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Session 195: On the Couch with Malcolm & Marie

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

We haven’t had one of these in a while but this week we’re back with an on the couch episode with Malcolm and Marie. Malcolm and Marie is of course the new movie on Netflix featuring Zendaya and John David Washington. Joining me to break down all of the many layers you can find in the film is Licensed Psychologist, Dr. Ayanna Abrams. Dr. Abrams and I chatted about the dynamics present between Malcolm & Marie, things we noticed while watching the movie, what it might look like for Malcolm & Marie to go to couples therapy after the evening in the film, and the kinds of things she might discuss with Marie if she came to therapy individually. This episode does contain spoilers.

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Facebook: @ascensionbehavioralhealth

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Read Full Transcript

Session 195: On the Couch with Malcolm & Marie

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 195 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We haven't had one of these in a while, but this week we're back with an On the Couch episode with Malcolm & Marie. Malcolm & Marie is, of course, a new movie on Netflix featuring Zendaya and John David Washington. And joining me to break down all of the many layers you can find in the film, is none other than Couples Therapist Dr. Ayanna Abrams.

Dr. Abrams is a licensed clinical psychologist in Georgia, CEO and founder of Ascension Behavioral Health, and co-founder of Not so Strong–an initiative to improve the mental health and relationship functioning of black women through the use of vulnerable storytelling. Her specialties include racism-based trauma, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, entrepreneur mental health, and relationship and marital counseling. She has extensive clinical experience working with people of color, specifically black women, black men and black couples.

Dr. Abrams and I chatted about the dynamics present between Malcom and Marie, themes we noticed while watching the movie, what it might look like for Malcolm and Marie to go to couples therapy after the evening we see in the film, and the kinds of things she might discuss with Marie if she came to therapy individually. This episode does contain spoilers. I know that many of you had strong feelings about the movie too, so please share your reactions with us using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Let us just dive in before we get too far into it and not actually start with the questions. We both have watched it twice, right? I've only watched it twice; have you watched it more than twice?

Dr. Abrams: I couldn't take it. Twice is the limit.

Dr. Joy: Yes. Well, what did you expect when you kind of saw the movie premiering?

Dr. Abrams: I definitely did not expect a two-hour fight and I didn't actually expect there to be a fight. I didn't know much about it, I didn't read much about it, I really wanted to go in not knowing too much. And what I'd heard mostly about the movie was paying attention to the chemistry between the main characters, so I wasn't even thinking about what was actually happening between them. All I heard about was this age gap, age gap, age gap doesn't work for them. But *[inaudible 0:03:59] so that's all I was really thinking about and then just a few minutes into the movie, I was like, oh, what's... How are we gonna do this night? I don't know. I don't know. And then I also didn't expect it to be a whole conversation or a whole argument like that for the entirety of the movie.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I agree with you. You know, I also purposely didn't read a whole bunch before it came out. They billed it as like this is not a love story; this is a story about love. So I expected there to be some drama and tension, like maybe there was some infidelity or something, but I also did not expect that it would be basically us being witness to this like two-hour long fight.

Dr. Abrams: Right, all night for them. So, yeah, I found myself feeling... I was interested and I was engaged but I wasn't engaged the whole time. Not to say that it was boring to me, but it wasn't tolerable for me to be like really, really invested in all the details of what they were saying too much. And so I know that there were moments, even when I’d watched it again, where I was like checking in and checking out of the rants of it. Which I imagine it was also this, like parallel process of Marie in the movies. Like, there's not so much of that that you can take in before you're just like, “Okay, keep going, I'll catch the beginning and the end of that but I can't get too close to all of this ranting.”

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And I think that a lot of people felt that way, like just kind of observing social media chatter. A lot of people, it feels like, felt very triggered by the movie. Saw either some of themselves or parents or somebody in their lives, it felt like, they saw in this movie. And I've heard a lot of people talk about not necessarily feeling like it's one that they could watch twice. Kind of like I saw it and I did there and I'm done, kind of thing. So I would love to hear from your experience as a couples therapist, and this just feels like so much to unpack here. But as a couples therapist watching it, what was one of the main themes that kind of jumped out for you?

Dr. Abrams: There are a few main themes. One, I didn't feel triggered. I didn't find myself feeling triggered by it. I do understand where people were coming from with that. I saw a lot of therapists also saying that, and that part actually surprised me a little bit more. But the main things that I picked up on were just how he was speaking to her, not only in words and in tone, but like pressured speech. And the ranting piece, really, that's what kind of drew me into like, well, what is he saying under this? Like, what's the point in what he's saying? Which feels kind of hard to get to because he's all over the place. But those are the first things that I picked up on in terms of couples’ dynamics and what happens in conversation/arguments and ways in which people enter certain parts of arguments. And what they listen to and kind of what they hear and what they stay on.

If you pay attention to kind of different parts of the movie, they would pick up on like one word or like one phrase in the argument and that would be the whole basis for their response, versus listening to like all the different nuances of what someone was saying. And that's really interesting because I see it all the time with couples. So this kind of argument, whether this being only two hours (and I think that was for us) but these things go all night for a lot of couples. All night, the next day, into the next weekend, so that actually isn't too rare for me to see. It was just much more interesting to see how they were weaving themselves in and out of the argument, the conversation, laughing, some romance and then like back into the argument.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Yeah. So you've mentioned that this is not atypical necessarily for couples, though I do remember them talking about... I think Marie made the comment “This may be like the worst fight that we've had.” But to me, this does not look like the first time they’d had this kind of fight. And we know, of course as therapists, that often the things that couples come to us with in terms of the argument is not actually about the topic. And I think if you were able to listen closely, you were able to see that in this argument with Malcolm and Marie that it started, of course, about like him not thanking her. But then as they continue to argue, you realize that it was about these other things.

Dr. Abrams: Mm hmm. And so much history between even in, I think it was a five-year relationship that they were in. Again, where couples oftentimes start in the conversation or what they think they are talking about or arguing about, oftentimes isn't it. They just don't have the skills to get under the surface of what they are really talking about. The pain, the hurt, the betrayal, the confusion, the disconnection, that's oftentimes not language that they have. So they talk about instances and circumstances and experiences, trying to get the other person to understand, “Well, that's why I was hurt in that.” So they start kind of detailing things and we call it content.

