I We met Marta in 2016, when we were both working at a clothing store for teens in Dallas, Texas, and quickly realized we had a lot more to offer than just two black girls on staff. When our manager persuaded all the women on staff to wear their hair straight, Marta and I would plot to keep our hair curly, in its natural state. We called ourselves radicals.
Our friendship remained strong when we were living in the same city and when we were not. We shared family vacations; We traveled to Europe together. I made more memories with Marta than any significant other.
But when the pandemic struck, our relationship started falling apart. I moved to live at my mom’s house back in Dallas, and soon after, Marta and I went a week without talking. Weeks turned into months, and one day I found myself blocked from her Instagram story, feeling the friendship equivalent to being ghosted.
I played like things were normal, and when the stay-at-home orders were lifted, we started a new routine: making plans to spend time together, only canceling at the last minute. The unresolved tension made the idea of being around Marta uncomfortable, and even seeing her online made me anxious, so I muted her posts and stories. Before I knew it, I was completely avoiding his company. I felt at this point that I would just let the friendship die.
But then one night I met Marta at a party in Brooklyn. Drunk, in tears, she admitted that she was resenting me for not being available. Quite drunk myself, I joked that we should go for treatment, that our broken relationship was like the breakup of a marriage.
At the time, I didn’t even know if couples therapy was an option for two friends. But the next morning, the thought was still in my head, so I focused on the exercise.
For decades, romantic couples, co-parents, and families have called on mediators to help them communicate and work through conflict. But as people emerge from their epistemic bubble, therapy for platonic partners, including friends, is gaining more interest, says Dr. Alan Wagner, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “I think there are a lot of people who left their friends along the way, and they now miss them and want to build those relationships back,” he says.
“Sometimes people need a third party to help make their point clear that the other person doesn’t understand,” Wagner said, “whether they’re in a romantic relationship or a platonic friendship.”
For Wagner, friendship can be just as important as family or romantic relationships. “I think people are starting to realize that there are people in your life who will really be there for you, unconditionally, in times of loss, or if you’re going through a divorce, or whatever you do. are really important and valuable.”
It was the kind of relationship Fontella Bishop, a 26-year-old production assistant in Los Angeles, sought after she and her ex-girlfriend decided to start couples therapy—after they broke up. “We’ve always wanted to be friends, but we weren’t sure which capacity would be healthiest for us,” Bishop says.
Internet searches returned zero results for friendship therapists, but the pair contacted various couples therapists to see if one would take two platonic partners. They have been participating together in weekly sessions since January 2022. “The way we communicated was not very cohesive,” Bishop says. “So having a middleman therapist to translate the way we communicate with each other has been really helpful.”
Emily Anhalt, a San Francisco-based clinical psychologist and co-founder of COA, a gym for mental health, says therapy should be an ongoing resource in relationships, as opposed to reactive solutions to a problem. “If you have a really important friend in your life or someone you want to build a long-term relationship with, it’s a worthy investment to understand what the strengths of your friendship are, what the struggles are, and how you make up for it.” can show each other in deeper and more meaningful ways.”
Anhalt says it’s important to acknowledge the role platonic relationships play in our lives, which, he argues, can be even more fulfilling and meaningful than a romantic relationship.
She notes that friendship therapy is more common in women than men, perhaps because women generally feel more allowed to work on their relationships in this way.
Anhalt works with a variety of platonic couples, including co-workers, business partners, and co-founders. “If you and someone else are building something together then making sure your relationship is strong is really important, because whatever is going on between the two of you will leak into the project,” she says. . Couples therapy boomed among co-founders during the pandemic, when external tensions intensified startup culture. “Similarly, for two friends who are starting a business, the stronger their relationship, the less likely the business will bear the weight of their struggles,” she says.
Beverly Allen, 36, and Ann Dorn, 37, who both live in Tacoma, Washington, have first seen the benefits of therapy for business partners. The pair met at a party seven years ago and became close friends. Three years later, Allen asked Dorn to join his law firm as a paralegal; He eventually left that firm to start on his own.
That’s when Allen suggested couples therapy for friends. They have been doing in-person therapy together since January 2020, and claim the benefits are endless. “Having a therapist helps me have really difficult conversations with Ann. It ultimately strengthens our relationship, our communication, and our trust with each other,” says Allen. Dorn agrees: “We share a lot of lives — I work for Bev, and we’re close friends too. Therapy has really helped us see what we really value in each other.” and work through some of the struggles that come with in normal life.”
For me and Marta, we turned a goofy joke into a serious pact. The morning after we attended the party, I wrote her a Medium article about Aminatou So and Ann Friedman, two friends who went to therapy together and wrote a book about it. We both agreed that we should try it at least once, without any further strings attached. If either of us felt uncomfortable during the session or no longer wanted to continue, we could leave.
Once we agreed, it was easy to move things along. We searched for couples therapists online and went with the first person who accepted my insurance, was a woman of color, and could be found on Zoom. I was worried before my first session. Marta and I had barely talked since the party except to schedule therapy. I was wondering what she would say about me and whether I would get defensive. Did he know I muted him on Instagram? Did she know that I knew she blocked me from seeing her stories? Will she call in too?
Surprisingly, our first session was a pleasant experience. We were both honest and respectful. Marta revealed that at the height of the pandemic she lost her job, went through a breakup, and that her grandfather died. At the same time, I was dealing with my own list of problems and sorrows, including the death of my grandfather, which I had not told Marta about. I felt embarrassed knowing what she was going through, but Marta was very understanding and forgiving.
We quickly realized that we were both neglecting the friendship and limiting our conflicts to our own because we felt that everyone in our social circle was too much with their own baggage to take someone else’s stuff. is behaving. We really needed to talk about our different situations and share how we wanted support from each other. It got easier with each session. Our therapists often reiterated how we were talking to each other, in order to welcome our statements as opposed to rejection.
After meeting bi-weekly for four months, Marta and I decided we were in a comfortable place to stop the sessions. We learned how to communicate effectively with each other and deal with disagreements in a way that did not result in ghosts and inhibitions. We also learned that despite growing up and adopting new and different interests and ideas, we remain invested in being close friends.