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.
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.