How to NOT get divorced with Sarah Intelligator

Meet Sarah Intelligator

Sarah is the author of “Live, Laugh, Find True Love: A Step-By-Step Guide to Dating and Finding a Meaningful Relationship, By a Divorce Attorney”.

Raised by a mother who has practiced Family Law for almost thirty years, and still practices, Sarah feels as though she has been exposed to the issues Family Law practitioners encounter on a daily basis, her entire life. 

Sarah graduated from UCLA, cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts, in English.  She received a Juris Doctorate, from Southwestern Law School, in Los Angeles.

In her first year of law school, Sarah earned the coveted title of First Place Oralist in Southwestern Law School’s Intramural Moot Court Competition.  Not only was this achievement a product of her extreme diligence and dedication, but also a testament to her strong skills as an advocate.  Through this experience, Sarah learned that she truly had a passion for litigation.

In addition, while attending Southwestern Law School, in Los Angeles, Sarah clerked for the District Attorney, which provided her with a solid Criminal Law background as well. 

Practicing exclusively Family Law since 2008, Sarah worked for the Law Offices of Rosaline L. Zukerman, APC, for five years, prior to opening her own practice.

Sarah recognizes that Family Law litigation is highly emotional and deeply personal, and she is dedicated to striking that delicate balance between zealous advocacy and empathy.  The practice of Family Law is unique.  Family Law litigants transcend any socio-economic, race or gender classifications.  Divorce, domestic violence, and issues concerning child custody affect everyone equally.  Sarah appreciates that her clients are people, who, for the most part, have never been involved in any litigation, going through what is, arguably, the most difficult time in their lives–often being asked to support two households on an income that previously supported only one.  To that end, it is important to Sarah to keep her rates reasonable, as compared to other Family Law practitioners, in order to make legal representation as accessible as possible.

Sarah has also been a yoga instructor since 2000. Sarah incorporates her experience as an instructor into her lawyering style. Teaching has enabled Sarah to maintain calm even under the most rigorous of pressures.  It has provided her with the invaluable opportunity to command the respect and attention of any group of individuals she addresses, and it is her nurturing nature that gravitated her, both, to teaching and to the practice of, specifically, Family Law.

Listen to the episode on Spotify here or on your favorite podcast platform.

Podcast transcript:

How to NOT get divorced with Sarah Intelligator

Welcome to the urban monk podcast. Dr. Pedram Shojai. As I was about to record the bumper for today’s episode. I was interrupted by a screaming son. Running through the house butt naked, because it’s funny. Hashtag parenting today, we are talking to a divorce attorney. Who’s written a book about how not to get a divorce.

And a lot of it has to do with the deal you. Understand that you’re getting into. And frankly, the foundations of the person you are looking to marry and whether or not you can weather all these storms together, naked children, screaming and all. So I thought it was incredibly insightful. I thought it was a powerful episode and I learned a lot and I think you will to enjoy the show.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Welcome to the show, Sarah. I’m really happy to have you here.

Sarah Intelligator: Thank you for having me.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yes. So I love the perspective that you’re coming from because look, you’ve seen the worst of the worst and there’s some learning lessons in this. And so context folks. She was, on the other side of this love thing just hearing a lot of these divorce stories and how people came to blows and how, marriages fell apart.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And so taking dating advice from someone who’s heard all the don’t doss I think is just brilliant. And so yeah, would love for you to just share a bit of that journey before we get into how to save one’s marriage.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah, absolutely. I am a divorce attorney and I was also a yoga teacher for 20 years and I worked, when I started out, my practice in the legal world I. Absolutely hated it. I worked for a firm for five years. It was soul crushing. I didn’t wanna practice law anymore. And so I left after five years and I had to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up, essentially. And but in the meantime, I had to pay my bills. So I maintained some clients and as I was going out onto my own and practicing on my own, I started thinking about how. I wanted to present myself how I wanted to practice law, and I realized that there was this organic connection between my role as a yoga teacher and my role as an attorney and a divorce attorney specifically, and I had this tool bag to guide people through very difficult situations.

Sarah Intelligator: That’s what a divorce attorney does. That’s what a yoga teacher does, right? And so I coined the term holistic divorce and family law to describe. My style of practice and in guiding the individual through a difficult time and using all of the tools that I have available in my tool bag to me to do that.

Sarah Intelligator: And that sort of over the years has morphed into. Not just guiding people through their divorces, but hopefully preventing them from even getting divorced in the first place. But I don’t have access to people before they get to my office, so I wrote this book to try to hopefully get access to people before they get to my office.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I love it. It’s like a ER physician or a internist trying to get people to eat, right? They don’t end up with the diabetes and come

Sarah Intelligator: Exactly.

Dr Pedram Shojai: and yeah. And divor family law’s a tough one. Let’s talk about the, in the industry of family law. ’cause there’s a bad rap, and I’m sure you’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

Dr Pedram Shojai: It’s famous for, the people saying the attorneys are gonna get all the money and, there’s, there are people in your industry that, like to stoke the fights, right? Because that

Dr Pedram Shojai: will bring just more billable hours and all that. So I’m sure you saw a lot of that.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yuck.

Sarah Intelligator: Oh yeah. That happens all the time. And I’d like to say that I think that most of my colleagues are pretty professional and ethical, and they understand that the best thing to do is to get family law litigants to the finish line as. Fast painlessly as, as inexpensively as possible. But I certainly work with those all the time who are there to just bill people and churn fees and things like that.

