Healing from Infidelity

How Couples Counseling Can Help You Heal

The Healing from Infidelity Manuals

Dealing with infidelity is one of the most devastating experiences that a couple will ever face. Unfortunately, it is all to common in our society. It is estimated that between 20% and 40% of all marriages have to deal with some form of unfaithfulness.

To help you if you are facing these issues I have included 4 articles below that will give you some ideas about this painful area.

Click to jump directly to the article:

  1. Early Warning Signs of Infidelity
  2. What To Do After Infidelity Has Been Discovered
  3. Seven Steps For Healing Infidelity
  4. Additional Resources for Dealing with Infidelity

Early Warning Signs of Infidelity

What are the signs that a relationship may be at risk? There are two early warnings that suggest infidelity might be a problem: secrecy and emotional distance in the relationship.

The first early warning sign of infidelity is secrecy. Is one partner not telling the other about contact with someone of the opposite sex? Does a partner want to hit “delete” when there is an email from “that other party”? Is that partner not sharing the general content of the email exchange?

Sometimes the person who is having trouble with a relationship will look for someone to talk to, or one who can provide a more objective perspective from the other side of the gender divide (i.e. a man can get a woman’s point of view to help him understand his wife, or a woman can get some insight about her husband from a man’s perspective).

Even if there is no infidelity, sharing secrets about one’s relationship to a “non-partner” is a stepping stone to more closeness. It is one thing to share a specific issue on occasion, but another thing to have ongoing conversations about basic problems in the relationship. These discussions open a door not only to advice, but consolation, which then can lead to an intimate climate between the two. This can then lead to the beginnings of an emotional infidelity, followed by a full blown relationship. The bottom line: if there is a problem in a relationship, the issues need to be discussed between the partners themselves.

The second warning sign is that there is a feeling of an ongoing emotional distance from a partner. Distance occurs when there is not a sharing of mutual dreams and plans. Couples that don’t dream and plan together lose a sense of purpose and identity as a couple. This may happen when couples don’t spend time with each other or go on regular dates. Emotional distance also occurs when resentments aren’t cleared up and then begin to fester, sometimes for years and years.

Not all couples facing the above situations are necessarily having an affair, but these situations make the relationship more vulnerable to unfaithfulness. Secrecy and emotional distance can signal that a couple has lost some of its positive emotional energy and is moving in a very negative direction that may well end in infidelity.

What To Do After Infidelity Has Been Discovered

Some Do’s and Don’ts

This section is designed to give the reader a place to start when faced with infidelity and will:

  • Suggest 3 choices open to the person who has been betrayed.
  • Share a letter from a sufferer and an answer from a trained therapist.
  • Raise the questions that need to be faced and dealt with to move beyond the affair.
  • Offer advice to the person who has been unfaithful about what to do and not to do.

All of this material is designed to assist you in helping yourself during this difficult time. It is, however, strongly recommended that you seek professional help if you are dealing with issues of infidelity, because the issues are so emotionally charged. The decisions you make during this time of tremendous pressure will affect you for the rest of your life and will also impact your children and other people who are important to you. It is essential that you get the best support you can during this difficult time.

3 Choices

After discovering the infidelity you have three choices:

  • to divorce.
  • to deny that anything needs to be done.
  • to work on healing the situation.

Unfortunately, although there are a limited number of possibilities, it is not easy to decide what to do. While there are no set answers to “what should I do?” there are several excellent suggestions in a response to a letter from Mary R below. These serve as a good beginning when first handling the situation of infidelity.

A Note to “the Faithful Wife”
Dear Dr.:

I am a 43 year old woman and have two children who are 10 and 6 years old. I just found out that my husband has been cheating on me. I am angry and confused. What should I do? Should I divorce him? One of my friends says I should divorce him and take him for every thing he has. My sister has stayed with her husband for 15 years and she knows that her husband has had several affairs. If she can stick it out, shouldn’t I be able to? If I stay with him, can I ever trust him? He is a good father, a good provider and up until now, a good husband. I am so hurt I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

Mary R.

Dear Mary,

Perhaps the biggest betrayal a person could ever experience is discovering a spouse is cheating. Your emotions of confusion, hurt, and anger are normal and understandable. Those who haven’t experienced the pain of infidelity can never understand what you are going through. It shakes us to our very core. Here is my advice to you:

  • Don’t feel compelled to do anything immediately and don’t rush into a decision to stay or leave the marriage. Both healing and divorce are a process. You may feel a sense of urgency, but don’t act on it.
  • Find people you can trust, such as a family member, friend, or member of the clergy. You need to develop a support system of people you can talk to. Select people who care about you and do not have a grudge. For instance, people who are angry with their own partner or who have suffered through their own tough times may not be a good choice. Your supporter’s role is to listen and help you with whatever course you take.
  • Find a therapist. If you needed heart surgery you would look for a heart surgeon. Find a therapist who will help you think through both the options of continuing the relationship or divorce and help you sort out the answers in your heart. Just going back into the relationship will not solve the underlying problems. Divorcing badly will cause additional damage to the children and will be expensive. In this emotional jungle you need a professional to guide you through the terrain.

There will also be many other questions that you will need to address:

  • Should I ask him about the details of the affair?
  • Should I forgive him?
  • Most importantly, do I still love him?

This is one of the toughest times in your life. I wish you strength and hope you realize that you are worthwhile.