They get into all of these, like I said, kind of details about “this and then this, and then you said this, and then I said this, and then that person said this,” and it really gets lost in terms of the pain that's under it. Because the partner is just looking to typically defend the story, “Well, that didn’t happen that way. And I said this first, and then you said that,” and that's why couples therapy can really be helpful at slowing everything down so we can figure out, what's the message under that? Because you two can do this for days. It's not helpful for you to come to therapy and tell me the story; I want to help you unpack what's under or behind the story and what you're really trying to communicate to your partner. And most couples don't have those skills and that's what they're coming to therapy for.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, because I definitely found myself thinking really early on, like, if he had not forgotten to thank you, when would all of this have come out? So all of the things that she’s sitting on in terms of the hurt and the feeling like he caters to everybody else, those are very valid arguments. Those are very valid feelings but it feels like because he forgot to thank her than that was her opening.

Dr. Abrams: Mm hmm. And look at how much resent was there. That's what you're talking about when there are so many things left unsaid. Oftentimes, not even like a partner is looking for the in, but when it's there, they take it. It was really interesting to see and I know that a lot of critique was why didn't they just stop? Why didn't he just listen to her at the beginning when she said let's go to bed, this is not going to be productive. Like she tried to...

Again, that tells you this has happened before. That she was able to note that because of how all of this is happening in the way and I know how I'm feeling, and I know what kind of night you've had and maybe how you get, let's not do this in this way. But she knew that something was bubbling up for her and she was trying to contain it but he would keep jabbing and jabbing and jabbing. It's really interesting and I help couples learn about this. In that when your nervous system is so activated, you might have all of the cognitive thoughts about “Nope, don't do it. Don't you press that button. Don't do it,” and then all of a sudden, you see your body pressing the button and you cannot even get out of this conversation because you are so activated.

So oftentimes, when we are looking at couples’ arguments or we're seeing things from the outside, we can objectively say stop. She's so resentful. She's so hurt. He's not gonna be able to hear this. He is... I've heard people say egotistical and narcissistic and all this other stuff, but it doesn't mean that when you are in the moment and you're so heightened, that you're able to slow yourself down, and that's what we were witnessing. They wanted to slow down, they wanted to stop, they wanted to be together, but they were so activated that they could not pull themselves out of this argument. Until they literally probably exhausted themselves, like a baby. You like literally have to wear yourself out. You are too tired to keep fighting.

Dr. Joy: But you know, I don't know that I really saw very many moments of him not wanting to be pulled in. I mean, because at the very beginning, she was the one who said let's not do this, this is not gonna be productive. And even when they would have those instances of kind of pulling out of the fight, it didn't seem that it was ever really fueled by him validating her feelings; it was really fueled by something else.

Dr. Abrams: Yeah. No, no, no, it wasn't about him slowing down to actually like listen to what she was saying. He was still in complete defense mode and I think that also connected to the high he was feeling from that night. And then I imagine that for him, he sees it as “You are now ruining this big night for me and here you go with your stuff.” And he started in that part really early. The first thing I noticed was when he used the word crazy. He called her crazy at the top of this movie and that was my first sign of like, oh, that's not unfamiliar language to him or to her.

When she came in and said, the fact that you can say these things to me while eating macaroni and cheese just shows how messed up this whole thing is. But that's not new language. And not to say that, I don't know if he had been wanting to say this for very long or kind of that he kind of had this resent building up. But definitely related to that night, he saw this as a threat to his ego in terms of how big this night was supposed to be for him, and here she is talking about herself. And he completely missed the mark.

Dr. Joy: You know, Dr. A, I think that there is something around arguments that happen on nights like this. And I don't know if there's any literature to really support that but I feel like you often hear about like an award night or on the wedding night or something else, there feels like there tends to be like some kind of blow up or something on nights like this. Can you talk about why that might be?

Dr. Abrams: Yeah. It made a lot of sense to me why it would happen on a night like that, given the adrenaline that's there, there's alcohol involved and there's a power dynamic that was there. And thinking about him and thinking about his industry, that is power. He is now premiering something, all eyes are on him, that's a huge dopamine rush. And then you come home and more than likely you're in a space of wanting to still be on the high, even if part of his high was him being upset. Because he's ragging on these other kind of film critics and he kind of gets his own kind of energy and adrenaline to the point where he's talking and she's not even really connecting with him. He was just talking to talk. But you pair all those things together that it makes a lot of sense, there's going to be at some point a crash in that. I don't think either of them would have expected the crash to happen like that, but you pair together power, ego, alcohol, hunger, all these things to think about. Hunger.

And then also what it looked like to me was that he had this expectation and or desire (I don't think he could ever name it because it would require vulnerability) that she would be able to just be there for him that night and not have anything else to say about it. That she would be riding that wave with him as his number one supporter. She's in the room with him, she's at home with him, she sees all the ins and outs of this, and she couldn't offer that to him in that same way because she was so hurt. So oftentimes, it's a mismatch of the energy and then when you have that kind of not being able to reconcile that, the crash makes a lot of sense.

But for both of them, again, this was stuff that was there beforehand and now we have a big night where it blows up. You have to add in these other factors. He was completely on an ego high because of how big of a night that it was. That's a harder fall when now your partner comes back and says something about her because now the storyline is no longer about you. She's showing up in the relationship, she's showing up in the conversation, and that he didn't want to create any room for her to show up.

Dr. Joy: And in listening to some of the things that she said, that is a pattern. That she doesn’t feel like she is able to show up or that he is really paying very much attention to her at all.

Dr. Abrams: Mm hmm.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. So there has been a lot of energy around this mac and cheese. I think I interpreted kind of fairly innocuously. Kind of like, that's probably what she would do, you know... And again, in her attempt to like not let all of the steam out that night and maybe have a hopefully calmer conversation about it the next day, I think she was just going to make the mac and cheese as like, “Okay, this is what we typically do when we come home,” or whatever. But do you think that there was more around that? Because there was also the fact that he was the only one who ate it so I don't know if it was meant to be there or is there anything else you kind of took from that scene?

