So you're in counseling, whether it's on your own or as a couple, and some of your friends know about it. That's great, right? We always want to have the support of others. But what about when your friends have strong opinions about your life and the changes you're trying to make? That's where things can get tricky. When our friends have been along for the ride on the drama that's taken place in our lives, they can often have strong emotional reactions to what's going on.
Even when things are starting to improve, our friends may unknowingly still be hurting for us and will unintentionally hold us back from moving forward. Why? Well our friends are not in therapy with us so they will always be behind where we are until we inform them. That's because they aren't spending the time processing the emotions, learning new ways to handle things and then making those changes. So while your friends might mean well, what sometimes ends up happening is they pull you back from some of the progress you made in therapy. This seems to be especially true for couples counseling. How do you handle this when you think this is the case for you? Boundaries. But first, let's give you some ways to help identify you might be in this situation.
1. When you're with your friend, do you start to feel bad again about a situation that you had started to feel better about?
2. Do you find yourself defending your new position to your friend?
3. Do you get exhausted from spending time with your friend because you have to walk them through processing their emotions about your situation?
4. Are you embarrassed or feeling guilty when talking about your situation with your friend?
These can all be signs that you need to put up some boundaries with your friend to protect the progress you're making in therapy. So how do you do that?
When your friend brings up your situation that you are working on, give them a general statement such as "things are improving and therapy is helping. I'm feeling better." You can even add in that there are still things that need to be worked on but you can feel things heading in the right direction. If they continue to ask, give them another general answer such as "I'm working through it all right now, can I let tell you about it another time?" It will be hard to say no when someone gives you an answer like that. If your friend continues to push, you can be straightforward with them in a kind way by saying something like "you know, I'm spending so much time and energy on this right now, I don't really feel like talking about it, but I really appreciate you asking." Then change the subject. If your friend continues to pry beyond that, I hate to say it but you should consider if this person truly has your best interest in mind. And also excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or leave.
Boundaries with others about the work we're doing in therapy can be really helpful to maintaining the progress you're making. You are already spending a lot of time and energy to do this work and if someone is not giving you the right support during this time, it's important to put up some boundaries and not really discuss the work your doing until your storm has passed.
Corrin Voeller is a couples counselor in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives. She specializes in couples counseling, marriage counseling, discernment counseling and sex therapy. She lives with her husband, children and extremely fat dog.
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