Parijat Deshpande Interview: A Clinical Psychologist On Indian Dating & Relationships

“Conversation with Marriage Family Therapist & Founder, MySahana”
Jasbina Ahluwalia interviews Parijat Deshpande

 A few topics Parijat Deshpande addresses in this interview are:

  1.  (6:05)     People Change in Relationships         
  2.  (7:32)      Talking About Your Relationship: 5 Steps
  3.  (11:05)    Patterns Leading to Divorce
  4.  (14:30)   Biggest Issue in South Asian Couples
  5.  (15:57)    Issues in Arranged Versus Love Marriage
  6.  (17:38)    Distance Improves Communication
  7.  (18:58)    Self-Awareness Attracts The Right Partner

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Parijat Deshpande is the Founder and Executive Director of MySahana. The idea of founding MySahana was one that formed slowly in her mind over the course of a couple of years.

During her graduate training in Clinical Psychology, Parijat developed a strong liking for cross-cultural psychology. Specifically, she was interested in working with the Indian (South Asian) population and during her pre and post-masters internships she had the honor of working with several Indian (South Asian) clients.

However, it became clear to her very quickly that the theories and practices that are the foundation of mental health care are not necessarily applicable to Indian (South Asian) culture and values. She took this opportunity to update the Western-based clinical interventions and made them culturally-sensitive while working with Indian (South Asian) clients. What she saw was a significant improvement in clients’ symptoms and more openness from the clients to work on areas of concern.

Additionally, she also realized that not only was there little information about Indians (South Asians) available to practicing clinicians, but there was an abundance of misinformation about emotional health within the Indian (South Asian) community.

She seized this opportunity to connect the Indian (South Asian) world and the mental health world. Thus, MySahana was born.

Using her background as a Indian (South Asian) as well as her training in clinical psychology, she founded MySahana in 2010 to provide culturally-sensitive and culturally-relevant information to Indians (South Asians) and clinical service providers. Her vision for MySahana is to build awareness about mental health issues as they pertain to the Indian (South Asian) community thereby removing the stigma that is strongly prevalent within the community.

Through MySahana she hopes to take a preventative approach to mental health care by normalizing emotional issues that are common to Indians (South Asians). She believes the more informed Indians (South Asians) are about their overall health, the more proactive they will be to find resources to help them live a healthier life.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

(3:16):  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. We and our guests discuss relationships and health and wellness, each of which contributes to meaningful and fulfilling lives.

This is Jasbina, your host. I’m a former practicing lawyer and the Founder of Intersections Match, The Only Personalized Matchmaking Firm that provides Elite Matchmaking For Indian Singles in the US, Canada & the U.K.

I’m very excited to welcome Parijat Deshpande to our show tonight. Parijat is a psychology lecturer at UC Berkley and a mental health consultant who has counseled children, families, couples, groups, adults and teenagers from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and on a variety of issues such as Indian dating, relationships, marriage & divorce.

As the Founder and Executive Director of a Indian (South Asian) mental health non-profit called MySahana, she is mobilizing Indians (South Asians) to educate themselves about mental health, thereby empowering them to make informed decisions and choices with respect to their emotional lives. I had the pleasure of meeting Parijat a couple of months ago when we both spoke at a seminar for Indians (South Asians) and communication within relationships. I’m very excited to welcome Parijat here tonight. Welcome, Parijat.

 

Parijat Deshpande

(4:36):  Thanks so much. It’s great to talk to you again, Jasbina.

 

Jasbina Ahluwalia

(4:41): It’s a pleasure to have you on. As a professional dating coach and matchmaker focused on singles of Indian (South Asian) descent, I’m fascinated by insights and perspectives regarding relationships looked at with a cultural lens.

Since your organization, MySahana, likewise focuses on Indians (South Asians), I’d love to explore some of the insights you’ve encountered, both to increase awareness among singles who are interested in meeting perspective life partners as well as people in relationships who would love to further improve the connection they share with their partners. Parijat, what are the demographics of the people who typically seek MySahana services with respect to marital issues in particular?

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Parijat Deshpande

(5:20):  Marital issues are one of the many things that MySahana addresses. It’s actually one of the most common inquiries that we get.

We seem to get these questions and inquiries from people who are around the 25 to 35 year-old range where they’re trying to settle down. They’re trying to find somebody. They’re just barely entering into a committed relationship or just barely married.

Then we also get a lot of inquiries from people who are in the 50 to 60 year-old range who have been married for a long time. Maybe their children have just moved out and are getting married now. They’re reevaluating where their marriage is at this point in life.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

People Change in Relationships

(6:05):  So you have a perspective from that wide range. I think that’s very helpful.

In preparation for this interview, I asked Parijat beforehand to share with me some of the most common issues that MySahana encounters with respect to marital issues.

I’d like to share with our listeners a few of the issues Parijat identified one by one. Then I will ask Parijat to share with our listeners some of the best ways to resolve each of these issues.

The first issue that I’d like to ask Parijat to address is, “Why did my partner change after we got married?”

 

Parijat Deshpande

(6:41):  That’s one that we get really often from the 50 to 60 year-old men and women. It’s mostly women, but both men and women have contacted us.

People change. Everybody changes.

Elaborating on People Change in Relationships.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

Talking About Your Relationship: 5 Steps

(7:32):  That’s interesting. I thought it was a great point that you made.

If you believe that your partner has changed, chances are that you have as well.

The second issue I’d like you to address for our listeners is how to talk about sensitive topics like money, sex, children and religion without fighting.