Dr. Abrams: From how I watched her kind of go straight to it, it didn't seem like it was something that she even anticipated as a meal for then. It seemed like something as like a soothing thing or to make him be quiet. She came in and she peeled some of her stuff off, she put her stuff down and then she went into the kitchen and she got the box down. He didn't even say anything. So that's what told me that there's some history or there's some pattern with him, her and this macaroni and cheese–or mac and cheese because people say you can't call them macaroni and cheese, because it's not homemade. It’s not homemade macaroni and cheese, Easy Mac.

But it seemed like there was already some history or some pattern where, again, either this is what we do on nights like this or this is what will stop him or slow him down or distract him in some way. In some ways, I could view it as an act of like care and concern. Of like, hey, he's probably hungry, whatever it is, let's just do this and maybe that will ease the night. I don't know how much of it was like a nostalgic or like a comfort food, I’ve seen some conversations around that. But it's been really interesting to me to see conversations connecting it to how culturally salient it is versus really missing the mark. Culturally, because they are a black couple or he's a black man and that doesn't seem like the appropriate thing that he would be eating after that.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Got it. Got it, yeah. I mean, I definitely think it could have gone lots of different ways.

Dr. Abrams: Yeah, and the other piece of that for me is that it actually made me think about the conversations that he was having about race and gender and what it means to be in his industry. And she was the one who offered us this history and said, “Yeah, you are black, but look at how you grew up in terms of class.” In terms of socioeconomic status. So there was a way that even while they were talking about his race and his gender, she was offering even more of the intersection in terms of how he grew up and what he might be used to. And that actually helped me make more sense of it being Easy Mac versus any other kind of meal that we might connect to black culture.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Definitely, I agree with you there.

Dr. Abrams: But I didn’t have a big response to it at all.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I just kind of like thought it was pretty innocuous, but it definitely seems like something that lots of people kind of had some energy around. So the other thing, like we've already talked about, like the whole movie kind of was just like one long fight, but it was individual fights kind of in between all of that. And so for me, the one that felt most like cringeworthy (is the best word I can kind of think of) is when she is in the bathtub.

Dr. Abrams: Mm hmm. There’s actually two parts that felt cringey but that’s definitely one of them.

Dr. Joy: Okay, so we'll go with this one and then I want to hear which one you would describe. For me, this one felt most cringeworthy because it very much felt like, you know, when we talk to couples about attacking the issue as opposed to attacking one another, this was very much a very intentional decision for him in attacking her.

So he makes some kind of comment about like, you want to go there, I can go 20 times harder. And then like leads into this barrage of all these other women he's been with and how broken he thinks she is and all of these things. So in my mind, and I'm sure in Marie's mind she's thinking, “How do we get here?” Like this was started out about you not thanking me and now I am in a tub being berated and you talking about all these other women that you've been with?

Dr. Abrams: Absolutely. I know that the world tends to throw around the word toxic in a way that I find cringeworthy (in the way in which the word is used) but that was the most harmful part of the conversation that I found, even though there were all these kind of other parts of it that were harmful. One, in terms of the intentions around it and two, in recognizing what he was trying to do which was to prove to her all these other... That it is a power play for me. To prove to her all these other relationships that he's had, all these other things, all these other the people that came before her, all these other memories he has of connecting with other women. I don't think she took the bait the way in which he had intended, but for him to just go down a list of this and be willing to go down a list of, maybe was it five women? Maybe more?

Dr. Joy: At least five.

Dr. Abrams: At least five. And of all the ways in which what he was thinking about and how he was now kind of moving through his thought processes were not about her. It was just jab after jab after jab after jab. That's why I was saying like to a point where it didn't even seem that he would be able to slow himself down or like calm himself down. Like that was something that was much more about him than her. And the harm, not only for her, but also for the relationship. That that's the part that's harder to come back from. Those are things she's more likely not going to forget.

Even if she doesn't remember names and like details, she's never going to forget that we were in... Even the physical position. She's in a more vulnerable position there. He's sitting on the edge of the tub, he's outside of the tub and she is inside, so I do like the cinematography of it. And then he is just making this list of all these ways and all these things that have come before her or ways in which he thinks about other people that feels harmful–is harmful. But I'm not sure that even a quick kind of apology of “I was just trying to say this” would help them to repair that moment and that's what also told me that that's not new. That's not a new thing between them. She didn't even seem like shocked by it.

Dr. Joy: Now see, to me, I interpret her feeling very shocked and very hurt by it because it looked like she was like trying not to cry in the tub. Like, she seemed very impacted (to me) by it. And I thought the other part of it that made it incredibly cringeworthy was him saying at the end... It felt very manipulative in that he was saying like, “This is the only way that it almost seems like I love you.” Is that you make me hurt you, kind of thing. Which was like, oh, so now you said all this nasty stuff and you top it off with as if like, “I'm trying to prove a point about this is the only way you can recognize love, is for me to put you down.”

Dr. Abrams: Mm, hmm. The intentions part of it and that's the piece where it shows like this goes much deeper than “I was just upset that night,” because oftentimes that's what couples come in with later. “I was just really mad that night.” “Everything had just built up and I was just so upset.” But you don't say things like that just from... only from a place of upset. That's where the resent comes in. These are the things that have been building and building and building.

And more than likely, somebody doesn't begin harming someone just that night out of nowhere. That's why I say that while it might have kind of been their worst night of this, there have more than likely been dabbles or dribbles of this, all throughout their five-year relationship. And thinking about how she entered the relationship when she was in her most vulnerable place, I can't imagine she would have understood that then, because he pairs it with this is what love is and this is how I love. And more than likely, he also paired it with money and status and like all these things that come with it. And I think in a vulnerable state, it's much harder for you to tease that apart.

She could do a lot more of that now but, again, he had that glimmer in his eye that said, like, “Oh, I'm saying these things intentionally and I'm watching how you're responding to this.” So when I say that she wasn't... I think she was hurt by it, I don't think she was shocked by it. I don't think that all of that was totally new. That might have been a new example of the same pattern but I don't think she was shocked by him being able to harm her in those ways and him to have such a sharp edge to him. I think it all happening kind of in this way when she's kind of in the tub after a night like this was absolutely new but she's familiar with his sharp edge. She's quite familiar with it.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And just to kind of think back about your comment about her being in the tub. Because again, I feel like her being in the tub is yet another attempt by her to de-escalate the situation. Like, I'm gonna go and take a bath and then this is when he comes in with the most disgusting of the things he's gonna say. And she's again attempting to deescalate and like try to get back to center.