Sarah Intelligator: It happens all the time.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Yeah. I, in any industry, you’re gonna have bad apples. And then, look, the mighty buck is the mighty buck, right? If you bill for hours, you want more hours. So over the years you started to. I’m sure notice some trends.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Oh, I’ve heard that story before. Oh really? He did that. So you started to really document the places where you saw the cracks in the concrete.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And I would love to just start getting into it. Every married person here, look, everyone fights, everyone has problems, everyone has challenges. That’s life. But the big things that you noticed the big icebergs. I would love to start kinda laying out the foundation and talking about it.

Sarah Intelligator: Sure. So I distilled the patterns that I’ve seen down into six basic categories, and they’re the categories. They’re the patterns rather that I see amidst. Almost every single failed relationship that comes into my office. And I can talk about a little bit each of them in a little bit of detail but I can, I don’t know if you want me to name all of them and then go into them in detail, or if I should just start with one and.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Let’s name ’em and then let’s dive into ’em.

Dr Pedram Shojai: How about that?

Sarah Intelligator: Okay. Sounds good. So the six F words, I call ’em F words. The dirty F words are fundamental values, fear, foundation, fixing fairytale and family.

Dr Pedram Shojai: All right let’s start fundamental values.

Sarah Intelligator: Fundamental values.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, I hear

Dr Pedram Shojai: about a lot. Why is that such a deal breaker for people?

Sarah Intelligator: Fundamental values is one of the F words that I, it’s actually listed first. Deliberately because to me it’s the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. And without shared fundamental values, a relationship can’t really progress and it doesn’t have a longevity to it. So when I talk about fundamental values, I’m specifically referring to core principles that are so at the root of someone’s being that they define who that person is, and. There are things, for example, such as religious beliefs political beliefs, potentially adventure. Like a need for adventure is a big one, right? Someone who’s a homebody and shies away from the world is not necessarily suited for someone who is extremely adventurous and seeks out adventure, right? The important thing, the distinction to make between fundamental values and something like fleeting interests is that fleeting interests are. Typically temporary, right? If you’re 20 years old and you wanna go backpacking through Europe and sell off all your worldly possessions, that might not be a fundamental value per se.

Sarah Intelligator: It might be something that interests you when you’re young and maybe not something that is going to necessarily interest you when you’re in your, sixties or seventies or things like that. So really defining what you fundamentally value at your core. And then ascertaining whether your partner shares about three to five, the more the merrier.

Sarah Intelligator: But I think three to five is a good starting point of those really core values.

Dr Pedram Shojai: So that’s really great dating advice for sure. What happens if you’re like, uhoh. I married that person and is there an easy reconcile if you’re sitting with someone you’ve been with for 20 years and you’re like, oh shit, that’s our problem.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah, I don’t really deal in relationships that are in the process of failing or on the Brinks because I’m trying to prevent people from getting to that point in the first place. I deal with them on the other end, when people have decided that they wanna call it quits. There are obviously things that people can do to work on their relationships, but if the fundamental values weren’t there to begin with, then I don’t think 20 years down the road you’re gonna suddenly decide that you fundamentally value the same things.

Sarah Intelligator: Although maybe if you’ve made it 20 years, maybe you do fundamentally value some of the same things and there are other issues that play in the relationship, not necessarily the fundamental values.

Dr Pedram Shojai: So on the travel one, Hey, this guy wants to go backpacking through Europe. We’re young. It makes sense. How do I know that’s not wanderlust for life? Like how do you ascertain whether that’s a fundamental. Able to value or a fleeting thing when

Dr Pedram Shojai: you’re talking to someone like, how do you interview for this?

Sarah Intelligator: It’s a good question. I think there are other telltale signs I ca I talk about in the context of fundamental values, not only defining your own fundamental values, ’cause I think that’s a really important starting point, right? You need to know yourself first and define what you fundamentally value before you can ascertain whether your partner shares those fundamental values. But I talk about dating and courtship and really the whole. Journey leading up to, I’m committing my life to this person as the job interview. And that period is there for you to glean whether you and your per you and this person share fundamental value. So for example, someone who wants to sell off their worldly possessions backpack through Europe, is this something permanent?

Sarah Intelligator: Is it not something permanent? You have to look at the whole situation. You have to look at the totality of the circumstances. Does this person has this person I, and I’m just throwing out examples here, but has this person gone and gotten an education? Has this person obtained a master’s degree and a PhD? Maybe that’s the kind of person who just wants to do this temporarily because they have some loftier goals. In mind down the road, maybe, I don’t know maybe you look to this person’s family history. You look to this person’s background you look to other little clues and you’re, constantly searching for these puzzle pieces to put together the entire puzzle before you make what I call the most important decision of your entire life, which is to commit your life to another person.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Amen to that. Okay, so the question I had fo to follow this I realize is probably under fear. So let’s talk about fear and. Let’s see if my question would be well suited there.

Sarah Intelligator: Sure.

Sarah Intelligator: funnily enough, fear is the next F word that I go into, although the remaining F words other than fundamental values are really listed in no particular order. But I think that most relationships fail because of fear. Whereas fundamental values are like the most important thing that you need going into a relationship.

