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Friday, March 28, 2014

SL Letter of the Day: Psychobabble

Posted by on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 11:45 AM

I'm on vacation. Please enjoy this golden oldie from March 9, 2011.

Long story short: I cheated on my boyfriend three years ago. I admitted it nine months ago, and we've been in couples counseling for six months. My BF is very responsive in therapy, where we're working on his control issues, and he says everything the therapist expects him to during a session. Twenty-four hours later, though, he'll say, "I was listening to Dan Savage's podcast..." then take back everything he said to our therapist. He then ignores our therapist's advice because of some advice you gave to a differently situated couple!

Could you please tell your readers and listeners who are in counseling to ignore you and listen to their therapists?

Your No-Good Counsel

My response after the jump...

I won't go that far, YNGC—I will not be ignored—but I will go this far: It sounds like your boyfriend is still angry about the affair and isn't being fully honest during those therapy sessions. He's saying what he thinks the therapist wants to hear instead of owning his anger—pardon my psychobabble—and justifies his postsession backsliding/truth-telling by pointing to some fool thing I might have said on the podcast.

You can tell him that I said it's fine if he's still angry, and that's something he might want to talk with your therapist about, but I would appreciate being left out of it. And you can tell him I also said this: If he wants to stay with you, then he needs to forgive you and work on rebuilding trust. If he can't forgive you, he needs to leave you. But to jerk you around like this—even if you're the one who transgressed—is a dick move. And it's not the kind of dick move that I want to be associated with so, again, he should leave me out of it.

All of that said, YNGC, I'm thinking your boyfriend isn't being honest with your therapist—about his anger, about your relationship, about anything—because he maybekindasorta perceives these sessions to be a joint effort to shift the blame for your affair onto his shoulders. (A joint effort on the part of you and your therapist.) You say you're "working on his control issues" during these sessions. That's nice. If your boyfriend has control issues, YNGC, then by all means work on 'em. If you're not working on your own issues—if your therapist doesn't think you have any issues—then I don't blame your boyfriend for not taking your therapist or these sessions seriously.


Comments (38) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Urgutha Forka 1
She sounds like a real catch.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on March 28, 2014 at 12:08 PM · Report this
very bad homo 2
If 6 months of couples therapy hasn't helped, you don't belong together.
Posted by very bad homo on March 28, 2014 at 12:15 PM · Report this
devinderry 3
Wow, Dan, I'm surprised you backslid so much on this one. Seems kind of at odds with the many times you've bemoaned sex-negative couples therapists here.
Posted by devinderry on March 28, 2014 at 12:19 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 4
I would like to start a service for people who want to be in relationships for the sake of being in a relationship. Sign up, and you're randomly assigned a boyfriend/girlfriend. You can decide in your account settings whether your new partner gets your contact info or not, but either way, it's official, you're in a relationship. No need for couple's therapy, you don't even know the guy! It'll even update your relationship status for you on Facebook.
Posted by MacCrocodile on March 28, 2014 at 12:23 PM · Report this
4: I'll invests. Let's make millions together!
Posted by Jizzlobber on March 28, 2014 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Er invest.
Posted by Jizzlobber on March 28, 2014 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Wow. Great answer, especially the call with the control issues.

@3 I'll be sex-positive in the face of positive sexuality. Cheating on a partner, blaming the partner for it, trying to control one's partner, lying to the therapist about it, and finding an excuse to ignore the therapy? That's not positive sexuality.
Posted by DRF on March 28, 2014 at 12:46 PM · Report this
danewood 8

How do you know this therapist is sex negative?
Posted by danewood on March 28, 2014 at 12:46 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 9
I'm struggling to think of a good reason why you would go to a couple's therapist if you're not married and don't have children.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 28, 2014 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Eudaemonic 10
@8: She cheated, but the sessions are about his control issues, and apparently consist of him being bullied into agreeing with everything she and the therapist say, with apparently no time spent listening to his perspective. She doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with this, and neither does the therapist.

The Venn diagram of "Therapists who think the man is always the one who needs to change, no matter what," and "Therapists who are sex-negative" looks a lot like one circle.
Posted by Eudaemonic on March 28, 2014 at 1:38 PM · Report this
AFinch 11
I"m completely with @9 and @2. Why are you bothering? There' s already been cheating and the therapy/counseling isn't working. Call it quits already!

