Abby Rodman Interview – Should You Marry Him? Guide To Not Screw Up
“Should You Marry Him? : A Guide to Not Screwing Up the Biggest Decision of Your Life.’”
Jasbina Ahluwalia interviews Abby Rodman
Abby Rodman, LICSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in the Boston area. She has counseled hundreds of individuals and couples with relationship issues.
She is a contributing relationship expert for YourTango.com. Her recent book, Should You Marry Him? A No-Nonsense, Therapist-Tested Guide to Not Screwing Up the Biggest Decision of Your Life, gives the skinny on the ten most common red flags women overlook before tying the knot.
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(00:48): Hello everyone and welcome to Intersections Match’s Talk Radio, a monthly holistic lifestyle show focused on the continual evolution into the best versions of our authentic selves. This is Jasbina, your host. I’m the Founder of Intersections Match, the only elite national personalized matchmaking company focused on singles of South Asian descent nationwide in the US.
I’d like to welcome our guest today, Abby Rodman. Abby is a psychotherapist who counseled hundreds of individuals and couples through relationship issues. She has graduate degrees from both Harvard and Boston College and her work has been featured in the Boston Globe Magazine.
Abby is the author of the book that we’ll be discussing on today’s show, which is entitled, Should You Marry Him? A No-Nonsense, Therapist-Tested Guide to Not Screwing Up the Biggest Decision of Your Life. Welcome, Abby.
(1:39): Thank you so much, Jasbina. I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
(1:45): I thought it was a great book. I’m very excited about sharing it with our listeners. What led you to write, Should You Marry Him in the first place?
(1:53): That’s a good question. I think it started in my practice. I heard women telling me time and time again that they knew when they were getting married that they were not marrying the right person. They knew as they were walking down the aisle that the person they were marrying was not the right person for them.
After hearing this over and over, countless times, I thought, “Something needs to happen here. Something needs to be done about this. Someone needs to address it.” That was how the book started.
(2:37): You addressed it by discussing ten make or break pre-marriage issues that popped up from your experience. You mentioned that they come up in every troubled marriage or relationship that you’ve been privy to while working with so many couples and individuals. I’d like to discuss a few of the ten.
I’m going to quote from the book. “To clarify, there is nothing inherently wrong with changing your life. Sometimes, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. However, changing your lifestyle and/or your belief system to comply with someone else’s standards is another can of worms.” It’s very compelling.
Abby, can you tell us about that? Can you give an example or two of the different ways that you’ve seen this manifested and played out while working with couples or individuals? Maybe you can give our listeners a signal or flag that they might want to look for as they’re navigating their way through a relationship.
(3:57): First, I want to say that this book really is for anyone at any stage of life who is contemplating getting married. Whether it’s the first time you’re getting married or the fourth time, these questions largely do apply to everyone.
In terms of changing your life, as you read, there really isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. It can be a very good thing. The red flag here is when you are being asked to change your life so dramatically by the person who you’re marrying. It starts to overshadow who you are, what direction you thought your life would go in or how you’ve lived your life to this point.
One example in the book is a client of mine who had married into an extraordinarily wealthy family. In return for all the perks that the lifestyle offered, and that her in-laws and new husband offered, she largely had to give up her connection to her own family.
That was one of the unspoken requirements of marrying into this very wealthy, very well-known family. As the years went by, she started to experience incredible regret. She missed her family. She missed her parents. She regretted that her parents had not had as much time with her children as her in-laws had.
That’s the kind of thing that I’m referring to. If you’re being asked to change your life in a way that is going to eventually feel inherently uncomfortable for you or is going to change your life in a way that is unfamiliar to you, that is a red flag. When something is non-negotiable, that’s a problem.
(6:20): That is a true red flag. You get the feeling that there is no way to negotiate here. It’s my way or the highway. That’s how it’s going to be. I’m going to quote from your book again. It’s crystal clear in your book and I want to give our readers the benefit of that.
Your book states, “Many of us “hire on” a potential spouses to activate or reactivate our childhood wounds. Everything we know about relationships, we learned in childhood and that knowledge becomes like a pair of well-worn slippers. We keep wearing them even when they’re not all that comfortable anymore.”
Abby, it would be helpful to get an example to make this concrete. You could offer a red flag for our listeners as they navigate this to see if any of these may potentially apply.
(7:33): It’s basically true that our partners can get us more outraged than probably anyone else in our lives. They just know how to push those buttons. That’s part of being open and vulnerable to someone else. Someone else knows where you’re wounded and what your childhood experiences were like. I term this “wound tapping.”
