A Therapist’s Guide
As a therapist, I have the privilege of working daily with unique and inspiring individuals who come to me for support and guidance through their challenges. It’s become apparent to me over the years that however diverse we are as humans, one common thread that weaves through our stories is the desire to find meaningful connections.
Some of us are single and seeking love, while others might feel unsure about our current relationships. And some of us might hope to fix or strengthen our existing relationships with our partners in Couples Therapy.
Regardless of our specific reasons for going to therapy, if they relate to having a romantic or intimate relationship with another person, there are certain things to consider. The good news is that therapy provides the time and space for us to start answering these questions:
Why do I want to be in a relationship?
Sometimes it can seem like all of our problems will go away or be alleviated if we find someone to share the load with. Still, it’s crucial to resist entering a relationship to distract ourselves from our existing problems.
What kind of relationship am I looking for?
It’s important to discuss with your therapist the types of partnerships you’ve experienced in your past to best support you in finding an even better fit in the future. Our perspectives on connection and intimacy can be influenced by a multitude of factors out of our control, like what love looked like in our homes growing up or how society approves of or judges who we choose to be with.
What am I doing to make this happen?
Therapy depends on action—understanding our needs, healing emotional wounds, and then taking decisive steps toward a better life for ourselves. Self-care is essential; as they say, we can’t pour from an empty cup. Actively addressing and nurturing our mental and physical health helps us support the future we are trying to create for ourselves and our partners by ensuring our needs are fully met first.
Fear of Failure
In my work I am constantly asking myself, “What is stopping this person from finding their happiness?” Therapists are trained to notice and pay attention to obstacles hindering individuals from achieving their relationship goals. Sometimes these barriers can stem from external factors, like being completely isolated and unable to connect in person with others during the early COVID pandemic.
However, the most common barrier comes from inside us: Fear; the fear of being alone, rejected, and vulnerable prevents people from finding love all the time.
For instance, some of us want a relationship but feel afraid or anxious to approach potential partners or put ourselves in new social situations. Fear of rejection and concerns about being unlikable can hamper even the most genuine efforts at finding love. While some feelings of anxiety and hesitation are natural, it’s critical to address them with a therapist if those feelings immobilize or dissuade us from making meaningful connections.
The root of these fears is often deeply personal. When someone rejects us romantically, it can feel like a confirmation of our presumed shortcomings. Unraveling these feelings and understanding their origin is an essential part of personal growth, and a therapist can be an invaluable source of information and advice as you do so.
For better or worse, we learn many things about ourselves as we grow up. In childhood, if our families respond to our needs, help us grow, and give us positive validation, we are likely going to grow up more confident, with stronger self-esteem, and more strength to deal with life’s setbacks. On the other hand, when our families or caregivers don’t understand or care for us, we likely grow up feeling that our needs are “too much” and we are unlikeable. As a caveat, I’m not here to bash parents or caregivers. Our parents had their own childhood difficulties and distinctive experiences that may still affect how they act with their children, partners, and others. This is why working with a professional is such an important part of the process for many people looking to find or fix a relationship.
A Safe Space to Practice
Since a successful partnership with a therapist relies on trust, each session is a chance to revisit some of the things we learned or didn’t learn in our childhoods or prior relationships. Learning and mastering any new skill requires practice and reflection. In therapy, we might rework some of these skills by learning how to love ourselves first. Self-care and self-love are not innate talents we are born with. It can be difficult to change how we think about ourselves no matter how many affirmations we say in the mirror, self-help books we read, or podcasts we listen to. What makes a difference in our brains, literally, is that these changes are experiential. By experiencing a trusting and positive relationship with a therapist, we can begin to internalize those feelings and manifest them in our daily lives.
Long-lasting progress in therapy doesn’t just come from what we learn but also from the new skills we acquire and put into practice. Paying attention to others, taking chances to get to know them, and effectively communicating our own needs are all actions we polish in therapy, making it easy to transfer them to the context of dating.
Taking the First Step
Longing for love is a natural human desire and we’re here to help. Of course, there are many people who are perfectly happy single and find closeness in other ways, like with their friends and family. Those individuals might have reasons all their own for seeking therapy, but to those yearning for a meaningful relationship, I offer a beacon of hope. Embrace the potential of working with one of our skilled therapists at Start My Wellness who can help you put yourself first so you can find love with someone else, second.