Jake is six months into a re la­tion­ship and al­ready on the couch. And that’s a good thing, he ar­gues. Here’s how you could ben­e­fit.

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Mind-blow­ing stuff you learn in cou­ples ther­apy

ire­cently shook the foun­da­tion of my re­la­tion­ship with my girl­friend Olivia* to its core. (I sent a sex­u­ally ex­plicit SMS to some­one who wasn’t Olivia. She saw it. Not good.) Then we got hit with the news that Olivia’s com­pany wanted her to re­lo­cate to a new city. We were in for a long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship.

Ini­tially, this wasn’t a big deal – she’d visit * 10 days a month – but dis­tance has a way of turn­ing tiny fis­sures into full-on cracks. On one of Olivia’s vis­its, when I sug­gested we grab a drink at a new bar I’d dis­cov­ered, she looked at me sus­pi­ciously: “You never said you’d gone out for drinks when we Face­timed. Who were you with?” I told her that I’d been with my friend Ryan* and that I’d done noth­ing wrong; Olivia re­lented but ad­mit­ted to hav­ing trou­ble trust­ing me, espe­cially from afar. “Maybe,” Olivia sug­gested, “we should go see a ther­a­pist.”

Now, Olivia and I have been to­gether for six months. We don’t have kids or a mort­gage. But we were at a tip­ping point: I’m 33. She’s 32. No one’s re­ally try­ing to date ca­su­ally at this age. There were def­i­nite stakes. “Let’s do it,” I said.

Af­ter get­ting a few rec­om­men­da­tions from friends (way more un­mar­ried cou­ples go to ther­apy than I thought), we found a ge­nial ther­a­pist named Lisa*. “So, why are you here?” she asked. I started, “Well, we’re kind of hav­ing a lit­tle bit of a trust is­sue.” As I tried to tip­toe around the specifics, Lisa stopped me, “There’s no point to this un­less you’re both hon­est and di­rect.”

I took a deep breath and jumped in. And here’s the thing: you learn pretty quickly that ev­ery­thing you do means some­thing. Dur­ing our first ses­sion, for ex­am­ple, I found my­self ad­mit­ting that I was am­biva­lent about adult re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (namely, monogamy). That stupid SMS was my way of giv­ing adult­hood the bird.

But I do want to grow up. Olivia’s worth it. So we’ve kept see­ing Lisa. Some of the things we’ve learned might help you, too.

In­stead of ‘work­ing’ at your re­la­tion­ship, try ‘play­ing’ at it

At one ses­sion the mood got par­tic­u­larly heavy un­til Olivia chimed in, “Hey, at least he makes a good omelette!” “See, this is good!” Lisa said, laugh­ing. Her point: a cou­ple with a sense of hu­mour has a good shot at mak­ing it.

Shut up and lis­ten

See ar­gu­ments as more op­por­tu­ni­ties to know your part­ner bet­ter rather than to prove you’re right. One night Olivia picked a fight with me at a party. In­stead of get­ting de­fen­sive, I pulled her out­side and asked what was re­ally the mat­ter. She re­vealed she’d had a drink­ing prob­lem in her early 20s, and be­ing around drunk peo­ple makes her un­com­fort­able. See, im­por­tant stuff.

The 24-hour rule re­ally works

Con­trary to what you may have been told, it’s fine to go to bed an­gry or to let off steam alone. (Olivia goes for a run. I pre­fer stress-eat­ing ice cream.) But it’s im­por­tant to ad­dress the prob­lem within 24 hours – the longer you wait, the big­ger it will grow.

Stan­dard ther­apy BS? Maybe. But it’s work­ing for us.

Ben (Matthew Mc­conaughey) and Andie (Kate Hud­son) get down to the nitty-gritty in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

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