201: Love Every Day with Alexandra Solomon

Welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch! This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

In this episode, we’re talking Love Every Day with Alexandra Solomon. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots, and watch it on YouTube – follow and leave a 5-star review.

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The Couples Therapist Couch 201: Love Every Day with Alexandra Solomon

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new

In this episode, Shane talks with Alexandra Solomon about her new book, Love Every Day. Alexandra is a Therapist, Professor, Speaker, and the Author of 3 books. Hear why it’s important for kids in college to learn how to have a healthy relationship, how we could improve sex education for teens, core principles helpful for people going into any relationship, the importance of staying curious to maintain connection, and why it’s okay to make mistakes as a parent - and tell our kids about those mistakes.

This episode covers everything from relationships to Sex Ed. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What is Love Every Day about?
  • How is the book structured?
  • What happens when there's an absence of conversation around relationships?
  • How should we talk to kids and teens about relationships?
  • What are the core principles of a healthy relationship?
  • Why is curiosity so key in relationships?
  • How does intent differ from impact?
  • Is it okay to make mistakes as a parent?

To learn more about Alexandra, visit DrAlexandraSolomon.com

Check out Alexandra’s latest book, Love Every Day

Check out Alexandra’s podcast, Reimagining Love

Sign up for Alexandra’s eCourse

Check out Alexandra’s previous episode on The Couples Therapist Couch: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/blog/114-alexandra-solomon-on-taking-sexy-back

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below: 



 Show Notes


What is The Couples Therapist Couch?

This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Many of the episodes are interviews with leaders in the field of Relationships. The show is meant to help Therapists and Coaches learn how to help people to deepen their connection, but in the process it explores what is most needed for each of us to love, heal, and grow. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Alexandra Solomon 0:00
When there is an absence of information or an absence of conversation, what fills in the silence is shame.

Intro VO 0:12
Welcome to The Couples Therapist Couch, the podcast for couples therapists, marriage counselors and relationship coaches to explore the practice of couples therapy. And now your host, Shane Birkel.

Shane Birkel 0:25
Hey everyone, welcome back to The Couples Therapists Couch. This is your host, Shane Birkel, and this is the podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope that you have noticed that we've been getting back to doing the episodes weekly. And I'm really excited about that. And we have a great schedule of interviews coming up that really happy to share with you. Another thing that I've started doing in the last few episodes is posting all of them to YouTube. So if you're interested in watching the videos, you can go over to YouTube and actually see the video live. So I'd really recommend that I'm also posting a lot on Instagram, and I'd love to connect with you there. If you ever want to connect with me, that's a good place to do it, to comment on posts on Instagram or send me a direct message and follow me there so I can get to know all of you better. I'd love that. And as always, I'd really appreciate for you to give me a five star rating or review on the show wherever you listen to the podcast. You can find me either on YouTube or Instagram just by my name Shane Birkle. Today, I'm really excited to share with you an interview that I did with Dr. Alexandra Solomon, in my mind, she's truly a rockstar in the therapy world. She's a professor, speaker and author. And she just came out with her third book, which I'm really excited about. It's called Love Every Day. And it has a little something for couples to read every single day to as reminders and as educational material about how to have a great relationship. I definitely really love her first two books, taking sexy back and loving bravely, both best selling books. And she was also on episode number 114. So if you enjoy this episode, you might want to go back and listen to episode number 114 When that was when her book Taking Sexy Back came out. And so we talk a lot about that. But without further introduction. Here's the interview with Dr. Alexandra Solomon. Everyone. Welcome back to the couples therapists couch. This is Shane Birkel. And today I'm speaking with Dr. Alexandra Solomon, therapist, Professor, speaker and author of three books, including her newest love every day. Hey, Alexandra, welcome to the show.

Alexandra Solomon 3:09
Hi, Shane. It's great to see you again. It's been a while.

Shane Birkel 3:11
Yeah, great to see you too. I was just looking back at the other episode that we did. And it came out in February of 2020. So it was right before all of the craziness of COVID happened. And I can't believe that we're heading into the winter here where that's going to be four years ago. That's crazy.

Alexandra Solomon 3:32
is crazy. That is crazy. Yeah. Well, where we were we were due for another conversation. Absolutely.

Shane Birkel 3:40
Absolutely. By the way, for all your listeners out there. That was episode number 114. If you enjoy our conversation today, you might want to go back and check that out. And we were talking about your book, taking sexy back at that time. And Alexandra is also written best selling book called Loving Bravely. Yeah, but today I'm excited to talk about your new book. Love every day and why don't you tell everyone a little bit more about yourself and what you've been up to the last couple years? Yeah,