Sarah Intelligator: Fear is like the number one reason they fail. People are so afraid that they might never find someone better, or they’re afraid that, oh, my biological clock is ticking. Okay, this person is here, they’re good enough. Okay I’ll settle for this person. There’s so many ways that fear. Controls us and and I talk about it in the context of fear is a very fight or flight response. Fear is intended to protect us in an instantaneous moment. Fear isn’t really looking to protect us long-term into the future, our intelligence does that. And so when we rely on fear, and when fear chooses our partner for us, we’re giving into something that feels very safe, that helps us avoid making the difficult decision we know we have to make if we inevitably listen to our intelligence and not to fear, right?

Sarah Intelligator: And the thing about fear is that it has kept us safe, right? Like we don’t jump into shark infested waters because fear says, don’t do that. And then what happens? We learn to trust fear. Fear becomes our friend and our trusted advisor. And so it’s hard not to trust fear, but we have to remember that fear is not there to protect us long term.

Dr Pedram Shojai: A lot of the relationships I’ve seen in my day that have wobbled off, if you will. I’d say maybe half of ’em, someone had some sort of unresolved trauma, some childhood thing

Dr Pedram Shojai: that came up. And now in their adult life it’s, here it’s either, this, I gotta deal with this or I’m not gonna deal with this.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And that’s a break point.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Is that fear, is that more just, like a stunted growth? Once you get to that juncture, like when you start to see that stuff.

Sarah Intelligator: No, I actually talk about that quite extensively in the, under the fixing F word. Because I think fixing is a two-parter. It’s not only people feel the need to fix their partner, right? Oh, if I just fix this and this, then this person will be perfect and this relationship will be right for me.

Sarah Intelligator: So that’s one component of fixing. But the other component of fixing is fixing yourself. And it’s not that we. Aren’t all without our issues. We all have our past experiences and they’re part of the fabric of our makeup. They are part of what make us sensitive and interesting and and lovable in many ways and vulnerable. But when I talk about fixing yourself, I’m saying if there is an unaddressed trauma or something that, like for example the really common example is like a estranged relationship with a parent. And then consequently, the person has abandonment issues or they feel unlovable. Because they were abandoned by a parent, or the parent is not speaking to them, something like that.

Sarah Intelligator: And so they go on to choose a partner because this partner makes them feel loved or fulfills that emptiness, that that abandonment issue. And so you’re not picking a partner because you share fundamental values or there are all these other great things that make you compatible. You’re, again you’re. Past traumas and your exper past experiences are choosing this partner for you. And so you’re entering into the relationship in an unhealthy way and therefore choosing an unhealthy relationship. And so it’s going to be an unhealthy relationship. And so I think that, that doesn’t necessarily speak to fear so much as it does to really addressing your own issues so that you can enter into your relationship in a healthy way and consequently have a healthy relationship.

Dr Pedram Shojai: So what happens if someone thinks they’re fine and the other person is insistent on fixing? Is that, obviously we’re still in the interview process here, right? But

Dr Pedram Shojai: How do you, ascertain if someone is not willing to be fixed? Is gonna have a knee jerk reaction to that?

Sarah Intelligator: So if the person who you are dating. It is in need of fixing. Like they have some issues and you’re trying to get them help so that they can recognize their issues, but they’re not acknowledging them. If somebody does not acknowledge their issues and they’re unwilling to recognize them, then no matter how wonderful the person is, it just might not be the right relationship for you because you can’t force it.

Sarah Intelligator: You can’t, that kind of falls to me within the end, but a fixing, like you’re trying to fix this person and they don’t wanna be fixed. And I think that if somebody wants to be fixed and if somebody wants to do the work and put in the work they will. And that’s. Great. And there’s possibility there, but if you’re the one pushing them it’s an alcoholic or a drug addict.

Sarah Intelligator: They need to want to, they need to hit rock bottom and they need to want to get clean and sober and you just pushing them to do it isn’t gonna help them make those realizations.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And marrying ’em is certainly not gonna help transform anything

Sarah Intelligator: no,

Sarah Intelligator: marriage is not like a magic wand. People think, oh, if we get married, it will fix the relationship. Oh, if we have children, it will fix the relationship. Marriage is not, it doesn’t fix anything. It’s, if anything, it could make things worse because it is a serious commitment and it’s a commitment.

Sarah Intelligator: It’s a lifelong commitment, hopefully, presumably. And, people tend to get more complacent and let their guard down as the relationship progresses. They don’t start trying to impress you as the relationship progresses. That’s a beginning of the relationship sort of thing. It. I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation to have.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And anyone who’s been married with children knows that man, it’s like it’s a street fight to try to get your own sleep. And, everyone is, , tempers, flare, fuses get very short

Dr Pedram Shojai: and the pressure. Sures bring up all of the kind of, foundational issues that were never resolved, right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: And

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah. I.

Dr Pedram Shojai: yeah. Trying to fix this is a hard one for doctors, right? It’s very hard to try not to fix people when you’re in the job of fixing.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And I’ve seen many president company included guilty as charged, right? Is trying to fix the other by being like, I know how to solve this. And if the person doesn’t wanna solve it, dude, you gotta

Sarah Intelligator: yeah.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: it, that’s tough.

Sarah Intelligator: It is. And I think that, from my perspective as a yoga teacher and my background there, it’s like you almost ha have to adopt this acceptance and this letting go, and a willingness to face your fear. Of the inevitable next step if something isn’t right, because a lot of people sweep this stuff under the rug and they intuitively know it’s there.