I had a girlfriend once who wanted, at about the nine-month mark, without any evidence of substantial relationship conflicts, to go into therapy together. I was like "whaaa?". Not that I don't have shit...everyone has some. Anyway: the mistake wasn't that I refused to go (and said, if we really need that already, let's just hang it up); the mistake was that I didn't just end it right then and there.
Posted by AFinch on March 28, 2014 at 1:53 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 12

For what it's worth, I've also heard some anecdotes from women whose partners were taken more seriously by their couple's therapist; the examples include one lesbian couple and a few straight couples.

Whom the therapist sides with seems to come down to whoever is the most dominant in the relationship, whoever talks the best game, or whoever manages to make themselves look like the good guy or girl. It's always struck me as a psychopath's delight, which is why I will never go anywhere near it.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 28, 2014 at 2:25 PM · Report this
seandr 13
The boyfriend should stop going to couple's therapy and just go with whatever he's taking away from Dan's podcast.
Posted by seandr on March 28, 2014 at 2:34 PM · Report this
This one was too easy. There are gynosupremacist therapists and andrsupremacist therapists. I can thoroughly sympathize with a woman who, having found a gynosupremacist therapist, wants Mr Savage's endorsement for the therapy, but one can't just demand it without proof that the therapist is in line with Savagerian philosophy.

Of course, this couple sounds like a pair who should marry yesterday; I might give a quarter of a seal of approval to any therapist who can manage to bring it about.
Posted by vennominon on March 28, 2014 at 3:04 PM · Report this
devinderry 15
I'm not saying this counselor is sex-negative or justifying any aspects of a messy relationship. Only that, with no information about what was said in counseling sessions, no idea what quotes from Dan were tossed out, etc., Dan's quickness to say "listen to your therapist" seems a bit out of tone for this column.
Posted by devinderry on March 28, 2014 at 3:11 PM · Report this
seatackled 16
The boyfriend knew she wrote him a get out of jail free card, didn't he?
Posted by seatackled on March 28, 2014 at 3:22 PM · Report this
It definitely seems telling that the LW only talks about working on his issues even though she's the one that cheated. I also have to agree with the people who think they should just end it.
Posted by DrVanNostrand on March 28, 2014 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Cat in fez 18
Hmm. For some reason I assumed this was a guy. Guess there aren't any pointers either way.

I like Dan's advice though -- if the guy wants out, stop going to therapy. (I cheerlead individual therapy, but couples so seldom going to work.)
Posted by Cat in fez on March 28, 2014 at 5:20 PM · Report this
Like Cat in fez, I think individual therapy can help a lot. I think the main benefit of couples therapy is that the one who has already given up on the relationship may stop hiding that from the other one, so the end feels less like being blind-sided when it finally comes.
Posted by EricaP on March 28, 2014 at 7:40 PM · Report this
20 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Posted by TrickyC on March 28, 2014 at 8:39 PM · Report this
@21 regarding 20
WTF? Did you forget how to use google and just spit out the first adjective that came to mind? Cause somehow beautiful isn't what comes to mind.
Posted by Really Now... on March 28, 2014 at 9:20 PM · Report this
Fuck I'm tired.

Anyways, yeah this whole letter sounds like bullshit and if the therapist had any sense of right and wrong he would totally refund these two their money.
Posted by Really Now... on March 28, 2014 at 9:23 PM · Report this
seatackled 24
Cat in Fez might be the awesomest name ever.
Posted by seatackled on March 29, 2014 at 12:41 AM · Report this
We went to marriage therapy and, really, the main thing we got out of it was my realization that even though my husband hated it with the strength of a supernova, he went anyway, and did his best to be honest. Seeing that helped me believe there was real love and commitment, even though it was usually buried under the shit-avalance of our many issues. Gave us enough hope to keep working on the marriage.

Actual therapeutic help? Not so much.
Posted by agony on March 29, 2014 at 7:29 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 26
@7 This is one of the shortest letters Dan runs, and you still can't keep track of who's cheating on whom and who's complaining about what?

Stop reading now. It's not working.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on March 29, 2014 at 9:15 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 27
@21 "One *faithful* day..." ???

