After dating someone for about 10 months, Kelly Wolfe called it quits for one particular reason: He wasn’t into therapy.
She says early on she recognized his “disdain” for therapy and “people pursuing therapy.”
“(He) not only didn’t go to therapy or wasn’t interested, (he) didn’t believe in it (and) was critical of therapeutic things I was trying to implement in my own life after seeing my therapist,” the 34-year-old explained. This created difficulties with their communication.
“I’m so deeply convinced about the benefits and importance of therapy and so it was almost a language barrier.”
Wolfe isn’t alone. Hinge found 88% of singles on the dating app prefer dating someone who goes to therapy and 97% of Hinge users prefer to date someone who actively takes care of their mental health. The dating app predicts ignoring your mental health will be the biggest dating deal breaker of 2022.
Others have also taken to social media to share their preference of a partner being in therapy.
In a TikTok that has garnered 1.4 million likes, user @lukefranchina says in part, “There’s no being upset about men… He’s refuses to go to therapy? Dump (him).”
Dr. Megan Fleming, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sex therapy and marriage counseling, says she can understand why some people may have a “really strong preference” for someone familiar with or open to therapy.
“People have always had their checklist and a sense of who they want their partner to be,” she says, “I think it’s a reasonable thing to say, because it’s a want or desire, and I could see how it would lead to healthier relationships where both people are prioritizing (and) investing in personal growth.”
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For example, couples “may not have the same language” to deal with issues that arise, Fleming explains.
“One of the expressions I use as a couples therapist is, ‘You got to name it to tame it.’ Most couples have patterns that recur, that lead to frustration… so, if one or both have experience with therapy, they’re going to understand, they’re going to have a name for that cycle and they’re going to know how to take an emotional temperature,” she explains.
And while some may not be so direct as to put their preference on a dating profile, Fleming thinks it’s OK to do so – but also encourages people to try putting aside their checklists.
“It’s a reasonable thing to put on an app, but I often say to my clients, sometimes I’m going to invite you to date somebody who absolutely does not meet your criteria. Because you don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “Growth is in the discomfort and helping people get out of their preconceived ideas.”
‘There’s (still) stigma around therapy’
Wolfe’s experience with her ex left her feeling “disrespected,” “dismissed” and like she was into “something crazy,” even though she feels there’s not nearly the amount of stigma surrounding seeing a therapist as there was in the past.
“I didn’t for a second question whether or not I should be in therapy or the work that was being accomplished. It did make me question, should I talk about this with him?”
She realized conversations about therapy need to become “far more commonplace and normalized.”
“Men need to be aware that therapy is not going to make them be seen as weak or not healthy. It’s actually a sign of health,” Wolfe says. “That’s a common misconception that people, especially men, because of stigma, think, ‘Well, if I tell someone I’m in therapy, they’re going to think, what’s wrong with him?’ And that’s not the common attitude I hear around my friends anymore. It’s – if he’s not in therapy, or certainly if he’s like vehemently opposed to it – ‘what’s wrong with him?'”
Fleming agrees, “I absolutely still think that there’s stigma around therapy.”
And for some men in particular, “They’ve been mentally conditioned (to where) it’s hard to ask for help, or (their) vulnerability (is) seen as weakness,” she adds.
Others find the deal breaker ‘kind of elitist’
Some find the deal breaker to be a turn-off, however.
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While Morgan Beh, 25, agrees therapy is beneficial, she thinks it’s “kind of elitist” to exclude a potential partner based on this.
“I’ve seen it a lot on social media – on Twitter, TikTok… and I have seen definitely on some dating sites people put that in their profiles, like ‘Don’t even swipe right if you’re not in therapy’ or things like that.”
The problem she sees is inaccessibility.
“Not everyone has access to therapy and to mental health treatment, so to not give someone the chance just because maybe they don’t go to therapy, I think is silly, especially because there are a lot of other ways that people can work on themselves,” she says. “You would just miss out on the opportunity to connect with a lot of really great people if that really is a deal breaker for you.”
While Fleming believes therapy could benefit everybody, she sees why some people have negative feelings about it being a deal breaker.
“It’s exclusionary on some level,” she says, but adds she hopes therapy becomes more accessible in the future.
Others may not understand how therapy can be used as a tool to learn new skills.
“Specifically for couples, I can’t advocate (therapy) enough, but most people don’t come in until the crisis or seven years into conflict,” she says. “I would love to see it become prevention.”
“There are way more options today than there have ever been,” she says, but adds it’s important to both make therapy more accessible and take the stigma out of it.
“If people could open themselves up to it, we’d live in a different world,” she says.
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