Sarah Intelligator: They, it might not even be intuitive. They might just. know, it’s there. They might see it and recognize it, but they push it aside and dismiss it, and they think that, okay, if I do this, and this, it’s okay. They’re just, it’ll get better. It’ll get better. But in reality, by doing that, they’re just delaying the inevitable.

Sarah Intelligator: And the inevitable is you’re going to get divorced, or this relationship is going to end. It’s just going to be a lot more painful down the road than it will be to do it now.

Dr Pedram Shojai: With child custody and assets and all the

Sarah Intelligator: Oh yeah. Oh

Sarah Intelligator: yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. I’m sure

Dr Pedram Shojai: you’ve seen the ugliness of that.

Sarah Intelligator: Oh yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: yeah.

Sarah Intelligator: Every day.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah.

Sarah Intelligator: Yes. Yes.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I love this, by the way. It’s just, I love it when someone who is in the MASH unit is trying to negotiate peace and stop the war, right?

Sarah Intelligator: I, I feel like, I’m very into holistic medicine and I always have been my whole life and preventative care and things like that. And I do see myself in that way. I am like the integrative attorney. I’m like, what is the root cause? How can we prevent the disease of divorce?

Sarah Intelligator: And how can we make sure that you’re as healthy as possible so that you prevent that

Sarah Intelligator: ultimately?

Dr Pedram Shojai: And so much pain and suffering, right? Much pain and suffering can be averted if you don’t get in the wrong deal.

Sarah Intelligator: It’s so much pain and suffering, not just emotionally, financially but if you have children, it has a really far reaching impact on your children. And the thing is that most people don’t go into the dating process thinking about their would be children. Like they’re worried about the outfit they’re gonna wear on their date.

Sarah Intelligator: They’re not thinking, if I marry this person and we have children, are we gonna be on the same page on these issues so that we raise our children in a similar way with similar ideals as opposed to having clashes over how we raise our children because we don’t share the same fundamental values. And that is a weird way to think going into dating.

Sarah Intelligator: It’s like we’re thinking so far ahead. It like. Some might say, oh, that’s crazy to think like that. But if we don’t think like that, then. We will impact our future children, and it becomes a revolving door. They’re gonna model their relationships after your relationship. If they’re thrust into the acrimony of a divorce, they’re gonna have their own set of issues.

Sarah Intelligator: And that’s gonna play out not only, we see. Teenagers who their parents go through really acrimonious divorces. They’re more prone to suicide, depression, all kinds of things, then they go on to model their relationship after their parents, and then they end up divorced and they go through the same thing and put their own children through the same thing. So, this really does have a tremendously far reaching impact , that. no one’s thinking about right. When they’re choosing their date outfit and that, but I’m thinking about that.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Yeah. You, it’s probably not fun being in the middle of these conversations. So how to avert that makes a lot of sense.

Dr Pedram Shojai: All right, let’s go through the rest of the f-word. We skipped

Dr Pedram Shojai: over foundation cause we went to fixing. And I have

Dr Pedram Shojai: some very targeted questions but I wanna make sure we cover all your F words here.

Hey hope you’re enjoying the show. Quick time out. Talk about a couple of things that got going on in the urban monk academy for you. Number one 10 part series called conscious parenting. If you’ve already done the deal. You know that you need help parenting. As did I, as did my wife, we were doctors.

We weren’t educated to raise children. We just tried to emulate what our moms and dads did. It’s not necessarily the best strategy all the time. So we interviewed the best of the best, , in the field all about how to parent and what the science says. , we have, , a masterclass called raising healthy kids, two of the top pediatricians in the holistic health space, talking about how to keep them healthy. I think that’s pretty cool. And if you’re on the other side of the deal or frankly, whatever side of the deal is a great course called tantra top by yours, truly all about lovemaking and how you can use that as a spiritual path, all sorts of cool stuff in the academy. As you can tell, I don’t have outside sponsors for this. So supporting the work that I create to support you helps support the podcast. If you like what you’re listening to. I jump in, learn something, stay in the ecosystem.

And, uh, I like seeing people who are learning in the community. Back to the podcast.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah, so foundation is it, I break it down into five categories, subcategories, which I call the pillars of the foundation, right? Foundation is like the foundation of a house. If you don’t have a solid support to your house, then. The house is gonna come toppling down, right? And so I break down these pillars, these support beams that hold the structure of your relationship in place into trust, honesty, communication, respect, and teamwork.

Sarah Intelligator: And those are pretty self-explanatory. Obviously, I go into a lot more detail in the book about how these pillars work. And the interesting thing about Foundation is that foundation is one of those things that you need to make sure you have a solid foundation with all five pillars intact going into the relationship. But these pillars can actually be knocked down as the relationship, even after you’re married, even if you had a solid foundation to begin with. And so it’s really important as you go through your relationship to always respect these pillars and to pay attention to them that you’re not. Taking actions that are deliberately, karate, chopping these pillars down. But I think that, you definitely if the foundation doesn’t exist, then you shouldn’t be taking the relationship to the next step of committing to a lifelong relationship, whether that be marriage or, lifelong partnership.

Dr Pedram Shojai: How do you go about asking these questions and not making the date weird?

Sarah Intelligator: I get asked that all the time, and I think one of the exercises that I give people to do in the book is once they’ve identified their fundamental values, I ask them to come up with a list of, three, five questions that they can ask a date, potentially to ascertain whether he or she shares those fundamental values. Okay. The reason I do that is so that the person has already thought about these questions going into the date and doesn’t have to formulate them on the spot. And then dates shouldn’t be devoid of flirtation, right? Physical attraction, flirtation, that’s all part of a relationship. It shouldn’t be completely sterile, you’re on a first date and you can.

