“My partner’s had an affair! Do you work with infidelity?” So begins many of the calls I receive at Couples In Step.
I’ve helped many couples navigate the complexity and all-consuming effects of affairs. You’re in good hands when you call me for counselling.
Indeed desperation, despair, anger, shock, dismay, grief, shame, disgust, hopelessness… some or all of these emotions are completely normal reactions when an affair has impacted the two of you.
And possibly the emotions that you have are very different than your partner’s. That is also part of the overwhelm.
Affairs and Infidelity: Many Presentations
Many couples have come to Couples In Step with some version of the above.
Can Counselling Really Help?
You may be wondering if it’s even worthwhile to come for counselling after there’s been an affair. It is! Here’s a blog post I’ve written about this very question.
Bottom line. Counselling helps! I’ve had more than one couple tell me, “We wouldn’t wish an affair on anyone, but never-the-less, we’re closer and more connected now than we’ve ever been.”
Couples In Step Approach to Infidelity
Despite the prevalence of infidelity most people assume their partner will be faithful. So the discovery of infidelity is a severe, unexpected breach of commitment and trust.
People use words like “violation,” “tsunami,” “devastation,” “nightmare” to describe the impact of infidelity. Security and predictability has been turned upside down.
Sometimes the partner who has not had the affair wants just the person who had the affair to go for counselling: “I wasn’t the one who cheated,” is the comment. Or, sometimes the person who had the affair is frustrated that his/her partner can’t seem to get past the affair: “It’s over, I made a mistake, let’s move on,” is the comment.
At Couples In Step infidelity is considered a relationship issue. Both have suffered. Both are hurting. Both must engage in the recovery process if the relationship is to heal.
The first task is to for you to learn skills to navigate the chaos, intensity and crisis. This takes time and patience for both of you. My role, as therapist, is to support, encourage and validate both partners. I’ll help you develop tools that will help calm the crisis. This means helping the person who had the affair stay engaged while the person who’s been betrayed vents, asks questions, etc.
You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to remain together and work on repairing the relationship or if you’ll dissolve the relationship. People often vacillate between staying or leaving, sometimes many times the same day! My role is to provide containment, validate the vacillation and help you, slowly and bit by bit, move beyond vacillation to a decision. This is a tumultuous process and always longer than either of you wish or expect.
Once the chaos has abated, and depending on the decision you’ve made, ie., to repair or to dissolve, therapy moves into the next stages of understanding the context of the affair, repair and trust rebuilding. You’ll explore the relationship as it was before and at the time of the affair. There will be deep expressions of remorse and regret. Remorse and regret are also part of the first part of therapy; but at this next stage of therapy, remorse and regret are of the kind that move the relationship to a deeper “felt” intimacy and greater connection.
Should you decide to dissolve the relationship, I can help here as well. There is still a certain amount of insight and understanding that will benefit each of you as you move from this relationship into the next stage of your life. Certainly children, if children are present, will benefit when their parents have an amicable split.
All this takes a great deal of time, effort, and, for many couples also a good amount of their financial resources (though the financial hit is never as much as the typical divorce or dissolution generally involves). The pain is worth it, as the gain is great!
Nearly Every Couple Faces Challenges
Sometimes the difficulties can get so over whelming they can make both of you feel helpless. In our stress-filled, anxiety-driven lives it helps to talk with a professional about your relationship. Couples In Step offers a variety of services to help couples repair and revive their relationship: in-person counselling, on-line counselling, 3-day intensive couples counselling for couples in crisis, weekend couples retreats, discernment counselling for couples where one, or both of you, are uncertain about continuing the relationship.