In this podcast, Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, psychologist, and noted author, discusses her work helping people repair their most important relationships, and restore happiness and purpose to their lives.
Rapini is a very established, prominent psychotherapist who specializes in the intimacy and sexual issues that affect our relationships. She is a sought-after lecturer, author, and television personality who knows how to get a relationship back on track and her advice and written work has been featured on countless shows and in various media.
Rapini discusses her work with couples and individual people who are dealing with challenging sexual issues, both physical and emotional. She explains how therapy is often the answer, and how taking a pill often isn’t. Some people need true therapy to help them deal with their emotional issues, and the stressors that can easily promote raw feelings of anger and even depression.
Rapini talks about the importance of emotional maturity in a marriage, and she outlines some of the reasons particular types of marriages have difficulty finding their comfort zone. Rapini discusses cognitive behavioral therapy and she gives an overview of the many social problems that cause us to have emotional issues. She speaks of a curiosity, and a need for
change, that is necessary in order for one to have a success in therapy—and self-awareness is a key factor for success as well.
The psychotherapist details some of the factors in a healthy relationship, and notes the importance of communicating with your partner. And Rapini explains how important it is to share, maintain balance, and accommodate for your partner when you’re working to build a healthy relationship.
Richard Jacobs: Hello. This is Richard Jacobs with the future tech and future tech health podcast. I have for Mary Jo Rapini. She’s a psychotherapist specializing in intimacy, sex, and relationships. She has a private practice in Houston, Texas, and she’s a renowned lecturer, author, and TV personality. You’ve been on many different shows talking about work. So Mary Jo thanks for coming. How are you doing?
Mary Jo Rapini: Thanks for having me. I’m doing great.
Richard Jacobs: Oh good. So, so within the realm of sex and relationships, do you focus just on intimacy in relationships or people that have problems with intimacy? Like what’s the focus of your work?
Mary Jo Rapini: Both. Actually. I have a partner at Baylor College of medicine and he heads up the sexual dysfunction unit at Baylor and he’s a urologist. And so we deal with anything from personal people that have just, you know, individuals that have problems with their sexuality or couples who basically have been married for a long time and are in a stage where their emotional capacity to love each other has been deteriorated, whether it’s through resentment or just loss of touch or neglect or something physical. So I really do the whole Gamba. I am a pretty avid writer, so a lot of my clients come in from different cities other than the Houston Metro area. They come in from New York or I just had something published in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. I was a contributor to an article about the importance for some people to sleep in separate beds if they’re going to keep their marriage together and happy. So things like that bring me new clients and it just continues to generate like that.
Richard Jacobs: Okay. What are some of the major issues that you run into, let’s say, within a marriage?
Mary Jo Rapini: I think the most important thing is that a lot of people want a quick six. One day they kind of wake up and they’re in this relationship and they haven’t been paying attention a lot or they’d been distracted with work or their phones or whatever they do on the weekends, maybe kid and they wake up and they realize I haven’t been happy for a long time with going on and their immediate thought or cure is to go to a physician and maybe get some pills, try some stuff. And the problem is, is that pills work for some people, but they don’t work for everyone. And if you’ve not been dealing with what you’re feeling in a relationship, whether it has you have leftover grief or let’s say you got into divorce and you had guilt about it or just felt really emotionally beat up from it, those sorts of things can add to feelings of hostility, a depression, resentment and anger. And it doesn’t matter what kind of pills your doctor gives you. If you’re in a relationship with someone, you’re not going to be able to perform and you’re not going to be able to be happy. In your life something’s missing. And I think my job as a sex therapist is mostly helping people understand that how you feel about things is very important and it absolutely affects your physical health as well.
Richard Jacobs: What are some issues just waking up unhappy? I mean, what’re the procedures where they can pill and I could see why that wouldn’t help. But what do you do? What is a better way?
Mary Jo Rapini: Well if you have feelings of resentment or affairs or someone betrayed you with money or if you’re dating and you’re not able to connect with other people or basically you have a bad self-concept. You don’t like your body, you don’t like the way you’re aging. These are all scenarios of what brings people to therapy. I think the number one thing is they’re married and they feel like they’re not happy being married. There’s a false assumption that marriage is supposed to make you happy. And that is totally a myth. You know, what makes you happy is you want to serve your partner and getting married for the right reasons. It’s not about when you get married, what your partner can bring to you. Are you willing to grow, are you willing to learn? Are you willing to change the way you are to become a better version? Marriage is a lifestyle that basically helps people grow. It was never designed to make people happy. That’s why it’s important that you’re emotionally mature before you undertake marriage. If you aren’t ready for that sort of commitment and that sort of steadiness and being willing to work out issues instead of just quitting or giving up, then you shouldn’t get married.
