How to Prevent Transference from Ruining Your Relationship

Not everyone understands the word “transference”, but this concept appears frequently in relationships. Transference in relationships causes certain people to repeat spousal abuse history, fall in love with toxic people, or fail to form an intimacy with their spouses. Understanding this concept will help you to take the first step in preventing it from ruining your efforts to form a healthy relationship.

Definition of Transference

The term “transference” started to emerge during the rise of psychoanalysis. It refers to a redirection of sentiment, feeling, or emotion experienced in the past to object or person at the present day. This term used to be popular among therapists, who used it to describe the “connection” that happens between therapist and client.

Now, transference has become a popular term to describe past psychological baggage, which affects current relationships. Transference causes someone to projects his or her past experiences to the current condition. Think about the times you heard words such as, “Don’t treat me like I’m your mother”, or “My abuse at the hands of my father made me afraid of connecting seriously with men”.

Transference may have a positive impact to form familiarity when connecting with new people. However, when there is much negative psychological baggage, transference can prevent you from creating a full, meaningful relationship.

Forms of Negative Transference in Relationship

There are several negative transferences one may experience in a relationship. They are:

  • Excessive idealization

Idealization happens when you are trying to “fill the gap” between what you know about a potential partner and his/her actual personality by creating an overly-ideal image. For example, if your father is cold, you may imagine a potential man as a “protective knight” or surrogate affection source.

  • Negative projection

If you have a lot of anger or bitterness from past experiences, you may project them on your loved one. For example, if your parents were demanding and authoritative, you may lash out to your loved one when he/she does not follow your high “standard”.

  • Avoidance

Excessive fear toward relationship can happen if a person is traumatic about a bad relationship. This can happen to a person from a broken home or those who got out of an abusive relationship.

  • Oedipal-type transference

This transference type describes people who fall in love with others who resemble their parents (father or mother). While it is not wrong, it can cause you to neglect your partner’s true personality when experienced in excessive level.

These negative transferences can affect relationships in many ways. They may reduce the quality of communication between couples. They can also make people act disproportionately when facing problems with their mates. You must solve your unfinished business or past burden to prevent transference from ruining your relationship.

First Step: Recognizing Transference Signs

How do you know when transference happens? If you are in a relationship, pay attention to signs like these:

  • Obsession toward a relationship, regardless of damages or unending conflicts
  • Persistent demands to change other people to fit expectations
  • Inexplicable repulsion or attraction toward someone, often not based on reality
  • Disappointment from drastic differences between fantasy and reality
  • Making every behavior or word from someone else as a personal thing
  • Strong emotions (positive or negative) when your partner says or does something specific

By recognizing these signs, you understand that you project your past to current relationship. The best action is to find professional and social support that can give outsider’s perspective. They are also helpful when your relationship is toxic and requiring intervention.

Tips to Deal with Transference in Relationships

If your relationship is toxic and causing you (or your partner) to receive abuse, consider asking for help in breaking it. However, if the transference happens in a relationship that can still be fixed, you and your partner can work on it. Here are several tips to stop projecting the past and start focusing on the now:

  • Conduct reality check on your transference

Make the cause of your transference clear by asking an honest question, such as “Who my partner resembles?” Write down the question and the answer in a journal. Give detailed descriptions of things that make them similar. It will provide written proof of your transference cause.

  • Ask your partner about his/her feeling

Sit down with your partner and ask about how he/she feels about you. Ask your partner to be honest about certain acts or words that make them feel unappreciated, misunderstood, blamed, forcibly changed, or other negative feelings.

  • Face your past

Go through memory lane and find out more about what you lack in the past. It may be affection, affirmation, attention, appreciation, or the combination of all. You may need to discuss this with family members or talk with a therapist, because your memories or repression may cloud your judgment.

Once this problem is realized, try visiting a couple therapist with your spouse. If your relationship is worth saving, you must work together to solve the transference problem.

Transference in relationships causes people to see their partners or connections in unrealistic ways. Recognize this problem to have a healthier, more realistic relationship goal.