As a family therapist and systems thinker, I view the conflicts and discussions in my therapy office as shared events and problems. We are all connected; what I do effects my spouse, my children and other close relationships, just as what they do effects me.
But there are times when one person’s habits, behaviors, attitudes, or choices are the source of a system’s pain. A problem frequently has a source. And it just might be you.
One of the most pained expressions I hear after couples therapy is the complaint that “therapy is always about me” and never focused on their partner. I hear it most frequently from my male clients. This reflects, I believe, the fact that men don’t often start conflict conversations in their relationships, leaving their women partners to do all that heavy emotional lifting. If their troubled patterns have been going on long enough, and the woman, despite how often she requests help or change, is always doing the complaining, the man is inevitably backed into his corner. Of course he feels that therapy is always about him. Because he has to travel so many emotional miles to catch up to where his partner has been.
In other situations, it may be that addiction is stealing away all the relationship and family stability. Or infidelity and secrets have damaged the sense of safety and closeness. Or one partner’s failure to care for their health, or work life, or family of origin problems weighs the entire family down. While all of these issues have system impacts, it just might be true that therapy, at least as we begin to unwind the issues, may truly feel like it’s All About You.