Jesse Heitler was a computer whiz from Yale when he joined his family’s established business, Power of Two, about five years ago. It was his vision to bring interactive, web-based marriage skills training to the company that drastically changed how Power of Two would operate.
A 20-year-old organization, Power of Two (or PO2) was founded by his mother, Dr. Susan Heitler, an experienced marital therapist and author of the book, Power of Two. His sister, Dr. Abigail Hirsch had followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a psychologist and provide training and education on marriage skills; she had joined her mother’s business a few years ahead of Jesse. Their brother, Jacob, also joined the company after earning his MBA.
When Jesse explored the industry and attended a marriage education convention, he realized that most of the couples he knew getting married were of a completely different generation and mindset than the experienced clinicians giving marriage advice. He believed he and his friends would sooner turn to the Internet for marriage advice than to their church pastor or a marriage counselor. Having just sold a previous start-up, Jesse was excited to try working with his mother and sister to see if they could find a way to bring marriage education to the Internet. The trick would be to determine how to reach couples in an affordable, fun manner. Recruiting a family friend, who was skilled at creative production and also worked as a comedian, was a big part of the solution.
A new business model was born: a membership-based Internet marriage skills training program. At $18 per month for access to all the videos, articles and interactive programs members want, the company says it’s in the range of coffee money, especially when compared to the expense of couples’ therapy. The company currently has about 1,000 members, and services are scalable to any number.
Initially, Dr. Hirsch told me, the PO2 staff believed they would be targeting mostly women and younger couples with the online model. They have since found the age range to be much more broad than expected. They were also surprised that “a huge percentage of members are men,” and that men tend to be the most active members. Dr. Hirsch explains, “We hear all the time from men, ‘My wife and I tried counseling, and I felt the counselor was always on her side.’” Men value the privacy and neutrality of the online program. They learn the skills, practice, get feedback, can ask personal questions, and see positive changes in their marriage, adds Dr. Hirsch.
Power of Two’s goal is to provide educational resources to all couples, so they don’t get to the point where divorce is on the table, says Dr. Hirsch. The program is based on Dr. Heitler’s many years of clinical practice. The skill sets are useful in the real world, and they’re not a band-aid approach, she adds. For example, many people teach listening skills as “parroting back” what you heard your partner say. Dr. Hirsch says real people don’t talk like that, and they won’t keep that strategy going. “We teach you how to really listen, not to debate.”
The program isn’t only for couples who feel they are struggling. It’s useful for premarital education, for couples early in their marriage, soon-to-be parents, couples who want to tweak certain areas of their marriage, as well as couples who need a major overhaul. The program can be done on a flexible schedule, together or separately.
Dr. Hirsch says she uses the skills in her own marriage, and says her husband attributes the program to enhancing their marriage during the stressful period of their second child’s birth. “We were practicing the skills a ton, trying to learn how to teach them to others,” says Dr. Hirsch. “My husband said, ‘This is changing our marriage. This is what makes things fun and allows us to enjoy each other and not get stuck on the daily wrinkles.’”
Power of Two was in many ways already a company on the cutting edge before moving to the Internet. The organization prides itself on making sure that the solutions they’re advocating for others are hard at work within their company as well. In particular, they believed in work/life balance above all else. Employees’ marriages and families are as high a priority as their work responsibilities, explains Dr. Hirsch. “It’s critical that we all have rock-solid marriages if we sell marriage help. We should be a model of how you can run a business and run lives that work well,” she added. How does a balanced workplace look? Employees take real vacations. They learn how to turn off their cell phones. They sometimes telecommute or work a flexible schedule. Their employees work from offices in Berkeley, San Francisco, London and Denver. “Somehow in America we have gotten out of whack on our priorities. It will only change when someone screams for marriage and family,” she adds. Juggling three young boys of her own, she understands what is at stake. Read the team bios here.
The same principles from the book are used online, with more enhancements, marriage boosters, and quick tips. There’s also more entertainment and humor in the online program. The topics are based on:
- Emotion regulation—How to keep disagreements calm and supportive, how to navigate difficult conversations.
- Communication—How to say things in a way your partner can hear and understand, and how to listen in a way that makes your partner feel heard.
- Decision making—How to make win-win joint decisions.
- Positivity/Intimacy—How to express your love day-in and day-out.
Members receive individualized feedback on personalized assessments. They can also ask personal questions. One of the psychologists may recommend they see a professional if the problem is particularly difficult or complicated. Most couples view the membership as similar to the Netflix model; some months they use it a lot, and some months they use it less. “They appreciate knowing it’s there when they are ready or when they need to get back on track,” says Dr. Hirsch. They also receive reminders.
The program sounds unique, affordable and beneficial to a wide range of couples. As always, I receive no financial benefit for sharing this information with you, but since I was excited by the innovative approach, I knew many readers would also be. You can read testimonials, take a quiz, or get started here.
Power of Two has generously offered two free LIFETIME memberships to their program. If you would like to be entered in the drawing for a free membership, simply make a comment below, or send me a private message if you prefer. I’ll hold the drawing in about one week. Everyone else can still benefit from a free 14-day trial membership. And, Power of Two offers a money-back 100% satisfaction guarantee on its site for members. If you decide to join, I would love to hear your input on the program’s impact on your marriage.
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