Relationship Therapy? But I’m Single!!
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a relationship therapist. That usually raises an eyebrow followed by a pause which is followed by a question. THE question- “So… who do you work with?” Very simply, I work with anyone who is interested in exploring relationships and fostering a healthier, stronger, more fulfilling connection.
Which means I see everyone. Never married? Yes. Married? Yes. Dating? Yes. Committed relationship. Yes. Engaged? Yes. Separated? Yes. Divorced? Yes. Widowed? Yes. Jumping back into the dating pool? Yes.
Yes, yes, and yes.
Marriage therapy and couples counseling make perfect sense. It’s two people coming together seeking to solve problems, learn better communication skills, deepen physical and emotional intimacy.
So, why would a single person come to relationship therapy???
On the surface, this doesn’t make sense. Single people aren’t in relationships- why seek therapy for a nonexistent relationship? Dig a little deeper, look beneath what’s on the surface, see how that question is based upon the assumption that single people aren’t in relationships.
So, can you be single and be in a relationship at the same time?? Yes, yes, and yes!
As I share with my clients, I view every person as being in a relationship. And I break this into 4 categories.
First category: two person relationships are easy to spot because there are two bodies occupying the same space. Whether its some serious PDA happening at the local park on a sunny afternoon or an argument that sounds like two kids fussing about who gets the last piece of cake, it’s two people in a relationship. An emotional connection exists -positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy, loving or hurting- that keeps drawing these physical bodies into the same space.
Second category: the person who used to be there. Consider your own life. Ever spend time thinking about “the one that got away”? Replaying a divorce or break up you didn’t want and fantasizing about a different ending in which happily ever after is the new ending? Or maybe the ending in which you exact the revenge you wish you could have so that person would hurt as much as you do? Perhaps you are grieving a love lost too early due to health or unfortunate circumstances?
Third category: the person you want to be there. A mysterious stranger who finds you in aisle 8 in the grocery store as you both reach for the same box of cereal, who then sweeps you off your feet and rescues you from a life of loneliness and failed attempts at love. The person who will be your everything and leave you feeling seen, heard, and accepted in all ways.
These emotional relationships with people who are either no longer physically in our lives or who have never physically been in our lives are still relationships. They are present in our emotions and our thoughts. They are the focus of our emotional time and energy. They keep us in a loop of replaying fantasies instead of being involved in the real thing. Leaning into why you spend emotional time and energy on psychological relationships is important. These psychological relationships need to find healing so we have closure and can move on to healthy, happy real relationships.
And that leaves us with the fourth and, IMO, most important relationship of all…
The relationship we are in with ourselves.
You see, the love and acceptance we seek from other people should begin with us learning how to love and accept ourselves. Yet lots of times our relationships fail because we love in the wrong order. Instead beginning with loving ourselves, we look for someone else to love and accept us first. Why? Stay with me here – we need someone we like and approve of to like and approve of us first so we can believe that we are likeable and worthy of being loved and accepted. Their approval is the signal that tells us it’s ok for us to like ourselves. Only then, when we have their approval, do we love and accept ourselves as being good and worthy.
This puts our sense of self-worth in the hands of someone else. That feels good when we have their approval. It tears us apart when their approval is revoked.
When we are able to love ourselves first, we own our sense of worthiness and acceptance. It creates a sense of authenticity that allows us show up as a person with confidence, self-respect, and the ability to be genuine. Having a healthy relationship with ourselves first is the step we must take to end the unhealthy psychological and physical relationships that block us from finding the secure, happy, fulfilling love we want.
So yes, everyone is in a relationship. Always in one with yourself. Sometimes psychologically in one with a person from our past or future. Sometimes physically in one with a person in the present. But, yes, always in a relationship. Let’s make those relationships that feel good for you-
Embrace your best self! Anne