We’re tapping into the other person’s wounds. Those are usually childhood wounds. Those are experiences we had in childhood that have stayed with us and colored who we’ve become. There is a wonderful thing about wound tapping. It can be very healing as well for couples.
For example, you know that your husband never got praise, admiration or accolades from his mother and that is something that has always stuck with him. He’s wounded by that lack of admiration and congratulation from his mother. One way you would help him heal from that is that you would be the person who gives him that kind of love that he might not have gotten. You’re aware that that’s where he’s wounded.
Conversely, if you want to be hurtful or if wound tapping is not used in a healthy way, you are going to keep on repeating the same patterns that his mother did. You will keep him in that same wounded place of not getting the admiration, kudos and love that he so sorely needs. That is a quick example of how couples can help heal each other as well as recognize what those wounds are.
(9:53): That’s such an opportunity that we have in terms of demonstrating our love to our partners to be the people who really are healing that. That’s amazing. Like you said, there is a flip to that. That’s the opportunity that it presents. Like anything else, it can be used for good and evil. The opportunity to be that person for the person you love is amazing.
You entitled one of your chapters, Fill in Your Own Blanks. I want you to explain that to our listeners. The chapter did a great job of going into it. I would love for you to share what that means as well as an example of a way in which you’ve seen this manifested. Are there any signals or red flags that someone can look for?
(11:06): So many times, I have heard women talking about how they decided to marry up, so to speak. They found the guy who made tons of money. He went to Ivy League schools. He did all the things that they didn’t do or didn’t take advantage of doing. Somehow, by marrying this person, by osmosis, they’re going to reap the benefits of this person’s intellect, education or wealth.
They may even take on this person’s hobbies and interests, all for the sake of being with this person. What eventually ends up happening as people age into a marriage is that they suddenly realize that they’ve hitched their wagon to someone else. They’re not really self-fulfilled. They’re not self-actualized. They feel that they have given up their interests or not even fully explored their own interests. Now, they’re in this marriage where they are strangers to themselves.
This is important for any woman considering getting married. One of the things that I highly suggest is that she develop her own interests, lifestyle and level of education. It’s all the things that she might want to do that she should be doing before she enters the marriage, especially if she feels that those things haven’t been fulfilled yet.
(13:01): I hear from men very often, “I want someone who is passionate about something in their lives. I don’t want to be their whole world.” You can flip into living vicariously through someone else. Like you said, that’s not really truly living if it’s all vicarious.
(13:34): That’s not to say that you can’t share some of the same interests. As I’m talking about this, I realize I’m probably talking about younger women who may not have had the opportunity yet to find out some of the things that they really want to do. This guy comes along. It all seems really great. They hitch on. One day, they wake up and realize that they didn’t do what they needed to do.
I think your point is an excellent one. Men, and anyone who is looking for a partner, is looking for someone who is their own person. At first, it feels really great to someone that you’re so interested in them and what they do. Ultimately, they really want someone who brings their own life to the table.
(14:35): They want someone to share in that. To take on someone’s interests is part of growing with someone. The guy also wants to have that opportunity as well. You provide it by living your life. There can be a fine balance.
This is one of the last quotes that I’m going to share from your book. You have a chapter entitled, Theirs and Ours: Making Your Marriage Your Own. South Asian cultures are extremely family centric.
Here is the quote. “You and your fiancée unwittingly absorbed healthy and unhealthy ways of interacting from your parents. Think about what you learned about communication from them. If you can’t objectively analyze what went on in your parent’s marriages, start by telling stories about them. When did you see them the happiest? What did they fight about?”
I thought that was a great tip. It can be hard to objectively analyze someone else’s marriage. You mentioned at another point in your book that you don’t really know what’s going on in someone else’s relationship. It’s a dynamic that two people share. As a third person, no matter how close you are, you can’t quite touch it to see what that is.
Telling stories about your parents can jog your memory. When were they the happiest? What were the issues that seemed to separate them? I’d love for you to give us an example or red flag from what you’ve seen things played out with your work with individuals and couples.
(16:46): It’s a good question. I’ve always maintained that it’s not actually just two people getting married. It’s six people getting married. You’re bringing your parents into it and he’s bringing his parents into it. There are ways that we learn of communicating that we learn from our parents. It’s not only in terms of how we talk to each other. It’s also in terms of how domestic chores were divided, how money was handled as well as how anger and disappointment were handled.
