An Afternoon With Dr. Robi Ludwig

On Sunday, October 22, 2000, welcomed a very special guest iin the chatroom. Dr. Robi Ludwig is a psychotherapist whose practiceis based in New York City.

Dr. Ludwig has also appeared many times on the Montel Williams Show, including two segments which discussed cousin relationships.  She has been very gracious in accepting our invitation to join us in the chat room, offering advice and insight into some of the many obstacles cousin couples facein their every day life.

The following transcript has been edited to allow for optimal readability.
(The questions and answers have been paired up, and the extraneous conversation has been omitted.)
Robi Ludwig - Please welcome Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist, to!
CnMe - hi robi 
CnMe - i'm christie,the one who has hounded you for so long....
daizy - welcome
usako - hi robi,welcome to cc. glad that you could join us 
Jasper - Hello everyone,Welcome Dr. Ludwig 
Robi Ludwig - Hi, how is everyone?
Rocko - Welcome Dr Ludwig, nice to meet you 
usako - fine, thanks for asking :) how about you?
CnMe - i think we'reall doing pretty good! i'm expecting a few others to arrive shortly too
Sherri - hello 
Robi Ludwig - I'm glad I could be here with all of you too.
Rocko - Thanks, quite fine.
damien - logged on.
CnMe - shall we get started?
Robi Ludwig - Sounds good to me.

Jasper - Have you helped other cousin couples in the past?
Robi Ludwig - I've worked with all types of family and relationship issues. I have also addressed cousin relationship and family problems on the Montel Williams Show.
CnMe - for those of you who aren't familiar with dr. ludwig, she was one of the expert guests on the montel show we did, and the second one which airs on halloween

CnMe - i think the most frequent question we hear at is how to break the news to the family, and how to convince them it's ok if they are adamantly against it
Robi Ludwig - One of the most important things to ask is yourselves and then pose to your  family is, Would you approve of this relationship if we were not cousins?Not all cousin relationships are appropriate, which would be the case for any love or romantic relationship.
CnMe - how does one know for sure if the relationship IS appropriate?
usako - which cousin relationships would not be appropriate?
Robi Ludwig - One of the ways to determine is the two of you are an acceptable match is to determine if you have the same cultural history, shared interest, enjoyhaving fun in the same way and share similar values. Would this person make a good husband/father or wife mother are other important questionsto ask oneself.

Rocko - Dr. Ludwig,I (m/26) live in Germany, my 1st cousin (f/17) lives in Poland. Since last summer, or even last year, we are deeply in love with each other. Together we get along like with no other. But there is a long distance. And the worst problem: Although she has told that she canít stop thinking of me,she forces herself to forget because we are cousins. Brainwashed society where she lives! She says, she canít learn at school, she gets indifferent to everything. Iím very concerned about her. I love her so much, what canI do to help us?
Robi Ludwig - First of  all, you may want to tell her that it is not recommended to try and stop any feeling. Our emotions don't work that way. Distance can be a problem for any relationship, independent of the fact that the two of you are cousins. My first recommendation would be to ask her if she would be willing to talk to someone like a therapist. A professional person whom she can airall of her thoughts and concerns to. It sounds like she is very overwhelmedby her very powerful emotions for you. Then you can tell her that her feelings are not so unusual. Cousins share an exclusive shared history with eachother. It's a relationship where you don't have to created a shared historyor experience. You have a head start on intimacy, in a sense the work isalready done for you.
Rocko - Robi Ludwig, thank you very much 

Jasper - I have a 17 month old daughter. What would be an appropriate age to explain thatwe are cousins as well as spouses?
Robi Ludwig - Jasper,I would start right a way. Do it in a matter a fact way and encourage her to ask as many questions as she wants. After all, this is part of her unique history. She should be proud of who she is, and who her parents are.
Jasper - Thank you.
Robi Ludwig - Your welcome.

usako - dr. ludwig, can you tell us why you are not against cousin relationships? i am just curious, since most people would be against that kind of relationship,unless they have been in the same situation.
Robi Ludwig - Usako,I'm not against healthy relationships. I've not come across any research to suggest that cousin relationships, between two consulting adults are damaging psychologically in any way. Having said that, I think people havea hard time understanding these relationships because it feels so close.So close the relationship can be experienced as incest, and incest is morally wrong and psychologically damaging. Also, there is a cousin marriage inmy family history.
usako - thanks dr. ludwig. it's so nice to know that there are people who understand our situation:)

CnMe - dr. ludwig,often people come together who have kids from a previous marriage... they face a unique set of problems, because they get teased at school. how wouldyou suggest the parent's help their kids deal with this?
Jasper - What about when family members have nothing directly against a cousin relationshipbut do feel a little bit embarrassed about what their friends might think?
Robi Ludwig - To all of you who are wondering how to deal with the discomfort of breakingthe news to friends, family, or helping your kids handle their unique experience,it to just be upfront and honest. The more you're willing to talk aboutit the less mysterious they make the whole thing. People will be less obsessed about it if you're willing to talk about it anytime, but first you haveto come to terms with it in order to help other people come to terms withit.
CnMe - i agree with that... rana's friends were initially "grossed out" until i explained thingsto them in a way that made them feel i wasn't preaching at them

damien - i would like to say that i am in a bit of a predicament. I have had a cousin relationshipbefore. I went to New York this summer from England and found that I havea very strong friendship with my cousin. The problem is I am beginningto feel more for her and I am not sure what to do.  i have been involved with a cousin before and therefore i don't want o get hurt as my emotions are getting very intense.
Robi Ludwig - Damien, if you don't want risk getting hurt, then go slow. There is no guarantee in any relationship that you won't get hurt, but the better you get to know someone, the better off you'll be.

