My wife and I have been married for five years and have a one year old son. About two and a half years ago she started showing classical symptoms of depression and after some convincing she started seeing a therapist. She has been in counseling since and is on medication for PTSD (she had an abusive mother). Ever since she started therapy she has been very evasive about it, so I have avoided bringing up the subject to respect her privacy. Over the past year however, I’ve noticed some odd things. For instance, I’ve seen a few very antagonistic emails, ostensibly to her from family members (though not from their normal email addresses), forwarded to her therapist through our joint email account before deleting them. She also requested that I forge her mother’s signature on a letter (with it folded so I couldn’t see the content) before sealing it and taking it in to her therapist.

Recently, I used her laptop to check my email and found her logged into a personal email account in the middle of a letter to her therapist. I wasn’t meaning to snoop, but the content caught my eye. She was in the middle of a series of exchanges telling her therapist about how scary and abusive I was and how I was cheating on her with coworkers, and her therapist was urging her to get a lawyer or go to a women’s shelter.

Naturally, I found this very disturbing. I go well out of my way to never express anger to her because of her family history, and have certainly never been unfaithful. I’m not sure what to think or do about this. Naturally I feel very betrayed and worried that this is the way she really perceives our relationship, although she has not expressed any dissatisfaction to me. It also makes me wonder whether she is being honest with me and feel concern for the progress of her treatment. I also feel somewhat resentful because we have a fairly limited income (I am a graduate student and she mostly stays at home with our son) and her therapy is expensive. I have not complained about this expense she really likes her therapist and I want her to get the help she needs, but I feel that it is wasted if she is not being honest. Is this something I should confront her about? Should I get in touch with her therapist to raise my concerns? Or is this a normal part of the treatment that I should just let run it’s course?

A: If everything you’ve said is accurate, there’s a big problem here. It could be that your wife has developed a dependency on her therapist. She knows that if she doesn’t have any problems, therapy will end. It may be that she is creating more and more problems to stay involved with the therapist. It’s certainly worrisome that there’s something the therapist is giving her that is so compelling she is willing to risk her relationship with you and her family and put you in financial stress to continue treatment.

Yes. By all means talk to your wife about it. It won’t help to “confront” her with anger. Instead, try to have a loving and kind talk about your concern that somehow therapy is going wrong. Ask for a joint session in which to tell the therapist your concerns. Therapy that is based on lies isn’t going to help her or your marriage. Therapy to help her figure out why she needs to have a therapist in her life to such an extent that she creates problems, on the other hand, is important.

Most therapists are quite willing to have a spouse or partner come in for a family consultation as long as the patient agrees. If your wife doesn’t readily agree, it does take the issue to another level. You may need to bring in a third party (like another family member or one of her close friends) to help provide support for her while you insist that the issues be dealt with. It’s unfair to you both for you to cooperate with her deceptions.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie