Did you catch Monday’s episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Quick recap for those who missed it, we watched the Housewives going along with their lives — Lisa planning her daughter’s wedding, Adrienne fussing over her shoe line debut, and Kyle and Brandi going for manicures. The scene we found ourselves drawn to most, however, was Taylor and Russell’s very real therapy session.
It was hard to watch.
The therapist brought up the topics of Russell’s anger, his aggression and his desire to hurt Taylor when they’re arguing. The therapist didn’t specify in which way Russell hurts his wife, so we are not clear if the therapist is referring to physical, verbal/emotional abuse or other. Russell contributed that it wasn’t pretty when he was angry, a comment that seemed too casual for the topic at hand. Russell left the session early to attend a business meeting.
We bring up this scene to discuss what may surprise some of our readers.
We at the hotline do not encourage anyone in an abusive relationship to seek counseling with their partner. Abuse is not a relationship problem. While there can be benefits for couples who undergo couple’s therapy, there’s a great risk for any person who is being abused to attend therapy with their abusive partner.
Relationship counseling can help partners understand each other, resolve difficult problems, and even help the couple gain a different perspective on their situation. It cannot, however, fix the unequal power structure that is characteristic of an abusive relationship.
An abuser may use what is said in therapy later against their partner. Therapy can make a person feel vulnerable. If the abuser is embarrassed or angered by something said in therapy, he or she may make their partner suffer to gain back the sense of control. Therapy is often considered a “safe space” for people to talk. For an abused partner, that safety doesn’t necessarily extend to their home.
Couples often enter couple’s therapy to fix their relationship. Deciding whether or not the relationship is better is extremely hard for a couple if one is being abused. The abuser has all of the power and can no longer gauge if a relationship is getting better because he/she does not see what their partner sees. The abused partner often cannot even rate how bad or good the relationship is because the abuse has affected him/her. We saw this happen in the episode. Russell even tried to control the evaluation of therapy, declaring that he thought they were progressing. Taylor responded saying that while they were working on it, they weren’t quite to a good place just yet.
Another reason that couple’s therapy or counseling is not recommended is that the facilitator may not know about the abuse, which would make the entire process ineffective. The abuser may make their partner seem responsible for the problems, and if the therapist does not realize that abuse is present, her or she may believe the abuser.
If you or someone you know is considering entering therapy with an abusive partner, please have them call us at the hotline. We can talk to them, and give them a judgment-free sounding board for their hopes and concerns about the process.
Here’s an interview Taylor did on KTLA in which she says that the reality show may have even saved her life.