I am interested in starting to see a therapist. Mostly because I have a high amount of pressure and stress in my life and think it could be helpful to have a neutral person to share with weekly. My husband has had a hard time with this idea and says he feels hurt that I need to discuss things with a therapist and that I can't share them with him. He says he will be frustrated that there is someone that hears more about my life than he does. I am thinking maybe it would be good to include him in a meeting, but this is something I want to do for me not as a couple. I wonder if you have any suggestions as to how to reassure him? Or if you think that there is actually a chance that this may create a problem in my marriage and isn't worth the risk?
Obviously, you should be able to attend to the self-care to which you are entitled. However, I also acknowledge your husband’s sense of being kept out of the loop. Perhaps he feels that your relationship with a therapist may undermine your emotional relationship with him.
Although any relationship that you develop with a therapist should be of a professional nature, your husband recognizes that there can be a significant connection that is forged between the therapist and you. This may make him feel threatened. Or he may simply not be very familiar with the therapist-client relationship, assuming that therapists become emotionally entwined with their clients.
I don’t know whether the gender of a potential therapist was discussed. Perhaps your husband feels threatened by (or uncomfortable with) the idea of you forging an emotional connection with another man. If this is the case (and you have no objection to seeing a female therapist), mentioning that you are specifically looking for a female therapist may alleviate some of his concerns.
If your husband has negative feelings about you seeing any therapist, the reason for this should be understood. If he has inaccurate preconceived notions about the therapy process and relationship, these can be addressed. For instance, he may feel that the therapeutic relationship is about sharing feelings and becoming emotionally close with the therapist (similar to a close friend). In fact, a therapist’s role is to apply specific strategies in order to resolve identified issues. This can be compared to seeing a physical therapist to rehabilitate oneself after a physical trauma. Helping your husband to view therapy from this perspective may help him to feel less concerned.
If your husband nonetheless feels slighted because he believes that you will be sharing aspects of your thoughts and feelings that you are not sharing with him, there could be various reasons for this. If he feels insecure with regard to the marital relationship, this may be something that can be addressed in marriage counseling. (If this is a consideration, marriage counseling can be the setting in which your husband can feel that he is receiving information similar to that which you discuss with your individual therapist.) If your husband simply believes that there should be no secrets between spouses, if you feel comfortable with this, you can share with him some of what you discuss with your therapist in session.
As with any life decision, a risk-reward assessment should be done. What are the advantages and disadvantages of seeing a therapist? Of not seeing one? Once this is evaluated, think of what can be done to mitigate any disadvantages, then reassess.
Naturally, you have every right to see a therapist to help you deal with the stress that you feel. You also have the right to maintain an open and trusting relationship with your husband. Hopefully these two rights are not mutually exclusive, and the two of you will be able to achieve both.
-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
psychotherapist in private practice
adjunct professor at Touro College
Graduate School of Social Work
author of Self-Esteem: A Primer
www.ylcsw.com / 516-218-4200