Dating My Therapist
The title of this post may leave you shocked and intrigued by the juicy details of a scandalous relationship. Perhaps you immediately see the conflict of interest as the line between confidential information and attachment diverge. You’re not wrong to see some potential problems in this kind of relationship, but it’s not what you think.
I’ve been with my significant other for over a year now and we’ve had our ups and downs, as every relationship has, but we have always taken pride in how we deal with the situations and communicate in the disagreements we face. We are also always there to support the other person when they are having a hard time. Overall, this seems like the perfect relationship someone could have, but somewhere along the way the line between partners and a therapist/client dynamic became blurry.
In the wake of my partner’s success, I celebrated, but felt as though I was falling short. I was still struggling to find a job post-graduation and I ended up feeling lonely and isolated, which left me depressed. In the meantime, my partner was at a new job and getting well-deserved praise. When we were together, however, my mental health was the main topic of conversation. Those conversations exhausted us both and often left me feeling vulnerable and guilty. It was nice to know that someone was there to love and support me, even in the rough patches, but our conversations weren’t productive in terms of coping or resolution. Why? Because my partner went to school for Communications and not Psychology. Without realizing it until later, I had given my significant other the title of “my therapist.”
When I went back to having regular, professional therapy sessions I realized how the conversations went between myself and a trained psychologist. The questions that were asked of me on the rough days were constructive, but detached, which helped me to keep a level head and stay focused. On the other hand, while I had always appreciated my partner’s willingness to listen to me when I was struggling, I came to realize that I expected too much from our conversations during these rough patches. I expected answers like my therapist had provided. I expected prompted questions that would help me to see the positives of the situation, but for someone who isn’t trained to create those individual questions, my partner’s questions enabled me to continue negative self-talk, which was never the intention.
My significant other was driven to help by love and empathy, but this inevitably made my problems our problems. This is where the line blurred. The desire to help those you love, but being too close to the situation that you take on the problems your partner faces. Once I realized that this dynamic was damaging us individually and damaging our relationship to each other, I wanted to put a stop to it. It took a few more conversations with my partner to better understand and communicate what I wanted and needed during the rough days, but eventually it came down to finding predetermined and constructive activities that I could do or my partner could encourage me to do instead of continuing the negative self-talk.
I don’t blame my partner for getting involved and becoming a therapist to me. I understand the desire to help and I’ve definitely tried to fill that role in many of my personal relationships, but it’s come to the point that I realize it’s not my job. And it’s not my partner’s job. It was time for me to examine my relationship and bring back the focus to the line between partner and therapist.
In these types of situations it may be hard, but necessary, to take some time apart. Sometimes, you really have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in order to take two steps forward. It’s important in those moments to know that this isn’t a setback. This is progress.
Written by: Megan McKague