Dr. Abrams: Yes. She made, I would say, at least three attempts to get away and to neutralize things. Even when you see them coming in the house, she's walking ahead of him, she's moving into the kitchen away from him. She goes into the bedroom and he's in the kitchen. She goes into the bathroom, she goes into the bedroom and gets in the bed, she goes outside. She has had several attempts throughout this whole argument to de-escalate, to neutralize, to take some space and then possibly come back together at a later time and he follows her all through the argument. So we call that a pursuer-distancer dynamic.

So oftentimes there's one person in the conversation (conversation, argument or relationship dynamic) where, to get their needs met and to feel seen and heard, they pursue it. They demand it. They say hey, listen to me. They will do all these protests to get your attention. And I would literally say they will follow you. I talk to my clients about this all the time. They will follow you from the kitchen to the bedroom to the bathroom. When you close the door, they’re knocking on the door and then you come out and they follow you over to the second bedroom. They're just walking and following you all around the house.

What happens to the distancer or the withdrawer is that that makes them feel unsafe so they try to find all these different spaces where they can get a break from you. But it makes them also not want to be around you even more when you don't give them space. So what it turns into is a chase all around the house. Whether it's around the coffee table or like into these different rooms or outside into the car, there are all these ways in which you'll see this pursuer-distancer dynamic show up.

It was illustrated pretty accurately by them. She would separate from him, you wouldn't hear much, and then you would see him like literally looking for her. Like “where did you go?” and then he would follow her and then open something else. She was attempting to get away from him and away from this conversation, back to back to back to back. Doesn't mean she wouldn't come back at him sometimes, but she largely was trying to de-escalate this whole thing and he wouldn't allow room for it.

Dr. Joy: We'll hear more from Dr. Abrams right after this break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: What are the other illustrations of that dynamic, Dr. A? Pursuer-distancer, I think, is the one we hear most often. Are there other examples?

Dr. Abrams: Some couples show up as pursuer-pursuer, so the way in which they get their needs met is where they both demand. You might see more hostile arguments between the two where it’s like ricocheting back and forth and neither of them are backing down. They are just at each other's necks and we call that kind of a hot conflict. You say something, I'm saying it right back, and we're just going at it, but that's more of a pattern behavior.

And sometimes you'll see withdrawer-withdrawer: both people they try to get their needs met but as soon as it feels too risky, we'll see both people retreat to their rooms. And what you'll see more likely with that kind of couple is that I'll hear couples come in and say we haven't talked in three days. Yeah, we didn't talk all weekend. They might go at it but they both then withdraw to their respective corners until somebody kind of might slink back or until they have to talk because there's some like household thing to manage. Oftentimes it's a child and that'll get them kind of back talking.

What you will also see and it tends to be gendered in a way, so it tends to be where particularly in a heterosexual couple, it might be the woman partner, but we see burnt-out pursuer. In that dynamic, she is the one who has historically pursued. Okay, love attention, there might be protest, there might be demands. Hey, this is what I like, you don't see me. How come we're not doing this? How come you're showing attention to other people? Things like that might come up. But when the withdrawer or the other partner doesn't respond for long enough, she gets really burnt out and she stops fighting.

So she's now like more out of the game and she's like, yeah, well, okay, that's happening but again, I'm not engaging with you, I'm not protesting, I'm not looking for these things anymore. And what's really interesting is that when that shows up in therapy, oftentimes... In emotionally-focused therapy modality, oftentimes, we will work with the person who identifies as the withdrawer. We'll work to bring them back online. The person who tends to be quieter, isn't as emotionally engaged, we work to have them sharing more about their emotions, about their needs and about their insecurities. But now what happens is they're showing up and the burnt-out pursuer is just like, yeah, but I asked for that two years ago. Yeah, but I've been fighting for that for three years. So now the work is to see if we can soothe the burnt-out pursuer enough where now they're back online at the same time.

Dr. Joy: Got it, okay. And I want to come back to that at the end because I want to ask, like, what happens if Marie and Malcolm come to your office. But I also want to go back...

Dr. Abrams: Woo-hoo!

Dr. Joy: Oh, you knew you were in for that!

Dr. Abrams: Oh yeah.

Dr. Joy: But was the cringeworthy part for you?

Dr. Abrams: The cringeworthy part for me was where he was going into more detail about “how he found her and how vulnerable she was when they first met.” That she was strung out, falling asleep all over the place, that he was taking advantage of how vulnerable he was without acknowledging the power. That the power play and the power dynamic that was between them in terms of age, socioeconomic status, career status. He was putting that all on her in such a manipulative way saying, look at what I did for you. Look at what I offered you.

That is supposed to make her silent. That is supposed to shut her down because she is only supposed to show up as grateful in this because maybe he had saved her life. And maybe he's the only one who gave her a chance when she didn't deserve it. So just using a lot of that vulnerability, using her suicidality against her, like that was the part that was really like, “Oh, uh-uh.” That's the stuff that's hard to come back from.

You can yell, for some people you can throw things, you can do all those intimidating tactics, but using that part of my life against me and not taking responsibility for the role that you played during that part of my life, is extremely harmful. That's where the toxicity comes up. That's where you can tell like, oh, this isn't new for them to go to these really, really dark moments. They clearly haven't recovered. They don't repair those dark moments; they just stopped fighting. That is not a repair process that's happening. I think they literally just wear themselves out.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I mean, and he references this whole idea that Marie is not the first “broken woman” he's dated, right? So there is clearly a pattern and a history of him having this kind of savior complex, whether he recognizes it or not, in finding these women who he feels like he can save in some way or like they need him in some way.

Dr. Abrams: Yes. And then using it against them in these ways. I'm pretty sure that there's a whole history of that in his relationships. And if Malcolm and Marie are not to remain together, if he doesn't do any deep work on himself, he would continue in that same pattern. And we see it all over the place, whether it be in that particular industry or other industries, you see the same dynamic in terms of gender, power, socioeconomic status. But this narrative that I helped you and because I helped you, what you owe me is gratitude, what you owe me is ego-boosting. What you owe me is that you stick around.