 

Parijat Deshpande

(7:56):  There are so many hot-button topics in every single relationship that come up where it just hits a nerve or it’s really hard to talk about because you feel so passionately about it. It happens to everyone.

If you’re going through it, know that it’s not just you.

The easiest way to do that, and what I help people learn how to do, is to identify what this topic is.

You mentioned that it could be money, sex, children, religion or anything else for that matter.

  1. Identify what that specific point of contention is.
  2. Then understand, know and be okay with the fact that you are not going to find a solution right away.
  3. Prepare yourself for a slow discussion. The slower it goes, the less likely it’s going to build up and turn into this firestorm of fighting, which is usually where you get deadlocked. You don’t really make much progress at that point. Make sure you understand that it’s going to take a little bit of time.
  4. Then sit down with your partner at a time that’s convenient for both of you and say, “Look, this is an issue that we have to resolve.” Take turns, which is really important. One of you should sit down and say, “This is how I feel about it.” Don’t go into solution mode yet. Just talk about your perspective so that your partner can understand where you’re coming from.
  5. Then you switch sides and the other person takes a turn. That might be in the same conversation. It might have to be on a different day when it’s easier for each of you to listen to each other.

Elaborating on Talking About Your Relationship: 5 Steps.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

Patterns Leading to Divorce

(11:05):  I’m looking forward to hearing the answer to this one. The third issue is, “Why did we get a divorce?”

I’m going to put one more question on top of that. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed any recurring patterns in relationships that do culminate in divorce.

 

Parijat Deshpande

(11:35):  The first part was, “Why did we get a divorce?” There are so many reasons why people get divorces. It’s really hard to identify specifically what’s happened in a relationship.

Your second question is a more general statement. There are certain patterns that do occur in many relationships that can lead to a divorce.

I would like to make a point that divorce isn’t just a legal separation or a legal ending of a marriage.

A lot of Indians (South Asians) live parallel lives, which turns them into roommates. Essentially, that’s kind of a divorce without calling it legally so.

The pattern that I’ll mention in just a second can be present in people who are still legally married but no longer have that loving, connected relationship that you would imagine in a marriage but instead, what you see with most divorced couples.

A lot of the patterns that I’ve seen through my work with Indians (South Asians) and through MySahana are that there are a lot of people who don’t talk about these hot-button topics ahead of time.

Elaborating on Patterns Leading to Divorce.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

Biggest Issue in South Asian Couples

(14:30):  You mentioned these parallel lives. From what I understand, you see it even more so in Indian (South Asian) couples.

Since you’ve counseled couples from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, I’m wondering if you’ve noticed any other marital issues, without over generalizing, that tend to be more common to South Asians than non-South Asians.

 

Parijat Deshpande

(15:05):  A lot of them are very common amongst all cultures.

Difficulties talking about sex, money, religion and how to raise your children are very common in all cultures.

I do see more often that Indians (South Asians) come in with more family-related issues even if they’re coming in as a couple.

Elaborating on Biggest Issue in South Asian Couples.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

Issues in Arranged Versus Love Marriage

(15:57):  You mentioned that MySahana sees people anywhere from their 20s in the early stages to 50s and 60s. I’m wondering if you see different issues in couples who had “arranged” marriages versus couples in “love” marriages.

Are there different issues or patterns that you see with one vis-a-vis the other?

 

Parijat Deshpande

(16:25):  I don’t think so. I haven’t seen very many differences. I think they present themselves a little bit differently but the underlying issues are very similar.

Elaborating on Issues in Arranged Versus Love Marriage.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

Distance Improves Communication

(17:38):  Do you tend to see different issues in couples where one person was born and raised in the US and the other abroad, possibly India or another South Asian country versus both people being born and raised in the same country? Is there anything you’ve noticed in terms of patterns along those lines?

 

Parijat Deshpande

(18:03):  Yes, I have noticed something. What I noticed was actually surprising.

The couples where both people were from different countries were better at talking about their differences early on.

Elaborating on Distance Improves Communication.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

Self-Awareness Attracts The Right Partner

(18:58):  That is very interesting. Do you have any thoughts based on your experience as a counselor with respect to how to assess compatibility before making that commitment and entering marriage?

 

Parijat Deshpande

(19:16):  Yes. The best way to do that first, from my experience, is that the self-aware you are, the better you’re going to be at choosing the person who is right for you.

Elaborating on Self-Awareness Attracts The Right Partner.

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Jasbina Ahluwalia

(22:03):  That’s self-awareness again. I really appreciate you sharing your insights with us, Parijat. They’ve been very interesting.

I’m wondering if there is any last thought or take-home message that you’d like to leave our listeners with.

 

Parijat Deshpande

(22:19):  I started MySahana. It’s an education non-profit. I really do believe in that. If you’re looking for a partner, to improve your relationship or you want to know why something happened the way that it did, the best place to start is to educate yourself.

Learn about yourself, your partner and your relationship. Try to figure out where you are, who you are and who your partner is. From there, the solutions and compromises that will need to be made will come much more easily.

 

Jasbina Ahluwalia

(22:55):  Would you like to share your website with our listeners so that they know where to go to find MySahana?

 

Parijat Deshpande

(23:01):  You can visit us on the website at www.MySahana.org. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter. You can follow us numerous different ways.

 

Jasbina Ahluwalia

(23:16):  I’d like to thank Parijat for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure.

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 can be reached at jasbina@intersectionsmatch.com.

I appreciate you hanging out with us. Do email me with topics you’d like discussed in future shows. Make sure to join us for next month’s show. Goodnight everyone.

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