Infidelity is one of the most common reasons couples seek therapy. It is also one of the more difficult problems to address. The good news is that with a skilled therapist and the couple’s willingness to heal, marriages can not only survive infidelity but become stronger and more satisfying.
The decision to go to marriage counseling can be hard. After an affair, painful emotions arise. Going to therapy requires the couple to confront and deal with very intense issues and emotions. One or both partners may be struggling with the decision to stay in the marriage or leave. A skilled marriage therapist can help couples navigate these issues and find a resolution that is right for them.
So what can you expect when you seek counseling for infidelity? Initially, the therapist will help you and your partner determine the purpose of counseling. Are you seeking help to repair the relationship? Are one or both of you unsure about saving the relationship? Are you seeking help to separate in a healthy way?
These questions are important. Couples who want to rebuild their relationship need to be clear and committed to that process. Part of that commitment is the complete termination of contact with the affair partner. Recovery and reconciliation are built on trust through transparency. Most of the time, your therapist will work with you as a couple. Occasionally, the therapist may suggest a few individual sessions to clarify or address a specific issue. Your therapist will choose an approach that is best suited for you and your partner.
The initial sessions will focus on establishing safety and addressing the painful and difficult emotions that arise following discovery of an affair. The therapist will work with you and your partner to stabilize the emotional reactions to the affair and more fully understand the situation. This can be a very intense and emotional process. You and your partner may experience some very intense emotions both in and out of the session.
The next phase can be an especially difficult part of the process. It essentially involves “telling the story” of the affair and exploring the underlying reasons that made it possible. Telling the story is hard for both partners and one of the biggest fears for the partner who had the affair. The goal is not to hash out every detail as if it were an interrogation. The guiding principle is how certain information can contribute to the couple’s healing. Your therapist will guide you through the process in a way that promotes safety, trust and healing.
As sessions progress, you move towards the final phase of therapy which is forgiveness. Couples who are able to develop empathy and hope tend to be more successful in healing the relationship.
Many couples have experienced infidelity. Through hard work with a skilled marriage therapist, they have been able heal and strengthen their marriage. There is hope and healing after infidelity.