Richard Jacobs: You do personal counseling or do you have like a set of recommendations you give to people in some format? Like what’s the way you do it?
Mary Jo Rapini: I do personal counseling and I use a lot of cognitive-behavioral therapy. I don’t know how many therapists you’ve talked to. Probably not a real lot because in the world of technology it might not be as important. But in counseling basically what works the best for the couple, depends on the issue at hand. I see individuals, but the majority of my work since individuals in and of themselves no matter how unhappy they are, they’re searching for somebody else. And so it usually involves couples because even if you’re unhappy, you usually can find a partner who you will dust. Probably make up even more unhappy until you get your stuff together. And it essentially comes back to what’s going on with you. I do prescribe homework, I have homework on my website, and I have a vibrant and growing YouTube station that’s completely free. People can subscribe to it. And on that station, you can also download homework and the homework is designed in a way that it helps you personally or you and your partner become very clear about what the issues are. There’s several different homework’s that, there’s anywhere from boundaries to emotional abuse to getting ghosted or gaslighted or whatever’s happening right now in your life. And because of the social media aspect, there’s a lot more variety in the issues myself as well as almost every psychologist or relationship therapist to sing right now.
Richard Jacobs: You mentioned being ghosted and gaslighted. What’s involved there? What have you seen happens?
Mary Jo Rapini: Well, mostly, you know, ghosting is just when you’re the person that swears to love you and attach it to you and is very close to you. When they just disappear without any notice, they just completely wipe out their phone. You can’t contact them if you do, they don’t answer back. They just quit. And it’s called ghosting. And some of the people that are ghosters go on to become hunters and the hunters are when basically they continually check up on you. They continually look at your social media and sometimes even will like it in an effort to let you know that they’re still there. But basically they just aren’t responsible enough for whatever reason to break up with you in person or to make a decision. They’re usually quite emotionally in the people.
Richard Jacobs: Have you seen this in long-term relationships and marriages or have you seen this just in like younger people who are just dating for a while.
Mary Jo Rapini: It isn’t as common in long-term relationships mostly because the couples are so much more adept at reading each other. So it’s usually when you’re dating someone, the problem is that they make you feel like you’re very much a part of their life. So there’s some deception involved with ghosting and I think that’s the most hurtful part. And the other hurtful part is to really move on from a relationship. You need to be able to make some kind of closure on it, or at least it’s very helpful, and so basically the ghosting aspect makes it so you can’t really ever do that. It’s sort of a backward slap in the face.
Richard Jacobs: Pretty spineless thing to do. I’m sure you’ve contacted the people that have been ghosted, but what about the ghosters themselves? Have you had any of them and spoken to them and say, why do you do that?
Mary Jo Rapini: Well, because they are somewhat, as I have alluded to, emotionally irresponsible, they usually don’t end up in therapy because to go to therapy you really have to be mindful and you really have to be self-aware and you have to be curious about why you behave the way you do and want to change. And so right away when people say, well, I would never go to therapy, I believe them because I can see with the way they live that that’s kind of their motto there. They’re really not wanting to change. They’re not a curious people and they’re not always educated. Because when you’re educated, then I think automatically what happens is you develop more self-awareness. And I’m not saying college-educated, I mean just an educated mindset. In order to want to seek higher education, you almost have to be aware, self-aware of what your situation is and what you could potentially turn out to be or what you would like to turn out to be. So I have not talked to a lot of ghosters. I think it’s, it’s kind of the idea that they know it’s a bad thing to do and they would be somewhat embarrassed or ashamed to admit it as well.
Richard Jacobs: What is a gaslighting then?
Mary Jo Rapini: Gaslighting is when you’ve come on so strong and you’re going to do everything you’re going to take over, but they’re also very controlling and they’re going to take overall. But within their takeover, they’re going to maintain total control. And it’s a way for them to get inside your head. There’s somewhat manipulative in many times abusive. It’s not a good sign. You know, if somebody really likes you, that’s great. And you know, there’s an appropriate way to let that person know that they really like you. But when you over flatter and you know, let’s say that the person’s mother is ill and you’re offering to come to the hospital and see the person’s mother with them after you just met them or to take food over there or something, that’s just too much. It’s almost like something doesn’t feel right or smell right and you should trust your gut because gaslighters are I personally think more dangerous than ghosting. I mean, ghosting is kind of a colored reacts, right? But gaslighting, these people are manipulators and they’re control freaks. And if you let them into your head or your heart, they could really drag you down and make you feel worthless. Their whole motive is to make you feel less than so they can always be superior and save you.
