Are you and your partner recovering from infidelity, like a physical or emotional affair? After infidelity, both partners are often struggling to understand what the infidelity means for their relationship and whether they can recover together. I use an evidence-based, trauma-informed approach to help couples process, heal, and move forward after infidelity.
How Betrayal Undermines Stability And Trust
When a betrayal such as infidelity occurs, the injured partner has to restructure their world. If monogamy was a basic expectation, infidelity often represents a devastating breach of trust. The new reality that your partner participated in infidelity radically shifts how you view the relationship. Thoughts like “I can never trust them again” or “they did it once, they will probably do it again” are a natural consequence in the immediate aftermath of infidelity. You might find yourself having repetitive, intrusive thoughts about what your partner did, seeing vivid images of them with the other person, and having intense feelings like shame, rage, or hopelessness.
If you are the partner who participated in infidelity, common feelings include guilt, resentment about other relationship problems, pain at your partner's reaction, and fear of losing the relationship. If you have apologized and tried to move forward but feel your partner hasn't forgiven you, you may start to feel frustrated, hopeless, or even angry.
Particularly if you seek marriage counseling soon after an affair, or while the outside relationship is still active, your marriage may be very unstable.
Temporary Structure Offers Safety
In early sessions, rather than hashing out what happened and why, my first step is to create safety and stability. I step in as needed to ensure partners do not dive into conversations they are not yet ready to have.
Even when you feel angry, guilty, or hopeless, you still have to live daily life (take the kids to school, eat meals, go to work). I help you set specific boundaries that allow you to complete necessary basic activities while you cope with the emotional impact.
Building A Shared Narrative Heals Trauma
Next, we explore why the affair happened in the first place. We will very intentionally review different factors such as your environment, each person’s history, personality, and skills, and your dynamic. I help you consider how your relationship was vulnerable to infidelity by looking at your broader context. This never involves “blaming the victim." It is ultimately always the participating partner’s choice to engage in infidelity. The goal of this stage is to create a narrative, or story, about why the affair happened. This story should feel right to both partners, like they have been seen and understood.
Choosing A Path Forward
Finally, I help partners decide how they wish to move forward. Even for couples who are certain they will stay together, it is still helpful to articulate why they are making that choice. Without this explicit clarity on how and why they decided to continue their relationship, the infidelity may pop up in heated conversations for years to come. Verbalizing your reasons for staying creates a sense of coherence and concludes the story of infidelity in your marriage. Neither of you will forget that the affair happened, but therapy can help you close the chapter.
Will Our Marriage Survive?
Clients coming to therapy after infidelity often want to know - can we get through this? Depending on the couple, their motivation, and the support they receive, recovery is possible. In fact, a promising research study examined spouses who told their partner about an affair right before or at the beginning of behavioral couples therapy (the form of marriage counseling I use). At the beginning of therapy, these couples were in a lot of pain, and expressed more relationship distress than other couples who had not experienced infidelity. However, when they left couples treatment after 26 weeks of sessions, these partners had made major progress and actually reported as much relationship satisfaction as couples without infidelity. Healing can begin when the wounds of infidelity are brought into the open and processed. If you are ready to begin that work together, reach out today to schedule an appointment.