Learn How Couples Counseling Can Help with Affair Recovery

Affair Recovery


Older couple sits across from each other, eating in a conservatory.Recovery from infidelity can depend on cultural background. It may depend on a couple's personal or religious views. Many couples pursue therapy to decide if they should stay in a relationship after the affair. Therapy may help them process their feelings about it.

A therapist can be a supportive listener. They can listen as both parties share how they feel about the infidelity. A therapist can help the couple learn about their needs and relationship goals. The couple may then choose to maintain or end their relationship. A therapist can help if the couple wishes to save the relationship. They may help the couple learn how committed they are to the relationship. The partners may learn to repair trust and navigate the healing process. 

A therapist can also help clarify the relationship. They may encourage open discussion of the relationship’s strengths and weaknesses. The therapist may call unhealthy relationship patterns into question. These could include codependency, emotional abuse, or repeated affairs. Therapists can help people who have been cheated on work through feelings of self-blame.

Help Recovering from a Partner’s Infidelity

Discovering a partner’s infidelity can be a big blow. It is natural to feel intense or confusing emotions. Some people choose to speak with a therapist about these feelings. Individual therapy can help someone who has been affected by infidelity. Therapy may help explain a person's response to their partner’s affair. It may focus on forgiving, letting go, or moving on. There are many ways to handle feelings that come with infidelity. A therapist can help you look at your options. You might decide to reconcile with or separate from your partner.

Therapy can be useful for couples affected by infidelity. Couples therapy can help address the needs of both partners. A couple could choose to save their relationship. Therapy may help them work on their bond. A couple may also choose to break up as a result of infidelity. They may pursue therapy for a more civil breakup.

Couples affected by infidelity may go to discernment counseling. In this type of therapy, the relationship is on the table. Both partners decide whether they want to stay in the relationship. Partners often have opposing wishes when they begin discernment counseling. The therapist can help them come to an agreement. They will help both partners accept the final decision.

Therapy for Avoiding Infidelity

Some people cite lack of fulfillment as a reason for cheating. It may also be sex addiction, low self-esteem, revenge, or something else. Therapy can help with many of these issues. If you feel like cheating on your partner, consider what is causing this desire. You may be able to address it in therapy. This could help you avoid infidelity. One-on-one or couples therapy can help you address dissatisfaction in your relationship. It may also address negative feelings that may be suppressed. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could help you work through sex addiction.

If you are tempted to engage in infidelity, it may help to be honest about it. Acknowledging the issue and working through it with your partner may be helpful. Honesty may end up lending strength to the relationship. 

The Recovery Process

Recovery from an affair can be a lengthy process. It may be especially lengthy for couples that wish to reconcile. There is no way to tell if a couple will recover from an affair. It is impossible to tell how long recovery may take. But experts agree that healing can often occur within 2 years. Some couples may take longer to recover. Others can mend their relationship sooner. Again, there is no concrete timeline for recovery. A recovery timeline may depend on a couple's reactions after the affair is discovered.

Other factors can influence the recovery process. These include:

  • Communication skills
  • Tolerance for conflict
  • Capacity for honesty
  • Acceptance of personal responsibility
  • Attachment style

Every relationship is unique. The process of recovering from infidelity also varies. Recovery typically progresses through the following phases:

  • Trauma Phase. This phase comes after the affair is discovered. The betrayed partner may feel shock or trauma when they find out about the affair. They may feel angry, vengeful, and hopeless. This phase is often a roller coaster of emotions. These can range from loss and grief to rage and frustration. They can come with tears or conflict. Both partners struggle with thinking clearly during this phase. They may experience physical symptoms such as loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Issues Clarification. During this time, couples begin to examine what led to the affair. There may still be a great deal of emotional instability. But the partners now want to understand why the affair happened. This process can lead to closure. The sooner couples can begin, the sooner they may reap the rewards of closure. Enlisting the help of a therapist may be helpful during this time. This phase may be stressful to one or both partners.
  • Addressing the Problem. This is when the real work begins. Emotions become more manageable. Partners can then start working on the issues that led to the affair. There will be highs and lows in this process. Guilt and anger can mix with longing for the relationship as it once was. But couples can benefit from persevering through this phase. They are often able to address issues at the root their discontent.

