About Infidelity Counseling
Nothing throws a couple into crisis quite like an infidelity. The norms of the relationship have been violated, often traumatically. Trust has been broken. Questions — some without hope of answers — swirl for both partners, not the least of which is “Are we through?”
Infidelity can certainly topple a relationship on its last leg, but it can also sound the alarm, snapping both partners to attention. If a couple can navigate the initial crisis, it is possible to transform an infidelity into something that promotes new levels of personal development and greater intimacy.
While I tailor my approach to suit each couple’s unique needs, infidelity counseling can generally be viewed in terms of three overlapping stages:
This is the phase that immediately follows the disclosure or discovery of an infidelity. It is characterized by extreme emotional volatility and unpredictability. I advise couples not to make any big decisions during this phase, unless it is clear that the infidelity was an exit strategy. Therapy can help partners contain and process the big emotions and assist the couple in deciding if they want to attempt to repair. Discernment Counseling may be indicated for couples who remain on the fence longer term.
Once the couple has moved through the bulk of the volatility, they can enter the renegotiation phase. The renegotiation phase is an ongoing dialog about meaning. While the story of the infidelity is initially told in simplistic “victim/perpetrator” terms, each partner actually has three stories: what this affair meant about me, what it meant about you, what it meant about us. As partners listen to each other’s stories, they can start to develop a renewed sense of empathy. (Note that empathy is different from forgiveness.) Stage two is also where I start to frame the infidelity as an “erotic wound” that needs tending to.
In the third phase, we can begin to realistically assess for permanence. We start to write a new monogamy agreement, and we also grieve the old relationship. I often tell partners: “Your marriage is done. Literally. Your monogamy agreement was broken. Most monogamy agreements don’t include affairs so it’s safe to assume this agreement was broken! Do you want to build a new marriage with the same person?” If the answer is yes, we begin building a new relationship from the ground up. This is also the phase where we can start tending to the erotic injury. Depending on the case, Sex Therapy can be incorporated into the treatment plan.
It is important to note, particularly for the “offending” partner, that therapy is not about blame or punishment. It is about the personal development of the individuals in relationship to one another. This process can be uncomfortable, but my approach is one of warmth and respect for each partner. No matter where you find yourself in the mix of lies, betrayal, and infidelity, I am here to help you sort it out.
Benefits of Infidelity Counseling
- Assist both partners in processing, containing, and making sense of intense emotions
- Promote productive ways of coping with emotional pain
- Uncover types of lies, as well as their extent, meaning, and purpose
- Create a culture of courage and candor
- Assistance in deciding if relationship is repairable
- Begin rebuilding broken trust systems
- Help partners tolerate new levels of honesty
- Renegotiate relationship norms or the couple’s “monogamy contract”
- Understand how each partner invites deception into the relationship
- Provide a forum for processing the betrayal from each partner’s perspective
- Guidance on recovering sexual intimacy after an “erotic injury”
- 5 Things to Know About Infidelity, Hayden Lindsey
- State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, Esther Perel
- Infidelity and the Future of Relationships, Esther Perel [Video]
- The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity, Tammy Nelson
- Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair, Michele Weiner-Davis
- Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, Shirley Glass
- Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Ever After, Katherine Woodward Thomas
- Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship, Mira Kirschenbaum
- The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Surviving Through and Recovering from the Five Stages That Accompany the Loss of Love, Susan Anderson
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