The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Internet Romance

I have a crush on my internet therapist.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)

Dr. Kenner: Here’s an email I received from Ann, who has a crush on her therapist. See what advice you might give her. “Dear Dr. Kenner. I’ve been working with an online therapist for over two years. About five months into therapy, I developed a crush on my therapist, although I’ve never met him. I brought up my feelings, which was very difficult, and he responded that cognitive therapists don’t deal with transference. I have been keeping my feelings to myself since, but they are often very problematic. I recently sent my therapist a small gift and he let me know that he would probably be able to find someone to give it to, which I took rather hard. I am married. So this fantasy life drains energy from my marriage. I started therapy to get over a crush on a man that I worked with, and now I’m full circle in pain again. Should I quit therapy? Find a new therapist? Or try to talk to my therapist about my obsession? My therapist is at the top of his field, but I think my therapy has become derailed. Thank you. Sincerely, Ann.”


Ann, I agree with you. I think it’s been derailed for the 19 months. I mean, when you try to hold something in like, “Hey, I’m in love with you, guy, even though we’ve never met and we only have a relationship online, I feel really valued by you. I feel nurtured by you.” Well, you know, that’s what a therapist is for. A therapist is there to listen to you. It’s typically a one-way relationship where you are necessarily and properly in the spotlight. So you feel understood. You feel valued. You learn how to value yourself. You learn lifetime skills, especially if he’s at the top of his field. You’re learning very good skills. So it is really, really common. It’s a hazard of the trade, that it would be normal for you to feel some attraction toward him. He’s warm, he’s engaging, he’s interested and invested in your well being, and what happens in longer-term marriages? Even if a yearlong marriage this can happen. Sameness sets in. You have to deal with the day-to-day business of life. The frustrations. Why did you leave the toothpaste open again? You left the toilet set up. I like the lights turned off! Can’t you do your own dishes? You don’t have this with your therapist and you didn’t have this, I’m assuming, with the guy at work that you had a crush on because - they talk about work spouses - but you don’t have to deal with kids and inlays and the day-to-day living that you typically do in a marriage. Even though in business you would have a business life together, it still doesn’t deal with all of the nitty gritty things you have to weave together in order to have a flourishing marital relationship. And of course, it’s online, so it’s seemingly safe. 


It sounds like your coping strategy for a marriage that is less than satisfactory is to escape into this wonderful world of imagining some guy in your life being the ideal partner. That is not serving you well. You know it. That’s why you sought therapy. Your therapist absolutely needs the information, Ann, that you have a crush on him. Because then he can decide if it’s gone on for too long, 19 months, he may say, “Ann, you definitely need to find another therapist, and I would recommend a female therapist.” He might say something like that, where you may not have the male, sexual attraction. He may recommend a different type of therapy for you, or he may be willing to work with you so that you can be realistic about the relationship with him and do some wonderful cognitive therapy techniques, maybe looking at where your marriage become derailed, looking at how to repair it, looking at core ideas about yourself and your ideas about romance, doing thought records. These are all cognitive therapy techniques, and developing and practicing new coping strategy that’s better for you. That’s between you and him too see whether you should continue with him. He may recommend couples therapy. Maybe with an elderly female therapist, someone neither you or your husband is attracted to. 


But what this brings up, your fantasy is basically you being in love with an idea of romance that you’re obviously not getting in your marriage. That’s a conversation with your hubby. If you need therapy to have that conversation - sometimes people feel safer with some guidance - you can do that. Look at what would make romance thrive. I would recommend the book that I wrote with Dr. Ed Locke, The Selfish Path to Romance, how to love with passion and reason, which you can get at