Rocko - Dr. Ludwig, how can we bring the society and friends, where the majority considerscousin couples as incest, to accept a cousin relationship as a normal thing,that they do not consider us as freaks, monsters etc.?
Robi Ludwig - Rocko,people in general are resistant to anything that is different. If cousin relationships are vocal about themselves and produce productive membersof society that is one way. They other way is to get professionals to publish data and research on the subject. Just continue to educate people and live your lives in a healthy and productive way.
Rocko - Dr. Ludwig,you're so right. 

MaryGrace - Dr. Ludwig,what advice would you give to older cousins who have rediscovered the intenselove we had for each other 40 yrs ago? Quite frankly, we are a bit overwhelmedby the emotions involved. We are in our 60's. Both with grown children from previous marriages.
Robi Ludwig - MaryGrace,I would tell older in love cousins to enjoy their feelings and themselves.You also may want to have other people in the family who support your relationship,to help members who don't support you to understand.
MaryGrace - Thank you, Dr. Ludwig.

daizy - Dr. Ludwig,what advice do you have for those who live in states that do not acceptcousin marriages?
Robi Ludwig - Daizy,you obviously need to abide by the law. Refer to a lawyer to find out how to best proceed under those circumstances.
daizy - So many cousins come to the chat room with the burden of the law against them, it seems quite unfair
Robi Ludwig - Daizy, life is often unfair. The goal is to figure out how to problem solve soyou can get want you want out of life. Don't be a victim.
daizy - Thank you 

CnMe - we had a guest the other night who wants to marry his cousin, but she refuses to approachthe family until her twin sister approves. this does not look likely, asthe twin is furious. do you think that family often with-holds approvalas a way of manipulating, but might later accept the relationship oncethe couple is married?
Robi Ludwig - CnMe,this sister's refusal to get married unless her twin sister approves isa resistance on her part not necessarily her family's part.
CnMe - hmmm, i hadn'teven considered that possibility!

CnMe - we have many young people who come here.... college age, living at home, who experience alot of resistance. one family once stopped financial assistance with tuition until the daughter ended her relationship. another is now facing leavingher home and starting a life without her parent's acceptance. i wish they were here, but since they are not, what would you suggest to them?
Robi Ludwig - People who are in this predicament, need to ask their family what could they doto help them feel more comfortable with the relationship. The couple may also need to explain their plan and why they are right for one another. They will also need to find someone who is not opposed in the family so they can help smooth things over. If everyone is against the relationship,there is not much hope for it. History proves, for some reason, it's rarely successful. They would need to get the support of some family members orthere will always be the feeling that there is something wrong with the relationship.

Rocko - Dr. Ludwig,do you perhaps know how large is the portion of couples witch failed just because of the society's prejudices or legislative prohibitions?
Robi Ludwig - Rocko, I don't have any statistical data on your question.

ta - Dr. Ludwig,my cousin and I have an 8 month old daughter together. my parents and siblings have a relationship with her. however, his parents and siblings do not.we plan to get married in a few years and we don't plan to tell anyoneour plans until then.  do you think this is the best plan or should we proceed in another manner?
Robi Ludwig - ta,what is your objection to telling people you are getting married?
ta - i know that our parents will totally against it. my mother knows the paternity of my daughter and she just won't ever address that topic. at this point, mymother is the only one who knows for sure that my cousin is my daughter's father, however i am sure others suspect..
Robi Ludwig - Ta, as I said earlier, you need to find someone in the family who supports your relationship to help other members of your family to accept it. Tell them why you are right for each other, and that you want and need them to be a part of your lives. Not talking is not the answer, it's just avoiding. It sounds like your family is in denial about the situation.

CnMe - if two peopledo not share the same religious beliefs, which some couples here experience....can their relationship withstand their differences?
Robi Ludwig - CnMe,It would depend on the couples ability to problem solve around this issue,and how important their religion is to them. Anything is possible, but it is always easier if a couple share the same religious beliefs. There are enough potential areas of conflict in a marriage, without this beingone of them.

Rocko - Dr. Ludwig, just curious: are you or have you ever been in a cousin relationship, if I may ask?
 RobiLudwig - I had a crush on a couple of my cute cousins as a kid.I don't know if they felt the same way though.
Rocko - cool 
Jasper - None ofthe ugly ones though eh. LOL just kidding!
Robi Ludwig - No ,Jasper, none of the ugly ones. Just the cute ones. I have my criteria you know.
Jasper - LOL I'm with ya.
CnMe - LOL

CnMe - i know youare about out of time.... (i wish we had more! lol) but i do want to tellyou how much we appreciate your coming to chat with us today. i think your insight will help many people here at
Jasper - Thank youDr. Ludwig, your time and conversation is very much appreciated! 
daizy - Yes, thank you Dr. Ludwig, and thank you CnMe for inviting her.
usako - thanks for joining us dr. ludwig :). your advice meant a lot.
CnMe - of course, you are welcome to stay if you have nothing better to do 
ta - i want to offe rmy thanks as well.
Rocko - Yes Dr. Ludwig, it is so nice from you to have visited us. 
Robi Ludwig - Thank you for having me.
Robi Ludwig - Thank you I appreciate that. Good luck to all of you. I wish you all the best.
CnMe - we'll postthe transcript in the basement area with the other transcripts for those of you who want to read it later 
CnMe - thanks dr. ludwig!
Rocko - We wish youall the best, too.
Robi Ludwig - loggedoff.
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