Alexandra Solomon 4:11
yeah. So right to my third book, my new book just came out a little over a month ago in October 2023. And that was really a wonderful project for me. I've been working closely with psychotherapy networker, which we were just talking before we started recording. It's a you know, conference that you and I both love. The biggest gathering of therapists really is sort of the premier conference for therapists and I've been on their faculty for many many years and written for psychotherapy networker many times and just sort of just you know, I'm always a yes, whenever they asked me to do something, and so psychotherapy networker is partnered with Pepsi and they have a publishing wing and Pepsi approached me and they were like, Would you like to make a workbook and I was like, Well, no workbook, but I do have this idea. I always my whole life. have loved these one a day books, you know, where are you open it, and there's just an entry for every day of the year. And I always have found them to be just really generous offerings from an author and also just really helpful to have like a little, a little dose of something self reflective, something insightful. And I also, you know, have been accumulating all of these basically mini essays because I've been posting on social media, so consistently for so many years, and social media is so ephemeral, you know, it's sort of there on your screen, and then it's gone. And so over the years, we've gotten hundreds of DMS of you know, I just did an entry last week about you know, this topic, can you send it to me? And I can't find it or don't remember when you did? And then a few people were like, can you just put these into a book. And so basically, this book was sort of birthed from that place of how might you know, how might we create micro doses of relational self awareness, which is the through line, all of the work that I do is helping people more deeply understand themselves in the context of their relationships. And so that was where the idea for the book was born. And pasty publishing just was the most wonderful partner in this project, we created a really, really beautiful book, you know, it just feels good in your hands, it's got a darling, navy blue silky bookmark, two people can, you know, kind of keep their place. And so that's what that's been a real labor of love, as all books are. And I'm so glad that it's out in the world.

Shane Birkel 6:32
Yeah, that's great. And I think it's so true, what you're talking about, with social media posts often see things. And I'll think, Oh, that's great. And then you know, you never go back to it, or you can never find it again. You know, it's nice to have it in the format of a book where people can really, you know, keep coming back to it, like you said, read through it every day. So is it designed? That you go through one at a time from the beginning to the end? Or how is it set up?

Alexandra Solomon 7:01
You know, so, because we were really my team? and I were like, okay, so how do we make sure that the reader has everything they need. So it is, it is organized, like, if you bought the book on June 13, you would just open it up to June 13. And whatever is there waiting for you, that's your entry for the day. And then you know, then you can come back June 14, and do that one, like there's one for every single day, but maybe you don't come back until July 12, you know, and then you just pick up where you left off, because it's not, it's not for any particular year, you just have it for you know, the rest of your life. But we didn't want to leave it there. So we also color we kind of basically factor analyzed, or categorize all the entries into nine big themes, like healing from the past, cultivating self compassion, sexual, you know, sexual self awareness, stages of love relationship problems, we have nine categories, and each of them has a color code. So if on a given day, the entry is about self compassion, but you want an entry that's more about healing from the past, you can flip through until you find one that is that color. We also just wanted people to have. Yeah, and I also like the idea of using an almost like, a little, like one of those kind of oracle decks that people have, you know, they kind of shuffle the cards and just pull one. So you also could just open to any page and just have that be your entry are lots of lots of permission. Yeah, lots of permission, lots of different ways of using it.

Shane Birkel 8:24
Yeah, but that's a good point. If healing from the past was something that was a thing for me, you know, I could just sort of target all of those pages and go through all that at once, you know, which would be cool.

Alexandra Solomon 8:35
That's right. That's exactly,

Shane Birkel 8:37
yeah, and, you know, I think a lot of relationship books that I've read, I'm sure you've never read any of these, where it just feels like, really heavy to wade through, you know, and some of them are extremely good and beneficial. But it's, it's a whole thing to sort of undertake. And it can get hard to sort of, like get from one, you know, it's like you can only handle so much per day. But I love the idea of these kind of, you know, quick hits that people can read for the day, and it gives them something to really focus on and get clear about and it's not the same thing as one of those other books I'm describing.

Alexandra Solomon 9:20
Right and I think there's I think there's a place I think that there's what's beautiful about this whole realm of relationships and self help you know, resources is that there are different teachers who land I know there are there have been chapters of my life where particular teachers are so sacred to me and I want to devour everything they've ever written and said and then out you know, then there's another teacher at a different moment in my life or there's one format that really resonates for me at one you know, one time in my life and a different format. So I think that you're you're right we need those kind of heavy start to finish books at some points in our journey and then sometimes a book like love every day, where you just have a micro dose you know, or I've heard so many sweets Stories now that the books been out for like a month of couples, you know who like it's their Sunday morning routine, like they have a cup of coffee, they look at it entry together, they have a conversation or they take it out, you know, read something, and then go for a walk. So it's really fun to hear, you know, some beginning beginning to hear stories of how individuals and couples are using a resource like this, but I hear you we need, we need lots of resources at different points in our journey or our own, you know, kind of relationship development. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 10:28
absolutely. And I actually, as I'm thinking about it, I think I originally heard about you, because you are teaching a relationship course at I believe, Northwestern or some university. Exactly. You know, which I thought was such a cool thing. This was probably many years ago, I'd love to hear, you know, sort of how you approach that how you teach people about relationships versus like doing therapy with people. And you know, what led you to write the all of the books that you've written so far?

