When Your Therapist is Facebook Friends With Your Ex.
Her leaving was extremely hard on me. I grappled with it for many months and our relationship had claw marks all over it from not wanting to let go. I blamed myself and fell into a deep depression.
About a month after our breakup, I found a therapist that largely works with young creative professionals and specializes in relationships, career transitions, depression, and self esteem — everything wrong in my life! Perfect!
Fast forward eight months later.
I don’t know how I found it, but while in a blackhole of mindless Facebook clicking on a very uneventful Friday night, I did.
“Your therapist and your ex are friends! Add Friend?”
I slammed my laptop shut so hard, I didn’t want to open it back up in fear I had cracked the screen. But fuck the screen, I didn’t want to open it back up to see that — my therapist, her public AND private accounts, in my ex’s list of friends.
I had so many questions. What bizarre HBO drama am I living in right now? When am I going to wake up from this Kafka-esque dream state? Who added who? When? Why? Have they ever met in person? Have they ever talked? What was the extent of their contact? Does my therapist know things about her and is using that information to steer conversation?
I wanted to fucking scream.
No, ex girlfriend, you do not get to share the one shred of relief I have from you. The one thing that has given me any remote sense of healing, which if I’m being frank, is minimal. I shared so much of myself with you, and you didn’t want any of that, but you want to be friends with my therapist? No.
I had no idea what any of this meant, and the one person I’d usually look to for guidance was directly involved in this problem. And because it was such a convoluted conflict of interest, I had no idea if I should even bring it up when I went to my session on Tuesday. My biggest, yet slightly irrational fear, was that I’d have to stop seeing her. But after accepting that I might not have a therapist after Tuesday, I decided that I needed to confront the issue, regardless. I couldn’t let all of this confusion and anger fester inside me and potentially ruin the progress I was making with her.
It was probably the most difficult string of words I’ve ever had to formulate inside the walls of a therapy office, knowing that I was about to make the room real awkward.
“I saw that….my ex is….friends with you on Facebook.”
It felt like I was drunk and had to make extra effort to enunciate. I had to pause twice to catch my breath. I felt my heartbeat reverberate throughout my entire body and my eyes stayed fixated on the box of tissues in front of me. All my weight sank further into the couch the longer the silence dragged out.
“Well, I can imagine how difficult and jarring it must have been to see that. But…I’m actually curious if I know her now.”
I told her my ex regularly engaged with her posts, and she thought she had a clue as to who it was. She was super apologetic and empathetic to how frustrating this was for me. We spent a few minutes rationalizing how this could have happened — my therapist works heavily with young people in the LA music scene, and my ex works in music. It’s admittedly an extremely small scene we have here, you can easily have a handful of mutual friends with virtually anyone. We made it clear that my ex is not and never was a client of hers.
“How do you think we should proceed?” she asked.
“I’m not sure. I don’t feel like I’m at liberty to ask either of you to unfriend the other.”
“I’ll unfriend her,” she replied with confidence.
“You would do that?”
“Yes, it’s a conflict of interest. But you’d have to disclose who she is to me.”
I gave her my ex’s full name.
“Ah yes. I know who she is now. I’m really sorry Ezra. I can imagine how uncomfortable this is for you. This isn’t comfortable for me either, honestly, but I’m very glad we can have a conversation about this.”
We talked about it more in-depth, and about how to proceed with conversations going forward. She was very transparent with me about the extent to which she knows my ex. It turns out that they knew of each other, but weren’t friends in any capacity other than Facebook. She even told me this wasn’t the first time she’s had mutual friends with clients, but of course, she’s always maintained strict confidentiality and neutrality. We had a few laughs about it, which greatly relieved the discomfort, and eventually eased into another topic of discussion.
For the remainder of the session, about 20 minutes, I felt like I could be a little more candid. A little more myself. The honesty and her quick willingness to unfriend my ex put me much more at ease, relaxed, able to expose a little more of my personality to her. I felt like I could trust her a bit more. For me, it was a very odd, but comforting, feeling of bonding.
And they’re not friends on Facebook anymore.