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We were at a bar playing pool. We playfully flirted between our pool shots while drinking beer and eating nachos. At one point he leaned over and said to me, “Show me all of your brokenness and I will tell you mine.” In that moment, my heart swooned.

I thought this man truly wanted to know my heart, to be vulnerable and honest in ways that make a strong foundation for a healthy relationship. I thought in that moment, “This is it! He is a man who wants to really know and love me for me!”

Looking back it was not true, and that conversation did not lay the groundwork for a healthy, trustworthy relationship. We needed more time in our relationship to make sure we each actually felt safe and secure enough with each other before sharing such intimate details. I did not see it then, but I can now, thanks to therapy.

I first started going to therapy in high school, but it wasn’t until my late twenties that therapy began clicking for me. Particularly, I learned lessons about myself and relationships that I wish I had learned before I had gotten married—especially when the marriage I hoped would have lasted a lifetime didn’t last.

Therapy is about more than calming anxious thoughts or overcoming sad feelings, it’s about developing a healthier state of mind so that you can better manage the things in your life that cause you anxiety or depression. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of complicated emotions in dating, and therapy can help you make sense of those, so that you can live more freely in your relationships. Here are three reasons why therapy before marriage can transform your dating life for the better.

01. You understand your own story better, making you more self aware to what you need and desire in love.

I used to believe the lie I was held hostage by my “big” feelings and emotions, that I couldn’t control the anxious, fearful thoughts rapidly swimming through my mind.

When I started to see my counselor in my late twenties, I learned how to express myself and describe my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. As I did so, I was able to identify pain from my childhood and trauma I carried that I had never told a soul about. I was able to acknowledge I was sexually assaulted.

As I came to understand my story better, I came to realize that I am not held captive by my emotional life. I learned about boundaries and what healthy sexuality in dating and marriage looks like. I learned how in relationships I could sometimes act codependent, and more importantly the only person I can change is myself.

I began to understand how events in my life had shaped my thoughts and feelings, but that new perspectives could help me manage and ultimately transform those thoughts and feelings.

When you better understand your own story, you live life more self-aware. You can see what formed you, where you have come from, and where you are now. The end result for me was less anxious, fearful thoughts, and healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

02. You build your own emotional toolbox, making it easier to manage the complicated feelings of love.

An important part of counseling is that you are learning new things to implement in your daily life.

For example, my therapist taught me how to take time each day to evaluate my emotional temperature. Because I was not raised in a family where we did “big feelings,” I came to realize I was afraid of my emotional life and would easily feel overwhelmed by feelings I did not understand inside of myself.

So each morning I looked at the sheet of different feelings from my counselor. I reflected where I felt that emotion on my body, as well as, what my choice was in reaction to how I was feeling in that moment.

This exercise finally gave me words to my own emotional life and helped me process my feelings in a healthier way.

Did it happen overnight? Of course not! It has taken several years to find what works for me and what does not.

03. Counseling has wider impact into all your other relationships.

 I don’t think there is a woman among us who isn’t looking for less drama, and more levity in their relationships. Counseling doesn’t make difficult relationships disappear, but if you go to counseling and do the hard, deep soul work, it will change how you deal with difficult or frustrating relationships.

You will learn about boundaries, how to say no, and how to not feel guilty for standing up for yourself.

When you are emotionally healthy on the inside, you can have healthier relationships with coworkers, family members, friends, even strangers.

I saw this most clearly on a first date I went on when I first started dating again. We met online through a faith based site and were meeting for dinner at an Irish pub. As the dated ended, I had mixed feelings on whether or not I should be open to a second date, but our very awkward goodbye was a red flag that there would be no second date. He hugged me a little too hard and held me a little too long for my comfort. Because I was already more self-aware of how that experience made me feel, it gave me peace to trust myself in kindly saying “no” to a second date.

We have the knowledge inside us to know what we want and need in a relationship. We as women can trust ourselves: Our gut, emotions, or whatever you want to call it. Therapy helps us to tap into that knowledge, and have confidence making wise and healthy decisions in dating and relationships

What I have learned from going to therapy as a single woman is that if I don’t work through and face my own issues they will simply follow me into other relationships. I want to be more self-aware for myself and my own well-being.

The investment is so worth it for you to make the time to go to counseling. Go because not because you think you need it, but because you realize you deserve this gift to yourself.