Next, couples can embrace the new relationship they have created. Therapy for infidelity can allow couples to grow a stronger and truer bond. But it may still be difficult for the betrayed partner to trust the other. Both partners can still have difficulty understanding why the affair happened. They may have trouble accepting that the life they knew will not be the same. 

Techniques taught in therapy can help couples learn how to get over the affair. They can continue to develop an open, honest, and new relationship. This relationship will be freer from the negative emotions of the affair.

Ending a Relationship After Infidelity

Sad couple sitting back-to-back outsideFor the person whose partner cheated. A couple might decide to end their relationship after an affair. Therapists can still assist both parties during this time. The partner who was betrayed may find it helpful to discuss feelings of inadequacy, betrayal, and anger. A therapist can also help them cope with the trauma of losing a partner. 

For the person who had an affair. The partner who had the affair may feel regret. They may wish to understand what caused them to pursue an affair. For example, they might have had an affair because they felt their relationship was not satisfying. A therapist can help them learn how to share feelings of dissatisfaction more effectively. Learning these skills may prevent them from repeating the behavior.

Talking to Your Partner About an Affair

Consider the process of taking about an affair. There are many steps in that process. Opening up about an affair is one step. Discussing what to do next is another series of talks. These may take time. The final step is often one of two things. It may be a discussion of how to end the relationship. It may also be series of dialogues that revolve around rebuilding trust.

It can be hard to know how to get over an affair. A couples counselor can help couples at any stage of discussing an affair. The following are some tips to keep in mind during these discussions:

  • Be patient. If you had an affair, be patient with your partner’s reactions. Processing your affair may be painful for them. It can also help to practice patience with your partner if you were cheated on. Let them express how they feel about the situation, as well.
  • Be responsible. If you had an affair, your partner may have strong emotions, including anger. Avoid blaming your partner for your actions. Don’t minimize the impact of your actions. 
  • Apologize and forgive. This must happen if a couple wishes to rebuild their relationship. The person who had an affair must offer a sincere apology. The person who was cheated on must accept this apology on solid terms. This process cannot be rushed. But it is often necessary for a relationship to be rebuilt.
  • Communicate. Actively listen to what your partner has to say. Speak truthfully to them in return. Reaffirm your dedication to fixing the relationship, if that is your choice. 

Help for Infidelity: Case Examples

  • Deciding to reveal an affair. Amara, 27, seeks therapy because she has cheated on her partner. She feels guilty. Amara recently ended the affair. But she has not yet revealed her infidelity to her partner. She is terrified of doing this. She does not want this relationship to end. She also does not want to hurt her partner’s feelings. Amara feels she “ought” to tell her partner. She is not sure that doing so is the best course. The therapist helps Amara clarify what her motivations for telling or not telling might be. Together, they evaluate the possible consequences of each path. Amara decides that her commitment to honesty requires her to tell her partner. The therapist helps her prepare for this task and manage her anxiety afterwards. Couple’s work with a different therapist is recommended to help the pair recover further.
  • Determining whether or not to separate. Don and Felicia, in their 40s, enter couples counseling. Don has revealed he has a mistress. He is unsure if he is ready to stop seeing her. Felicia is angry and depressed. She feels she should leave the marriage, but she’s “still in love with Don.” The therapist forms an agreement with the couple. They will decide whether to continue or dissolve the marriage in one month. Don breaks off his affair. But he is still very ambivalent. The therapist helps the couple uncover long-standing problems with intimacy in their marriage. Don admits to other, previous affairs. Don and Felicia are both recommended for simultaneous, separate individual therapy. Don must work on his compulsions. Felicia must work through feelings of inadequacy and anger. After several months, Felicia decides she needs a trial separation. Don admits he is still having an affair. However, they continue therapy together. Don finally ends his affair. One year later, the couple reunites. They begin picking up the pieces with help from the therapist.

References:

  1. Reynolds, R. (n.d.). Therapist mistakes when dealing with infidelity. Affair Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/therapist-mistakes-with-infidelity-recovery 
  2. Sex addiction treatment program options. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychguides.com/guides/sex-addiction-treatment-program-options
  3. Why people cheat on their partners and how counselling can help with affairs. (2013, July 20). Retrieved from https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/why-people-cheat-on-partners.htm
 

Last updated: 06-01-2018

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