Fuck that shit.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on March 29, 2014 at 9:22 AM · Report this
Cat in fez 28
@24 Thank you! Nice kitten avatar :)
Posted by Cat in fez on March 29, 2014 at 11:18 AM · Report this
nocutename 29
@Cat in fez: It's not only a great name, it's pretty much the best avatar. I don't know what that diagonal stick-thing really is or what it's doing, but in the thumbnail photo I can pretend that the cat in fez is smoking a cigarette held in a long holder. And I like imagining that.
Posted by nocutename on March 29, 2014 at 11:36 AM · Report this
30 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Cat in fez 31
@nocutename: Merci. That is just the sort of sophisticated air the cat is going for ;)
Posted by Cat in fez on March 29, 2014 at 4:46 PM · Report this
@30 The point isn't whether some weird spammers are advertising service worth buying. I don't think mcdonalds is food but I don't begrudge anyone else eating it. The point is they are saying how great it is to make someone come back into a relationship in a dubious manner. Ask your spellcaster friend just how essential free will and the respect of it is.
Posted by Really Now... on March 30, 2014 at 5:38 AM · Report this
33 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
I love how all the commenters have decided they know exactly what's going on between these two. It is impossible to determine, based on the information given, who's "right" or "wrong" in this situation. Does the guy have control issues? Maybe. Possibly. Does the woman use said "control issues" as a scapegoat for her own behavior? Maybe. Possibly. Does the therapist side with the female, just 'cause (s)he's a big ol' man-hater? Maybe. Possibly.

Are any of us in the room with them during conversations, fights, therapy sessions, or really at any time? NO. So quit making judgments based on your own projected issues.
Posted by g_l_B_t on March 30, 2014 at 5:52 PM · Report this
Eudaemonic 35
@12: Whom the therapist sides with seems to come down to whoever is the most dominant in the relationship, whoever talks the best game, or whoever manages to make themselves look like the good guy or girl. It's always struck me as a psychopath's delight, which is why I will never go anywhere near it.

Yeah. It privileges whoever has the better social skills, and in opposite-sex relationships that's not always the woman, just usually. There is a confounding factor, though, in that the therapist is also likely to favor whoever he or she sees as innately harmless and pure, and that's not exactly a male stereotype, is it?

@32: Yeah. Not to mention the real problem here, which is that if they could actually cast spells that change other people's behavior, they wouldn't be trying to drum up pennies from spamming, they'd be making zillions as weight-loss consultants.
Posted by Eudaemonic on March 31, 2014 at 5:54 AM · Report this
aureolaborealis 36
@Erica, etc.: I was thinking he needed to have his own therapist, too. As does she, assuming this wasn't also her own therapist -- I know it's ethically dubious, but it's not unheard of.

I did marriage counseling/couples therapy for a few sessions after my (ex-)wife cheated and before our divorce. It played out pretty much how LW's sessions appear to be playing out. It was all about fixing my problems, and the shitty, repeated and malicious cheating on her part was just a symptom of my problems and therefore off limits for discussion. All feelings and points of view were valid and honored, as long as they weren't mine. I finally trotted out my own line of psychobabble bullshit, saying something to the effect that my perspective and feelings were being repeatedly dishonored and invalidated. To her credit, the therapist was visibly taken aback, and for the remaining part of that last session, she made an effort to listen to what I was saying.

@34: Those are all excellent reasons why none of us should ever comment on anything, ever.
Posted by aureolaborealis on March 31, 2014 at 5:46 PM · Report this
@36: Way to prove my point by projecting your past experiences onto the LW. Also, way to mis-characterize what I said. My point is not that we should never "comment on anything, ever," so much as we should avoid making personal judgments about people based on facts we don't know, and could never know. It's one thing to judge someone as crazy/controlling based on the events stated or rhetoric on the other page, and entirely another to assume other people's experiences match your perceived realities.
Posted by g_l_B_t on March 31, 2014 at 10:06 PM · Report this
Eudaemonic 38
@37: It's possible that the rest of us just have more reading ability and life experience than you do, so that these things that seem so impossible to you are in fact fairly easy for the rest of us.

Judging by the name you chose, it looks like the "more life experience" part is basically guaranteed.
Posted by Eudaemonic on April 1, 2014 at 6:02 AM · Report this

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