ONLINE DATING VS FINDING A THERAPIST (Part 1 of 2)
Finding a therapist should be easier, right? Here's my story.
She had a beautiful smile, long brown hair, and a great profile description, “funny, witty, smart-ass who loves spontaneity and fun!” She had me at “funny,” and I decided to scroll down and see what else this love-seeking single woman (hopefully single anyway) and I had in common. Because of the endless “not interested” swipes I had grown to expect, she must have been different, and we probably were meant to be, right? With butterflies in my stomach and so much anticipation that I could barely look at the screen, I swiped right. To my surprise, the screen exploded with a shower of stars and confetti as both our pictures met in the middle with the celebratory words, IT’S A MATCH!”
The first hurdle in our blossoming relationship was a success and we had found each other. Next was the game of who was going to make the first move and send that all important first message. This was huge because that first direct interaction would either lead to hours of texting banter, or the unfathomable disappointment that we needed to break up. In this instance, she tossed the first pitch, “so, how funny are you and can you handle a smart ass?”
Whew, it was perfect and from that first message my reassurance of kismet was further confirmed, and there was no doubt that we were meant to meet. I was already envisioning us out on the town hurling sarcastic, but funny one-liners at each other, critiquing people that were obviously on their first date, while laughing how we weren’t as awkward. She was perfect and since she messaged first and I felt 100% confident she would agree to a date, I presumptuously asked, “so where are we going next Saturday?” Without taking a breath, she responded, “Oh, you think I’m going out with you?”
She invited me to her house and said there was a little tavern within walking distance. This couldn’t be going any better! Her house, a bar, no driving, and then back to her house! After the longest three days ever, I was sitting in her driveway imagining exactly how this night was going to play out. I was happy when she opened the door, she was cute and mostly resembled her pictures, which was not always the case. We hugged and she invited me in while she continued getting ready, and then my scripted night started to go off course. She told me that before we could leave, we had to wait for her sister to arrive to watch the kids. KIDS? This was the first I had heard about any kids, but she was cute enough to maybe use this to my advantage. What girl doesn’t find a man more attractive when they accept their kids?
She poured me a needed shot of vodka and I sat on the couch while she continued to pretty it up for me. Within a minute of sitting down, a little boy who appeared to be three or four years old, and wearing nothing but a loosely fitting diaper, came flying out of a hallway and right towards me. Wholly shit, what was happening? Before I had any time to react, he leapt onto the couch and started hugging me. I strategically and gently kept pushing him off me until he found another thing to focus his attention on, the family cat! He kept trying to grab the cat in a way that PETA would cringe, and the sadder part was that the cat looked so defeated, he wasn’t even fighting the torture. The little devil brought the cat over to me and proceeded to proudly tell me how he poked the cat’s eye out with a pencil, and sure enough there was no eye.
Just when I thought this couldn’t get any worse, a baby started screaming from down the hallway just as the future serial killer started asking me if I was going to be his new daddy. Like most guys, we will put up with almost anything for the smallest chance of being with a cute girl, even if just for a night. As much as I tried, I decided not to stick around to see what other surprises were going to come flying out from the dreaded hallway. I snuck out, jumped in my car, and ran.
Recently my girlfriend, who I happened to meet online, and I began talking about taking our relationship to the next level and moving in together. I need to preface this by saying my girlfriend does like pets, however while we were dating, it was no secret that having a dog in her house was not an option for several very valid reasons. I made the mistake of thinking that we would be able to work something out and the dog would not be that big of an issue when it came time to move in together, and I asked her to marry me. I was wrong and she stood firm. This caused a lot of friction in our relationship because I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just work it out somehow. This was part of the behaviors of being bipolar, making rash decisions with the belief all will work out and never thinking long term. Before we took the drastic step of walking away from an otherwise incredible relationship, we decided to try therapy together to help us communicate and understand each other better.
