New dating deal-breaker just dropped: not going to therapy

Brunettes or blondes? Who cares! Cognitive behavioural therapy just got much sexier.

Jacques needs therapy,” tweeted what seemed like the whole country earlier this week, as the Love Island contestant desperately overreacted when someone else in the villa referred to him as immature. I sincerely hope Jacques goes home and heads straight to therapy,” confirmed another.

Dramatic? Maybe. But these reactions echo conversations that young single women have been having online the last couple of years now. Tweets like All men should be required to go to therapy before pursuing a relationship with anyone lol, Mfers out here running rampant and ruining every soul in sight” rack up thousands of likes. Meanwhile, the hashtag #allmenneedtherapy has nearly 6 million views on TikTok.

And now this need for men, and people in general, to seek mental health help has made its way onto dating apps. Hinge recently found that a huge 97 per cent of their UK users wanted to date someone who demonstrates that they actively take care of their mental wellbeing. Their research also suggests that many young people want their partners to engage in self-care and go to therapy. The preference is so prevalent that Hinge has even added a my therapist would say I…” prompt to the app, making it easier for users to spot which matches are taking care of their mental health.

It makes sense that people want a partner who takes care of themselves. Finding out your link isn’t remotely interested in their mental health these days is a bit like finding out they don’t brush their teeth. But does therapy really make people better partners? Do we all need to sit in a therapist’s hot seat before we couple up?

It makes sense that people want a partner who takes care of themselves. Finding out your link isn’t remotely interested in their mental health these days is a bit like finding out they don’t brush their teeth. But does therapy really make people better partners? Do we all need to sit in a therapist’s hot seat before we couple up?

Vogue columnist and author of Notes on Heartbreak Annie Lord thinks so. For her, it’s a no-brainer green flag. “[If they’ve been to therapy] all the work you’d have to put in persuading them why they’re undermining your feelings or not communicating or whatever is done by someone else,” she says. Often in relationships, people can end up feeling like they’ve become their partner’s full-time therapist. And that’s exhausting. Therapy, she thinks, could help you skip all of that. You can concentrate on the fun stuff like shagging and what park you should drink cans in at the weekend.”

25-year-old Kirsty* seems to agree. She says that honing in on men who’ve been to therapy has helped her dating experience. Shortly after I had been in therapy for a long time, I [realised that] before I had dated men who hadn’t really processed their trauma or experiences. I often felt I had to deal with the emotional brunt of it,” she says. Kirsty also points out that some people misunderstand and undermine therapy, which is unhelpful for her own recovery and growth. I’d rather date someone who understands and respects therapy in case I ever have to go back.”

This feeling isn’t exclusive to women. 26-year-old Harry* uses Hinge and says he prefers to date men and women who have been to therapy, as I feel like they’ll just… be better. I can’t really describe it. It just shows that they give a shit. And that someone’s already fixed them so I won’t have to, I guess.”

Then again, he says, I’ve been to therapy and I still manage to self sabotage every healthy relationship I’ve ever had, so I’m not sure it actually does much. The whole dating people who’ve been to therapy thing… it’s probably just a way of making the dating scene feel easier when it’s so, so hard.”

Kirsty and Harry both have perfectly valid reasoning for wanting to date therapised people. But on a broader scale, I worry this fascination with therapy as a green flag could be part of an odd, problematic trend for growing online. Conversations about mental health have become much more normalised over the last few years, which is obviously a good thing, but it’s also fed into an obsession with therapy and pathologising, well, everything, including dating behaviour.

Pastel-coloured infographics and memes flood social media, posts shouting get in losers, we’re going to therapy” or dishing out generalised advice like everyone should go to therapy before they start dating.” Meanwhile, Instagram accounts, which may or may not be run by therapists, dissect the dating world through the lens of psychological tools like attachment theory. Social media is also rampant with posts accusing ex-partners, current partners and dates of being mentally unwell for behaviours like leaving them on read” or taking things too slow”. But while those things might be frustrating when you’re on the receiving end, they’re not exactly a cause for diagnosis.

Sounds like an avoidant attachment style to me!” one 20-something podcast host, without any known psychiatric qualifications, laughs into a mic with the same cadence that housewives snigger It’s five o’ clock somewhere!” as they tuck into a bottle of prosecco. Think a relationship is worth saving because you’ve been through a lot together”? No he’s put you through a lot. Trauma bonding is real’,” reads a semi-viral tweet.

The problem is that these generalisations weaken the real meaning of psychological terms and tools in order to make people feel better about rejection. And they’re everywhere. From attachment theory to trauma bonding, love languages to love bombing, we repeat their definitions, using pop pyschology confidently in day-to-day conversations to reconcile our hurt.

It kind of seems like mental health and psychological theories are being used to lessen the blow when… maybe he’s just not that into you. And if people really believe that common, albeit unkind, actions such as not replying to someone point to an unhinged mind, it’s not a stretch to assume they might also mistakenly think a therapy deal breaker is the answer.

While therapy is likely to help you if your head is in the shed, it doesn’t automatically make you a better shag, date or life partner. Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to have therapy for my problems, which were admittedly affecting my relationships and generally making me a bit of an unbearable person to be around. But I don’t think it had anything to do with making me a better partner.

People often act like I’ve been to therapy” translates to I’m incredible in bed” or I possess magical powers of self awareness and intelligence.” But despite 10 rounds of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I still have baggage. I still lose my bank card once a week and I’m completely incapable of cleaning up after myself. Therapy certainly didn’t magic me into flawless wife material.

And there’s, of course, a class issue at play too. Therapy is notoriously hard to access unless you have the money to cough up and go private, with NHS waiting lists for CBT (the most common kind of therapy) currently standing at a year. Plus, therapy doesn’t work for everyone, nor does mindfulness or medication. Only dating people who’ve been to therapy could mean you’re missing out on a great relationship with someone who’d love to work on their health (and that, in itself, is a green flag) but simply can’t.

Jessica Alderson, a dating expert at So Synced, agrees that therapy isn’t the be-all-or-end-all of self development. While it can indicate that a person is willing to put in the work to improve himself” and may therefore also be willing to put the work in his relationships”, there’s many other ways people can develop that emotional intelligence and understanding that we all crave in a partner. You don’t need therapy in order to do self-work. Some might prefer to introspect and read self-help books, while others might prefer to do personal development courses,” she says. Just because someone hasn’t been to therapy, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t done the self-work in other ways.”

If anything, this new dating deal breaker should signal that people are getting unbelievably tired of their partners’ shit. Whether it involves therapy or not, we should work towards a new norm where men and women both process their own issues and develop avenues, hobbies and friendships that they can turn to, instead of using their partners as counsellors. Sure, you should talk to your partner about your emotions and troubles, but that’s not all a relationship should be.

In the meantime, exclusively dating people who’ve been to therapy probably isn’t a fail-safe solution. It might seem like a neat way to leave baggage at the door, but therapy isn’t exactly a quick fix – it’s expensive, complicated and doesn’t always work for everyone. It also takes the empathy out of dating and getting to know someone, which is a quick route to a breakup. Everyone has stuff they need to work on, therapy or no therapy. Instead of avoiding people who’ve not been lucky enough to bag a bout of counselling sessions, just match with the sexy people you want to get to know. Lay down your boundaries if you start to feel like their counsellor. And keep social media psychology out of it.

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