In this episode Physician Marriage Coaches, Dr. Jeep and Vanessa Naum talk about their specialty that is in helping physicians and healthcare professionals reignite their marriage through a customized approach.
“We would take a break every three months and we would travel away with each other. Away from our house, away from the children, away from the animals, to really have that time to reconnect as a couple without distractions.”- Vanessa Naum
In this episode, Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer talks with Physician Marriage Coaches, Dr. Jeep and Vanessa Naum. They are the owners of Best Friends Again. Best Friends Again is a Physician Marriage Coaching company. Their specialty is in helping physicians and healthcare professionals reignite their marriage through a customized approach based on the unique needs of physician and healthcare professional families. In this conversation, the Naums reveal what inspired them to start Marriage Coaching physicians and healthcare professionals as well as some of the unique challenges people in the medical field face. We also hear about Dr. Naum and Vanessa’s pasts, challenges they have faced in their own marriage, and how they keep their marriage thriving and healthy. They discuss some tried and true tools you can put to use right away for your own relationship.
The Naum’s own battle-tested physician marriage, generational physician family heritage, and expertise from coaching hundreds of marriages off of the ledge has paved the way for their revolutionary program: 90 Days to Clarity and Connection, a blueprint for guiding healers in healing their own relationships, saving their families, and enjoying their careers. You really can have it all.
The Naum’s Gift To You: Go to their website at www.BestFriendsAgain.com and scroll down to receive a FREE copy of the chapter: Love Letter Method with Your Spouse, from Dr. Jeep’s book, “What’s Forever For? A Physician’s Guide for Everlasting Love and Success in Marriage.”
The Naums encourage their new connections to do a relationship needs assessment. It’s a good health and wellness check for your relationship. Their clients have found it extremely helpful!
Find full transcripts of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast episodes on the DocWorking Blog
Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran
Vanessa: We would take a break every three months and we would travel away with each other. Away from our house, away from the children, away from the animals to really have that time to reconnect as a couple without distractions.
Jill: Hi, everyone. We are so glad you’re here on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, one of the cohosts of the podcast as well as one of the lead coaches at DocWorking. We want you to remember, today is brought to you by DocWorking Thrive, our subscription coaching service just for physicians to help you thrive in these challenging times. We can help you work through burn out, we can help you find peer support from physicians all around the country, it’s a great program, check it out today at docworking.com.
I’m so glad that you have joined us for what I think is going to be a wonderful and really helpful conversation. We are very lucky today to be joined by Dr. Jeep Naum and his wife, Vanessa. Dr. Naum has been a physician for over 30 years, now turned coach. Dr. Jeep and Vanessa work together to coach other health professionals in relationships on how to have better relationships. So, we are really excited to be joined by both of you in this conversation. Thanks for being with us today.
Dr. Jeep: It’s our pleasure, Jill. Thank you so much for having us on.
Vanessa: Absolutely. Thank you.
Jill: So, let’s dive right in. Tell us a little bit about why the two of you have decided to direct your life’s passion and your work toward helping other couples, who are in the healthcare profession, thrive in their marriages?
Vanessa: The reason why we chose to do this is because early on in our marriage, we were working through our church, and we were doing marriage coaching through our church, and we did it for about 24, 25 years. Also, what we discovered through that is, when you have marriage coaching, it’s about your relationship, it’s about communication, things like that, but the sex part isn’t intertwined with that. What we wanted to do was combine our years of doing marriage coaching on a volunteer basis and transform that and marry it with a sex coaching practice as well. I became trained in the somatic method. It’s a method that is more somatic based, so that we get not only our heads in the game but we also get our bodies in the game, too, and try to combine those together. So, what we find is that the combination of these two is really a game changer.
Dr. Jeep: Let me add to that. I’ll give you a little history about me. I grew up in a physician marriage, a very dysfunctional physician marriage. My grandfather was also a physician, and had problems there. There were problems in my parents’ marriage with the dysfunction, a lot of abuse, mostly verbal, mostly emotional, lots of disrespect, lots of trust issues, and unfortunately infidelity. So early on, my thoughts were, “This doesn’t have to be this way. There really is no excuse for this.” As I grew up, and saw this more and more, and eventually ending up with my parents being separated, separated for three years and all of the hell that it caused in the family.
I’m like, “I’m not going to allow this to happen.” With my father, a lot of his friends were physicians. You hear all kinds of stories about nurses in the hallway, the broom closet, the stairwells, I’m like, “This is ridiculous.” Fast forward, go to medical school, finish medical school, and Vanessa and I get together. Now, Vanessa, she comes from a marriage divorced, lots of verbal, emotional abuse, disrespect, a lot of those same things that I saw my mother go through growing up. As she said, we’re doing the marriage coaching, I said, “This really needs to be about our colleagues.” We’ve seen how it is, we continue to see how it is, there’s lots of things, unfortunately that still take place that took place 50, 60 years ago.
