I have to start out by immediately clarifying: therapy is incredible and it’s completely transformed my life. Personally, I like to shout from the rooftops how much I love my therapist, and how working with her over the past few years has totally transformed my life and how I live day-to-day inside my own mind. My therapist has been there for me since my first date with my now-boyfriend. She’s seen me through saying, “I love you,” for the first time, meeting his parents, taking him home to Texas to meet my family, and so much more. But when, after a year and a half of dating, we decided to move in together, we started to wonder if we could benefit from having a session together. I thought when I mentioned this to my therapist, she’d be over the moon to have us both in. But it turns out, she had a plan for us to avoid couples' therapy all together.
Since my boyfriend and I are both so used to having our individual weekly sessions, our minds naturally drifted to the idea of couples' therapy before any other option. It all started a little over a year into our relationship, when I started to notice that we were both feeling kind of stale. As a result, our communication suffered. We were both in the midst of a lot of life changes, and we were figuring out how to balance our personal careers with this new life we were building together. My boyfriend was starting a new business, I was switching jobs, and in just a few short months, we’d be living together for the first time. Neither of us had ever lived with a partner before, and it started to get in our heads a bit of what that would mean for us as a couple. In the back of our minds, we were wondering if it was the right time to move in, or if it was one of those things where the timing would never be “perfect” and you just had to jump into it. But in New York City, you don’t really have the opportunity to wait for when the timing is right; you’re more or less chained to when your lease is up. Evidently, we were left feeling like we had no control. Most of our fights were about not seeing each other enough during the week, but did that automatically mean we were ready to move in together?
Like any couple, my boyfriend and I have vastly different communication styles. I like to bring up problems the second they arise and have the energy to tackle any issue at any point in the day. My boyfriend, however, likes to wait until he’s fully processed his thoughts to bring things up to me. It bothers me because more often than not, I can tell something’s wrong, and I usually end up bugging him until he finally breaks down and shares. When I told this to my therapist, she said that, of course, if couples' therapy was something we really wanted, we could come in — but after hearing what we were going through, she didn’t think it was necessary.
Instead, she told me about a date idea that she often suggests to her clients who are married with children. Basically, the parents go on a date once a month where they aren’t allowed to talk about the kids at all. This sounded nice enough, but we didn’t have kids, so I didn’t see how this applied to me. But alas, my therapist is a true genius, and she quickly shared how my boyfriend and I could tailor this idea to our relationship.
On date night, she encouraged us to avoid talking about work. And it wouldn't be just any date night — she also gave us a structure to follow. We'd begin by showering each other with compliments and love, then tackle our concerns and issues, and end with a fun activity. Ending on a positive note would help us feel like we had a successful and loving date night. Here's how it went for us.
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