Alexandra Solomon 11:00
Yeah, I mean, that really so the you know, the classes sort of in a cheeky way called marriage one on one. It is technically called Building loving and lasting relationships, colon marriage, one on one, but you know, around campus is known as marriage 101, which is, you know, it was it was the title. So when I this this spring, I will teach it for the Arts. I keep saying 23rd time, it's the 24th time this spring, oh, my gosh, the 24th year of teaching it, that's just wild. Yeah. And so the first year it was taught was 2000. And I was, I was probably a 24 year old. No, not. Anyways, young, younger than I am now. Graduate student, you know, I didn't have a hand and in naming the course, I was a grad student, I was the first teaching assistant. And I was one of the lecturers for the course. And that name actually suited the class well, because it was originally conceptualized as a course about marriage. And so it was all about marital sexuality and marital challenges. And it was the idea was to educate, you know, emerging adults about marriage so that they would choose suitable partners and have the skills they needed. In the year 2000, you know, the age of entry into marriage was around 23, 24, 25. So when you're teaching college juniors and seniors, they're already close to many of them, we're pretty close to the doorstep of married, we had engaged students in the class, we had couples, you know, really well established couples in the class. Well, fast forward to, you know, 2024, the age of entry, there is been a significant drop just in the last 24 years, in the percentage of the population that is married, right, we now have the lowest percentage of married couples we've ever had. And the age of entry into marriage is older than it ever has been. So 28, 29, 30. So this idea of marriage, you know, if I start talking about marriage, I'm become like, Charlie Brown's teacher, you know, like, wah, wah, wah, wah, like it just feels far away for many of them.

Shane Birkel 13:00
And 18 and 20 year olds, yeah, yeah, yeah, just

Alexandra Solomon 13:03
it's far, you know, not for all of them. I think for students who come from more religiously conservative backgrounds, more rural backgrounds, more military backgrounds, like for those students, they are, you know, they're pretty well on their way. But we have lots of students who have yet to hold somebody's hand or yet to be, you know, have much of any relationship experience or who are really working expansively in the realms of polyamory and consensual non monogamy and sort of deconstructing the institution of marriage in their own minds, and really questioning what is the right partnership model for me. So I don't even really, I don't even know how many times I use the word marriage and the course. And it really is a course about relational self awareness, understanding who you are, the messages you've received, the inheritance you have from your family of origin around relationships. And then then from there, they're going to have to just figure out their own path, you know, so we talk and we also talk now, we didn't do this for the first, whatever, 10-15 years of the class, we talk about, I talk about dating apps, I talk about hookup culture and situation ships, I talk about breakups. The talk about long distance relationship moving in together, so things that are not marital topics, but the sort of what I call from here to I do topics, you know, everything that kind of meets them where they are right now. And so it's been it's been fun for the class to grow with me, you know, like I was newly married and not a parent when I first started teaching the class. And now, you know, I've been the primary faculty member for the class for probably about 15 years at this point. I now have kids who are the age of my cut of the students I teach, which is like the weirdest, you know, like time warp of my whole life. Right?

Shane Birkel 14:43
Well, I love hearing what you're saying. Right? Because I think it is good to disentangle the idea of marriage from the idea of being prepared for relationships because even when kids are young, I don't even Saying I mean teenagers, and definitely when they're in college that those ages, you know, I think it's so important that they learn how to have a healthy relationship. And they may not ever get married, or they may not get married for a long time. But I think growing up, and I don't know what you think about this, but like growing up in our families, we don't necessarily learn good relationship skills or things like boundaries or understanding our influence our family of origin had on us and all of those things. And so a class like that is super important, no matter where someone is in their relationship status. Yeah, you know, so that they just have that self awareness. So that's,

Alexandra Solomon 15:39
yeah, the research, you know, I think this is one of my sort of soapboxes I tend to get on is the way that we culturally diminish or downplay the romantic experiences of teens and emerging adults, when what the research shows us is that those early dating and relationship experiences are the foundation of long term partnerships. So young people really, really deserve to have the skills they need when they're young, and they're moving into and out of relationships, because even if they don't become a marriage, they are the template like they are the early kind of training grounds. And I think that we culturally Don't, don't elevate those we sort of talk about crushes, or what do you really know about love. And this, this really came home for me so profoundly few years ago, I was the the chair of an undergraduate students honors thesis, and she was in the school of education, social policy, and her project was, she did a kind of content analysis or kind of coding, she coded themes in three of the major progressive sex education curricula that are available, she really wanted to study kind of the sex education that happens in the US. So she pulled the most progressive curriculum, the ones that you know, that that really are committed to being sex positive, not doing a lot of like, shaming messages, not not a heavy handed, you know, danger and risk one. So she wanted to code for themes of pleasure, for, you know, themes around gender. And the thing that as we as we went into that analysis, the thing that we found that we were not expecting to find is that even in these very progressive curricula, there were messages that the curriculum was giving. That was like, you know, you're a teenager, it's puppy love. And these aren't real relationships, and like really kind of subtly wound that maybe not even suddenly diminishing the importance and value and seriousness of adolescent relationships. And I think that is a that was quite that struck me It struck both of us we hadn't anticipated that going in that we would find that kind of I mean, it feels disrespectful, you know, to say that just because you're young, you don't understand love. It's not it doesn't look like the love you will have when you're 30. But it doesn't need to, you know, it doesn't need to to be significant to matter. Right?