Richard Jacobs: What’s the example if someone is gaslighting someone? What does that mean? All of a sudden they’re there, they’re few and they’re a big presence in your life. Or does it mean that they are going to manage you? They are going to destroy you and they publicly say they going to destroy you? I mean what happens with the behavior?
Mary Jo Rapini: Gaslighters are smooth. So basically they’re going to come across as very charming. Your friends are going to like them. They’re basically in disguise. They’re masqueraders, they’re control freaks. They’re manipulators. I alluded to an example. If you meet them and they decide that you’re a target and they really liked you when they tell you they really like you before you even really know him. So I would say the second date, let’s say you tell them your mother is really ill and in the hospital and they’re offering to take you to the hospital to sit with your mother. And maybe even to cook for you. That’s overwhelming on a second date when you don’t even know this person. But because there so many lonely people in the world, they get sucked into it, they get sucked into the attention, they get sucked into the extreme generosity and they take advantage. Like they’ll say, okay, that sounds great. And that’s letting a gas lighter in, that’s the first step that, okay, now the person can see more, the more control they can get of you, the more they’re going to use it against you. And it’s very difficult to get rid of them because they’re not above throwing, you know, like saying insults about you on social media or just making your life hell wherever they can. So it’s a good idea if someone approaches you and they’re too much too soon, then it’s a good idea to not let them in, just keep them at arm’s length. It’s a basic manipulation tactic.
Richard Jacobs: Right. So what are some of the recent trends you’re seeing in, in relationships the past few years? What’s new and different about how people are interacting? Or is there anything that’s really different?
Mary Jo Rapini: Well basically people still are looking for love and the way they meet people, it’s almost exclusively right now is online. And I think that’s a big difference in what we’re seeing with couples. I think it might have been in the past that you met someone through a friend, maybe through a friend of a friend, but that’s no longer true. And so when you’re dating people online, it’s important that you understand the first thing they see is your photo as well as your profile. So I really caution people to be smart when you’re writing a profile, know exactly what you want from this other person. What are you looking for? Some people aren’t looking for relationships, they’re looking for hookups. So keep that in mind because if you’re looking for a hookup, then you’re going to get a hookup. And if you’re looking for a relationship, you may or may not, you’re going to have to wade through a lot of people. And maybe, but a lot of it depends on the picture you post. You know, a lot of people will complain to me, well, there’s no good partners out there. They all want one thing. And I say, okay, well let’s look what you posted. And they’ve posted a very seductive picture as well as their profile is like, it’s so vague and it’s open to fun and excitement. Well, you know, that’s up to whoever reads it. What fun and excitement is. So, be honest with what you want. Do you want a relationship? What does that look like to you? That gets people in a lot of trouble. I think the dating apps are the biggest thing. And I think a lot of the communication is poor right now. I think people don’t know how to talk. They’re very stilted in conversation. They’re very uncomfortable. Words don’t flow freely and they text and, let’s face it, people have a hard time communicating eye to eye. When you text, there’s going to be a lot of misconceptions. I’m reading more tech Facebook lives than I ever have in my life.
Richard Jacobs: Well, all right. Let’s say you meet somewhere online, it sounds, and it seems promising. What’s your recommendation is as soon as possible, we’ll try to, I guess least do a video chat or ideally, you see them in person. What do you do is that you don’t get stuck in the realm of text?
Mary Jo Rapini: Yeah, I think as soon as possible, I would make it clear how I like to communicate. If I don’t want to communicate with a text, I will tell them upfront. If I prefer a phone call, I tell them upfront now you know some people are afraid to do that because they’re like, nobody’s going to do that. Will you take that chance? How picky are you and how needy are you? Do you need a relationship now, if you’re in a hurry and you need one quicker, you’re going to have to take what you get. If you feel like there’s no rush, I’d rather have quality than quantity, then slow down. I would never meet someone in person until I had talked with them at length for at least three months. That’s my own personal goal. That’s my own personal value and I am married so I don’t have to worry about that. But that’s just how I feel about it. The longer you delay sex, the better. Especially if you want a long-term relationship. Once sex gets into the picture physical need and the whole idea of having sex with someone can really make a relationship look differently than it is. And if I were, if I thought this person was special enough to someday have sex with, then I would take my time waiting until I really knew this person was someone I wanted to have in my life. And that doesn’t happen for the first month, the second month. I’m not about any. I always tell people it’s not the first date. It’s not the third date. It’s the date that you feel like this is a person you’re probably going to want in your life. Cause it is a big deal. I like to be a big deal. I don’t ever want sex to be casual. If someone reduces it to casual sex they would not be a person that I would ever really be able to respect or think much else.