But it really creates this codependency where the other partner maybe doesn't get to realize their resilience or be able to do things to know that they can take care of themselves. It promotes codependency in that way, just based on how the more vulnerable person begins to show up in the relationship. And oftentimes, when they begin showing up as more resilient, more capable, that's a huge threat to that other partner. Because what are they going to do if they don't have somebody who needs them? That's the power piece of it.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. So you know, now that you have been talking, Dr. A, I'm thinking... And I mean, this is clearly nothing we have access to because these are not real people and we didn’t write the story. But if his pattern of being somebody who really relishes in having power over people and then using that against them later, that would lead me to think that he would have actually fought to cast her in the film.

Which we realize is really the thing she's hurt about, right? It started out as this project that a lot of it is inspired by her real life and so if he is somebody who enjoys this power role, would that not be the ultimate power role? To like get her cast in this movie and then kind of forever hold it over her head that, “I made you, you got this breakout role because of me,” but we see that he doesn't. So I’d just have to hear your thoughts about why maybe he didn't cast her in this role or fight for her to be casted.

Dr. Abrams: That's a really good point. I hadn't considered that but even you just saying that, the main reason that I can see him, given the narcissistic tendency to pop up... And I can't call him narcissistic because I don't know more history enough to diagnose him. You can’t diagnose him from here but on the tendency to show up, the main reason I would see him in not casting her is that it runs the risk of that being a breakout role and then she gets power.

So while he might still hold this narrative of I gave give you that opportunity, it's like, hey, once I give you more opportunity to become powerful, it runs the risk of you leaving. It runs the risk of you not needing me anymore. So it actually, to me, makes sense that he wouldn't offer her. But especially also given how big he thought or thinks that this is going to be, why would he give her an opportunity to show up and shine in that role? That's less and less power that he has.

Dr. Joy: Very good points. Yeah, and that felt like there was something under there too. Like you hear them kind of talking about Taylor, who is the star of the film, and he kind of says without ever being asked “I didn't sleep with her” kind of thing but it feels like there’s something there. And I'm sure for Marie, if this is based a lot on her real life and she's an actress who you have now not fought to be in the role, I'm sure there's already some tension there. But it feels like there may be something else kind of brewing as well.

Dr. Abrams: Yeah, I agree. But look at how he deflects to like, oh, you’re mad at Taylor? This about Taylor, he makes a whole list of like, oh, it must be that, oh, it must be that, oh, it must be that. And she's like, no, this is about you. It doesn't mean she's not fazed by any of those dynamics but she's more hurt by how she has not been seen by him and that is what she was essentially kind of desperately begging for. I want you to see me in this. And that could have been really helpful for her just in terms of how she sees herself but if her lens of that is through him, that she will remain as broken as she feels in that moment. He's a very unsafe mirror for her to be using in terms of her resilience, in terms of her skill set. And that's what happens in that dynamic, again, kind of given the power differential that's there.

Dr. Joy: Right, right. And we talked about this a little bit, but I definitely think her history with substance abuse probably plays a huge part in how she shows up in this dynamic. And it doesn't feel like there are really many opportunities for it to be a safe expression in the ways that Malcolm really just uses it against her.

Dr. Abrams: Yeah. And I wish they would have talked about that more in terms of how they got together. They kind of dropped it enough for us to be kind of thinking, speculating in all these ways. But if we had some more details about how they got together, what that period of time looked like, we'd have a lot more insight into how this relationship got to five years. My guess is that it's not gotten to five years because she feels safe in it. My guess is there’s this attachment piece that's come up for them because of what he offered her and how he “did save her.” I don't think he saved her; she saved herself but she needed some other resources for that. I'd be much, much more interested to see how the first year of their relationship looked. That's much more telling than this fight, for me.

Dr. Joy: Agreed. And I don't know if they ever said what the age difference is. I mean, they allude to the fact that she was 20 or 21, like, that's who the whole movie is about. A 20-year-old who's kind of becoming clean. So I don't know how old they are now and like how many years older is he supposed to be in the movie?

Dr. Abrams: I didn't catch it in the movie and I might have missed something but I saw speculation that he's in his 30s. There was something about like either a seven or a 10-year age gap in some way. But again, I don't know if that was the assumption made on the house and like how much money it looks like he has, so he must be a certain age. I don't know about that piece. But that might have been named before the movie came out when people were talking about the age difference. But I'm not sure if it was about the age difference in real life and people were concerned about that, or the age difference in the actual movie.

Dr. Joy: Got it, okay.

Dr. Abrams: He was much more “stable.” And I won't say emotionally stable because he wasn't but he was more stable than she was when they met.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And that's a really good point because it feels like it's really easy to focus on the things in her history that might not be so shiny. But I also think when we see him attempting to look for her and there's almost like this panic of like “where is she” kind of thing, I wonder what that says about him and his history. Any thoughts there?

Dr. Abrams: Yep. That’s why I was saying when I saw that there were at least four different points of when she left and he was just like he had to be with her, even if he was berating her. It had to be some kind of contact and attachment. For me, that spoke to fearful avoidant. There's something about him being able to access her that he couldn't even soothe himself so he just kept searching for her all throughout the house. And he was following her around this house for two hours. And then in the morning...

So more than two hours because in the morning, where did he go? He had to find her outside. He's looking for her all throughout the woods, like he was not able to regulate and soothe himself. He was looking for her, that's the only way in which it would have happened. That's what I saw all throughout the movie. And that's the irony of how powerful and independent and smart and all these ways in which he wanted to come across, but she sees his vulnerability. She sees it and that is threatening to him. So he had to offer ways in which to remind her “I'm still better at this than you.” I'm older, I'm wiser, I have more money, I'm more stable, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But she is probably the only person who sees him that vulnerable.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And it feels like that panic was mimicked when the first review came out. So you see this same level of like oh my gosh, what are they gonna say? Which lets you know, again, that this facade that he has as this brilliant filmmaker or whatever, is still very unstable and really kind of dependent upon what other people think.

Dr. Abrams: Yes. He is so, so, so fragile. But again, the only person who would see it would be her in this big old house, and probably when they're in the car. But no other way does he let that out. That whole rant he had about the... I forgot her name, but about the other person. Yes, that’s the only stuff that she would hear and see. He's not going to offer that anywhere else. There's a way in which she can only see that and I actually won't even call it a vulnerability, but it is him feeling vulnerable but it's not him offering her vulnerability. If that makes sense.

