Should I Tell My Partner About Being In Counseling

Should I Tell My Partner About Being In Counseling

Should I tell my partner about being in counseling the decision to tell a partner that you are in counseling can be a difficult and anxiety producing one to make.  There are no right or wrong answers – just different choices with different consequences.

In making this decision to disclose that you are in therapy, you may be experiencing mixed feelings and have many unanswered questions.  You may be feeling embarrassed, anxious, uncomfortable, sad, humiliated, angry at yourself for needing therapy, and / or proud of yourself for taking charge of the situation, excited by the positive changes you are likely encountering along this personal journey.  Some questions you may be asking yourself can include:

  • Why should I tell my partner?
  • Should I keep this information to myself?
  • What good is it going to do if I tell?
  • How will disclosing this information to my partner effect my ability to accomplish my therapeutic goals? Will telling my partner enable me to more easily complete the homework assignments?
  • How will telling harm my relationship?
  • Will my partner be supportive of therapy?
  • What if my partner doesn’t like the fact that I am in therapy?

There are many factors that go into the decision to tell your partner about therapy.  These factors include, the nature of the problem, the nature of your relationship with your partner, and whether or not you believe telling your partner will enhance the relationship and / or your therapeutic journey.

First let’s begin by discussing the nature of your problem.  If you are seeking counseling for anything that is presently affecting your interpersonal relationship(s), such as an out-of-control addiction, trauma in which you are experiencing current flashbacks, or memories that are making you act differently than someone else, a sexual dysfunction that someone else might personalize, or relationship issues that may make it difficult to get beyond a certain point, than it may be beneficial to tell your partner about the problem and that you are working on it in therapy.  Not only will telling calm the other person’s fears that this “issue” of yours is a deal breaker, but it might even give them reassurance that you are on top of dealing with your baggage.  And we all know that everyone has baggage.  Additionally, telling your partner about how you are attempting to manage this issue may create a way for him or her to become more supportive of healing process. Specifically, when your therapist asks you to do something that may feel slightly out of character to you, your partner will have a way of understanding your change in thought processes / behavioral pattern.   For example if you are dealing with a sexual addiction, you may find it helpful to be able to check in with your partner during times you feel like acting out.  As part of your support system, knowing you on a deeper level (ie without secrets) helps him or her get to know the real you.  Sometimes your partner may even wish to be involved in therapy.  This decision as to how much too involve your partner during the actual therapy sessions is often best answered with the treating therapist. Lastly, if your therapist is into giving you homework assignments (which is frequently the situation in sex therapy) how will you be able to get your partner to go along with the assignment that they do not know about without raising suspicians?

In contrast, some people may find easier to work on personal problems by themselves.  This way they are only accountable to themselves.  The issue that they are struggling with is between themselves and the treating therapist.  These people often view therapy as their own private time to reflect.    Sometimes people opt not to share because they are not ready to acknowledge the extent of the problem, because the information is too private, the partner may not agree with therapy or the relationship is simply too new and telling would be considered over-sharing (imagine a first date).

When making the decision to not tell your partner that you are in therapy, make sure that you are comfortable with the answers to the following questions.

  • Can you progress like you wanted to in therapy without him or her knowing?
  • How do you explain the missing 50 minutes a week, or the missing money (due to paying a therapist) without lying?
  • If your partner were to find out that you were in therapy and were neglecting to share this information, how would they feel?  How might this omission of information impact the intimacy that the two of you share?
  • How comfortable are you keeping something of such a degree from your partner? Would you feel comfortable if your partner kept that from you?
  • How much do you trust your current relationship?  Are you in the process of ending the relationship?
  • Is therapy near termination? Or are you in the beginning phases? Does this information make a difference in your feelings about telling your partner about how you are choosing to spend your time?

When answering the question about telling a partner that you are in therapy, pay special attention to the nature of your relationship and what you would like to cultivate.  You may find yourself changing your answer based upon how long you have been with this partner.  Is it a long-term, committed relationship such as a marriage or did you just meet and start dating recently? Do you think telling, or not telling will be a deal breaker?  If you are in a long term relationship, try asking yourself how sharing or not sharing this information will shift the dynamic between the two of you?  Will your partner lose respect for you for being in therapy? Will not telling cause him or her to view you as a liar?  What kind of relationship do you want to have with your partner?  How much do you value privacy?  How do you resolve issues best?  Is your partner safe?  How do you want this relationship to evolve? Can one have integrity and not tell?

Consider all the positive and negative reasons why you may want to tell your partner. Positive reasons are: personal growth, growth of the relationship, open communication, or to build intimacy?   Some negative reasons for telling are to prove a point, to be spiteful, to say my life is so terrible and now I’m in therapy, to pick a fight, or as a test of the commitment.  If you fall into one of the last scenarios, take some time to reflect on sharing about therapy.  Maybe one of those reasons is why you are in therapy to begin with.  Maybe the tine for sharing is not right.  Or maybe the relationship is not right.

To make the decision more concrete, you can make a pro and con list of all the aspect already discussed in this tip.  Start with your reason for being in therapy.  Write down all the ways that affects your partner.  In another column write down all the ways telling your partner will help you in therapy.  Then write down the pros and cons of therapy and changing.  Assess this list for implications of the future of your relationship.  Write those implications down.  This list will be dependent upon the nature of the relationship (just starting or long-term commitment) as well as where you are in therapy (beginning, middle, or end). Then list every possible reason for telling and every possibly reason not to tell.  Include benefits you see from telling, and negative ramifications of telling.  List reasons why not telling can hurt the relationship on the pro side.  List reasons why telling will be bad on the con side.  Which side resonates more with you? For individuals with a more concrete way of assessing these situations, the list will give the answer.  For others, going with your gut, exploring the feelings with your therapist, and then expressing all of the above to your partner will be the result.