Going to couples therapy made me start a business

Jessica Holton

Going to couples therapy was so hard that I started a business to make it better

As a kid, I was in love with the power of love. I daydreamed about my future partner, I drew pictures of how we would hold hands while changing the world together, I planned all the trips we would take and all the dinners we would host and all the laughs and cries we would share. Like many, the thing I went to sleep hoping for was the truest partnership in every sense of the word.

When I met my now partner, I had no idea he would be that person for me. We met on our college campus during the very first day of orientation and - as he would like to say - immediately started dating seven years later.

We went from friends to more to partners over the course of a magical year in 2015. We built on top of our friendship and our familiarity and our trust and over Blackhawks games, Fall Out Boy concerts, Pixar movies and exploring Brooklyn together, we fell in love. We were obsessed with each other, all of a sudden becoming each other’s person. Countless times, I looked at him and looked into the future with him, knowing that childhood me would be just so happy. My partner made my dream of a true partnership a reality and more.

While I had dreamt about partnership as a kid, I also watched a lot of relationships around me suffer and break down. While I was obsessed with the idea of finding and growing love, I was equally and intensely scared of losing it. The thing that scared me the most was losing it and not seeing it coming. My biggest fear was (and honestly still is) waking up all of a sudden and looking back wondering - but not knowing the answer to - what went wrong and how we got here. Waking up and not being happy.

That’s why in early 2020, we started exploring ways we could strengthen our relationship and get even more out of our partnership together. Not because anything major was wrong: quite the opposite, in fact. Everything was good. Sure, we had our ups and downs like every other couple in the world. But we wanted to protect that good. We wanted even more of that goodness. We wanted great.

So, we started looking into couples therapy. And boy oh boy - if only I knew what I know now what those four simple words of ‘looking into couples therapy’ would turn into.

I googled for ‘how to find a couples therapist’ and the first decision we had to make was do we go through a matching service, our insurance plans, or a directory like Psychology Today? We tried a few matching services and our insurance plans, but both didn’t quite fit what we were looking for because they asked what the problem was. And there really was no problem. We just wanted great.

We started using directories and google search results and made a list of 3 therapists who we would email because they seemed like they would be a good fit for us. I’m laughing now because I couldn’t have been more wrong when I thought that meant we’d have options to choose from.

For those three therapists, we couldn’t find emails - we had to call. And when we called, no one answered. We had to leave voicemails. Like any good millennial, there are few things that I dislike more in everyday life than voicemails, and here I was, leaving voicemails about the most important thing in my life while sitting at Bluestone Lane surrounded by - what felt to me like - curious onlookers and overhearers.

I got a call back from exactly 0 of those therapists who I left voicemails at. And so began a week of calling more and more therapists. Reaching out by email when they didn’t have a phone number. Leaving a voicemail when they didn’t pick up.

We’re now about two weeks into this process that started to consume a bigger portion of my life than I ever could have expected. I felt like I needed a virtual assistant just to organize all my outreach & communication with potential therapists.

When therapists did get back to me, I was filled with hope and excitement. But that was quickly shot down when they would call back and we would have an amazing connection, and then they would regret to tell me that they actually don’t see couples - their Psychology Today profile was outdated. Or they focus on issues that we weren’t facing. Or most commonly, they were no longer taking on new clients - they were booked full at capacity. I heard over and over again to reach back out in a few months. I would ask for other referrals and sometimes they had suggestions, sometimes they didn’t.

Then came the scheduling, logistics and payment issues. I talked to therapists who were taking on new clients (yay!) but didn’t take insurance (ugh) or didn’t take my insurance (not fair!) or didn’t have availability when my partner and I were free (turns out there’s no magical Calendly solution that could make our two working schedules and a therapist’s schedule fit).

The logistics seemed impossible. The work to get there was… a lot.

But that’s not all.

The hardest part of this process was the stigma and shame that came with it. Amid turning to Google and Psychology Today, I also turned to friends and family who I love and trust, asking for their recommendations. The first thing they said was “Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize things were so bad between you. Do you think you’ll break up?” It stung. It made me defensive of my relationship, and it made me feel ashamed of trying this new thing for our relationship.

The stigma also sometimes came from therapists themselves. I would explain what we were looking for and they kept pressing: “But what’s wrong?” It made me feel silly. It made me feel small. It made me feel like I was doing something wrong and like I didn’t belong.

I’m lucky that I was in a healthy relationship where there wasn’t a problem that urgently needed attention. But what if we layer on having a problem that does need urgent solving? What if you didn’t have an insurance plan that pays for couples therapy? What if going to therapy carries so much stigma for one of you that any roadblock you encounter would turn you off entirely?

Something you should know about me is what really gets me going, and it’s two things. It’s when something feels impossible and it’s when something makes people feel small or like they don’t belong. Nothing fires me up more than making impossible things, possible and making things that make you feel small, make you feel big.

My experience of finding a couples therapist was both of those things. It felt impossible and it made me feel like I didn’t belong. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind and heart that there are millions of individuals out there that are just like me. Feeling the same impossibility and smallness.

For a thing that helps the most important part of our human lives.

So, I got to work. I met my two amazing cofounders and together, we started a business to make getting help in your relationship easy, possible, delightful and effective. So that the most human, possible thing in our lives never feels impossible and no one in the world ever feels small.

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