There's a difference, for me, between the insecurity that is internal versus somebody being able to say, hey, this is me really feeling blank about this. I feel shame, I feel guilt, I don't feel credible, I don't feel powerful. He wasn't offering it to her as that but with her being with him for five years, she could see it. And she was supporting some of it, they got like jovial around it, they were kind of making these jokes. But she is a huge, huge threat to his ego.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, very interesting. So much to unpack. I do want to move into let's say Malcolm and Marie have this awful fight and they're like, okay, we probably need to do something about this now so they look through the directories and they find your information. And so coming to you now after this huge fight, what might you kind of start to unpack with them or work with them on?

Dr. Abrams: The way that I do couples work is I need to get to know you individually before we kind of do any work as a couple. So it would be one joint session and then two individual sessions, and then we come back joint, and then we talk more about emotionally-focused therapy, and then we move forward if we're all in agreement. But I would be really interested in the individual intake to get the whole family history. I want family history, social history, relationship history. That would tell me a lot about how he shows up in the world.

What I assume also for Malcolm in that space, is that he wouldn't tell me everything. And I obviously know everything can't be, you know, it's an hour. But that’ll be too much vulnerability for him. So we offer kind of paperwork at the beginning, but I will be asking about his romantic history, I will be asking him about relationship role models, romantic relationship role models. I will be asking him very pointed questions about, hey, when you were growing up and you didn't feel well about something or you felt vulnerable or you felt hurt by something, could you talk to anybody? And tell me about who that person is. So I get a lot of details in my individual intake, about safety, about attachment styles, about who you could respond to and kind of relate to in your life. And I also connect that to gender and kind of racial dynamics as well.

And I ask similar questions of her but obviously I'd get more information about her substance use history, and that would lead me into how they met. So in meeting with them and say we decide to work together, I would be ready for... Not that I will use it against him, but I'll be ready for him to be a lot more guarded with me in terms of that vulnerability piece. But I am looking for what are the themes in terms of how they fight and when they fight? How often does it happen? How do they get into it? How long does it last? And who initiates repair? My guess is that Marie...

Well actually, now that in having more of this conversation, my guess is that he initiates repair. Not in a vulnerable way in which he says like, “hey, I really apologize for this,” but he starts doing some stuff and they start talking again. I always want to know how repair begins to happen, and if it actually feels repaired for them. But I’d want to get a history with them sitting next to each other about how she entered the relationship. I’d want her to tell me that out loud in front of him and I’d like to get his sense of how they entered the relationship and why they chose each other. That's a first step. Because oftentimes those stories are similar but oftentimes they're really different, and couples don't ever talk about that. They have these different stories of the same experiences.

So that would give me some information about what attracted them to each other. And then we would look at, hey, how hot and heavy do these moments go and kind of what happens when you two really get into it? And I'd also look for what are the most hurtful things about these arguments with each other? Like what are the things that he says that feel the most hurtful and harmful for you that are hardest to forget? And what are the things that she says to you or ways in which she behaves that feel the most hurtful to you?

What happens oftentimes in couples is that what you think is the most hurtful thing, ain't the thing. You think that that time that I did this and we got in that big fight, that was the thing, and you will hear your partner say a totally different story that you didn't even recognize. And we call them attachment injuries. You didn't even recognize that was an attachment injury. For example, I have worked with couples where they might assume that, or I might even assume that infidelity was the biggest issue and I will have a partner talk about a betrayal when it comes to spending money in a way in which they didn't agree on. Because it felt like such a misuse of something that they trusted you with.

In therapists’ mind and kind of socially, we would think that betrayal by having sex with somebody or engaging in an emotional affair is the thing because that's what we're told. But in a lot of couples, it's, “Hey, I thought we were in an agreement about this and now I can't do this part of my life, because you spent that money over there.” Or because you didn't stay on the job that I thought you were gonna stay on for five years and I've never been able to forgive you. So it's always about listening to what their attachment injuries are, not what I assume the injury might be.

Alright, so like we're talking about all this stuff that those two cringeworthy moments, and that might not be the moment for Zendaya. She might have something totally different to say about what was the thing that she'll never be able to forget. But that's why I always ask couples, what's your thing? And then oftentimes, the other partner is completely shocked. They hadn't even thought about that moment for six years and then to hear that partner say, like, oh, I will never forget the time in which you didn't come home that night, because you were with your homeboys Super Bowl night and I had just gotten this call from my mom. Something like that. That tends to also have a moment where it's like, okay, we tend to make a lot of assumptions about each other but now let's get into actually listening to how your partner is experiencing you, and unpack it from there. So that's where I would start with them.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Yeah, and then kind of see where it goes?

Dr. Abrams: Yeah, see where it goes. I’d pull them away from all the content of last night's argument and talk about what's the probability of arguments like this. Because again, partners oftentimes come in, they want me to know that they are right, that they said everything they should have said and that they only said what they said or did what they did because of the other person. So I pull them kind of out of the weeds of all the details of it (because we also don't have all the time for all the details), I validate how important is for them but I want them to get a sense of the pattern of the behavior. So that they can actually see the cycle of how they get into this, not the content of it.

Y'all can fight about cheese in the fridge and chores in the house and who did what to the car and money, but I want you to actually really get a sense of what's the thing that triggers us even getting into this argument like this. And once they're able to see that, then we work on how they can slow themselves down from getting into the depths of the cycle.

Dr. Joy: Got it. So I imagine if she did some individual work with you, a part of what she might also want to explore is what it was like to see her life being played out on the screen like that by someone else.

Dr. Abrams: Yeah, absolutely. I think that brings up a really good point in terms of how connected and disconnected she might feel in that moment. So there's a way in which that can provide some externalization which we offer to a lot of clients as a coping mechanism. What's a way for you to process things that you've been through without feeling so activated by it? But at the same time, seeing it in such a way, that seeing it big screen, so many people around who may or may not know that this is loosely connected to you, can be a lot of exposure all at once.

And her not having the safe space to really process how that feels, to have her to bear witness to maybe some of the most traumatic things she's experienced. And have everybody review and critique and talk about this character as though it's not a real person. So I imagine that probably did activate a lot of things for her, whether that be related to her trauma or not being seen and valued by her partner. That he really just exposed her in that way and hasn't checked in with her about it at all because it's been about him.

