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Dating & Relationships in Pakistan: Experience of a Therapist

Dating & Relationships in Pakistan: Experience of a Therapist

In a conversation with Ms. Sahrish, she revealed interesting experiences she has had with her clients over the last 13 years as a therapist. In total, about 70% of her clients have been those who have struggled with some form of relationship problems; and half of that 70% have gone through breakups during or prior to their consultation with her. Further, about 5-7% of the 70% have been people in homosexual/bisexual relationships.

Moreover, she said that she has had about an equal number of both male and female patients who were going to mental health issues fully or partly due to their relationships or breakups. While men and women were both showing up to therapy, men seem to cope up rather quickly (as early as 2 to 3 sessions) than their female counterparts. She said that women were more responsive to therapy and were willing to take on medication while men preferred to cope without medication. She also revealed that most of her clients have had huge age gaps with their partners. She reported that the average age gap would be 7 to 10 years between the two partners. She also mentioned that in most of these age gap relationships, women were often the older partner.

She also mentioned that some of her clients have been in extra marital relationships (that is, the client’s partner was married) and these relationships usually lead to sexual exploration of the non-married partner. Further, in her experience, female (married and/or with children) drug addicts have had a tendency to choose younger male partners.

Causes of Breakups

In her experience as a therapist, Ms. Sahrish said that most common reasons of breakups have been blurred boundaries, possessiveness and jealousy, and mistrust. When boundaries are not clear, people act as their instincts dictate them. In the beginning of the relationship, people invest significantly more time than usual. They talk on the phone for hours long into the night, they text continually during the day updating each other on their routine activities, etc. But as time goes on and the “newness” of the relationship fades (which is a natural progression and nothing to worry about!), some people have a hard time coping with this kind of change. They start to feel upset if their partner doesn’t text them as much or doesn’t call them every night. Partner’s night out with friends becomes a prompt for a big fight with no solid outcome.

Often people expect the relationship to stay as it was in the beginning, often called the honeymoon phase. People’s expectation of having their partner all to themselves, that they will spend more and more time together going forward, and that they should be the most important thing in their partner’s life, and hence their sole focus. However, in actuality, that is far from the truth. People may defend themselves for having to spend hours consoling a friend but might not allow the same for their partners. A healthy person has multiple facets to their life; family, friends, romantic relationships, career, hobbies, inspirations, etc. It is important to understand that relationships grow and change with time, as do people, and having conversations for mutually agreed boundaries and expectations makes a healthy relationship.

Further, when people are not able to cope with change and when boundaries are unclear, people may start questioning their partner’s loyalty and faithfulness. Trust issues can be a difficult thing to deal with in any relationship. In instances where the partner has a friend(s) who are of the opposite gender, insecurities may get the best of them and people may question their partner about their whereabouts, who they have been talking to, who they have been spending time with, why they didn’t text back immediately, or why their phone was busy. Being paranoid about what their partner might be up to when they’re not with them, possessiveness, jealously, not giving space to the partner to be their person becomes a huge cause for fights and then the eventual breakup. Moreover, this general lack of trust is also a very common reason for couples to breakup. This mistrust might come from the actual behaviours of the partner who may be cheating but that is often not the case. Mistrust generally arises from the person’s own insecurities about themselves, feelings of not being good enough, low self-esteem, and becoming overly attached and an unwillingness to share their partner with the partner’s friends and family.

Furthermore, other causes of breakups are client’s or the client’s partner’s personal problems and/or mental health issues; one partner not investing enough time in the relationship, and inability and/or unwillingness to deal with the changing phases of the relationship.

Media plays a huge role in romanticising the idea of romantic relationships. Often people will find themselves mimicking acts of love they’ve seen on TV or social media like buying ten thousand roses for your partner or causing a jealousy-infused ruckus to show their love and affection towards their partner.

However, setting realistic expectations and clear boundaries in the beginning can help make a relationship healthier. Moreover, communicating and having this type of conversation time to time where the couple talks about their expectations from each other and what their boundaries looked like before and what they look like now (if they’ve changed). Being with your partner is a decision you make every day.

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