On Sunday night, May 15, Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem hosted an enlightening lecture with Dr. Akiva Perlman and Dr. Tamar Perlman.
Dr. Akiva Perlman, PhD, LCSW, Clinical Director of Social Work at ODA in Williamsburg, shared that past traumas emerge in the space of a relationship. If a person isn’t healed and they don’t feel complete, they will want the other person to complete them. In mature love, on the other hand, the person feels whole and realizes he is in the relationship to become a better human being. They choose to have a meaningful life with one another and look to enhance their lives.
Dr. Tamar Perlman, PsyD, clinical psychologist in Queens, shared that when you start a marriage, hope is the primary feeling. Your marriage is not just for the moment but for down the line. “I see couples who are in the throes of real confusion,” she said. There are three elements in the relationship. There is the self, the other, and the unit. If the self feels comfortable, then the image of the unit makes sense. Confusion comes when one of the couple feels they can’t exist if they give to the unit. She noted that if there is contempt this usually is a predictor for divorce.
She shared an analogy of dried-up cracked soil that can’t take in nutrients. Soil is thirsty for nurture and growth. When one member is like that dried soil, then they can’t receive the nurture and nutrients they need. If one member loses hope that the unit can co-exist, then the choice of love is gone. That member feels resentment and disconnect. If you are the one who gives and it’s not received, then you feel like a victim. This ends up cycling in a relationship. “The two most important words that marriage requires is hope and choice.” It’s a choice you make on making marriage the deepest relationship, which is not natural. Couples therapy brings back hope and choice in a relationship.
Someone asked what the most common mistakes are that a couple makes. Dr. Tamar Perlman shared three mistakes. One is expecting your spouse to heal you. She shared a teaching of Rav Moshe Shapiro that only when you are grown up can you be in a relationship with another. Then you can see the other as separate from you, so you don’t seek the other to repair you. You notice what you need to do to connect to the other person. She taught that “our spouse gives us direction and support but not healing.”
The second mistake is not sharing enough and expecting the other person to know you. People don’t share what they need because they feel shame and saying I really need you to be there for me leaves you vulnerable. When you share from vulnerability and don’t get what you need it leaves you wounded. People are often afraid, so they don’t express what they need from their spouse. Dr. Perlman taught that if I say I need you, this gives the spouse a chance to give and this brings back hope and choice, whereas fear of disconnect and fear of not getting what you want keeps people alone and prevents them from asking to get what they want.
The third mistake is not honoring differences. Differences should be honored because they play into making a marriage work. “A good marriage takes a lot of humility. The spouses need to understand each other and respect each other’s differences.”
Dr. Akiva Perlman added that even though there is a risk, we need to embrace ourselves and feel safe to be vulnerable. He also shared that when you are single and waiting to get married, this is a good time to work on perfecting yourself. However, there is a limit to how much you can grow alone. The other brings something out of you. The beauty of marriage is it can help a person become the greatest version of himself and to bring more hope into the world. “The challenge of marriage brings us a deeper sense of who we are.”
Dr. Tamar Perlman shared that “Love is more powerful than pain. Our capacity to love and want to give to the other is greater than the darkest times.” She added that “the desire to connect is greater than the traumas.” She explained that the place with the least control holds the most possibility for intimacy.
Dr. Akiva Perlman added that we are looking for affirmation. “We need to work on eliciting desire in our spouse instead of shame.”
He then spoke about abuse. People are not entitled to hurt one another or to belittle one another. There are basic human needs of respect, privacy, and safety. If a person is in an abusive relationship, he or she needs to ask if this is safe for me and is it erasing me as a human? It’s a warning sign if a person loses the essence of who they are in the relationship.
By Susie Garber