We were now tasked with finding a therapist that we would both feel comfortable with, and this would prove just as difficult, if not more, than finding love, at least for most people. We started with online searches for therapists near us and like online dating, we had to try and narrow our search by things that were important to us, including geographical location, specialization with couples, and someone younger in age so they would likely relate to our generation. We were able to narrow it down to a few that seemed to fit our criteria, and the first one we called was not accepting new clients, the next one couldn’t see us for several months, and the final one didn’t accept our insurance. We were looking to help us communicate about a dog! I couldn’t imagine if we needed help with something more important or traumatic.
We were finally able to get an appointment with someone who appeared to be a good fit on paper, and when we first met our new therapist, it took less than five seconds for the first red flag. She was older than her online biography seemed to portray her, and as we simultaneously sat down on the couch, we looked at each other with identical looks of disbelief. Without saying a word, we were both saying, “are you kidding me!” I started smiling as my girlfriend just looked at me and whispered, “figures.” Just as the therapist sat down, a little lap dog leapt onto her lap from a dog bed nestled in the corner next to her chair. The one therapist that has a dog in her office was going to mediate our disagreement about my dog living with us. To me, it was the one of funniest moments of all time, and my girlfriend ultimately couldn’t help but laugh. Like a mother of a future serial killer and a newborn baby, maybe she should have had this information on her profiles. What if someone was allergic to dogs or outright scared of them? Unlike the mass exodus on my last date, we decided to stay for entertainment purposes and see what his lady could possibly say. It turned out to be a total waste of time.
As with online dating, it became apparent finding a therapist was like dating, just without the pre-first date banter, and it was going to be a numbers game. For me, this was just one example of trying to find a therapist, and what makes me an expert is that my dating experiences with women and therapists have a lot of similarities, such as I have had over 20 ‘first dates’ with mental health professionals that have led me to a total of three ‘relationships,” and over 30 first dates that ultimately led me to my soulmate.
I have recently switched therapists due to my existing one switching insurance he accepted, and the process has once again proved to be challenging and exhausting. One woman that I met with for the first time sent up red flags immediately, at least for me. She dressed very unprofessionally, not that she needed to be wearing a suite and heels, but baggy sweatpants, tee shirt and dirty sneakers made me feel like she didn’t care about her first impression. I still gave the session some time and as I was talking, she just gazed out the window. I swear she wasn’t even listening to me, and every few minutes I would get the head nod and, “uh hu” or, “I see.” I was so angry and didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to be rude. Reading that back is embarrassing because obviously she was the rude one and I should have said stuck up for myself.
The next one after the rude window gazer started off hopeful. She was dressed professionally, seemed genuinely interested in hearing my answers to the questions she asked. She was very honest and let me know that the first session was going to be more about her asking questions and taking notes on her computer, but in upcoming meetings she would not use her computer. I was okay with this because she had set my expectations. The next session went almost as she said it would, however she did jump on her computer a few short times. I figured since it was only our second session, maybe she hadn’t captured everything she needed during the first one, and not a big deal. During our third session the computer usage continued, and because of my many years of being a police officer and training, my attention focused more on covertly finding out what she was really doing on her computer. I became certain that she was messaging someone, and with the subtle smirks while peeking at her screen, it was probably a blossoming romance. I was ‘online dating’ her and she was ‘online dating’ in front of me. Then it got worse because the beginning of the final two sessions began with her asking me, “so what’s going on?” In my opinion, a good therapist should take what you have said previously and guide the conversation.
There have been many days I almost gave up and told myself I can move forward alone. However, I truly believe that once we have had a good experience and built a strong relationship with a therapist, it is something that almost becomes instinctive for us to fill the mental void of unconditional and non- judgmental support. This entire process is very similar to dating! We instinctively seek a relationship and companionship, and after tireless searching without finding “the one,” we tend to swear off dating and tell ourselves that we don’t need anyone! Ultimately, we forget those emotions and feelings after time goes by and we start the search again, only ending when we find “the one” or we temporarily give up again.
Don’t give up! We all know of someone who ultimately found love by staying diligent and going into it knowing it is most likely going to be a process. Set you expectations and remember, it’s your life so take control of the journey to find a great partnership!