List posts have their limits if what you really need is more personalized relationship advice.
Oh, shoot! You’ve gone and done it already! Ah well. May as well keep reading.
You’ve just clicked on what’s known in the blogging world as a “list post” or “listicle.” A list post is an article in a list format. It generally contains a numbered list of (hopefully) helpful tips, trends, ideas or secrets.
Lists posts, especially those about relationships, are a familiar Internet phenomenon. We click on them all the time. And why not? They have attention-grabbing headlines, information that’s easy to scan and absorb, and a helpfully-specific content promise.
Let me be clear. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH A LIST POST. I myself have written more than a few.
But list posts do have their limits, especially if what you’re searching for is an answer to a difficult or seemingly intractable relationship problem. Hence, my three reasons why you should think twice before clicking:
Reason #1: There are no simple solutions for most relationship problems.
But list posts can make us think that there are, and so can encourage us to rely exclusively on their meat-and-potatoes advice and fail to get the more nuanced help we need. Also, a straightforward checklist makes a problem seem so simple to fix that it’s easy to become hopeless about our relationship if following the steps on the list doesn’t quickly clear up our problem.
Reason #2: I don’t know you.
I’d like to think that my advice will work for you. After all, I’m an experienced professional, I keep up with the latest research, and I’m thoughtful about what I suggest. But if I’m honest I’ll admit that there’s a limit to how much I can help when I don’t know the particulars of your relationship, the unique facets of your problem.
Reason #3: You don’t know me.
So, even if my advice is spot-on, you may not have enough confidence in my suggestions to give them a real try. Moreover, where do you turn when the tips don’t do the trick, or when you want to delve into them more deeply? If you live in Omaha, you could give me a call and ask for a follow-up session. But all the rest of you . . .
Listen. If you’re searching for answers online, then you’ve arrived at a place in your relationship where you’ve run out of your own ideas and are looking for answers elsewhere. That’s okay. There are a ton of professional helpers out here in the blogosphere that are writing thoughtful, evidence-based content. I like to think I’m one of them.
But if this is the 20th list post you’ve read, and your relationship problems seem stagnant, then it might be time to try something different.
Try Counseling Already
I know, I know. It’s a super scary idea. When I first decided to see a counselor, it took me a full year to finally get up the courage to give one a call.
But in the end, there’s really no substitute for getting personalized professional advice from someone you’ve met in the flesh, who has an opportunity to really get to know you and your partner, and who can help you both problem-solve with an eye to the full complexity of your unique relationship.
If you do find answers to your relationship problems in a list post, I’m glad (I’m especially glad if you’ve found them in one of MY posts!). But if you don’t, don’t give up. Consider going deeper and more personal. Consider couples counseling.
Your relationship is truly unique. Ultimately your relationship solutions will be as well.
Anne Barker is a writer and psychotherapist in Omaha, NE, specializing in working with couples and individuals on all manner of relationship issues. Visit Anne’s relationship blog at Hitch Fix or her website to find out more about her writing and services.