Ask @mytherapist - Keeping Secrets in couples therapy


Our last installment of Ask @mytherapist was a runaway hit! People certainly want to know all the time if the amount of sex they have is normal or not.  Today we're answering a a note we received about what exactly you have to tell your partner in couples therapy. 

My partner and I are looking for couples therapists to deal with some recent cheating. I'm curious if the therapist can find out just how many times my partner has cheated on me, but I'm also nervous, because I did cheat on my partner once, and want to also know if I have to share that experience. Just what exactly do we have to say in couples therapy?

Great question! And good for you for looking for counseling before just (presumably) walking out and never looking back! First off, let's define some terms. Cheating can mean different things in different relationships, from looking at porn and masturbating without your partner knowing, to kissing or sexual activity with a person your partner doesn't know about or having romantic feelings with someone without any physical intimacy at all. There's no different level of cheating, per se, but in therapy, your therapist will want to clarify just what is going on. 

As far as keeping secrets. Different therapists look at this in different ways.  Orthodox marriage and family therapists will only see you as a couple, and encourage you to share everything with each other over the course of your counseling. But other therapists (myself included) believe that sometimes even if the therapist encourages 100% honesty and openness, the relationship just might not be able to work that way. Therefore, your therapist might schedule you for individual sessions as well as couples sessions with your partner. Personally, I want to assess things like domestic violence and control, and you might not be able to tell me everything if your partner is staring over your shoulder.  But this sets up instances where the therapist must indeed be a secret keeper. The boundaries of how your therapist must deal with confidentiality, etc will be discusses in your first session, so everyone is on the same page.  In this sort of arrangement, you may feel free to share what you will with your therapist in your individual sessions, and we will only encourage you to move towards being open and honest in your couples sessions and in your relationship once therapy ends. 

To more directly answer your question- your therapist is not your priest. We aren't there to make you confess to us all of your past mistakes so we can gang up on you with your partner, or decide who is more guilty than the other in your relationship.  But knowing you yourself cheated in the past, it might help you foster some compassion for your partner as you begin your work together.


MyTherapist New York offers individual counseling, couples therapy and sex therapy that is modern, effective and affordable. 

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