Dr. Joy: Absolutely, yeah. Because for as big as that night was for him, I would imagine it was also big for her.

Dr. Abrams: Mm hmm. Yeah, and to have that part not be seen and have no space to kind of talk to because everything is about him, it would make a lot of sense that that's what she was also looking for in addressing that. Even if she was trying to kind of hold back from even going there with him, that same theme about not being seen by him, that he could offer so much of her and that she couldn't have any hands on it. She wasn't involved in that process of exposing so many parts of her life.

Dr. Joy: Right.

Dr. Abrams: Really hurtful. Yeah.

Dr. Joy: We'll hear more from Dr. Abrams right after this break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: The other thing I would love to hear your take on. I thought that this was particularly poignant when Marie was able to say not only that I think she wanted to be casted in this movie because it was her life and it was probably a breakout role, but also she mentioned like I didn't mean to give all of that away. And you have now been able to make something beautiful out of this mess, my life, and now where do I go with it? I don't feel like I can tell my story because you and Taylor have already shared it. So if she came to you as an individual client, either still in this relationship or outside of this relationship, how might you work with her to kind of help her to think about how she could still make a meaningful story from the things that have happened in her life?

Dr. Abrams: Yeah, I think that leads me right into what I do with a lot of clients, and particularly black women clients, is narrative work. Where we're looking at your story and your words for it. So that even if he has used parts of her story, it still hurts, she still has full ownership of it. And we can't always control how other people tell our stories but what can be really great and transformative about therapy is that now we are working on the tools where your story’s in your own words. And you can do whatever you want with it and share the pieces of it that feel the most salient to you in the ways in which you want it to be shared and with who you want it to be shared.

But really kind of helping people understand and kind of release some of that kind of sense of power and control that they want to have over their narratives. Where they’re, hey, if you are going to have any connection with someone else, they actually do get to have their own narrative of you. And it can be really difficult if it feels mischaracterized, it can be really difficult if it feels kind of stolen from them or taken from them or undermined by them but that doesn't remove or limit the ways in which you can still tell your story. Again, it's about making choices about who and how you tell your story.

But oftentimes, that can be really hard, that I have this part of my life and because they have more access, more power, more whatever it is, they get to tell their story. They get to write their own book with their version of me in it. But people are gonna have versions of you that are going to align or not align. If you spend so much time trying to control someone else's version of you, that means you're not really getting clear about the version of you that you want to promote. But like really validating how difficult that is, that other people have other versions of you in their stories.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. That feels incredibly powerful, both for Marie but for any of us, I think. Like being able to share our version of the story and having that be the most powerful one. Not somebody else's version be more powerful than our own.

Dr. Abrams: Right, right, and recognizing that the other versions are there and can be hurtful. So it's not to invalidate the hurt that that comes with, but how to kind of offer you some more kind of redirecting towards your version of your story. That can come through your own words.

Dr. Joy: Dr. A, I wonder if you have some thoughts (I'm sure you do) on how to manage your own behavior around a partner who has something in their history around something like substance abuse or suicidal attempts or whatever. So that you don't wield it in a manipulative way or have it kind of come up in a fight.

Dr. Abrams: Yeah. I think one is getting more curious versus judgmental about their own connection with that history. Again, I can make all these assumptions about what this time in your life might have meant to you and how it's affected you and how it's affecting you now, but that's all of my own database on my history on all this stuff. I think, first, really offering your partner the same narrative piece for them to tell their own story and how that stuff is still showing up with them or not, and continuing to support them in that way.

I think there's a way to be able to honor different versions of people without using it against them. I think there's a way in which you want to be sensitive to what somebody has been through, what they're navigating, where some of their insecurities still remain, without throwing it in their face when you are feeling insecure. So one, that comes in kind of with that safety about the knowledge of how this still continues to affect them.

But you can also ask them that based on that history, what are things that feel safe for me to do, and what are things that don't feel safe or feel harmful for me to do? Particularly when it comes to substance use. That's about if I'm using any of these substances around you, it’s important for me to know if that might trigger you in some way. And it's important for a partner to be able to tell me that, hey, when we are in either these kinds of spaces or when that kind of substance is around, this is what's happening for me internally and or externally and this is what could be really helpful from you. But to actually have the conversation about it versus making assumptions.

What will sometimes show up in couples is that because we know that there's a history, we try to do everything we can to “not trigger the person.” So I'm just gonna stop drinking because I know that that is a part of your history. Which is not something that your partner has said that they need from you, but your partner is going to pick up on that you're doing all these things to avoid him and that's not what they've asked of you. Also, so being able to take that into account and say, “Hey, given what I know of this and given what you shared with me, what can I offer to you in this?” What are ways in which I can support you so that I can be mindful of that, moving forward?

But not going straight into problem-solving, fix it, let me just not do anything that makes them think about this. More than likely, a person who has a significant substance abuse history is thinking about this, even if it's not derailing them and taking them over anymore, but it's present with them. So you are not going to be able to protect them from it in entirety but you can offer ways in which you can be more sensitive to it. Like I said, that can be in terms of settings that you spend time in or recreationally or kind of things that you're doing around the house that might trigger, not only the actual substance use, but anything that happened to that person that may have had a negative impact on them.

So essentially, it's being able to help them understand how it has been traumatizing. If that trauma continues to show up, what are ways in which I can provide you support in this? But also honoring, I'm not going to be able to avoid everything, but let me know what I can do to help you through any of these moments.

Dr. Joy: Nice. Thank you so much for that framework. I appreciate that. So going back to one of the early questions we talked about at the beginning of the episode, how they billed this as not a love story but a story about love, do you actually think this is a story about love? You know, because at the end we kind of are left with like this cliffhanger, so to speak, with him kind of staring off into the sunset. We're not quite sure what's gonna happen. They're not like holding hands or like embracing; we just see them standing side by side as they are outside their house. So what do you think they are actually holding on to?

Dr. Abrams: I think they're both holding on to versions of themselves at different parts of the relationship. I think it can be a story of love. I think there at some point has been love, affection, camaraderie, support there. Particularly when they're in this similar industry that has its own trials and tribulations to it. I think there can be a way in which when you are dating somebody in a similar field, that it can be love. So because I don't know more about them, I can't say that they don't love each other.

