Transference and Relationships: How We Often Replay Our Lives with Our Spouses

The impact that parents have on a child’s psychological makeup is well established. However, not every problem you experience is based on your relationship with your mother, or having a father that acted a certain way towards your family. But there are certainly some instances where your relationship with your parents can affect you, and one such instance is in your relationships.

What is Transference?

Transference is an important theory in psychotherapy. It is the redirection of emotions, feelings, and desires, usually from childhood, towards someone else other than the person it would normally be directed towards. In more simple terms, it is you releasing your emotions (positive or negative) on someone because of unresolved issues with those emotions from your past.

Transference in Relationships

Transference is seen in many different struggling relationships, and the issue can be very complex. It’s something to explore and discuss in therapy sessions, as people can experience transference in many different ways and for many different reasons.

But one form of transference that I want to talk about today is a type of transference I have seen many times in couples counseling. It occurs when one partner is attracted to a mate because they resemble an important figure from their childhood – usually a parent, although not exclusively.

That partner has many of the qualities that their childhood figure had. For example, a man may be attracted to a woman because subconsciously she has many of the same traits he used to see in his mother.

Why Transference is a Problem

This type of attraction isn’t necessarily a problem. However, it can cause difficulties if one responds to that person as if they are the parent.

In the above example, if the man is attracted to the woman because he reminds him of his mother, then he may also react to issues the same way he reacted to his mother as a child or teenager – rather than the way he would objectively. The result of this can vary, but in some cases this can cause the partner to take on more of a parental role, or it can create resentments, fights, and more, that challenge communication and make it more difficult to grow as a couple.

Overcoming Transference in Long Island Couples Counseling

Transference can play a role in many different ways. Sometime we respond to our partner because we were unable to tell our parent/authority figure in our youth how we felt. Other times we respond because that’s how we’re comfortable – we revert back to a time when we felt safe with fewer responsibilities.

Each case has its own unique issues and challenges. That’s why it’s best to discuss them in my Long Island couples counseling service. If you’re interested in getting started, or want to learn more about transference. Please contact me today at (516) 732-0273.