Shane Birkel 18:00
In the intent, I'm assuming I'm interested, what you found, as far as how much teaching there is about relationships. You know, obviously, it's to teach about sexual education. But you know, how much of that sort of relational ideas was coming into it? Yeah,

Alexandra Solomon 18:19
well, these progressive ones really weren't quite lovely around talking about emotions and communication. But that is, but that is a it's a small percentage of kids in the US who actually get these curricula. They are largely through like progressive, you know, churches. But yeah, the secular education that the majority of public school kids get now there's no real there's there is little to no relationship education. And it is very much predominantly fear based. There's no requirement, you know, only a handful of states maybe like 25 to 30 states even require that sex ed curriculum be medically accurate. So there's not even a requirement around medical accuracy. It is it is by and large, I mean, we talk you know, in the marriage one on one class, we talk about their sex ed experiences, and I'm horrified year after year, like, this past year, I was horrified at what these kids learned in there. You know, what these college students had been told when they were in high school, you know, they had many, many of my college students who were educated in the public school system received what's called object lessons. Is that a term that you've heard? No, I

Shane Birkel 19:28
had no, no, no.

Alexandra Solomon 19:30
object lesson is when the sex ed teacher takes like a piece of scotch tape. And like, you know, she sticks it to her arm and passes it to a student and they stick it to their arm and every student sticks a piece of tape to their arm, and then it comes back to the teacher and the teacher says, This is what happens to your ability to attach. When you have multiple partners. This tape was sticky, but then when we all had it on our arm, it lost its ability to be sticky. That's what happens when you have multiple sexual partners. That's an option. Yes, that's an object lesson. So that's our text. Art at work.

Shane Birkel 20:04
Oh, my goodness. Right. So yeah. I mean, do you have any ideas of how we could begin to teach kids at a younger age about relationships,

Alexandra Solomon 20:19
as I watch kind of the intersection of politics and education here at the, you know, in the US, and the ways in which the education, educational policy has been co opted, you know, by very, very conservative, religiously founded, you know, beliefs and ideas, I don't think we're going in a direction where sex education is going to become more comprehensive, it's going to become more polarized, more ideological. So I think that there's just a responsibility on parents, you know, parents and and I think my vision would be like communities of parents coming together and getting a curriculum and kind of taking responsibility for, you know, figuring out what are the what are the ways that they, what are the messages that they want to convey? How do they want to convey it, who are the parents who they can kind of work together with and brainstorm ideas, because it's not, I don't think that it's something that we're going to be able to leave to schools, unfortunately, because it has, even though there's clear research, you know, the, there's kind of two big camps like psychoeducation, curricula are either abstinence only, which is the majority of what's taught in the US, or comprehensive, and the research is super, super clear that when you teach comprehensive sex education, which is basically how to have safer sex, when you decide to have it, you delay, sexual you delay sexual initiation, like, you know, students will, quote, unquote, lose their virginity at an older age, and you reduce your sexual violence, obviously, and you reduce unintended pregnancies. So there are really clear outcomes of comprehensive sex education, abstinence, only sex education, does nothing, you know, saying saying, one partner, only within marriage, that kind of messaging doesn't delay onset of sex, and it sets kids up to not know how to be safe when they do have sex. So you increase unintended pregnancies. So the data is there, you know, the data is there, under Obama's presidency, Obama was funding, comprehensive sex ed, there was a ton of data coming out, we were getting really good results. And then when Trump became president, a lot of that funding was stripped away. And so now we're starting to see that the results kind of reversing.

Shane Birkel 22:27
Yeah. And I'm even thinking about, like, you know, it to bypass the sexuality thing. Because, you know, like you said, it's so influenced by a lot of different viewpoints, you know, to sort of come at an angle of, here's how to have healthy boundaries for yourself as a teenager, you know, more of a relational class, relationship class, here's how to value yourself, here's how to have healthy boundaries, you know, something like that, you know, it might make people feel more comfortable, no matter what their viewpoints are about sexuality. Yeah,

Alexandra Solomon 23:03
I think that's, I think that's an interesting angle, right? Where if you found that more in, in relationships versus sexuality than I think you do bypass a lot of that activation, that that gets going. And, you know, there is like a, there's a public health element, right? kids deserve to understand what's happening in their bodies, even around you know, puberty and menstruation and for people of all for kids of all genders to understand ministration and, you know, all of it, like just all everything that happens within the adolescent body, but I hear you that that's where people get dicey and sensitive and all of that stuff. I hear you. Yeah, yeah. And I think you're certainly not easy answers. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 23:44
definitely. No, and I appreciate you speaking to it, you know, these are huge, like, you know, things that the government would need to vote on and pet like, Wouldn't we're talking, when we start talking about education policy and things like that, it

Alexandra Solomon 23:57
becomes very big, it becomes really big.

Shane Birkel 24:01
But just to sort of Fast forward to when kids are like college age, or 20s, or adults of any age, really, you know, one of the things that happens when they receive these messages, either from their families or from the schools or from society, is that, you know, becomes very stressful and overwhelming for people. And confusing if they don't have the information. And I think a lot of people end up sort of blaming themselves, you know, going into sort of a shame, feeling about what's wrong with me that I don't know how to have sex or what's wrong with me that I don't know how to have a relationship or what's wrong with me that I can't communicate better something. And I think obviously, that's probably a big thing that we do often in therapy is trying to reframe that for people and help people with those beliefs that are carried from this messed up system that we all come from.

