Relationships can and do recover from marital cheating and they can go on to survive and thrive. However the journey to a great marriage after learning about infidelity is a challenging path.
There are several stages that married couples must go through to see if they can repair and improve their relationship after cheating in the marriage.
Upon learning about cheating in the marriage, the non-offending partner can be in a state of shock. Often there is disbelief and a struggle to comprehend what was going on. It is important for the non-offending partner to get individual help to deal with the new information and reality about his or her marriage, their partner as well as him or herself.
Upon learning about cheating in the marriage there is an enormous grieving period. The non-offending partner is grieving the loss of their idealized spouse and now has to decide to come to terms with the fact that they are human and made very choices. The non-offending partner has to grieve the loss of the marriage they thought they had as well as the idea and concept of marriage and how they thought it worked.
Often the non-offending partner must wrestle with their own personal belief systems and values about cheating and what they had thought they would do if someone would cheat on them. Often, the beliefs held, once tested, are must more difficult to own up to and act upon.
For example, many people believed that if someone cheated on them they would leave them. However, the reality of actually doing this is more complicated especially once a person factors in the children, financial viability and the reality of going through a divorce. These beliefs are not easy to act out and so the person must wrestle with these beliefs and possible replace them.
The other thing the non-offending partner must deal with is how they will trust again. They must deal with the fact that they either chose to ignore the signs of discontent in their marriage as well as signs of their partner cheating and reconcile how to move forward and trust him/herself again as well as their spouse.
The offending partner also would benefit from individual counselling. They will need to examine the purpose for going outside the marriage to get their needs met. They will need to examine how they were able to rationalize and justify these choices. Infidelity is a self-serving behavior that does not think about the non-offending partner.
The offending partner, should they want to save the marriage, will need to clearly understand how they thought about their marriage, their responsibilities and how they were able to rationalize their choices to step outside the marriage. They will need to be able to take responsibility for their behavior and more importantly be able to articulate this to their non-offending partner if they hope a recover is possible.
The couple counselling aspect of infidelity counselling is very challenging. Often couples both knew that things in their marriage were not good prior to finding out about the affair. They both choose to ignore it and deal with it in their own way.
Once infidelity comes out, they have a choice, they can choose to face the difficult issues that were not working in their marriage in order to find out if they are repairable. This is a difficult and painful process, which why the couple chose to ignore the problems in the first place. Or the couple may decide to continue to ignore what wasn’t working and just focus on the affair, which will not be helpful and more likely result in another affair happening.
If the couple chooses to save and repair the relationship it will require looking at what wasn’t working for both people. It will involve teaching new effective relationship skills that involve communication and conflict resolutions. Often issues around sexual intimacy and other needs not met will have to be addressed.
Trust is a big issue that comes up in counselling around infidelity. In our couple counselling we explore in depth how trust works and how couples will need to address it in order to move forward. If trust is handled wrong, it can end up crippling the marriage.
Ways that trust are handled wrong is when the non-offending partner, due to fear of being hurt, starts monitoring and controlling all aspects of their partner’s behavior. Often these start out as short term strategies but are hard to turn off. These controlling behaviors often replicate ineffective patterns of behavior that set up the relationship for infidelity in the first place. Couples will spend several sessions on trust and will always be working through this issue through all of the counselling. It is important that this handled properly.
Infidelity counselling is a challenging type of therapy. It requires at a minimum 12 to 20 sessions and may require more. It is highly dependent on the motivation of the clients to participate and do the homework.
Requirements for successful counselling outcome:
· Both parties are will to take responsibility for their role in the part of the marriage that were not working. This does not mean that the non-offending party has any responsibility for the offending party’s choice to cheat, but rather they are will to take responsibility for their part that may have been around communication, conflict management or sexual intimacy
· Both people want to save the marriage and see value in their relationship
· People are willing to do homework that comes out of counselling
· Both people are willing to prioritize their relationship and put the time in it needed to repair it
Signs a couple may not be ready for couple counselling but may need individual counselling:
· High levels of traumatic systems i.e. flashbacks, triggers, panic attacks. These may require individual counselling to get these under control
· Ambivalence about saving the marriage. Individual counselling can help the person work through their ambivalence
· The offending partner is not will to cut off the relationship with the affair person
· The non-offending party or offending party is not will or able to accept responsibility for their part in the relationship not working.
Things that don’t work in dealing with infidelity:
· Ignoring the problems in the marriage that contributed to the person being unhappy
· Just forgetting about the infidelity and pretending it happen
· Punishing the offending partner by taking away the children
· Using extreme controlling behavior on the offending partner
If you have questions contact us to learn more.