Richard Jacobs: And then you’d be funny to tell someone they only have sex by text, not in person, just to mess with.
Mary Jo Rapini: Yeah.
Richard Jacobs: I am just kidding.
Mary Jo Rapini: Well, no, I think there’s a lot of people that I work with, especially people that fly in that is their relationship. They text someone, they find someone online, they are interested and they text them and they set up and they have sex with them. But make no mistake. That’s why they’re miserable in their life. That might work for you for a year or two, whatever. But there’s going to come to a point in your life where that will no longer work for you. And then switching from that to something more monogamous and maybe even sacred. It just is never as fulfilling for them because they’re just not able to do it and they end up feeling badly about themselves and the relationships are just miserable. I almost as a therapist, just want to tell them, you guys know this isn’t going to work and I think we should just let this one go. But they want it so bad because they’ve lived their lives alone in a very superficial, physical way. And, you know, it just can no longer feed them or fulfill what they want in life. You know, we can say whatever we want, but I think the more emotionally mature or maybe the higher you get in your emotional intelligence, the majority of people want something purposeful and meaningful in their relationship.
Richard Jacobs: Yeah, that makes sense. What does a good relationship having it versus not having it, late in terms of behaviors, communication behaviors? So does a good relationship have more phone calls versus texts and it does a good relationship have you know, preset? We’re going to have dinner together x nights a week. I mean, what are some of the hallmarks of a healthy relationship or the behaviors that you’re encouraged people to engage in, to bolster and strengthen the relationship?
Mary Jo Rapini: Wow. I have several videos about that on YouTube, but I think overall what’s really important for couples, it’s not so much how you communicate, but that you communicate and that both partners feel good about the way they communicate. Marriage is very individualistic and what works for one couple is not what works for another couple. So when you’re talking about hallmark, we get into trouble because people compare their relationship to other people that they know. And if it doesn’t look the same and they’re having a bad day, or maybe they’re just kind of in a Rut in their own relationship, they can concur that that means there’s something wrong with their relationship. But many times it’s not, sex is such a big deal in relationship, but at the same time, some of the closest marriages and relationships I’ve been witness to as a therapist are sexless, well, they’re intercourse less, but yet they have such an incredible emotional intimacy and closeness that they are incredibly happy. And as long as both partners feel like that’s what they want in their relationship. Most of the relationships work great. Now, if you had one person that wanted sexual intercourse and the author didn’t, you’d have a problem and that marriage would not be as good. But I can’t even say that a lot of sex in the marriage is good. I do think physical intimacy is important, but that can be done through touch and through cuddling and through many other ways other than physical intercourse. So it’s expanding your mind and making sure when you communicate that you talk, you’re able to talk to your partner and that they agree. If your partner doesn’t agree, then it’s not going to work. I think to respond to each other’s good news when one person shares the good news. That’s something I put a lot of attention to. I think that’s a really good sign. That means usually that they don’t compete and they’re on each other’s sides. I think. If you have thoughts about your partner when you’re not with them and the thoughts are good thoughts like you’re thinking things they said to you or happy things, that’s a really good sign. If you are invested in hobbies and friends and projects away from your partner that is different than your partner, that’s awesome sign. I’d really like to see that because you’re bringing, you’re getting refueled and reenergized and that means you’re going to bring that interest back into your marriage so your partner is going to continually be inspired and maybe taught and changed by what you’re doing. I think both partners have to do that. It’s really important. I look at how a couple split rules, how they split chores. If the woman is doing everything or the guy is doing everything, I don’t like to see that. I know in a marriage like that there’s going to be resentment and resentment comes out in the bedroom. And so I know eventually they’re going to have problems with affection. And so I try to help clarify that for them as maybe start working on that right away if they’re both willing to try new things together, even if they don’t like it. Like let’s say she wants to go hear a band that he doesn’t, but he’s like, you know what, that’s the last thing I want to do, but I love you. And so yeah, let’s go. That’s a really good sign. And vice versa. She should make those accommodations for him. If you have too many highs or lows in a relationship like something’s always happening and there’s a lot of drama, a very bad sign in a relationship. Good relationships don’t have that. Their peaks are much left. They go along pretty well. They have a step bump. Have bad times, but they are not peaking and they’re not full of drama. And who said who and what said what? And I think how close they feel after arguments, how long does it take them to turn to each other and feel close? Like they can actually talk about something and resolve it and say their sorry to each other. It’s a great relationship. So those are things I kind of go through in my own head, but we don’t do it step by step and therapy. I’m watching, but more than watching, I’m watching and listening. I’m looking at their eyes when they talk. I’ve met some really good liars. But it’s hard to lie to me by you see your eyes. People just do weird things with their eyes.
