Even though Joanna mentions therapy in all of her dating profiles, she rarely saw guys call it out on theirs… until recently. Now, she says, she’s seen more men make mention of the practice, and it’s not uncommon to see shoutouts like “my simple pleasures include ’70s rock, strong coffee, and therapy” or “my therapist would say I’m ready for a real relationship.”
“It’s an immediate swipe right,” says Joanna, 32, who lives in California.
And Joanna’s not alone. According to a new study from Hinge, 61% of daters on the app rank emotional vulnerability as a must-have when it comes to finding new partners. Per the data, it’s more important than attractiveness, income, or height. In a similar vein, 65% of Hinge daters say it’s attractive when someone talks about their feelings on a first date, 84% think it’s a “green flag” when people open up about their values, and 63% like when a potential partner opens up about their relationship hopes and fears on a first date. The point? Men who go to therapy — and are open about their deep, dark feels — are extremely, devastatingly hot. (Just check out stories from Prince Harry, Michael Phelps, Harry Styles, Paul Mescal, Michael B. Jordan, and J. Balvin, who all assert that therapy and taking care of their mental health has helped change their lives for the better.)
But the Hinge data also found that even though daters are looking for partners who are open and vulnerable, 75% of men say they never or rarely show vulnerability on first dates because they worry it will be a turnoff, and only 33% of men are likely to share their relationship hopes and fears on a first date.
An unwillingness to be open and vulnerable could be attributed to “normative gender roles,” says New York-based therapist Paul Silverman, LCSW, which “teach cis men that to feel anything other than anger is weak.” So many young boys are told to “be a man” when they are kids, and Silverman says that that misguided advice actually tells adult men “that those universal emotions caused by moving about the world — sadness, disappointment, fear, jealousy, guilt — are shameful and should not be expressed or even experienced. As a result, these emotions are either misexpressed as anger or men shut down and numb themselves in order to not make space for emotionality.”
But when men do go to therapy — and are forthcoming about that experience — it often shows up in positive ways when interacting with potential dates. “Partners, especially men, going to therapy suggests that they are open to the prospect of their own emotions and can move through the world honestly, identifying and expressing what they’re experiencing,” Silverman says.
When people are able to be vulnerable with us, we often feel much more comfortable being vulnerable with them.
Joanna says she’s found the guys she’s dated who talk about therapy to be better communicators. “You can have more real conversations with them,” she says. They often have a better sense of self, too. “I find it really attractive because I think that a lot of the reason people don’t go to therapy is out of fear and insecurity,” Joanna adds. “Often the guys who do are more secure and are more confident.”
For example, Joanna recently went out with a guy — let’s call him Kevin to protect his anonymity — who was super open about going to therapy. The day after a steamy makeout, he called Joanna to tell her that he woke up with a cold sore and was worried he had transmitted a virus to Joanna. “He was genuinely concerned but very open about it,” she remembers. “A lot of guys wouldn’t have had the skills to communicate something like that and it was a really good indicator early on that we could talk about uncomfortable or awkward stuff. I thought really highly of him from that experience.”
Men who go to therapy might also be more attractive because they can get deeper quickly or help others open up, which creates a sense of intimacy early on. “When people are able to be vulnerable with us, we often feel much more comfortable being vulnerable with them,” says psychotherapist Whitney Goodman, LMFT, author of Toxic Positivity. “It’s also a great sign when someone is investing in their own mental health and their future.”
These men can also be better at conflict resolution and seeing their partners’ perspectives, which can be an incredibly attractive quality. “Men who are in therapy recognize, I think, the importance and the power of emotions,” psychologist Megan Fleming, Ph.D., says. “The willingness to think relationally and a sense of relational self-awareness is something that you get in therapy that obviously is going to help all relationships.”
One recent Psychology Today article went viral after asserting that heterosexual men may be at a record low when it comes to loneliness, attributing this to heterosexual women having higher relationship standards that include a strong sense of emotional availability. The piece even advised lonely men seeking female partners to go to therapy in order to up their dating prospects.
“At the end of the day, we all just want to be understood and listened to and appreciated and seen,” Joanna says. “I think it’s really hard for someone to do that for someone else if they haven’t worked on themselves and are trying to maintain this idea that they are tough and strong and resilient and never feel anything. It just doesn’t make me feel like I want to open up to a brick wall.”