With the spouse, there’s still a lot of trust that goes in when you hear, “Okay, I’m going to be at the hospital making rounds or I’m going to go to a pharmaceutical rep dinner.” There’s a lot of trust that has to be there, and unfortunately my father took advantage of that trust, and my mother never knew. Like I said, in training I still saw that going on, and I said, “We’ve got to help put a stop to this.” Then, there’s a lot of reasons why it happens. I understand, maybe there’s a thought that the spouse, male or female just doesn’t get the rigors of the job, there’s an issue with disconnection or not being able to disconnect coming home, a number of things that enter into it. But having gone through all that generational physician dysfunction, I come from a very informed point of view of how to prevent that from happening. When it does happen, knowing what to do to resolve it, and Vanessa, I couldn’t do this without her.
Jill: Excellent. I love that you both took what was some pain and suffering in your own background, Dr. Jeep through your own dysfunctional parents’ marriage and even grandparents’ marriage, and Vanessa, your own experience and said, “Let’s figure out a better way.” Let’s begin to talk about the better way. [laughs]
Dr. Jeep: Absolutely.
Jill: I think that’s what everybody wants to hear from us today. What are some of the challenges that you guys see in your physician couple clients that seem to show up time and time again, and what’s one of the most important things you help physicians identify about that challenge to be able to move forward in a better way?
Vanessa: I think one of the biggest challenges in what we are finding is disconnection, whether it is with physicians that are in a two-physician family or if it’s a physician and the partner is not a physician. It’s really the stress of the job, and especially through COVID, there are so many challenges we’re hearing doctors say, “You just can’t believe what I go through on a daily basis. I come home and I’m afraid to talk to my wife about it. So, I suffer in silence or she really can’t understand me.” What we do, and that’s where the somatic training comes into play, is we dig down deep into empathy, and compassion, and also start at the beginning, why did you get married in the first place, what brought you two together, what excited you?
And then, when do you think it started moving apart? Sometimes, they can’t tell when it started moving apart. They really don’t know. Then, it’s like, life just is on autopilot. One day you wake up, and it’s like, “Wow, we’re just not communicating about our feelings.” So, therefore, we get them back in touch with that and he’s itching to talk right now.
Dr. Jeep: What I can tell you is, our coaching is modeled after our lives. There’s not going to be and there hasn’t been anything hidden. For instance, disconnection. I’ll give you an example of that. Early in our marriage, Vanessa was managing my office. What we did was absolutely the wrong thing. I was still a resident, she was pregnant with our first, we were moving back home and where we live is in Wheeling, West Virginia. We were moving into a new house, I was starting a new practice, all of this stuff was happening at once. When I’ve had clients that have said, “Oh, you did that?” I said, “Yeah, I did that.” “Not too smart, was it?” I said, “Don’t you do it either.”
Dr. Jeep: Anyway, Vanessa delivered. We had a baby. Starting the practice, she was running the practice, maybe 4 o’clock, she came home. I’m still out around the hospital. Starting out, you go to a number of hospitals, you try to build your practice. Oftentimes, I wouldn’t get home till 7, 8, 9 o’clock at night. When I come home, the first thing I want to do is disconnect. I want to sit in the chair, look at NCIS. I don’t want to think of anything except to be immersed in this television show. After a while Vanessa’s like, “Ah, this really isn’t fair.” I said, “You’re right, it’s not.” She said, “Well, we both agreed to have kids, we both agreed that I was going to be involved in the practice, we both agreed that this was going to be a joint effort,” and I said, “You’re right.”
The kind of agreement we came to was that, I would come home, I would watch TV for an hour, and then, depending on how many kids we had at the time, then we’d have dinner, one would do the bath, one would take the kids to bed, read the book, and then, we’d come downstairs, go to the sitting room, and she would vent on her day, and that seemed to work pretty well. As a side, that was something my mother was never given the opportunity to do when I was growing up, because my father was always like, “What you do is not nearly as important as what I did. I’m the doctor, I’m the breadwinner. It doesn’t matter that you take care of the house, take care of the kids, get them to school, do all of this. It doesn’t matter. Basically, you are less than me.” So, I needed to be reminded subtly as it was, there’s other parts of my life besides the practice of medicine and that’s how we worked it out.
Vanessa: I needed to dig down deep and find the courage to be able to speak to him and not suffer in silence. Unfortunately, that’s what we see, we have this innate thing where we’re trying to protect ourselves. We suffer in silence because we’re protecting ourselves instead of connecting with each other. So, there are tools that we use to help the spouses connect with each other and get back on the road to becoming a team again.
