,” Alice exclaims. “She micro-manages everything, and everything leads to everything,” Harry says. “We haven’t enjoyed a weekend without plans in two years.”

This is what I call “Iceberg Love.” They only love the tip of the iceberg and hate the other 90 percent. But without that 90 percent, they wouldn’t get the tip.

What Alice and Harry love they also hate. He wants to be like her, and vice versa, but neither understands how to do it.  So, they married what they didn’t understand, hoping that somehow, through osmosis, the other’s virtues would rub off.

It’s clear for us to see that the qualities that make Harry who he is are the qualities that Alice does not understand – and therefore hates – and the same is true with Harry. If they understood, they would love more.

A student who took my seminar wrote to me after the Iceberg Love segment:

“…Doug married me partly because I have so much energy. I’m outgoing, I talk about my feelings and I’m very organized and task oriented. I married Doug because he has a more laid-back demeanor, he is more calm and easy going, he’s thoughtful, and he helps me to be more relaxed about life.

“Like most couples, we sometimes argue about these differences and try to change the person to be more like us.

“I really appreciate what you said in that lesson because I realized that it would be a huge mistake to try and change Doug.

“When I put pressure on him to be more organized, more efficient, more outgoing, etc., it makes him so unhappy and he resents me for it. That’s not what I want. So, I have tried to appreciate him more for his strengths and realize that I should accept him for who he is (because that is why I married him in the first place!).”


I like to joke that soon after Tiger Woods got married, he was in marriage counseling. (Ed. note: this was written a long time ago) The counselor asked, “So, what seems to be the problem?” Mrs. Woods answered first: “He’s a lovely person, and I was attracted to how successful he is and how he’s such an overachiever, but he’s now driving me crazy. All he does, all the time, is play golf. He lives, breathes and eats the stuff! Everything in the house has a golf theme, even the door knobs are shaped like golf clubs and he orders everything in quantities of 18.”

Of course, that’s what makes him Tiger Woods. Those qualities are what attracted him to her in the first place, and her lack of understanding of these traits are precisely why she is Mrs. Tiger Woods, not Mr. Tiger Woods.

We aren’t the people we admire because we don’t truly understand their virtues. We don’t understand the hidden part of the iceberg. In fact, it’s not uncommon to actually hate that hidden part.

However, once we understand it’s that part that makes the tip work, the whole relationship changes. If we would appreciate what it takes to be the people we respect, and further, if we understood it like they do, then we would understand them, and maybe even be like them.


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