Richard Jacobs: Well that’s true. Well, very good. Any trends that you see that are important to take note of relationships, you mentioned for instance, that most people meet online. I’m old enough to have been around 20 years ago, 25 years ago, where meeting online was kind of weird. If you met someone online people kind of poke fun of you, oh you’ve met someone in a chat room or something. But now it seems like it’s the norm. I’ve been out of the race for a while but being married myself. How often do people meet online versus more traditional meet in-person type things?
Mary Jo Rapini: All I would say it’s almost like 80% online and tinder’s seems to be the biggest online that my population works for. Right. The people I see, the majority of them meet on Tinder. I think they still go to events and things like that, but I don’t see maybe that would be a good demographic to study because it might be older people who meet that way. But the majority of the millennials on down are meeting online now. And I think what online offers to is diversity. If you meet him in person, then you’re going to meet more of probably like what your friends are or people you hang out with. Online, there’s a big diversity and there’s a movement toward that. People want someone different. They’re challenged by it. They want to try something new.
Richard Jacobs: People may be attracted to novelty. Let’s say I’m Caucasian and I want to date someone that’s Asian, but when people end up in relationships, do they tend to end up with people that are pretty similar to them or do you seem like a very unusual pairings work? What do you see the reality is versus what people say they want?
Mary Jo Rapini: Well, interracial is becoming more popular. However, it still has quite a few issues with it and it’s not easy. It can be very stressful. It’s interesting. People marry someone the first time, the first time you married this was not true for subsequent marriages, but the first time you marry someone, that person may not be like you at all, but they’re within five points of your IQ. And so anyone who marries the first time, you know, I know those marriages aren’t always golden. However, that person is probably going to be the most like you of subsequent people. So there’s a lot of myths out there, everybody thinks that everybody wants to marry someone like them. But I think most the majority of people kind of want someone different. One of the most important things though that in my opinion and maybe this cause I’m pretty cerebral as this, my husband, but I think what’s very important to me is their education and also how they think. I would always want to marry someone that has IQ or our abilities are similar, our thinking abilities and I say that very honestly because in marriage if you really want a good marriage then you have to be the kind of person that is going to attack marriage as if, okay, we’re two smart people and we can really, we brainstorm well. Surely if we end up in a problem in this marriage, we will be able to brainstorm ideas to work through it together. And that is our motto with marriage. And I’ve been married to the same guy since I was 20 and when we have a rough time, I always remind him, listen, we’re two smart people and we have been through a lot of hills and valleys and we just have to brainstorm. And I literally get out a sheet of paper and we brainstorm solutions and if I give my clients nothing else, I try and give them the idea that they created this marriage and anything you can create, you can tweak it and you can change it so that it suits you better. So it fits better. Now if there was abuse or addictions or something like that, then you’re limited with what you can change. Abuse, you have to get rid of it. You just absolutely have to end that relationship and addiction, many times if they’re not willing to go to Rehab, if they love their addiction more than they love you, then you have to end it. Because especially if you have children, you just cannot expose them to that crazy world. It’s not responsible parents.
Richard Jacobs: Yeah. Well, very good. What I was going to ask is what are some resources for listeners? We’re kind of at the end. You’ve given a lot of good stuff. But how can people get in contact if they have in tenderized and they want to help with their relationship? Where do they find you?
Mary Jo Rapini: Right. The best way is my website. It’s maryjorapini.com. My Twitter is @maryjorapini. My Instagram is @maryjorapini. My Facebook is Mary Jo Rapini LPC. You can watch me on Fox 26 every Monday and Thursday morning at 9:22 AM and Google, just go to Google and Google my name and it will pop up.
Richard Jacobs: We can’t find you in Tinder though. I’m just kidding. But we’ve found you on all good reputable place.
Mary Jo Rapini: You won’t see me on Tinder but I promise you that I will respond to any questions. I’m very compulsive, so I have that ability when I see something I can’t ignore it.
Richard Jacobs: Okay, well very good. Well, thank you for coming on the podcast. I appreciate it.
Mary Jo Rapini: Thanks a lot. If you send me the link, Richard, after you get it done, then I can help promote it and usually my different venues will help promote it as well.
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