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Love Letters

Love Letters: Falling In Love With a Therapist

We chat at 1.

And remember to RSVP for Monday's event. There will be drinks and movie and TV clips, etc.


Q:

Dear Meredith,

Several years ago I sought out therapy during a perfect storm of events in my life that left me quite depressed. My therapist -- a kind, soft-spoken, empathic, and non-judgmental person -- became a safe harbor during this storm. I fell in love with him.

When I realized that I was in love with my therapist, I thought the best thing to do would be to end the relationship and find a female therapist to work with. However, the therapy was a lifeline -- we worked well together and I was reluctant to start over with another therapist.

As best I could, I talked about the romantic and sexual feelings in therapy. My therapist maintained clear boundaries, assured me that it was safe to talk about whatever came up, respected my feelings, and demonstrated that he could be trusted with my vulnerability.

I stayed in therapy and continued to work on the issues that brought me there. Loving him was painful, yet the relationship was a source of a lot of healing. I occasionally brought up in therapy the feelings toward him, which helped me to keep perspective.

I'm ready now to end therapy. I wish I could feel more respect for myself about having had feelings for someone who is off-limits. When I talked about this in therapy recently, my therapist asked why I would feel disrespect toward myself for these quite natural feelings. I responded that if I wrote a Love Letter to Meredith, the reply would be something along the lines of "What, are you crazy? In love with your therapist? Really?" And that the letters from the LL community would be judgmental and unkind, along the lines of "get a life already."

But of course I underestimate you and your community (I hope). So here I am writing to you.

I feel much grief about leaving someone who is so dear to me. I'd like to be at peace with the cliché of having fallen in love with my therapist. I'd like to be able to remember this positive relationship with gratitude, without the shadow of shame. Any words of wisdom?

– An Enlightened Heart

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A: There's no need to punish yourself for developing feelings for this man. Therapists are trained to deal with transference because it happens. Of course you'd become fond of the person who always shows up and listens. Of course you'd feel nice things about your "safe harbor."

But please keep some perspective. You used the phrase "in love" four times by my count. And while I believe that you developed romantic feelings for this man, I don't believe that you were in love. This was a one-sided relationship. You were never forced to sit for an hour and listen to him talk about his life. You never saw him when he was super cranky. You know nothing (hopefully) about his mistakes, habits, and transgressions. You don't know what his bathroom looks like. And I don't want to get mean, but you were paying this man for help. He was at his best, providing a service. If you fell in love, it was with 2 percent of him. You can't make assumptions about the rest of him.

Be grateful that he was a help. Be grateful that you learned that you're looking for a partner who listens. But please don't make him more important than he is. And if you're not sure that you're done with therapy, go get some more -- from someone new.

Readers? Was this a real love? How can she get over this? Has this happened to you?

– Meredith