When my head hurts, I sometimes take an Advil. When my back is sore, I might schedule a physical therapy appointment. When my heart aches, I always schedule a therapy session in an attempt to cure it... or at least begin curing it. I am an avid advocate of therapy. My therapist has helped me through many hard times, including a few (read: many) moments of heartbreak. When it comes to relationships, dating advice from therapists can be the best kind of advice to seek out because unlike your friends, therapists are an unbiased third-party. (Plus, you're paying them to listen.)
If I had to choose one piece of advice that my therapist has offered me that has truly changed the way I think about love and relationships, it would be this: "Ask for what you want." Too often I've played the "chill girl who isn't needy" in half-relationships, or spent my time sifting through Instagram likes in order to find out if someone I am seeing is also seeing every other woman in Manhattan, when I could have just asked them for some clarity.
It used to be incredibly hard for me to ask, "Are you dating other people?" or "Do you want to be exclusive?" Because I didn't ask these questions, I often found myself in torturous dating purgatories that ended up in heartbreak. Therapy changed the way I see my role as a woman in relationships with men, and now I finally (sort of) know how to ask for what I want.
While my therapist has given me excellent advice over the years, I'm a greedy lady, and I wanted to know what other superb relationship advice friends, family, and people of the internet have received from their therapists. I asked 10 people to share the best piece of relationship advice they received from their therapists. Here's what they told me.
1. Letting Go Is Hard, But Necessary
If you have to ask if she needs to go then you already know the answer.
— John, 32
If you have the desire to ask your partner if they are on their way out of a relationship, it's very likely that you know in your gut that yes, something has changed. Of course it's important to ask your partner if they are having doubts or are being distant for a reason, but never underestimate what your instincts can tell you.
2. Don't Settle
Don't settle. You are intelligent and beautiful, do not settle for less... You will have to go through a lot of duds before you find that one guy who's worthwhile.
— Cassie, 35
This is advice you may have heard before, but perhaps haven't actually put into practice. The second you stop settling, you'll find the person who truly deserves you.
3. In The End, We're All Responsible For Ourselves
That I am responsible for my own feelings and others are responsible for their feelings.
— Jamie, 28
This is similar advice to my therapist's suggestion of asking for what you want. If you don't express your needs or demand that your partner treats you with respect, your feelings are probably going to get hurt. While that's uncool of your partner, you are ultimately responsible for taking care of your own needs and wants in any relationship.
4. Love Yourself
Make a list of 10 things that you value in a partner. Then work on making sure you have all of those things yourself. While you are working on yourself love will find you. Self love is the most important part of life.
— Leslie, 33
This sounds like an excellent exercise. It's important to ask for what you deserve from your partner, but it's equally important to make sure you are giving your partner what they deserve. I also love how tangible writing a list is. I think I'll try this!
5. Don't Be Afraid To Feel Pain
Lean into feelings. Don’t be afraid of the pain because if it hurts today, it will hurt tomorrow, too.
— Amy, 29
My therapist has given me very similar advice. Pain is painful (duh) and obviously, it's not something anyone wants to feel on the regular. However, when you allow yourself to feel the pain of a heartbreak, it can actually pass more quickly. Shoving feelings down is never healthy.
6. It Takes Two
That a successful relationship takes effort on both sides, but not necessarily 100 percent effort from both sides all the time.
— Josh, 30
A relationship shouldn't always be work. In fact, the healthiest relationships I have been in have felt incredibly easy for the most part. That said, it's important to remember that both parties in a relationship are responsible for tending to it.
7. Stay In The Now
Stop thinking about what you should be doing and instead think about what you’re currently doing.
— Polly, 24
Rather than get anxious about what you should be doing better in a relationship, focus on what you're actually doing. What have you given your partner? Probably a lot of love. What have you done for them today? It's important not to spiral too far into thoughts of "should" and "could."
8. Timing Is Everything
Timing is important when it comes to talking about serious things.
— Amber, 31
Yes, timing within the greater picture of a relationship and how it can or cannot work out is important, but it's also important to think about timing more literally. So many fights occur because someone is busy at work and unable to respond, or someone is hangry and can't be bothered until they get that banana. Thinking strategically about when to talk about the serious stuff is healthy for any relationship.
9. It's OK To Allow Yourself To Be Cared For
It’s OK to take turns being the caregiver in a relationship. You don’t always have to be strong.
— Emily, 26
While partners often take on certain roles in their respective relationships, it's OK to switch up those roles sometimes. In fact, I would say that it's actually quite important to do so. If you are usually the caretaker, it could be very positive for your relationship if you let your SO take care of you for once. Balance is key!
10. Don't Bring Your Partner Down With You
Don’t drag others through your mud, if at all possible.
— Sarah, 28
As someone who has struggled with loss and depression, I'm very aware that at times my mood can drag others down with me. It's hard to avoid sometimes, but if you are able to catch yourself before taking your partner down because you're in a bad place, do so! That might mean taking some space, or just letting them know "Hey, I'm in a bad place right now." Everybody hurts sometimes.