real life

'My husband cheated on me. He said he did because he was jealous of how much I loved our son.'

Kelly* and her husband had been having marriage problems for years before they decided to see a relationship counsellor. 

"We seemed to be on different paths," she says. Their interests were becoming vastly different, and they both worked for the family business, which put a strain on their marriage. But according to Kelly, it was always up to her to compromise her own needs in order to meet his. 

He travelled a lot for work, but refused to fly, so long drives meant more time away, leaving Kelly to raise the children by herself. 

"I just made sure I was there for them, as he wasn't a hands-on parent."

Watch: Black Cat And Golden Retriever Theory In Relationships. Article continues below.

Video via Embracing Feminine Energy.

With Kelly near breaking point, she knew they needed help. But her husband refused to see anyone other than the counsellor he'd been seeing for his anxiety. 

"I did not have a say in the choice of counsellor, essentially I was forced into who he wanted."

From the very first session, Kelly felt as though her views were being dismissed. Instead, she felt like she was there to learn how to behave better for her husband. 


"I feel I was being pushed into a corner, with no opportunity to share my views. My feelings, wants and needs felt unheard."

Which only served to make their marriage worse, enabling her husband to continue blaming her for their problems, only now he felt justified in doing so. 

"It caused more arguments between us because she seemed to be on his side. We separated a few months later."

Kelly isn’t alone. Rather than empower, many women leave marriage counselling feeling disempowered, while their partners weaponise the experience, resulting in further confusion, and a feeling of being gaslit and trapped. 

"At counselling my husband admitted cheating on me and sabotaging our relationship on purpose because he was jealous of how much I loved our son," says Carly*. 

"I spoke out of turn and the counsellor made me apologise while he 'shared his truth'." 

When Sarah* went to a counsellor to discuss sharing the mental load, she left feeling like she was responsible for her own exhaustion. 

"I was completely sleep deprived as our son never slept and struggling with PTSD from a traumatic birth, and her advice was I should leave my son who wouldn’t take a bottle with his dad to go out, and to leave my son to cry it out as it would be good for his lungs.

"I just needed my ex to share the mental and household load. But her comments made it become a 'me' issue."


Lisa's* counsellor told her she should encourage her partner’s language of 'touch', against her wishes, while Nina’s* told her that her husband had an affair because "he didn’t understand her ADHD". 

"A good, qualified couples therapist is trained in holding both peoples' issues well, and will not take sides," explains Senior Psychologist, Nahum Kozak.

"If you feel your therapist is bias, ask them gently but directly. Say something like 'I have this fear that you might be taking sides here, can you help me understand what might be happening here?' A good couples therapist will be able to respond well and in a way that is sensitive and understanding to put you at ease."

When choosing a couple's therapist, Kozak warns against relying on therapists who simply "do relationship counselling" among other things. 

"Look for someone with specific training in a method of couples therapy or relationship counselling. You're looking for solid, evidence-based forms of training; for example, Gottman Method Couples Therapy—this is the gold standard in couples therapy, with 45 years of research behind it, or alternatives like Emotion-Focussed Couples Therapy. 

"You do not want somebody who is vague on this answer, the risk is that they are winging it. A proven reliable method is important."

Similarly, watch out for therapists who use what Kovak describes as “pop psych practices”, that have no research base.  


"For example, if a therapist uses 'The Five Love Languages' as a cornerstone of couples therapy, it indicates they are using pop psychology rather than solid evidence.  

"Five Love Languages is fun and engaging, and very popular, but there is zero supporting evidence, so it has about the same validity as a quiz to determine which Star Wars character you are."

If you don't like the counsellor or psychologist after meeting them, don’t fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy, warns Kovak. 

"If they are not for you, try again elsewhere—there is strong research evidence that good rapport is an important part of successful counselling outcomes."

Other questions to ask before you embark on the process, according to Kovak, are:

  • What percentage of your clients are in couples therapy? 
  • What was the most recent training or professional development you've done in couples work? Decent therapists engage in ongoing learning each and every year.
  • Have you dealt with 'X' issue much before? Specifically name the issue you want help with.
  • Have you helped people who identify as/who have 'X'? 

"It is not cheating to change therapists if you have run into someone who you do not gel well with. You want a therapist that both of you feel comfortable enough to talk about sensitive issues with."

This becomes increasingly important when you consider the risk for women who are experiencing abuse at home. A well-trained therapist should be able to assess for signs of abuse throughout the process.

"A therapist who discovers safety is at risk will prioritise this, and be able to help make plans or referrals to help. Therapy cannot go ahead with ongoing abuse."

*names have been changed. 

Feature Image: Getty.

Do you have any Streaming Video Services in your household? e.g. Netflix, Stan, etc. We want to hear from you! Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $100 gift voucher.