Sarah Intelligator: Sprinkle into the conversation one or two of these questions, or because you already know what the questions are in your own mind, you might be having a conversation with a date and the date might say something like, the date might say something about his or her family, right? And maybe family is one of your fundamental values, like your family and family values and being close to your family is super important to you. And your date says something like, oh yeah, my family lives in. Ohio, but I don’t really care because I don’t have a relationship with ’em and I don’t really care. That might just be, it doesn’t mean you end the date. It doesn’t mean you don’t go on a second date, but it’s a little clue for you, right?

Sarah Intelligator: And you pay attention to it, and you grasp onto it. It’s not necessarily that you have this, list of exhaustive questions and you’re sitting there just asking them, but , it’s a job interview, right? You’re constantly conducting the job interview, and that means not just asking the right questions, but also listening to and looking at body language and demeanor and things like that.

Sarah Intelligator: You’re evaluating at all times.

Dr Pedram Shojai: . And I guess you could be a lot more careful about making the tone sound conversational. I think, , if I showed up on a date, 20 years ago when I was single and someone had a list of questions,

Dr Pedram Shojai: I, it would’ve freaked me out.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Who’s your family? Where are you from? No, of course not. Of course not. Who’s your family? Where are you from? Is a legitimate question when you’re trying to get to know somebody.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah.

Sarah Intelligator: Or you’re sitting there and one of the examples I like to use is if somebody’s like a devout Catholic and they’re talking about, oh, hey, you should come with me sometime to watch football on a Sunday morning or something like that, right?

Sarah Intelligator: And so you can say, oh I actually go to church on Sundays and I’m pretty committed to that and observe your date’s reaction. If your data’s football is my religion, I could care less about, any sort of faith or faith-based religions, you might be like no. This is a fundamental value that is very dissonant here. This isn’t gonna work out. And so there are clues being offered at all times.

Dr Pedram Shojai: How do you get. Past the giddiness of saying, oh, I’m so attracted to this person, or, oh, I’ve been so lonely, this guy will do. The people will short circuit their logic and even, ask these questions and ignore them if they’re

Dr Pedram Shojai: not careful because of the passion.

Sarah Intelligator: It’s hard. Those things are so primal and, our strongest urges are to mate and to procreate, right? Those are really primordial urges that we have. And so to fight them is virtually impossible, right? But we still have an intelligence and we can still be discerning and critical and we can take a step outside of that and say, yes. I’m so attracted to this person. I can’t stop thinking about them. Every time my phone dings, I’m hoping it’s a text message from ’em. I am losing it. I can’t function, but I can still take a step back and ask myself questions. And I think most people don’t do that ’cause they get caught up in that giddiness. You still have the power to reason and it’s like you still go to work and you’re still able to think, you’re still able to function at other tasks in life. And so you still have your intelligence there and you need, a lot of this really just boils down to being super honest with yourself and not making excuses and accepting the answers that you give yourself when you ask them as opposed to just.

Sarah Intelligator: Kind of dismissing things or making excuses, like this is really about self-reflection and honesty.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Honestly, I think maybe your next. Book or audio series could be the greatest hits of some of the shittiest bad beat stories you’ve heard as a divorce attorney that they can play before. Yeah. Be before being like, hell yeah, I’m in. Is, a bad deal is a really bad deal if you marry the

Dr Pedram Shojai: wrong person.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah, I talk about that in the beginning of the book.

Sarah Intelligator: I wish I could take people on a divorce field

Sarah Intelligator: trip before they decide to get married, and

Sarah Intelligator: take them into court with me, or have them sit in on one of my phone calls with opposing counsel or read one of the nasty letters they have to write.

Sarah Intelligator: Like people don’t think about those things before they get into this very romantic, romanticized

Sarah Intelligator: thing called marriage.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, it’s a contract. Read the fine print.

Dr Pedram Shojai: There, there’s a lot there. Okay, so foundation, let’s talk about fairytales.

Dr Pedram Shojai: That I’m very curious about that one.

Sarah Intelligator: That’s a good segue from what we were talking about because I think that, people have this idea that the proposal is just the end all be all right. It’s their opportunity to post on social media, the thing they’ve been waiting for their whole lives, or, this moment that is just this idealized.

Sarah Intelligator: Or the wedding day. I hear, the wedding day is the most important day of my whole life. Best day ever on social media. Hashtag best day ever. And in reality that makes the thing more important than what it purports to celebrate. Like the wedding day. It, yeah, it could be a great party. Great. You have a wonderful time. It’s a special day. But it shouldn’t be more important than the person who you’re marrying. And if your goal is to get to the wedding day, then you’re it anyone will do, right? Any person. I. Who is willing to marry you is sufficient. And so people they place so much emphasis on this day and they have this fairytale notion of the wedding day.

Sarah Intelligator: And then they get to the real thing, to the marriage. And we see in fairytales there’s. The happily they lived happily ever after, but we never see the ever after. And when they get to the ever after, they’re very disillusioned because this isn’t like they’ve peaked, they peaked at their wedding day. So I think that people aren’t necessarily realistic about what relationships are. Relationships aren’t about getting that engagement ring on your finger or getting to the wedding. It’s about having a partner who you can navigate life with in a successful and happy way. And I hear people all the time say, oh, relationships are so hard. And I don’t think relationships are hard. I think bad relationships are hard. I think good relationships are easy because. If you have a partner with whom you share fundamental values and consequently, you work together well as a team and you respect one another and you communicate effectively, and you trust one another, you’re honest with one another.

