Affair with my therapist
I am 22 years old. For over 2 years, I have been involved in a complex relationship. I have been the mistress to a man who is 28 years my senior. He was my psychologist from the time I was 14 until I was 18. After I stopped seeing him for therapy, we became friends. I never had sexual feelings for him prior to when he began to come on to me, which was a few days before I left to move 3,000 miles away. He has been involved with a woman who is close to his age for 12 or 13 years. He does not feel romantic love for her, nor is he physically attracted to her. They don't have a good relationship, and do not communicate with each other.
This man and I were not sexually intimate from the beginning. I had moved away, and we discussed the situation via letters. A few months after things got heated up, I went to see him, and that's when the physical intimacy started. Shortly afterwards, I moved back to be closer to him. He told me that he loved me like he had never loved anyone else before, and that he wanted to be with me. We were very close, and I considered him my best friend. He was very caring and loving and for a while, I was happy. Then I started to realize that he wasn't changing anything with his main relationship in order to be with me. I became very depressed, and it became so extreme that at one point, I attempted suicide and nearly succeeded. I stayed with him though, and he kept promising that things would "happen" in time. Things never did happen though, and about 7 months ago, he told me that he was addicted to heroin, and told me that it was because of all the pressure that I had been putting on him. I tried to help him quit, but each time it didn't work, he would blame me.
The main problem that I have is that because of this relationship, I have lost all my friends. Any friends I had in the area where he lives (and I used to live) I lost - partly because I wasn't allowed to mention anything about my relationship to these people, partly because he was very jealous of any friends of mine. Recently, I told him that I can't stay in this situation because it is not satisfying my needs, I am very depressed, and I don't think that he will ever be with me. I told him that he might feel love for me, but he obviously doesn't love me enough to be with me. I know that this is something that I needed to do, but still I feel incredibly lonely, even more lonely than I felt the whole time that I was with him and living my life alone while he lived with the other woman.
My question, is in two parts: How do I move on from this relationship without any social support? (I have absolutely no friends other than this man). And, how can I feel confident enough to make friends? I don't drink, or hang out in bars, which makes socializing very difficult. I have a very difficult time relating to anyone my age, and always have, since I was a child. I have very little free time because I work and go to school full-time. Any spare time I have is spent studying. I don't know how to meet people, and I don't feel confident that anyone would want to be around me. I feel like the only thing I am good for is being someone's lover.
I noticed that your letter has been available for some time without being selected for a response. I think the reason for this is probably because these problems are SO complicated that a brief letter from one of us isn't likely to be of very much concrete help.
You absolutely need a very good therapist to help you sort all of this out... and your energy right now should be invested in finding that therapist. I wonder if you might fear starting another therapeutic relationship since this one became so complicated?
I will have more to say about this later in this letter, but for now I want to focus on some things to consider when looking for a therapist:
- You are hiring them and they are not "doing you a favor" by working with you! Because of this, you have every right to "shop around" until you find the one who feels right for you, who has interest in helping you, who has confidence in their own ability to help, and who generally just feels like a "good match" for you.
- Since you say you only feel valuable as a lover, make sure that you don't decide on a therapist who is sexually interesting to you or who may be sexually interested in you. (You might consider a heterosexual woman, for instance.)
- If you have insurance, your insurance company may try to point you in the direction of one or more of "their" therapists. If you try them and it doesn't feel right to you, remember that most insurance plans allow you to see any therapist you choose - and if you choose someone they don't recommend you only need to pay a small percentage of the charge. (You can ask about all of this by calling the insurance company... but make sure you ask about your coverage if you end up choosing someone outside of their plan...)
- If you don't have insurance, check with the college you are attending first. Most schools have good psychology or counseling departments with competent therapists on hand - and there are either no fees or low fees. If your school doesn't have these services, call any Family Service agency or the local Mental Health Association. Tell them you need help but you can't pay standard fees. It will be there job to help you find what you need.
Now back to the problems you asked about:
I want you to understand that I don't think you need a therapist primarily because of your own emotional problems. I think you need a therapist primarily because of your past therapist's emotional problems! You went to him when you were young and confused and hurting. He probably helped you to change, maybe a lot. But SOME of these changes may have been related to HIS needs more than your own - and clearly his needs have been very, very difficult even for him to handle! Therefore, there may be some amount of "unraveling" going on regarding the changes you made through your relationship with him - and there may be a bit of "re-doing" of all of this to be accomplished in your future therapy.
You will need to be sure that you don't have a relationship with your new therapist outside of their office. Maybe some people can handle having coffee or lunch with their therapist now and then, but, since this has happened to you, it will be important for you to insist on a very clear boundary between you and the professional you work with next.
I do not mean to be "dodging" your excellent questions about making friends and your social life. It's just that I think these questions are only a part of the much bigger picture and that all of this needs to be dealt with by a therapist in person.
You have handled so much in your life... all the things referred to in this letter as well as all the things that brought you into therapy originally at age 14. When things seem "too tough," always remember how very strong you have always proven yourself to be.
This is tough stuff, but you can handle it... and a GOOD therapist can help you to speed up the process and minimize the pain along the way.
I don't want to close without simply saying that I am sorry that someone in one of the therapy professions has complicated your life so much. Please don't let it stop you from trusting another of us when you need to.
Thanks for writing!
Tony Schirtzinger, ACSW