A Suggestion for the Unfaithful Partner

As for a suggestion to the unfaithful partner, it is important to avoid the common yet dangerous suggestion to “pick up the pieces” and “leave the past behind.”

Some unfaithful partners after admitting their shame may say things like, “Let’s not open up old wounds” or, “Let’s give it some time to heal.” Studies of thousands of couples who have struggled with the issue of infidelity tell us that the “let’s-go-on-from-here” strategy is rarely successful in bringing couples together. The idea here is not to go back to the “business as usual” model of your relationship. Something wasn’t working in your relationship and that sowed the seeds for dissatisfaction and ultimately getting involved with another person. If you wish to continue your marriage you must understand and correct the “something” that wasn’t working. Oftentimes that something was mutual and both of you may have been dissatisfied with the relationship.

In addition, your partner will need to understand what was going on with you and will need to feel secure that the unfaithfulness will not happen again. He/she may need to hear the details, know your whereabouts on a regular basis and have access to your phone bills and bank accounts. Your partner will need reassurance and verification but in the process, you may feel hemmed in and frustrated. In addition, your partner may have periodic attacks of anger and distrust for what seems like no reason at all.

This will be a tough time for both of you. It may take 6 months or even a year for things to feel like they are in balance. If your marriage is to work it will take patience on both of your parts. First, you must figure out if it is worth it to you to put a tremendous effort in the saving of your marriage. Does your love for your spouse, children, and the family, along with the financial aspects, make it worth the effort, or is finding another partner while being married a wake-up call that you need something/someone else in your life?

It is best to have professional help under these circumstances, someone who can lend calmness, reason and guidelines as to the best steps to take. Regardless of whether you stay together, it is important to move carefully to avoid a bad situation from getting even worse.

Seven Steps For Healing Infidelity

Rebuilding a relationship after infidelity is a very difficult thing to do. In order to be successful in moving the relationship forward there are seven basic things that need to happen:

  1. Trust has to be re-established.
  2. The couple must discuss and deal with the issues that triggered the infidelity.
  3. In many situations, the faithful partner may need to know the details of the extramarital relationship. Knowing exactly what happened gives a sense of regaining control and enables him/her to feel that steps can be taken to prevent the situation from reoccurring. This may or may not be true, but the wronged partner is the only one who can decide when there has been enough disclosure. While full disclosure is not always necessary, it is the faithful partner that must make that determination.
  4. The faithful partner has to feel loved and cared about and believe that the changes the unfaithful partner is making are genuine and not an attempt to smooth things over.
  5. While faithful partners may believe logically that their partner is really working at the healing process, they will also have to deal with their own obsessing about the affair. In fact, additional difficulties in the relationship may develop if the “sufferer” is unable think of anything else, even after a significant period time has passed or conversations between partners continue to be focused primarily on the affair. As a general rule, couples should be particularly sensitive to potential problems if there continues to be an obsessive focus on the affair after 9 months of healing with a sympathetic, remorseful partner. This does not mean, however, that the sufferer no longer thinks about or struggles with the affair.
  6. The relationship has to be negotiated and redesigned. That is, partners must dramatically change their patterns of interaction. For more details see the article Five Stages of Relationships and Marriages – Stage 5, Rebirth.
  7. There must be significant together time and opportunity to share wishes, dreams, differences and concerns.

People whose marriages have suffered from infidelity often ask, “Do all relationships that are dealing with infidelity need to be in therapy?” The answer to this question is “yes.” It is difficult to have a positive relationship and accomplish the above seven tasks even when there is professional help. Not having the assistance of an outside, professionally trained third party, significantly lowers the probability of moving forward in a relationship.

Additional Resources for Dealing with Infidelity

  1. Shirley Glass, NOT “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. This highly recommended book deals with every aspect of affairs. It deals with “Why people have extra marital relationships” and “How to handle them.” It is based on over 25 years of research and includes material from 4 different sources:
    • A 1977 survey of 20,000 people done by the popular magazine Psychology Today.
    • A 1988 doctoral research dissertation that included 1000 questionnaires.
    • The author’s (a marriage counselor) analysis of 350 couples that she surveyed.
    • A survey of therapists taken by Dr. Glass from 1992 to 2001.

    You can find out more about Dr. Glass and her work at ShirleyGlass.com.

  2. Emily Brown has written a book entitled Affairs: A guide to Working Through the Repercussions. Ms. Brown is a social worker specializing in infidelity and classifies affairs into 5 types. Ms. Brown talks about:
    • The Conflict Avoidance Affair. This is the couple that seems so very nice yet one of them will “go around the block and across the street” in order not to have conflict. In this situation it is easier for a person to deal with an unfaithful situation than deal with the partner.
    • The Intimacy Avoidance Affair. In this situation, one (or even both) of the partners builds a wall to protect him/herself from the outside world. It is easier to have an affair than be exposed to a partner.
    • The Sexual Addiction Affair. This is a situation where one partner is constantly having affairs and enjoys the chase. He/she denies any problem and may even be proud of the conquests.
    • The Split-Self Affair. This affair is marked by what on the surface seems like a good relationship. However, feelings and needs are not expressed or met and communication is not genuine. The unfaithful partner is torn between the positive history and the need to really be him/herself.
    • The Exit Affair. In this case the unfaithful person wants to end the marriage and on a conscious or unconscious level, uses this situation to accomplish just that.

    For additional information you can visit Emily Brown’s website at Affairs-Help.com.

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