Written by Heather Hans, Published by YourTango May 3, 2018
Couples therapy is not a place to “fix” your relationship. It is a place to find the truth.
Not everyone seeks the truth. Many people fear it and spend years running from it. The irony is that truth sets you free, which means many people live their lives enslaved.
Why are people and couples so scared of the truth? Because it often means change, and avoiding it appears to be an easier road. You don’t have to look at your demons under a microscope, so to speak, when you avoid the truth. You believe that not facing the truth will delay the pain and intensity of having to make different choices, even though that pain is temporary and leads to greater happiness.
You must die to create something new and better. Death is scary because what’s on the other side of it is unknown. Because we haven’t been there before, we don’t know if we’re equipped to handle it (even though we always are).
Couples therapy is a place where you go to die, in a sense, so you can ultimately be reborn. It is a place of change.
To help prepare you and help make the ride smoother, here are three things people have no idea happens during couples therapy:
1. You see your partner’s true character.
Therapy shines light on the truth.
Therapists are truth seekers by nature, always seeking to understand the hidden motivations of human behavior. When you are in therapy with your partner, you will witness their true character in the light of day. Having a skilled and unbiased person in the room will bring forth their (and your) conscious and unconscious behavior patterns.
In addition, you can tell a lot about someone by how they behave with other people. A therapist has a powerful advantage in the therapy setting, as they are viewed as the expert. The client is in a vulnerable state. There’s something very real and truthful that is exposed about a person when they are in the presence of their therapist.
2. You, your partner, or both of you may feel like you’re falling in love with your therapist.
The intimacy of therapy and being truly seen by your therapist can relieve the strain you’re under as a couple. That relief feels good, and because it happens under your therapist’s care, you may believe they are the source of your good feelings.
In addition to helping you achieve your goals, a good therapist helps you fall in love with yourself. Therapists are generally very empathic. Having someone be so attentive to you is often an uncommon experience in day-to-day life.
If you’re not used to that treatment, it can be very alluring. Though it is forbidden for therapists to have a sexual relationship with their clients, it’s not uncommon for clients to fall in love with their therapist.
It’s easy for the client to forget that the therapist does this work for a living. The client may feel that the therapist has personal feelings for them, when really the therapist is just using their natural talent and skill to do their job.
Often, couples enter couples counseling because they’re not feeling the love in their relationship. When they experience support and emotional intimacy with their therapist, it can feel so good that they project their own loving feelings onto their therapist. One or both parties can believe they are in love with their therapist.
The projected loving feelings are not always of the romantic variety. Some clients may love their therapist like a parent because of the emotional safety they feel in therapy. Some see their therapist as the perfect friend; someone who understands and accepts them unconditionally.
Therapists are usually non-judgmental, patient, good listeners, everything we want in a partner, parent, and friend.
Clients are not educated on the psychological concept of transference, whereby the client transfers an unresolved issue or feeling onto their therapist. Without being informed, it's common to take the feelings being transferred at face value instead of realizing there's a hidden motivation.
Transference actually presents an opportunity to know yourself better, process your issues, and work toward meeting your goals.
The key to psychological growth is the ability to hold the tension of this transference without abandoning the therapeutic process.
3. Your therapist will see what’s really happening in your relationship.
Aside from what you say, a therapist is a trained observer of human behavior and, if they are wise and talented, they will see exactly what’s going on in your relationship.
An attuned therapist will be able to see right through your relationship issues from the start. It is not their place to tell you the fate of your relationship, as they must empower you to act on your free will, find your own answers, and create your own destiny.
But they will read your body language. They will know when you’re being dishonest. They have seen the same problems you are presenting many times before.
They will spot the dysfunctional dynamics in the relationship, such as enabling and bullying. They will recognize how each of your egos function. They will see the ways in which you project your own unresolved issues onto your partner.
Your therapist will also help you to see these truths.
Therapy is a sacred and intimate space for people who are brave enough to walk through the fire of change in order to have a fulfilling life.
A therapist cannot save your relationship, fix it, or tell you what to do. Instead, they can provide a container for the old to die, and a new, more fulfilling life to emerge. You may come out a stronger couple, or you may need to part ways. Either way is right because it means you are living the highest, truest version of yourself.
Ultimately, ignoring the truth does not prolong your pain. Instead, it causes you to die a pitiful and slow death, never realizing all you are and all you could have become.
Don’t be scared of the truth. Face it head on and you will be liberated into greater love than you’ve ever known.