I Marta met in 2016, when we were both working in a clothing store for teens in Dallas, Texas, and immediately realized that we had more in common than just two black girls on staff. When our manager pushes all the women on the staff to straighten their hair, Marta and I will twist our hair to show its natural state. We called ourselves radicals.
Our friendship remained strong, whether we lived in the same city or not. We shared family vacations; We traveled to Europe together. I have more memories with Marta than any other important one.
But when the epidemic spread, our relationship began to break down. I returned to Dallas to quarantine at my mother’s house, and soon after, Marta and I went without speaking for a week. Weeks turned into months, and one day I found myself blocked by her Instagram story, which felt like a ghost of friendship.
Things became normal as I played, and when the orders to stay home were removed, we started a new routine: making plans to spend time together, canceling at the last minute. The unspoken stress made the idea of living around Marta uncomfortable and even worried when I saw her online, so I muted her posts and stories. Before I knew it, I was completely oblivious to her. I thought at this point, I let friendship die.
But one night at a party in Brooklyn, I ran to Marta. Intoxicated, in tears, he admitted that he was annoying me because he was not available to me. I was so drunk myself, I joked that we should go for therapy, our broken relationship was like a broken marriage.
At the time, I didn’t even know that pair therapy was an option for two friends. But the next morning, the idea was in my mind, so I looked at the practice.
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 epidemic bubble, therapy for friends and platonic partners has sparked more interest, says Dr. Ellen Wagner, a marriage and family physician in Los Angeles. “I think there are a lot of people who have left their friends on the road, and they are now losing them and trying to rebuild those relationships,” he says.
“Sometimes people need a third party to be able to help them express their point of view that the other person doesn’t understand,” Wagner said, whether they’re in a romantic relationship or in a platonic friendship.
For Wagner, friendships can be just as important as family or romantic relationships. “I think people are starting to realize that having people in your life that will really be for you, unconditionally, at a loss, or if you’re going through a divorce, or whatever you’re dealing with, is really important and valuable. . “
It was that kind of relationship, said Fontella Bishop, a 26-year-old production assistant in Los Angeles, when he and his ex-girlfriend decided to start treating the couple – after they broke up. “We’ve always wanted to be friends, but we weren’t sure what potential would be healthy for us,” Bishop says.
Internet searches showed zero results for the friendship therapist, but the pair contacted different pair of therapists to see if anyone would take two platonic partners. They have been participating in weekly sessions together since January 2022. “The way we communicated was not very united,” says Bishop. “So it has been really helpful to have a mediator to translate the way we communicate with each other.”
Dr. Emily Enhalt, co-founder of San Francisco-based Clinical Psychiatrist and Mental Health, says therapy should be a stable source in relation to the opposite solution to the problem. “If you have a really important friend or someone in your life with whom you want to have a long-term relationship, it’s a worthwhile investment to understand what the strengths of your friendship are, what the struggles are, and how you can show it. In a deeper and more meaningful way.”
Anhalt says it’s important to acknowledge the role of platonic relationships in our lives, which she argues can be more complete and meaningful than romantic relationships.
She notes that friendship therapy is more common in women than men, perhaps because women generally feel more allowed to work in their relationships in this way.
Anhalt works with various platonic pairs, including colleagues, business partners and co-founders. “If you and the other person are creating something together, it’s really important to make sure your relationship is strong, because anything between the two of you will leak into the project,” she says. Couple therapy between co-founders escalated during the epidemic, when external tensions intensified the startup culture. “Similarly, for two friends starting a business, the stronger their relationship, the less likely it is that the business will bear the brunt of their struggles,” she says.
Beverly Allen, 36, and Ann Dorn, 37, both of whom live in Tacoma, Washington, have seen the benefits of first-hand therapy for business partners. The couple met at a party seven years ago and became close friends. Three years later, Ellen asked Dorn to join her law firm as a paralegal. Eventually they left the firm to start their own.
At that point, Ellen suggested a pair of treatments to her friends. They have been doing personal therapy together since January 2020, and the claims are endless. “Being a doctor helps me to have really difficult conversations with Ann. It ultimately strengthens our relationship, our communication and our trust in each other,” says Ellen. Dorn agrees: “We share a lot of lives – I work for Bev, and we’re close friends too. Therapy has helped us see what really matters to each other and work through some of the conflicts that come with normal life.”
In the case of Marta and I, we turned mindless jokes into serious compromises. The day after attending our party, I sent her a medium article about Aminatau So and Ann Friedman, two friends who had gone to therapy together and had written a book about it. We both agreed that we should try it at least once, without attaching any other strings. If any of us feel uncomfortable in sessions or don’t want to continue now, we can leave.
Once we were in agreement, it was easy to move things together. We searched online for a pair of therapists and went with the first person to accept my insurance, she was a woman of color, and could meet in Zoom. Before our first session I was worried. Marta and I only talked after the party, except for the therapy schedule. I wondered what he would say about me and if I could be defensive. Did he know that I had muted him on Instagram? Did he know that I knew he had stopped me from watching his stories? Does he call too?
Surprisingly, our first session was a pleasant experience. We were both honest and respectful. Marta revealed that at the height of the epidemic, she lost her job, had a breakup, and her grandfather died. At the same time, I was working with my own list of problems and griefs, including the death of my grandfather, which Marta did not tell. I was embarrassed to find out what she was doing, but Marta was very understanding and forgiving.
We immediately realized that we were both ignoring the friendship and keeping our struggles to ourselves because we realized that everyone in our social circle was behaving too much of their own stuff to take someone else’s stuff. We really need to talk about our individual situations and share how we want support from each other. It got easier with each session. Our therapists would often repeat how we were talking to each other, so that our statements would be welcomed as opposed to denial.
After a four-month bi-weekly meeting, Marta and I decided we were in a comfortable place to pause in sessions. We learned how to communicate effectively with each other and how to deal with disagreements in a ghostly and unobstructed manner. We also learned that as we get older and take on new and different interests and ideas, we continue to invest in becoming close friends.