Sarah Intelligator: All those foundational principles then when life throws obstacles at you, which inevitably it will, you’re battling the dragon together as opposed to fighting one another in the face of the dragon.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yep. Yeah. And I see that happen so often amongst friends, right? Intelligent people, professional people turn into squabbling children it’s your turn to da, right? And, these are people that are, otherwise pretty conscious in other parts of their lives. I, see that a lot culturally.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I don’t think the media helps, right? The rings and the fantasy weddings and all that. There’s a whole industry there to big up that day. And the reality is, she’s nursing, it’s three in the morning. Both of you guys have worked tomorrow. Who the hell’s getting up?

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And yeah. And how do how are you gonna figure that out?

Sarah Intelligator: And a good relationship, like a telltale sign of a good relationship isn’t the good moments. It’s not like when you were both walking naked at Burning Man and had the best time ever. It’s like it. A telltale sign of a good relationship is how well you work through the bad times and not just bad times with each other.

Sarah Intelligator: How well you worked through the bad times in life. Like how many times I’ve seen people who ended up. They had a child, everything was great, and then they have a child and child’s sick in some way, and nobody expects that. Nobody should expect that. It’s an awful thing. But the reality is it’s possible, right?

Sarah Intelligator: And so how do you, if you need to have this glue that holds the relationship together to help you deal with something as awful and unimaginable as that. Because if you don’t, then it doesn’t really matter that you had the greatest time traveling through Europe together when you were 25 years old. That’s not enough.

Dr Pedram Shojai: No. We have a family that we know who’s two autistic children, and the foundation of one of ’em, was. Shaky, right? And then they had extramarital some things. And at that point you no longer have trust. You no longer have foundation. You’re no longer a partnership. And that life is a lot harder alone.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And,

Dr Pedram Shojai: We’re oof, we’re seeing ripples in the community. It’s just, it’s terrible.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah.

Sarah Intelligator: It’s awful. It’s awful. And I unfortunately see it all the time. Children don’t ruin marriages. Children ruin bad marriages. They’re the

Sarah Intelligator: truth serum. They shine an inescapable light on the problems in the relationship

Sarah Intelligator: because you cannot run away from the fact that you don’t have fundamental values or your foundation is not intact once children are

Sarah Intelligator: introduced into the mix.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, they just bring up the volume.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And what do they bring up? The volume.

Sarah Intelligator: They

Sarah Intelligator: sure do.

Dr Pedram Shojai: so family. Let’s talk about the last

Dr Pedram Shojai: of the F words. And then we’ll dance. Dance around All these.

Sarah Intelligator: Sure. Family is I didn’t originally include it in my F words, but then I decided that it’s important because I see family dynamics ruin relationships all the time. Family, it’s one of those that traverses many different categories. Number one family I’ve seen families who don’t approve of a significant other or a significant other who doesn’t get along with family.

Sarah Intelligator: And family is very important to the partner. And this creates this really bad dynamic where for example, I had a case where the wife. Her family hated the husband. They disapproved of him. They thought he was low class. They were constantly disparaging him. And and the wife was very close to her family.

Sarah Intelligator: And so she was constantly caught between her loyalty to her family and her loyalty to her husband. And consequently, the husband felt completely inadequate, right? So if you’re close to your family, if your family’s gonna be part of the picture, not only should your. Partner, get along with a family, but the family should get along with a partner.

Sarah Intelligator: That’s something that should be established from the get go family. Also, to me, it’s I call it the orienting piece of the puzzle, like that corner piece that you get so you know where to begin to put the puzzle together because. A lot of times for most of us, right? Our family are a huge part of who we are and why we are the way we are. And so it could be that you’re extremely close to your family and your family instilled certain fundamental values in you, and those became your fundamental values because of the way you were brought up. But also somebody who’s not close to their family, there’s an absence of family. And why is that? It could be that the family are just. Really horrible people, and this person made the very difficult decision to leave that situation and extricate him or herself from that situation. There’s so many things that play there that you need to explore and has this person dealt with those issues and how that separation from the family has affected him or her in, in, in life because. That inevitably will affect a person, right? A separation from family in some way, right? Are those issues addressed? Are they unaddressed? Have they recognized the way that that impacts them? And specifically in relationships? So we’re looking for like surrogate families, right?

Sarah Intelligator: Who stands in the role of a family? Who has this person selected to be a family member in the absence of his or her family? So just looking to. To more for more clues through family.

Dr Pedram Shojai: How does one determine, everyone can go on a date and be like, yeah, my mom’s controlling. She’s sucks. Ha. But then. You listen to everything she says. She tells you how to fold your laundry and your, your mom still owns you as a small child. So how does one in this kind of interrogation process, if you will, determine whether or not the family has their hooks in this person and how independent versus interdependent they truly are.

Sarah Intelligator: That’s not something that can be gleaned on a first date, obviously, right? That’s something that if you’re committing to the person and you’re getting into a committed relationship, you get to observe. This is part of the job interview you’re observing. Are you on a date and is mom calling 5,000 times and the person’s answering every time?