Dr. Jeep: Yeah, that’s a big word ‘team.’ Huge.
Jill: Beautiful. You identified that one of the biggest obstacles and challenges that physician couples come into, whether they’re both physicians or one of them in the couple is a physician, is disconnected, life is happening. There’s a lot of intensity, busyness at work, and then they get home, and they have their own agendas, and then that disconnection happens. What are tools that you try to share with somebody or what is the tool that might be helpful for our listener if they’re really identifying it’s an, “Oh, gosh, that’s us. We are just headed on two separate highways and going in two different directions, even though we’re under the same roof.”
Vanessa: Absolutely. What we have learned over time, and also found to work is what we term a “love huddle.” It’s essentially coming together, and writing to each other, and trying to connect with those feelings of love, and not taking for granted the other partner. We’ll start out with questions. By the way, in Dr. Naum’s book, What’s Forever For? Chapter 9 is devoted to teaching how to do the love huddle. There are criteria that you need to follow when you write. It’s a beautiful way to paint the picture to your spouse about how you’re feeling. It just gets you connected right into the moment and gets you dialed in for feeling empathy and compassion for one another.
Dr. Jeep: It’s a good way if you’re going to be talking about a topic and it’s a very nonthreatening way. Instead of sitting there with raised voices, saying things that you don’t want to say, but in the heat of the moment, it’s getting too hot. I’ll give you another for instance with Vanessa and I. For anybody that thinks that if a problem has not been resolved before you get married that when you put the ring on the finger that it’s going to resolve? No, no. Something huge for us was the number of children that we were going to have. I come from a big family, I have two brothers and two sisters, and I’m the oldest. I love growing up with brothers and sisters. There’s always somebody to play with, always somebody to do things with. Vanessa had agreed to one and I said, “I don’t think it’s fair.” Now, there are times when you can’t have more than one, but it was my opinion that an only child just wasn’t fair. My mother was an only child. She always wished that she would have had a sibling.
Before we were married, we argued. It was the only thing really that we significantly argued about and it always resulted in Vanessa crying and me feeling bad. We just left it until after we got married. Big mistake. What we decided to do was in this non-threatening way, do the love huddle. Basically, you sit there, and write, and you exchange, and then you read what the other has written, and so that takes about 20 minutes. You’ve been focusing on the problem, what you want to say without it being out loud and not being interrupted, and then you read, and then you discuss. It diffuses all of that stress, possible hard feelings, whatever, and that allows you to have a civil discussion without the anger and the regrettable words that can happen.
Jill: I find with some of my physician clients and I don’t do any relationship coaching, but I’ll hear from one physician that a stressor in their life often is tension within the relationship. What I hear a lot of times from my physician clients is they’re trying to logically explain why the other person should understand things, missing perspective. So, I want to hear if that it’s only showing up in my practice or if you guys are seeing that in your coaching practice, and if so, how do you deal with that?
Vanessa: Yeah, we’ve also struggled with that because he wants to fix everything. I’ll say, “I don’t need you to fix this, I don’t need you to find a solution, give me options, whatever. I just need you to listen to me. I just need you to dial and connect with me, and just feel what I’m feeling.” We have struggled with the fix-it thing.
Dr. Jeep: Also, because she’s not a physician. Although, we’ve been together 31 years, she knows the lingo, she knows an awful lot about it, she knows things that I’ve taught her, but sometimes, we can get, I don’t know if ‘distracted’ is the word, but we get engrossed into talking in our physician language about what’s going on and trying to make this more complicated than it really is. Sometimes, she’ll have to say, “You don’t need to go into that. Let’s just focus on what we’re talking about.” But as physicians, and you know, this is what we’re trained to do, is fix. That’s why we think that we can fix everything. In fixing it, we present our point of view of how we’re going to fix it, when it may not be how she wants to have it fixed or he.
Dr. Jeep: If you don’t work on that and this is about communication. We live busy lives. Sometimes, we have to schedule communication. Okay, Wednesday, an hour when we get up or an hour before we go to bed, let’s talk. Too many times, that’s just not the case in our colleagues’ households.
Jill: I love that. Scheduling time to have communication and then I would add to that, making sure that communication includes sharing and listening, right?
Dr. Jeep: Absolutely.
Jill: Because a lot of times what we’re calling communication is our chance to state our case as if we’re in front of the judge in order to tell our perspective.
Dr. Jeep: Right. Correct.
Jill: So, talk a little about that, if you would.