But I do appreciate that differentiation of it not being a love story in terms of how we romanticize relationships and how we romanticize repair in relationships, and how we romanticize how fights should look or not look and how they should end, and it should only last an hour or 30 minutes or something like that. So I think that it can be a version of love, but in the way in which it is now and that argument, it's not sustainable in a healthy way.

Can couples come out of that with some significant work, ideally in therapy? Absolutely. Couples can come back from “worse than that,” but it would take an actual commitment to it. So can they find a healthier love? That they're able to commit to doing something different? Absolutely. At any age.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Thank you, Dr. A.

Dr. Abrams: Did we get the best glimpse of what loving someone in a healthy way looks like and how to repair any of that? No. We actually didn't even see any repair. We just saw the argument stop, and that is different from repair.

Dr. Joy: Right. Yeah, because I think repair can look lots of different ways and some people may have interpreted him finally saying thank you (like as they went to bed that night) as a repair, but that actually was not a repair.

Dr. Abrams: No, that’s not repair. That is not repair at all. That is not fighting. That is no longer fighting but no longer fighting does not mean repair.

Dr. Joy: So what might repair look like for them? Or the beginnings of a repair?

Dr. Abrams: The beginnings of repair would have to come with acknowledgement of harm being said and done to each other. And the beginnings of repair would have to go back into their history to figure out how they got here. It’s nearly impossible to repair something when you're not getting the details of how we got here in the first place and how we got to that point. But helping them to see that this wasn't a one off. That this has come with a whole cycle of things and then helping them to see that, oh, this is what I do when I feel like this. This is what you do when you feel like this. And then this is what we do next.

That's the beginning of the repair process but they've got to be able to step outside of it enough to be able to see what they do. We call that a de-escalation process. Right now, they're really, really escalated, so more than likely when they come in the first few sessions, they're going to be at each other's necks. And these might be the couples where like I'm in there with like “timeout, timeout.” Like, I don't have a whistle but, hey, and it's virtual now so I can't really jump in there.

But those are couples that can get into it and it can get really hostile really soon, so a lot of the work in the beginning of our work would look like de-escalation. So when you start getting loud, that's me stopping the conversation and saying, hey, what's happening for you? Because I've noticed your tone of voice is changing. What's happening for you when I'm noticing that your chest is puffing up in session right now. Can you tell me where you just went? What did you just hear her say that triggered that?

So I'm very, very directive and I will interrupt you in the beginning. Because there's no point of you arguing the same way that you do out there. That's not helpful for you. But I will interrupt all these different moments where I see things get tipped off scale, and slow you down so that you're no longer talking about and responding to her; you're talking to me about what's happening for you. And she can bear witness to that and then I'll process with her, but what's it like to hear him say this? Because normally what you see is the puffed-up chest and you see him yelling and spitting and doing all this stuff. What's it like when he slowed down and then said, oh, that's what I heard her say. What's it like to hear that? Because you don't ever see that part of him.

So that's a lot of what's going to take place in the first few months. If not, it could go years, but the first few months of therapy. I will interrupt the whole process to slow down and really get you to build some insight into what you're responding to. That's how repair begins, with seeing your own part of the process.

Dr. Joy: It feels like that's a really important distinction because I think oftentimes people come to couples therapy thinking the therapist is gonna like take a side and say this one was right and this one was wrong, when that's definitely not what couples therapy is.

Dr. Abrams: Nope, let me not do that because *[inaudible 1:01:55] sometimes. What couples therapy can ideally be is not only a space where you are looking at the interaction between, but it can also offer a lot of individual holding and learning and insight. Which is why I really love EFT as a model because it does a bit of both. It weaves couples in and out of their own work as well as the work that they can do in the middle of that. So for us, oftentimes the couple is the client. No one is any kind of worse off; we're looking at the interaction between you two and the cycle between you two. Nobody's the problem.

Dr. Joy: Nice, nice. Dr. A, can you tell us a little bit about your work? I know you have a new group starting soon so can you tell us a little bit about the work from your practice and where we can find you on social media and your website?

Dr. Abrams: Yes, so the name of my practice is Ascension Behavioral Health and I am based in Atlanta, Georgia. I would say about 80 to 85% of my work is with black people–individuals, couples, groups–and I really love doing couples work and I've built up a lot of that as part of my work (in the past like three to five years) using EFT. And I’ve specialized or kind of focused on mood disorders, oftentimes the ways in which anxiety concerns show up, depressive symptoms, bipolar disorders. But also fusing that with how it intersects with identity–so race, gender, sexuality, religion–and how that factors into how you relate to the world, how safe you feel in the world and how you get your needs met.

As you know, I really love this work. I just began offering a group focused on helping black women to understand and to practice boundary setting in all parts of their lives. So boundaries with yourself, physical boundaries, time, energetic boundaries, as well as how you relate to others, assert your needs in various relationships and feel kind of strengthened enough to be able to use your voice to get your needs met across the board. So with your family, with your partner, with your children, in workspaces, with your peers.

And so really looking at how asserting yourself and how being clear about your unique needs in relationships can really help deepen your relationships, create a lot of vulnerability, but also help you feel healthier in your relationships and feel like you could show up more fully. That is a six-week group that begins February 17 on a Wednesday, and that'll be for 10 women. That'll be the first cohort of the group and then I'll be running a series of cohorts for the rest of the year.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. And where can we find that information?

Dr. Abrams: The best place to find me is on Instagram. I am Dr_Ayanna_A. And the name of my practice and my website is Ascension Behavioral Health and information about speaking gigs and the work that I do with corporations and in various companies around mental health, black mental health and wellness, can be found on that website.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. We will be sure to include all of that in the show notes. Always a pleasure to have you here and to guest share with us, Dr. A.

Dr. Abrams: Absolutely. This is a great conversation. I'm putting that movie to rest, though.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, we’re done.

Dr. Abrams: Screening videos but after that, I'm done.

Dr. Joy: We're wrapping it up. Thank you.

I'm so glad Dr. Abrams was able to join us for today's conversation. To learn more about her and to check out the new group she's running in her practice, visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session195. And please be sure to text two sisters right now and tell them to check out the episode.

Don't forget that if you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory. And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Yellow Couch Collective. It’s our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/YCC. Thank you all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all, real soon. Take good care.