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Putting the Past on the Present

July 01, 2019DMT.NEWS


Courtesy of Pexels
Source: Courtesy of Pexels


I am sure that you have all heard of the term transference, usually in relation to a patient and his/her therapist. However, transference can happen in our everyday lives when it comes to our relationships with friends and romantic partners. According to researchers Levy and Scala (2012), transference is “…a tendency in which representational aspects of important and formative relationships (such as with parents and siblings) can be both consciously experienced and/or unconsciously ascribed to other relationships” (p. 392).

Transference in Romantic Relationships

In addition, research by Andersen and Przybylinski (2012) has shown that past experiences with a significant other can have a profound impact on a new relationship. Essentially, a negative experience with an ex can potentially transfer to a new partner and make us feel negatively about him/her. On a seemingly more uplifting note, a positive experience with a previous partner may make us feel more positive about our new partner. However, while this may seem like a beneficial type of transference, it may not be. Feeling positive about a new person, simply because he/she reminds us of an ex that we deeply cared about can be problematic. This is because it may prevent us from seeing potential red flags in the new relationship. It is important to be sure that we are evaluating our current relationship for what it really is, and not just as a mirror of the past.

Transference certainly impacts our day-to-day lives. Being that previous relationships can impact our current romantic entanglements, it is important to reflect on how each relationship has impacted us. We must also be cognizant not to let the past influence our present, and potentially our future, by allowing our feelings and beliefs from previous romantic partners transfer on to our current partners.

Dealing with Transference

So now that we know that transference can affect our relationship(s), how can we deal with it?

The most important part of dealing with transference is identifying it. This requires us to rationally examine our emotions and cognitions and put them into proper perspective. For example, if you are extremely suspicious of a partner, is it because he/she has given you reason to be? Or, is it because you may have been cheated on or lied to in the past? While it is certainly hard to tease apart and separate our feelings, identifying their source is of utmost importance. Once you recognize the presence of transference, you will be better equipped at dealing with it.

In addition, open and honest communication with your current partner is key. If you are transferring feelings from a previous relationship, it is imperative that you share this information. Keeping your feelings bottled inside will not be helpful. Instead, share and explore your triggers with your partner. He/she will be able to understand you on a deeper level, and this may serve to strengthen your relationship in the long run.

Transference in Our Romantic Relationships
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Andersen, S. M., & Przybylinski, E. (2012). Experiments on transference in interpersonal relations: Implications for treatment. Psychotherapy, 49(3), 370-383. doi:10.1037/a0029116

Levy, K. N., & Scala, J. W. (2012). Transference, transference interpretations, and transference-focused psychotherapies. Psychotherapy, 49, 391–403.doi:10.1037/a0029371



MCohen, Khareem Sudlow

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