Your marriage/relationship is not hopeless after an affair, it is possible to survive infidelity and heal your relationship.
Coping with infidelity is never easy. When you first find out about the affair, you will probably feel shock, rage, anger, disbelief, deep sadness and disillusionment. There will probably be lots of tears and wildly fluctuating emotions. It’s important for you to talk to your partner about your feelings, your hurt and your pain. You also need to decide if you really want to hear the details of the affair. On one hand the truth might not be as bad as you imagine it to be; on the other hand, hearing the details might haunt you for a long time to come.
The spouse who has had the affair probably just wants to shut the door on the past and not talk about it, but he/she needs to understand that you are not ready to ‘let it go’ and you need to work on it. It is most likely very hard to listen to your partner without attacking him/her, but that is the best place to start.
What are the Underlying Issues?
Once the initial pain and shock has worn off, find out why the affair happened. Although you are in no way to blame for your spouse’s choice to be unfaithful, you need to know if there was anything lacking in the marriage to begin with. (But just because the marriage wasn’t perfect, doesn’t provide a justification to cheat!) This may be hard to do, but it can help you to prevent further infidelity down the road and will definitely strengthen your marriage/relationship.
Infidelity is not something that occurs in a vacuum. Counselling addresses the issues already in the marriage that led up to the affair. By the time infidelity occurs, there are many deep issues that have already been present for some time, and in order for healing to come, these must be addressed. Adultery is the culmination of a long trail of unresolved underlying issues; and while it is a serious problem in a relationship, it is not the root problem. Nor does it have to be the end of the relationship.
Relationship counselling looks to find those issues that brought the marriage to a place where an affair became an option. Therapy for couples rebuilding their marriage after adultery, will examine the unmet needs and wants for both individuals. Getting past blame and hurt is a difficult, yet critical step in order for forgiveness and restoration to begin, and is part of our values-based approach. Your therapist will help you realise what is still working in the marriage and utilise these components to work towards that forgiveness and restoration of your relationship.
While one person may commit the act of betrayal, adultery counselling is not about placing blame, but rather working towards restoration, forgiveness, and healing – and seeks to restore the marriage, if that is possible. For couples who seek healing, we identify, sometimes with the use of assessments, what the primary needs and wants are for both husband and wife. We then look for ways to develop these in the relationship, providing couples with a fresh start towards a satisfying and rewarding marriage for life.
Healing from something as devastating as infidelity takes time. Divorce or separation may seem easier, but it’s really no less painful. Unfortunately, there is no escape from the pain – like many difficulties in life, you have to work through it to get to the other side.
Is this ‘The End’?
Often, the individual who has been betrayed is not ready to make “a decision” so seeking help from a counselor for adultery works to identify and resolve emotions of helplessness, loss of control, and hurt to allow individuals to more clearly assess the situation and how to move forward.
However, we recognise that adultery creates such a volatile situation that sometimes healing the marriage is not possible simply because one or both spouses have already made the decision to end the relationship. In those cases where restoration of the relationship is not possible, therapy can help the individual to address feelings of hurt, guilt, insecurities, anxiety, loneliness, and other issues that result from the broken relationship. By addressing these feelings, there is the opportunity to resolve these experiences and move forward, and to prevent this hurt from affecting and hindering future relationships.
If the couple wants to work through the hurt and betrayal, counselling focuses on communication skills, rebuilding trust, and developing goals for the future to direct the couple providing hope for the future and restored love and intimacy in the marriage.