Sarah Intelligator: Or is the person establishing boundaries and saying, mom, I am busy right now. I cannot answer the phone. It’s all about observing whether this person sets boundaries, because that’s also a clue if this person can’t set boundaries with his or her own family, right? How’s he gonna set boundaries within the confines of a relationship?

Sarah Intelligator: Which is an important thing too, right? We wanna set boundaries and that’s part of respect. And having respect for ourselves . If we have respect for ourselves, then the other person respects us, it’s not, this is not a, first date, second date, even third date kind of question.

Sarah Intelligator: But I do think that everyone decides when it’s appropriate to introduce family and their different circumstances that, that warrant that at different times. But I think that the sooner you can introduce someone who you’re in a serious relationship with or getting serious with to family, the better. You’re gonna get your family’s opinion. You, as the date you’re gonna get to observe. You’re gonna get some VIP backstage access to peek behind the curtain there. It’s really invaluable for everyone.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I could think of a thousand rom-coms that have the scenario of the, new person visiting, the other family,

Dr Pedram Shojai: And how much apprehension that brings to the couple. But to me it seems like it is as, as quickly as you can get into the situation and observe the better.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah.

Dr Pedram Shojai: It’s hard the, this in incredibly intricate thing called marriage, which is, a contract, it’s a partnership, it’s, it’s a deal, right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: I’ve seen many come and go. I have friends that have gotten married with no, kids have very different lifestyles by the way. I have people who have never gotten married, and I have people who’ve gotten married and stayed and, all of it, right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: Divorces. And I don’t think any of us, your book didn’t exist then, right? And so we went with the gut. There’s also cultural stuff, right? Like I

Dr Pedram Shojai: dated a lot and married a Persian girl. Fancy

Dr Pedram Shojai: that, right? So that’s kind of family culture, tradition, foundation. And so let’s talk about that as like a macro, right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: My best friend had to marry a Jewish girl because that was his tradition and it just, that meant something. It meant shared values, it meant a lot of things. So like

Dr Pedram Shojai: these cultural macros,

Dr Pedram Shojai: How do you look at that in the interview process? How much of that holds? And how much variance have you seen going in?

Sarah Intelligator: I.

Sarah Intelligator: think that if that’s something that’s really important to someone, like for example, if marrying a Jewish girl is important to you, right? That’s something that you should ascertain right off the bat. Why go on a second date if that’s so fundamentally important to you that , it’s a deal breaker, essentially. If she isn’t so that’s very. Clean, cut and easy. I think it becomes a little bit more challenging when we’re talking about someone who’s I, okay, like I’m, I was raised Jewish, but I don’t really necessarily care. I’m not really a practicing Jew. I could go either way with my partner. And so you don’t actually look for it. But maybe because of. Family or your traditions. You might not, go to the synagogue on the high holidays or whatever, but you might. Feel really connected to the traditions, or not even realize it, but feel more comfortable with someone who also feels connected to those traditions, even if they’re not practicing. It’s one of those things where again, it’s like the more things we look at within, I think that’s a two-parter, like family and fundamental values, right? Like to me, family is super, super important. Like family is one of my fundamental values for sure. Religion is not, but my husband and I were actually both raised in the same kind of background and faith, and neither one of us really cares all that much about religion, but I have to say I’ve been married before, I’m actually divorced, and my first husband was raised in a different faith and I feel so much more connected to my husband in so many ways because our backgrounds are so similar, even though we were raised in. Different countries and, by very different parents with different ideals and standards and things like that. But we have this kind of shared background, which makes us, it, it does, whether you like to admit it or not. Like we, we go through life in a very similar way and have a very similar outlook on life.

Sarah Intelligator: So I do think that the more things that you have in common from that perspective, and I think that probably falls into family, right? That is important to my family. I was raised that way. It’s important to his family. He was raised that way. Family is important to both of us. And so religion might not be the fundamental value, but family is, right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: I’ve seen that line get really sloppy too, where you know, both folks were like, yeah, we don’t really care. I’m not. Not too into the faith or whatever, but then, the kid like we’ll stay with the Jewish example. It’s oh, I do want my kid to be bar mitzvahed

Dr Pedram Shojai: and my, it’s really important to my mom.

Dr Pedram Shojai: It’s ah, boy. And then all of a sudden the family and the faith and the culture starts dragging on them from, behind the room and now,

Dr Pedram Shojai: Mom is wanting this. And mom is

Dr Pedram Shojai: reaching boundaries on the other side. And I’ve seen

Dr Pedram Shojai: a lot of that kind of.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Ticky tack stuff really start to creep in and create kind of foundational cracks in the concrete of early marriages.

Sarah Intelligator: It does, and I think that people need to talk about this stuff. You don’t need to talk about on a first date or a second date, but if you’re really getting committed, you’re getting serious you’re, yes. Engagements, proposals are usually a surprise, but also they’re not, they’re we know they’re coming, but it’s okay to say, look, things are getting a little more serious between us and I don’t know where this is headed. I hope we continue down this path, there are some things that I think we need to discuss here if we are to continue down this path.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yep.

Sarah Intelligator: I think it’s perfectly, that’s a respectful and intelligent conversation to have as opposed to figuring it out down the road. You’re not gonna anticipate every single thing that’s gonna come up in your life, but you’re gonna say, Hey look, if this continues down this path, and inevitably we do end up getting married.

