I’ve been a therapist for 15 years and I’ve dated both therapists and non-therapists since becoming one. I was married to a non-therapist for seven years, and now that the relationship has ended and I’ll be entering the dating world again, I’ve been thinking: Should I stick to my own kind and date other therapists? Or should I stick to people who aren’t therapists? Do people know what they’re getting into by dating a therapist? Should they date a therapist? Let’s discuss!
One of my favorite therapist friends, Kay Lee and I decided to have a discussion about the pros and cons of dating a therapist on this week’s episode of Say More About That. It’s hands down one of the funniest and best episodes yet. If you’re considering dating a therapist, it’s a must-listen. Click play below, or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
What’s it like to date a therapist?
I’ve met thousands of therapists. I talk to therapists all day long. I’ve dated therapists on and off. All that experience has shown me that we’re a very weird bunch. Of course, we’re not identical, but there are definitely some defining characteristics that the majority of us share in a romantic relationship.
In my opinion, therapists in romantic relationships are:
Passionate about processing feelings.
Above average in emotional resilience.
Very interested in meeting their partner’s needs.
Clear about expressing their needs and getting them met (which others may experience as “needy”).
Keen to ask probing questions.
Likely to value quality time and words of affirmation.
Detail-oriented and always remember the details (maybe too many details...).
Somewhat impulsive. We want to take things slow (but never do).
Weirdly calm during intense fights (which makes us come off as serial killers).
Not fans of allowing issues remain unresolved.
Happier connecting in person (over texting, for example).
Talkative during sex.
Talkative even more about sex right after the sex.
Reticent to “take off their therapist hat”.
Reluctant to let things go.
Able to thrive in awkward situations (and are often the ones making it awkward)
Really, the list goes on. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Basically, if you date a therapist, you’ll get an emotionally attuned partner who tends to overprocess things and prioritizes being clear about expectations. You know that stereotype that says all therapists are “crazy”? First of all, don’t call people crazy. It’s not cool. Second of all, there may be a little truth to that statement…
A non-therapist friend of mine recently asked how it was humanly possible to sit in an office and listen to client after client, day after day, talk about their deep emotional experiences. He thought my job was bonkers, incredibly draining, way too overwhelming and just plain crazy-making. And yet, it doesn’t drive me crazy. It energizes me. I want deep and intimate relationships with people, and I get that by talking about emotionally raw things with my clients. It feels normal to have honest talks with people. I value vulnerability in my relationships. I ask for it from my clients. And I want even more of that in my romantic relationships.
Does that make me, and all other therapists, “crazy”? No. But it may make us appear crazy to some people. We are very focused on our emotions. We appear to be really sensitive. We can be labeled as “not having our shit together”. But it’s not that. It’s that we’re incredibly aware of our shit. We spend a lot of time working on it, and telling everybody how it’s going.
Should therapists date other therapists?
All that leads us to the question: Should therapists try to date other therapists? Well, anyone can date anyone, of course. Do what you want. But on this question, I lean toward yes, therapists should try to date other therapists. Here are my top three reasons why:
Don’t torture non-therapists. Look, therapists love to process everything.It’s just how we are. Do we really need to subject people outside of the mental health industry to this very annoying habit? It typically energizes us to dig into every single detail. But a normal person with a normal amount of emotional resiliency doesn’t necessarily want or need to be pushed to the edge. As therapists, let’s not make them emotionally drained. Let’s overprocess with people who like to overprocess.
Finding a “balance” is not always ideal. Sometimes therapists think that dating someone who may not prioritize emotional connection is a good balance. At first it could be a relief to not process every little thing. But this doesn’t typically work out in the end. As therapists, we are well aware that “birds of a feather flock together” is always a better match than “opposites attract”. Let’s not fool ourselves, people.
Understanding this bizarre job is a huge plus. While not the most important thing in a relationship, truly understanding what it’s like to be a therapist is incredibly helpful for us. Therapists love to be around other therapists because they understand how incredibly strange it is to be a therapist. The intimate and vulnerable relationship (that’s also full of boundaries) we have with clients is almost impossible to explain to outsiders. It can be super relieving to know that our partner gets how totally bizarre and weird and special and unnatural the therapeutic relationship is. There’s just something about being seen by your partner that non-therapists might have trouble doing.
Should non-therapists date therapists?
Maybe I’m an egomaniac, but I think a non-therapist would love to date a therapist. On paper we therapists have a lot to offer! Like I said, we listen well, we’re great at empathizing, quality time is important to us, yada yada yada. Despite all that, you should probably think twice about what you’re getting yourself into by dating a therapist. While I won’t declare an official “no” to lay people dating therapists, here are three things to think about before making the romantic dive onto the couch:
Therapists can’t take off their “therapist hat”. There’s a real chance that you may think you’re being analyzed by your therapist partner at all times, and... chances are you are being analyzed. It’s just how we experience reality. We interpret other people’s personality, and subconsciously (but most of the time consciously) try to figure out why they behave the way they behave. We’re not going to be crazy about it, but we’ll notice subtle shifts and personality quirks and eventually, we’ll bring it up. So if you like to be with someone that scans your every move, because they want to meet your needs, then by all means, go for it!
You’re going to be asked to talk whether you like it or not. I’m super guilty of this, and I’ve experienced many other therapists that have this same hang up, but I can’t just drop something. If there’s something that needs to be addressed, no matter how small or insignificant, it’s going to get brought up. This might sound like a breath of fresh air, but I guarantee it’s going to bug the shit out of you eventually because it bugs the shit out of me and I’m the one choosing to do it. You try living in this head that can’t stop noticing every single thing that happens in a relationship. It’s maddening at times!
Fights will not be as satisfying. While this may not be true for every therapist lover, full on screaming matches that feel intensely satisfying might not happen as much as you’d like. Which again, sounds good on paper. But there’s something so cathartic about really letting go and having both partners just go at it. But therapists don’t typically yell as much as the lay person. Instead of getting in touch with our anger, we get in touch with the feeling under it. That feeling is usually a vulnerable one. That feeling is usually a sad or painful one. So instead of rage fights, get ready for the water works. Ultimately, it’s a better way to go, but it can feel pretty heavy when it happens over and over again.
My final verdict
My (very biased) verdict is that therapists should aim to date other therapists and non-therapists should date therapists, but they need to take a long look at what they’re getting into. You’re either going to have an incredibly connected and emotionally satisfying relationship, or one of the most annoying, boring, and over-communicative relationships that you’ve ever had.
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.