Alexandra Solomon 24:57
Right. That's right. That's right. Yeah. I think you're right that, that when there is an absence of information or an absence of conversation, what fills in the silence is shame. Yeah, yeah. Because because we're taught especially mean, shame in facts are so at risk of going together, even in the best of times people who are married, who are, you know, who enjoy, you know, sexual connection with their spouse, they can experience shame, right? So even those of us who are in established relationships are vulnerable to having some shame, like, what's wrong with my desire? What's wrong with my interest? You know, why am I not more, you know, available, whatever. If we're at risk of experiencing shame, certainly, certainly, right. kids and teens and young adults who don't have safe places to turn and ask questions and have conversation and have access to information are ripe for experiencing shame. I think you're, I think you're right about that.

Shane Birkel 25:54
Yeah. That's why I'm such a huge fan of you. Because I feel like you know, you're all about sort of providing the education for people providing the reassurance that there's nothing wrong with you, you know, giving people that validation, and self esteem and valuing them, you know, so thank you, for all you know, all of your writing, and all of your social media posts and all that you do for that.

Alexandra Solomon 26:19
You're welcome. You're welcome. Yeah, it's a privilege and a pleasure, for sure. Yeah.

Shane Birkel 26:24
So let's talk about, you know, if we're talking about, you know, the things that are necessary to have a healthy relationship, obviously, every situation is unique and different. But have you found some core principles or foundational things that are really helpful for people to, you know, going into any relationship? I

Alexandra Solomon 26:47
feel like the word, you know, now that I now that I have my own podcast, not as many episodes, as you have you been at? You're one of the, oh, geez, you've been at this for a long time. So it's funny when you I'm sure you've noticed this also, like in my podcasting journey, it's like, I hear myself a lot, you know, and I hear like the word I feel like I probably use more than any other word is curiosity. You know, being curious. Yeah, that is probably, if I had to choose like one central like principle for a healthy relationship, it is that ability to be curious ability to notice when you have lost the ability to be curious, when you've gotten yourself in a place where you're just really sure that you understand what your partner did, and what this is all about, you know, noticing that and noticing that, you know, that sense of like, being sure and clear, is the enemy of curiosity, and then kind of figuring out how do you move back towards curiosity? I think that probably is a really fun, I think about, like, when I've worked with a guy just had this experience this morning, seeing a couple that we've been working in, we have had our sleeves rolled up, you know, like working really diligently the three of us for years at this point. And I was I just noticed this morning. What a like, I almost imagine like inside their chests and bellies, like, like space, like, they just they felt really spacious to me, like they felt and they were for the entire session. They were curious, you know, they were like, I don't know how soon, but I could feel and I could like almost feel what it might be like inside of their bodies as they had that like bigger ability to stay curious versus that like constriction, right? And like, no, but this no one's like this. And, you know, that kind of certainty that ends up shutting, shutting down conversation shutting down connection? Yeah,

Shane Birkel 28:38
absolutely. And if, you know, as therapists, if people come into our office, and you see a lot of the constriction, and you see a lot of the being right, you know, wanting to be right. And you see a lot of that lack of curiosity. I mean, why do you think, what is it about people in relationships that makes that curiosity hard before they learn some of the things that you're talking about?

Alexandra Solomon 29:04
Well, I think that we, I think one, I'm curious what you would add, I'm curious what you would add to this. I think one of the blocks is that, I think that we confuse curiosity. And we, I think we confuse curiosity with weakness. That if I'm, if I'm asking if I'm confused, if I change my perspective, you know, I thought I was thinking like this. But now when I hear you say that now I'm gonna stand over here and see it a little differently. Those are things that I think we are culturally taught are signs of weakness. You know, I think that we're taught like this, but I don't think maybe there's I think there's a gender because of gender piece that cuts both ways, I think for those who've been socialized in the masculine for men. Right. The old stereotype that men don't ask for directions. Yeah. And that that I think it's sort of a I think that stereotype will die now that we all have a maps on our phones. But that was like always, like, when I was growing up like that was a stereotype play like, you know, man, I never asked for directions. That idea that like to be confused, to have to ask questions means you're not being a man, you're not manly, you're, you know you're weak.

Shane Birkel 30:17
So I think there's ways in which these at all?

Alexandra Solomon 30:19
Yeah, I think we shame men out of being curious or asking or going hmm, I hadn't thought of it like that. I don't know, I didn't I didn't know what I hadn't thought of it that way. But now that you say it, I think I see where you're coming from. That is not something we're taught to like praise and celebrate and boys and men. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 30:36
absolutely. Yeah, that's great. And I think

Alexandra Solomon 30:40
for women, I think we are taught women are given the opposite message that you are the ones who get relationships and you know, relationships. And so that shuts down curiosities like, Ah, no, I know what you meant, when you said this. And I, you know, I think there's a way in which women are at risk of a kind of like, relational haughtiness, that that yeah, you know, goes against curiosity,

Shane Birkel 30:59
right, they sort of become the expert. And, you know, what I, what I've observed is that they're often Right, right? They'll start saying, like, well, you're just being defensive, and you're just doing this and you're not really listening to right, but they're moving away from openness, or curiosity or vulnerability at that point.

