Many single people say that going to therapy is attractive. Why? And how do you start the ‘therapy talk’ with someone you’re dating?
Raise your hand if seeing a therapist and taking care of your mental health is important to you.
Now raise your hand if you prefer your partner to share this value, too. If your hand is still in the air, you’re like the majority of singles who think that going to therapy is attractive.
In 2022, the dating app Hinge released its dating predictions, showing the following insights about dating and mental health:
- 91% of Hinge users prefer to date someone who goes to therapy
- 89% of Hinge singles are more likely to score a second date if they mention going to therapy on the first date
- 8% of single people feel comfortable mentioning therapy on a first date
- 97% of Hinge users prefer to date someone who actively takes care of their mental health
- two-thirds of Hinge users are open to trying couples therapy in the future
What is it that makes going to therapy so attractive in a partner?
We asked Kate Balestrieri, a licensed psychologist, couples therapist, and founder of Modern Intimacy, as well as three single people to share their thoughts.
According to Balestrieri, people who go to therapy tend to be:
- better at communicating, owning their feelings, more accountable
- humble enough to realize they have opportunities to see things differently and change
- understanding of the importance of personal growth and reflection
- better lovers (as a more attuned, communicative partner often is!)
- effective at setting boundaries and appropriately asserting them
- good at healing old wounds that might impact current relationship dynamics
- willing to put in effort and do “the work”
“People who prioritize their own mental health can be more empathic and attuned as a partner because they have a deeper understanding of the complexities of their own internal experience,” Balestrieri says, adding that these are all great qualities for relationships.
Going to therapy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it can be challenging work — for both the person seeing the therapist and those who love (or date) them.
Balestrieri says relationship issues can flare if someone is too dependent on their therapist or uses what they learn in therapy against a partner.
“In any partnership, when one partner grows, the other partner is also asked to grow in some ways, albeit sometimes indirectly, which can be uncomfortable if they haven’t been able or willing to look at some things in their own lives,” Balestrieri says.
“When you or your partner are in deeper stages of the work, give yourselves extra compassion and grace to be messy, imperfect, and in your feelings,” she adds.
Balestrieri recommends working together to be clear about your needs and developing a plan to support each other.
Can a therapist tell you to leave your partner? Not ethically, no.
But they may open your partner’s eyes to issues within the relationship they hadn’t noticed before, which may lead to a breakup.
Aside from these potential cons, Josh M., 38, from New York believes the “worst” part about going to therapy is learning so clearly how important it can be for many people to seek mental health support.
There are unique challenges associated with dating someone who doesn’t go to therapy, too.
According to Balestrieri, folks who don’t see a therapist may be:
- less effective communicators
- more defensive and guarded
- less empathetic
- more likely to experience shame
- less able to take in outside perspectives
- prone to anger-related behavioral problems, substance misuse, or addictive tendencies
- less open-minded
- more controlling
- less motivated to challenge relationship dynamics that aren’t working
- more rigid or have ineffective boundaries
- less curious about themselves, which may translate to less curiosity about their partner or an inability to self-reflect
“I’d much rather take a proactive approach to mental health and have someone already on my team who understands my history for if [or] when things come up,” says Ryn Pfeuffer, 48, from Washington.
And Pfeuffer prefers partners who do the same. “It’s much easier than trying to navigate emotional challenges from square one and without support,” she adds.
Here are some conversation starters, friendly reminders, and actionable steps on how to talk about therapy with new and current partners.
Bring it up sooner than later
“If it’s a priority for you that a prospective partner be in or have been in therapy, it’s good to bring it up soon as a value that ranks high on your list,” Balestrieri suggests.
“There isn’t a right or wrong time to bring it up, per se. But if it’s something important, you may want to consider asking about it within the first five dates, when it feels right,” she says.
If you’re wondering, “should I tell my partner I’m seeing a therapist?” the answer is likely yes — but whenever it feels comfortable for you to do so.
Talking about your therapeutic experience may help to foster open communication, transparency, and even reduce stigma around mental health.
Balestrieri says you can start by sharing with your partner that you’ve experienced benefits from therapy, then ask if they’ve ever been to therapy.
Be mindful that some folks may be fearful of or averse to therapy due to stigma, so try to pay close attention to (and prepare for) their reaction.
Ask broader questions
If being direct about your experiences in therapy feels too vulnerable for you, Balestrieri recommends initiating a larger conversation around mental health and relationships.
Below, she offers broader topics for you to consider with your partner instead:
- how they value mental, physical, and sexual health in their life
- how they take care of themselves and what’s important to them
- what they envision being important as a couple and how you address these areas of life together
- their favorite mental health social media accounts
- their vision for personal development (if they don’t find therapy interesting or valuable)
- possible factors that could motivate them to work with a therapist
- their willingness to see a therapist to improve the relationship (if necessary)
Remember that everyone has their own journey
Balestrieri says that it’s important to remember that everyone has their own path — in life and in therapy.
So try not to rush to judgment or push someone who isn’t ready to go to therapy just yet. Everyone is on their own healing journey.
“Some people are afraid to dive into therapy, and you can’t force someone to go or get anything out of it,” Balestrieri says. “Recognize and respect that they may not be there now and may not be able or willing to go ever.”
Explore other options
If a partner isn’t open to therapy, Balestrieri says it’s best to look at how they view mental health and personal growth as a whole to see if that aligns with your values.
Consider the following alternatives:
- Is your partner into self-help books and reading a lot about growth and mental health? Could that also work for you?
- Would they be willing to go to future workshops with you to improve your relationship?
- Are they open to taking online classes?
“There are many paths to relational growth if a partner isn’t in therapy,” Balestrieri says. “See how creative they’re willing to get and how much effort they put into making the changes you’ve stated are important to you in the relationship.”
Dating someone who goes to therapy has several benefits but may also come with some challenges.
Whether or not your partner sees a therapist, you might still be a solid match so long as your relationship and health values align as individuals and as a couple.
“I don’t care if my partner goes to therapy as long as they’re dedicated to improving themself and our relationship as needed,” says Kelly C., 26, from California. “Therapy is great, and I’m glad I go, but I think you can still have a healthy relationship without them going, too. My relationship is proof.”
If you’re single and looking for someone else with a growth-oriented mindset, there are plenty of other folks out there who feel the same way. Try to keep working on yourself, and in time, you might just find someone who’s ready to put the work into themselves and your relationship, too.
Full names for some individuals interviewed were withheld to protect anonymity.
Morgan Mandriota is a New York-based writer who is passionate about exploring the intersection of pleasure, healing, and holistic well-being. She currently works as a staff writer with Psych Central where she specializes in creating content about sex, relationships, mental health, and alternative approaches to wellness. Her work has been published in notable publications, including Betches, Bumble, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Health, mindbodygreen, Shape, Tinder, Verywell Mind, and Well+Good. In her free time, she enjoys chasing sunsets, playing video games, spending time in nature, swimming in a sea of CBD salve, trying different therapy practices, and working on her passion project Highly Untamed. Connect with Morgan on Twitter and Instagram or visit her website here to learn more.