Sarah Intelligator: Do you want children? How many children do you want? What faith do you want them raised in? And. How entrenched in that faith do you want them to be? Like, I had an Orthodox Jewish man marry a, just a Jewish woman. And in their divorce there were custody issues because he wanted the child raised in the orthodox traditions and she didn’t, and that was a fight.

Sarah Intelligator: So even within the same faith, there was that dissonance.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Big time. Big time. I’ve seen it. I almost see you creating a drinking game version of this for a young couple. To play together. And it’s just at what age is it okay for my daughter to lose her virginity? And then how about my son? Oh, double standard, right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: Literally Like, just let’s talk about all this and figure out where we actually stand.

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah, I, and I, and people shy away from this conversation, I think, ’cause they’re afraid that by bringing it up, they’re like anticipating oh, what if he’s not planning to

Sarah Intelligator: ask me to marry him?

Sarah Intelligator: Or, oh, what if she isn’t that serious about the relationship? But I think there’s a way to couch things in terms of look, I’m not saying this is gonna happen, but we’re obviously in a committed relationship and we are moving things forward.

Sarah Intelligator: And so I think before we continue to. Go down this path, we wanna make sure we’re on the same page so that we continue down this lovely path together. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If someone has a problem with that, then it’s not the right relationship , that might in and of itself be the thing that tells you that it’s the wrong relationship.

Dr Pedram Shojai: How much of this is a modern era issue with my parents got married when they were effectively children and they grew up

Dr Pedram Shojai: together and they individuated not really because they moved from their parents’ house and became a couple and had kids and, it was a

Dr Pedram Shojai: different generation.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Now people are dating in their thirties, forties, and fifties. And so now

Dr Pedram Shojai: these are adult conversations that adults need to start having. Going into

Dr Pedram Shojai: a deal like that, like how much

Dr Pedram Shojai: generationally do you see it being different and making this now needing to be the new normal?

Sarah Intelligator: I think that’s the benefit. There are obviously places where people get out of college or they meet in college, they’re still getting married in, into their twenties. But I, it is certainly more prevalent that people are getting married into their thirties and even forties. And I think that the more maturity we have when we enter into a relationship. The better the relationship and the more successful the relationship is going to be. So I think that, that is, it is more prevalent. And so I think that we should actually be seeing relationships becoming more successful because people have the maturity to approach them with these, this type of discernment as opposed to when you’re, 21 years old, you’re not thinking about these kinds of things.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, let alone the old world crap, which is okay, my daughter, your son deal,

Dr Pedram Shojai: right? Like that used to.

Sarah Intelligator: it, it did, and in many ways though, the, your daughter, my son, were these arranged marriages by families who shared fundamental values. And not all arranged marriages are obviously successful and there’s a lot of domestic violence that goes on in a lot of those arranged relationships, but. I think that there’s something to it there because the families get along. The families have very similar values, and so it’s more likely that the children will share similar values. They will navigate life in a very similar way. And, I wouldn’t wanna be in an arranged marriage, but I, there’s something to it.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, the fundamental kind of the framework of the building is built around, thousands of years of shared tradition. Yeah. It’s really interesting. How much, you’re obviously trying to put yourself out of business here.

Dr Pedram Shojai: As a divorce attorney, which is my

Dr Pedram Shojai: favorite kind of profession,

Dr Pedram Shojai: right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: It’s make the world not need me and I’ve done my job. Yeah. I love the book. It’s called Live Laugh, find True Love, A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding , a Meaningful Relationship I’m assuming available where all books can be bought. Yeah. And then do you have like a website, resources?

Dr Pedram Shojai: How else can people find you?

Sarah Intelligator: Yeah, so my website is Live laugh find true I also post a lot of helpful tidbits on my Instagram page and do a lot of lives and things like that. Which is sarah dot a dot inte dot sq. It’s a bit of a mouthful. But, I try to post helpful dating tips and things like that there as often as possible.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I love the stance. That you’ve taken. I love the fusion of your yoga life with your professional life to

Dr Pedram Shojai: make a baby book. And to

Dr Pedram Shojai: help people not need to be in court. That sucks.

Sarah Intelligator: It sucks. Yeah.

Sarah Intelligator: Divorce sucks.

Sarah Intelligator: Just don’t just put in the work now so that you don’t have to end up in my office or in court or in someone else’s office. It, it’s just . You think that you’re gonna delay the inevitable. You think you’re gonna just put it off. It’s not gonna happen to you, but it’s gonna happen if you don’t do the work now.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Yeah. And get the fundamentals down.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Sarah. What a pleasure. Thank you for doing the work that

Sarah Intelligator: Thank you so much.

Sarah Intelligator: Thank you for having me.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yep. wishing you the best.

Sarah Intelligator: Thank you. You too.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. I learned a lot and frankly, I could think of 15 people who are on the path towards thinking about a ring or thinking about starting a family that should probably listen to this interview right now. So if you have someone in your life, Who is trying to do the deal. Just share this podcast with them.

Don’t say, Hey, you might be getting into a bad deal. Don’t say any of that weird stuff. Just share the podcast. Let them think about the things that Sarah was talking about. And you know what, , from that point on it’s their decisions, but not knowing and going in. Might put these people at a disadvantage. Think of who might need to hear this, share the podcast with them.

And maybe just, maybe you’re going to save a lot of pain and suffering downstream. Hope you enjoyed it. I will see you in the next one. Dr. Pedram. Shojai the urban monk.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.