Alexandra Solomon 31:17
Yes, yes, that's right. Because they are they are critiquing their partner's behavior, versus talking about what the impact of their partner's behavior is having on them.

Shane Birkel 31:29
Right. Right. And that, and that's what I was gonna say, you know, in addition to what you're talking about, which is, which is so good. I was thinking also that, you know, if my partner says, hey, when you said those words, to me, it was really hurtful. One of the things that happens in my mind is I want to convince you that I wasn't trying to be hurtful to you. So I'm not I'm not being curious anymore. I'm saying, Well, you shouldn't have felt hurt by that. I was just trying to speak about the weather and I don't understand why you know, you're hurt. So I'm, so I'm no longer listening and being curious about my partner's experience. At that point, I'm just trying to explain it away or be defensive or whatever else, you know,

Alexandra Solomon 32:15
I hated I really, and I'm using the word hate on purpose here. I hated reading the Gottman research about how you know intent versus what you're what you're speaking to his intent versus impact, right? Like you want to show your partner you had really benign intent because you actually did have benign intent, you are not trying to hurt your partner, but your benign intent doesn't matter. All that matters is for Israel is your partner's, you know, the impact. And so I hated reading the Gottman research that completely reinforced that that benign intent doesn't matter. What matters is the harmful impact. I was like, god dammit, of course, you guys are proving the hard thing once again, because I know I feel like that even as a couple of therapists, you know, when a couple is like replaying a painful interaction, I so want to say, you know, because the the partner who's done harm, feels like shit, right? They don't want you know, unless you're a sociopath. Like you don't want to do harm to your partner. And so I it's like a knee jerk inside of me. It's like, but wait, they didn't mean it. But they didn't. Oh, I didn't mean it. And I think it all but that is not going to get us anywhere. Past

Shane Birkel 33:24
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's something that's so hard to to move away from right and wrong thinking, Yeah, to move into the flexibility of, it's both right. My partner cares about me and loves me and doesn't want to hurt me. And I'm really hurt and need to give them feedback about what they're doing. Right. It's like, that becomes very difficult for couples if they don't have the relational skills or the communication skills. Yep. Yep.

Alexandra Solomon 33:53
But I'll tell you what, as that partner who's prone to defensiveness and explanation, as that partner really does grow the capacity for not melting into shame, right? Because I think shame becomes the driver of explanation, trying to explain myself to you because I feel ashamed of what I did, as that partner can like, have increasing bandwidth for tolerating that sting of oh, I hurt my partner, even though I didn't mean to, then the partner becomes more benign, when they bring it up. Right? Then the partner can start to say, Listen, I know you didn't mean to hurt me. Listen, I know that my skin is really thin right now because of XYZ. Right? The partner can start to like, can start to scaffold the delivery of the feedback. You don't I mean, like they can, they can make sure but if you ask my what I found is if you ask the hurt partner to scaffold the feedback before you ask the defensive partner to get less defensive, the hurt partner is like, Are you kidding me? You're asking for more emotional labor for me. I are I told you that I'm hurt. And now you're asking me to like cushion my hurt so that my partner can, you know, so that's palatable to my partner. So I think you tell me that I think the first move is to really help that defensive partner just have some skills to like, not get swept up in the defensiveness. 100%

Shane Birkel 35:19
I'm so glad you're saying that. I think there's an order to these things. This is something that I think a lot of couples therapists actually get wrong, where they're trying too hard to maintain a sense of neutrality and make both people feel heard and understood. And I think that it's actually important that we focus on one issue before another and it yeah, there might be some different ways of looking at that. But the example you're giving is right on that I'm not going to ask this person to open up and be vulnerable about their reality, if all I've seen from the other partner is defensiveness, and shutting it down, and the inability to hear and listen and understand. So I need to get them I need to teach them about listening before I'm going to ask their partner to have a voice. Absolutely. Especially

Alexandra Solomon 36:08
if the hurt partner or the woman and the defensive partner is a man agree specially the moment you start to ask a hurt woman to soften to like, kind of deliver her description of her her feelings in a more palatable way to a partner, you've lost. She's gonna be like, Oh, I'm sorry, what are you asking of me more emotionally? But really? Yeah, I think especially when the gender is laid out like that. There's

Shane Birkel 36:31
Yeah, yeah. 100%. And, and, as you said before, it doesn't mean that the, the male partners in these examples don't have good intentions, or are nice people. But there's just so much 1000s of years of patriarchy that are coming in to that moment that inform a certain way that things are happening that we have to be mindful of, or we yeah, we run the risk of not not being helpful to the couple.