Vanessa: We recognized this early on, and a commitment that we made to each other was that whether we needed it or not, we would take a break every three months and we would travel away with each other, away from our house, away from the children, away from the animals, to really have that time to reconnect as a couple without distractions. So, that was something that really helped us out.
Dr. Jeep: What we would do is sit the kids down, because the kids would say, “Well, can we go with you, mommy and daddy?” “Ah, no,” and we would explain it. “Mommy and daddy need to go away to spend time on themselves. So, when we get back, we can focus on you and be good mommies and daddies for you.” Our kids always understood that. Our youngest is 18 now, he’s still in the house, but we have one who’s married, one who’s in law school, but they all understood that. It’s not something you say the first time you leave, you have to repeat it every time before you go, and they get it.
Vanessa: They understood it and then what we were also trying to do is model good married behavior to them, so that they understand the importance of really needing to get that time together.
Jill: I love that. I think that intentionality is something that sometimes also surprises some physicians, because they haven’t paid attention to what makes marriage successful necessarily. So, there’s a presumption that it’s just a thing that adults do, and it should work itself out, and so there seems to be a surprise sometimes that it’s like, actually, there are some strategies, and tactics, and intentionality that needs to come into this just like in your medical practice to be successful. Do you guys agree with that?
Vanessa: Oh, absolutely. What just came to my mind was, I’m speaking as a nonphysician to physicians. You all are experts in what you do, perfectionists at what you do. Marriage, and the tricks of the trade, and the tools, you’re not practicing that because you’ve spent a lot of time and energy doing what you’re an expert at. So, don’t beat yourself up if you really need some help with that. Because in the journey, you will find that there are so many tools that you will discover and just life goodies along the way that are really going to be nourishing for you.
Dr. Jeep: We brought couples from the brink of divorce, but there has to be this willingness to work from both sides. It can’t just be one. Oh, let’s start this and maybe I’ll catch on. No, because then it’s unfair to your partner. It’s a joint effort, which always needs to be. Always needs to be, but unfortunately isn’t a lot of times.
Vanessa: I think he said a little earlier that we are modeling this behavior. So, not only are they seeing it, but they’re hearing it, they’re watching it, getting as many of their senses involved into seeing this relationship really goes a long way.
Jill: Fantastic. What would both of you have your final thoughts be to our physician listeners as they are seeking to improve their partnerships and to hopefully do what you have given us an inspiration to maybe be together for 31 years or beyond in those partnerships if we can?
Dr. Jeep: First thing, Jill is, if you’re having trouble, you’re not alone.
Dr. Jeep: You’re not alone. You have a lot of people out there that are in the same position. Never let it get to the point where you think there aren’t any other answers. But if you do get there, know that there’s help out there, know that there’s ways to get through this, know that through these clouds, that sunlight can break through. There’s been other things that have happened to us. At another time, when we get together, we’ll talk about that, some difficult things with teamwork, and a true unyielding desire to make this relationship work, and have that on both sides. It can work and you can get through most anything.
Vanessa: I firmly believe that.
Jill: I want to thank both of you, Dr. Jeep and Vanessa Naum, who have spent decades not only Dr. Naum supporting patients through your career as a professional physician, but also the two of you supporting couples as they move together to try to create a successful long-term marriage. So, thanks for your candor about your own experiences. I think we can all take in those stories and recognize those in our own lives as well. If people want to reach out to you to get more information about what it is you do, how can they find you?
Dr. Jeep: You could go to our website, which is www.bestfriendsagain.com. Why we say, ‘best friends again’ is you need to be each other’s best friend when you get married. There shouldn’t be another best friend, it needs to be your spouse or your fiancé. People get away from that. I have to give credit where credit’s due, Vanessa came up with that ‘best friends again’ and I’m like, “It’s perfect,” because if you’ve strayed from that, you need to get back to that. So, you can get a hold of us there. I’m on LinkedIn, so is Vanessa. The business page is on LinkedIn. We are on Facebook as well. My book’s on Amazon. It was a labor of love to write. There will be another one at some point whenever I have time to write the sequel. [laughs]
Vanessa: Also, there is a space on our website, where you can download a free chapter of-
Dr. Jeep: Chapter 9.
Vanessa: -chapter 9.
Jill: If people want more information, they can go to bestfriendsagain.com, find your book on Amazon, as well as LinkedIn, and Facebook as well. Thank you, guys so much for sharing this conversation with us, and thanks to all of our listeners who joined us as well today. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We always love to hear your comments and feedback and don’t forget to go right now to docworking.com to find out how you can avoid burnout, be treated from burnout if you’re experiencing it now, through our DocWorking Thrive program. Until next time, I’m Jill Farmer.
Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe and head over to docworking.com to see all we have to offer.
Coach Jill Farmer
Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.
She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.
She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.
Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.
Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.