There are so many levels to what we witness in our own parents that we bring that right into the marriage with the expectation that the other person had pretty much the same thing. The reality is, that’s not true. The other person may have observed a completely different dynamic with his parents. His expectation is that the marriage will be similar to what he witnessed as he was growing up. It’s really important to be as detailed as possible. You have to break it down. Don’t assume that you’re on the same page.
Negotiate. One of the things that’s so important, and what I want every listener to absorb, is that couples need contracts. This is a lifelong partnership that you’re entering into. The point being that, if you’re going to enter into a business contract with someone, you would know what the negotiable points were. They would be negotiated. What happens when two people marry is, sometimes, they don’t really want to do that dirty work. That kind of negotiation is not that much fun. It can be a little unpleasant. Maybe some sparks arise. We tend not to want to do that, especially when we’re in the happy moment of getting married. It’s so important that you both look at your families of origin and how marital issues were handled.
I have a quick example from my book. A young woman came to see me who had tolerated very bad, poor behavior from her boyfriend. In order to make up for his bad behavior, the boyfriend would come to her with grandiose gestures. He would bring dozens of roses and all kinds of big ways of apology. She couldn’t understand why she was forgiving him time and again.
Then we traced it back to her parents. In a slightly different way but very similarly, her father would behave in the same way. Her father would also act badly and apologize to the mother with very grandiose gestures. That was a kind of pattern that she came to expect in a relationship because that’s what she saw in her own parents. She was willing to accept that kind of behavior rather than step back and say, “Woah, okay. I’m doing this because I saw my parents do it.”
(20:49): You have to objectively analyze. You have to step back. You mentioned before that well-worn pair of slippers. It may not actually be serving you even if it seems comfortable at the time.
I get this question, as matchmakers do. Someone gets into a relationship. The question comes up, “Is this it? Is this the person for me?” I love the ultimate question that you recommend your readers ask themselves when they’re wondering that.
I will quote that question. “Am I happy in this relationship and with this person most of the time?” That question kind of speaks for itself. Is there anything that you would like to share with our listeners with respect to that?
(21:52): “Happy” was the most encompassing word that I came up with. I think I define happiness as being a peaceful feeling that you have around the relationship. So many times, I’ve heard clients talk about the beginnings of their relationships and how really unhappy and un-peaceful they were. They were chaotic. There was a lot of fighting. There were a lot of tears and unhappiness, yet they still pushed through with the marriage and the wedding.
This was instead of taking a deep breath and saying, “Am I happy here? Is this what I want my relationship to feel like?” I think so few women sit with that question. In fact, I recommend asking yourself that question more times than you can stand. This is not when things are great or when you’ve had a huge fight.
It should just be in your day-to-day experience with this person. Are you happy? Do you feel satisfied? Do you feel peaceful? If the answer is “Yes” over and over again, then you’re on the right track. If you’re honest with yourself and the answer is, “Not so much,” then you really have to think about what you’re doing and what you’re entering into.
(23:29): There is a follow-up question to that, which would be helpful to our listeners. You’re thinking, “Am I happy in this relationship?” If it seems abstract, you suggest that readers ask a follow-up question. Do you like the person you are in the relationship?
I think that will speak to a lot of people. At the end of the day, as we live our lives, people want to like who they are. That’s how we’re aligned and fulfilled. The relationship that you’re in is such a big part of living your life. Do you like the person you are in the relationship? I found that question to be extremely compelling and impactful in terms of sitting with yourself.
I really appreciate you sharing your insights with us, Abby. They’ve been very interesting. Once again, I want to share with everyone the name of Abby’s book. It is, Should You Marry Him? A No-Nonsense, Therapist-Tested Guide to Not Screwing Up the Biggest Decision of Your Life.
Do you have any last thoughts or messages that you’d like to share with our listeners, Abby?
(25:04): First, I want to thank you very much for having me on. It was a lot of fun. These questions are intended to make people think. They are questions that many of us are not asked. Sometimes, they’re questions we’d rather not answer because we don’t want to know the answers.
It is absolutely imperative that you ask yourself these questions so that you know that you’re headed down the right track. You’re satisfied with your answers. You have a peaceful feeling about this relationship. You know with your whole heart that you’re doing the right thing. Always trust your gut. Your gut will tell you. If you listen, your gut will tell you.
(26:02): Thanks, Abby. Is there a website where our readers can find the book or more information about it?
(26:28): That’s wonderful. That’s really great information. In case you joined us late or would like to share this show with people in your life, I’d like to remind you that today’s radio show will be archived and available as a podcast on Intersections Match’s website, which is www.IntersectionsMatch.com. I appreciate you hanging out with us. Make sure to join us for next month’s show. Take care, everyone.
What do you think?
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