Alexandra Solomon 36:59
Yep. And, and then like yours, like finishing the order of things, that's it's the only way to then also get to a point where we can invite her to look at I think there's a way in which, um, it will stick with a gender. So I do think it plays out this way frequently, where she's got almost like an investment, like not an investment in her because it makes it sound kind of intentional, but, but we're focusing on how she's been hurt, keeps all three of us from looking at how she's being hurtful, you know, her contribution to it. And I think it's so easy, because of patriarchy, for women to feel really, really powerless and have a really hard time seeing how actually incredibly powerful they are in their relationships, like the way in which I mean, I've spent, whatever, 25 years now with mostly heterosexual couples, and I watch how husbands completely key their sense of self on how she's looking at him, you know, the reflection of him in her eyes. And I'm not saying that's like good or right. But I think it's really easy for women to miss that I think women tend to feel invisible, diminished and voiceless in ways that they are not, because what I see from my therapist chair is I see him watching her, I see him, okay, when she's pleased, and very much not okay, on the inside when she's not pleased. And I think it's it's hard to get her to understand that and notice that.

Shane Birkel 38:32
Yeah, and I think everything we're talking about hinges on the shame, and the solution to shame or the opposite of that, which is someone valuing themselves and having a healthy self esteem. You know, and so, I think that becomes part of the work too. And I know it's a dance, right? Sometimes, there isn't a straightforward way that this all plays out when we're working with couples, but I want to move that male partner that you're describing, into the idea of valuing themselves and feeling a healthy self esteem and feeling like, you know, I can listen to feedback from my partner, you know, and a big in my mind, or in the way that I work a big part of that is going into the family of origin and understanding the beliefs that you're bringing into the present moment, which is another thing, you know, that people tend to be sort of dismissive of the impact of their parents or their family of origin into how much it affects them.

Alexandra Solomon 39:42
Yes. 100% Yeah. 100% Yeah, I agree. That's the that's a huge part of the way that I work as well. And I'm glad that you're bringing up that part about like that, especially when you're working with men and the client and the sort of like, stereotype. You know, that We're I mean, we're like, we're indulging ourselves in like, a lot of stereotypes here. Conversations right? Now 100%, but no one there's 1000 variations of this dance. But I think that you're right is that you know, even if and as we help the female partner understand how powerful she is, then we don't want her to feel burden like shit. All right now, my husband self esteem rests on my praise of him my appreciation of him now he needs to be missing his worth from inside. And that's what you're speaking to and understanding why that sensitivity to being misperceived or not held in warm regard like that, that didn't start in his marriage that started in his family of origin, like you're saying, right,

Shane Birkel 40:41
it perhaps from the whole society at large? And 100%, you know, and women need to, you know, learn how to value themselves as well. But I think, and like you said, it's not 100%. I mean, it could be that there are unique cases in every situation and different ways of working with people. But I think there are some ways that are influenced by the way we're socialized under patriarchy, that, you know, make it so that there are dynamics that we see often between couples where one identifies as a man and one as a woman.

Alexandra Solomon 41:19
Yeah, I think you're making a good point, too, about sometimes there is resistance to looking at the impact of the past. And I think, two sources that resistance that I can think of off the top of my head. One is, it feels like an excuse, I'm going to people that are like, there's no point in talking about my parents, because I'm responsible for my life today doesn't matter what happened in my past, to the mental health of my partner's past, like we were responsible for ourselves today. So I think there's a resistance or a fear that if we talk about that sort of inheritance stuff, that we're taking responsibility off of ourselves. And I think the other one is, it can feel awfully disloyal, that if I start to get critical of things in my family, that somehow I'm saying, I don't also appreciate them. I think that is true. I think that's true for all family, they I see it a lot in my my first generation clients, and my first generation students, where they're just like my parents gave every thing, you know, to and sacrifice so much, and in order to create a sense of like, safety for me and my siblings. And so how dare I critique. So I think there's a couple of those. Those are just two of the ways I think people get sensitive to looking at the past. And so that work, has to always be done just with the most gentleness and like holding that like dialectic holding that both and of my parents did the best they could do at the time they were doing it. And I have to look at the things that I didn't get, or that didn't go the way that I needed them to go so that I can start to take responsibility today. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 42:43
I think it goes back to what you're talking about earlier, as far as intent is not the same as impact, right. So it's recognizing my parents loved me and cared about cared about me and would have done anything for me. And there were things that were happening, that weren't great weren't healthy for me. And that's influencing my beliefs in this present day relationship. Yeah, we're who I am.

Alexandra Solomon 43:09
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, as the as the parent of emerging adults, because a lot of the conversations that we haven't our house is like, you know, I want I want to be a safe enough place for our kids to talk about all the experiences they had growing up, you know, the ones where they felt really supported in the moments they didn't feel supported or understood by my husband, or, you know, and me mostly, mostly be I think, like, my husband does they give him they give him a pretty nice pass. And I you know, and that's, and that's like, those conversations are really, like, tender and difficult. And I gotta walk my talk.

Shane Birkel 43:51
Yeah, and I think it's so healthy, you know, to have those conversations with our kids and to show them, it's okay to make mistakes. I think that's a huge part of to go back to that thing we were talking about originally, where people will have a hard time with curiosity. I think part of that is like, you don't have to be right. You don't have to be perfect. Like, and modeling for our kids, like, Hey, I make mistakes as a parent, and you're gonna make mistakes. And here's what we can do, to repair if those things happen, you know? Yeah,

Alexandra Solomon 44:22
for sure. Yeah. There's a funny, there's a, like a funny side effect of being a parent who values self awareness is like, there are times there's, there was a time a few years ago, were one of our I will say it in the most general terms, one of our kids was going through something difficult. And I put a hypothesis out there of the reason this thing is happening for you in this way is because of my blind spot or my growing edge as a parent, and this kid of mine said back to me, Mom, I would very much love to make this about but it's not about you. It's me, this is my like, there's a way that US self aware parents have a risk of like taking our kids experiences and making them about us at times when they are just actually, about our kids journey. You know, it's like an over almost like an overcorrection. Like the parent who's like, I did the best I could take it to your therapist. The problem on the other side of like, no, no, wait, you're having this problem because of me. Let me tell you how I did do dirty. And let me tell you why. That's.

Shane Birkel 45:28
That's true. Yeah, it's not about you. Right. Right. That's great. Yeah, thank you for sharing that. That's good. Can you say how people can find you as far as your website and mention your book again, so people can go out and get that.

Alexandra Solomon 45:44
My website is DrAlexandraSolomon.com. And there you'll find the entire ecosystem of podcasts episodes and blog articles and eat courses and books and social media links. My Instagram is where I'm most active. That's @Dr.Alexandra.Solomon. And then they are the new book is called love every day, and it is available wherever books are sold, we love to send people to bookshop.org at least people in the US to book shop.org Because that's how we support the indie booksellers, which are oftentimes woman owned or bipoc owned independent booksellers. Oh,

Shane Birkel 46:25
great. Good. That's good. And what's the name of your podcast?

Alexandra Solomon 46:30
Reimagining Love.

Shane Birkel 46:31
Okay, great.

Alexandra Solomon 46:32
We are a weekly show 100 episodes in and we do a blind we do to the first two episodes of the month, our solo episodes where I'm just kind of speaking to a relational knot or a dynamic and then the rest of the episodes our guest conversations.

Shane Birkel 46:49
Oh, great. Great. Let's say that there's a therapist who this is the first time that they've heard of you and are finding out about you. What what would be the first book you would recommend that they read? Would it be your new one or would it be one of the other ones?

Alexandra Solomon 47:04
I think probably the first book is loving briefly. Probably going through a quarter. Yeah, I think that's probably the best because that's you know, that's sort of like the the big kind of primer the big introduction to relational self awareness. I also for therapists you know, I have a lot of E courses that I've a lot of E courses and workshops I've done for therapists through psychotherapy, networker, so if you go to like a therapy networkers like courses and type in my name, you'll see I did an entire loving bravely e course with psychotherapy, networker, which is all about helping clients who are single dating and single again, it's comprehensive, great course, and lots of workshops that, you know, they, they will record and kind of share again. So that's a great place for therapists to go. And I think the pot you know, the podcast audience, probably similar to yours might probably I don't think I probably have quite the percentage that you have. But I know there are a lot of therapists who listen to the podcast, because I often get emails from people who are like, my therapist had me listen to this episode. And so it's also becomes, as I'm sure your episodes do, also becomes a nice resource for therapists to have to refer to offer to their clients, you know, nice free resource and

Shane Birkel 48:16
yeah, definitely. Yeah, that's great. Yeah, and I'm, I'm

Alexandra Solomon 48:20
a work I'm a worksheet nerd. So when I make a solo episode, I often make a worksheet like a companion worksheet. So if somebody goes back to the catalog, they'll find a worksheet on jealousy, a worksheet on over functioning under functioning, a worksheet on paste discrepancies and relationships. So it becomes, you know, you can really kind of build up your treasure trove. And we also have like a 60 page packet of all the worksheets available for sale on the website. So if you become a reimagining love nerd, and you really start diving into the catalog, you can also buy yourself a, you know, this, like a $17 book of all the worksheets we've developed. Oh,

Shane Birkel 48:58
that's great. That's a great idea. Cool. Well, thank you so much. I'll put the website and the podcast and the Instagram in the show notes so people can easily find them. And I follow you on Instagram, I would definitely recommend everybody follow you on Instagram. But thank you so much for taking the time here today. I really love talking to you. And hopefully we can catch up again at some point in the future. All right. Thank you so much, Alexandra, I'm so grateful for you. And thank you to all you listeners out there. Definitely go check out her website, DrAlexandraSolomon.com. Get a copy of her new book, Love Every Day, and find out more about what she has going on. I'm just really grateful for all of you. As I mentioned at the beginning, if you could leave a rating and review on the show, wherever you listen to podcasts, I'd be truly grateful for that. Also, come on over to YouTube or to Instagram where I'm uploading Well, I'm uploading the videos onto YouTube. So you can watch the full video interviews, if you would like if that's something that would interest you on YouTube. And then I post a lot of stuff on Instagram for couples about relationships, but I've also been posting some clips from the shows. So that's a great place to connect with me to make comments or send me messages if you want to connect. And I'd love to hear from all of you out there, which guests other guests that you're interested in hearing on the show. If anybody has any recommendations, I would be grateful. So I hope all of you have a great week. Thank you all so much. This is Shane Birkel and this is The Couples Therapist Couch. Bye, everybody!

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