Is Infidelity Threatening to Break Up Your Relationship?

“My partner’s had an affair! Do you work with infidelity?” So begins many of the calls received at Couples In Step.

Are you reeling after finding out your partner has been having an affair? Has the shock of the betrayal left you feeling hurt and angry? Do you wonder whether your relationship can be salvaged or if healing after an affair is even possible?

People use words like “violation,” “tsunami,” “devastation,” “nightmare” to describe the impact of infidelity. Security and predictability has been turned upside down.

Perhaps you’ve been googling at all hours of the day and night as you try to make sense of your feelings. Concentration is difficult. You’re in a daze.

Whenever infidelity rocks a relationship, big feelings inevitably follow—big sadness, big anger, and, perhaps for the one who injured (as strange as it sounds), big relief. The breach of trust feels like something that can never be undone, a point of no return. You probably think right now this is something you’ll never be able to get over.

If you’re the injured party, you might be vacillating between emotions. One moment you may hate your partner, but the next you’re clinging to them. You could be enraged one minute and ready to pack up and go, but the next minute you’re in tears and terrified to leave. You may also be consumed with the details of the affair and suspicious that it’s still going on. There may even be times when you feel euphoric. You may have known something was wrong and now you know. That feels validating in a crazy kind of way. A few minutes later you’re numb with shock. This was the last thing you expected!

Recovering from infidelity: couples counselling can help
Infidelity Counselling: help surviving an affair

If you’re the injuring party, you’re also likely to be experiencing a cascade of conflicting emotions—relief, guilt, shame, and an eagerness to move beyond the infidelity. Perhaps you’re blaming yourself or blaming your partner with justifications for why you had an affair in the first place. You may think if they’d been more sexually available, treated you more kindly, or paid you as much attention as they do the kids, none of this would have happened.

When you’re dealing with infidelity, it not only affects you emotionally but also physically. You could be losing sleep, have no appetite, and feel unfocused. Perhaps you’re feeling depressed and blaming yourself, or you’re alternating between hope and despair. Above all, you may be finding it difficult to think about anything else even after the initial shock has worn off.

The good news is, infidelity counselling can help you navigate through your turmoil and find resolution as a couple.

Infidelity Comes in Many Forms, and We All Define it Differently

It is generally believed that anywhere between 20 to 40 percent of relationships have experienced infidelity at least once. Getting consensus on the statistics is challenging, however,  because what constitutes infidelity is often subjective. What one person considers infidelity another person might not. For example, sending a flirty text to someone outside of the relationship may be considered infidelity by one partner but not by the one who sent it.

Since the definition of infidelity is open to interpretation, there can be different versions of it. A sexual affair is what we most commonly associate with infidelity. However, beyond sexual intimacies with another person, there can be emotional infidelity—confiding, sharing, or spending excessive time with someone else but not necessarily having sex. There can also be cyber infidelity—sexting, chat rooms, online pornography, etc. Though cyber infidelity is harder to define, it is often interpreted as betrayal.

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. This is what makes recovering from infidelity so hard. The expectation of sexual monogamy is part and parcel of the deep attachment bonds adult partners form with their significant other. Faithfulness helps us feel safe and secure in this world that has many day-to-day challenges.

Breaking the trust of this primal bond presents a profound threat to our deep attachment. When infidelity happens, the bond of safety we depended on in good times and bad is torn apart. And this blows our primitive minds.

As difficult as getting over infidelity can be, it is possible. With the help of a skilled therapist and counselling, you can learn to make sense of the disruption and find clarity and resolution.

Infidelity Counselling Can Provide A Path Forward

When it comes to surviving an affair, the therapists at Couples In Step offer a safe place for you and your partner to sort through the after-effects of infidelity. Without taking sides, we offer unbiased support, allowing each of you the opportunity to share and digest the difficult words, feelings, and emotions you’re struggling to convey to one another.

At our initial sessions, we will meet with you jointly at least once or twice so you can begin to deal with the chaos the infidelity has wreaked and restore balance in your relationship. Your therapist will then meet with each of you individually for one session and may sometimes refer one—or both—of you to attend individual therapy along with infidelity counselling. After that, most sessions will be conducted together, leaving the option open for some additional individual sessions throughout the journey.

Healing after an affair

Ongoing sessions will help you both make sense of what happened and normalize the huge shifts in emotion and behaviour that can send couples reeling after infidelity. Good living habits—eating, sleeping, exercise, etc.—will be encouraged, as will getting back to a semblance of normal.

For the injured partner, we will be mindful of trigger dates—anniversaries, birthdays— which often bring the affair all back to the surface. If the affair was discovered versus disclosed, we examine this more in-depth since discovery rather than disclosure creates an extra layer of trust problems. The person who injured the relationship will be supported to really stay with the process, even when it gets difficult. The key to this is assisting the injuring partner to expect and patiently stay with their injured partner’s extreme emotions. This is challenging as the injuring partner often finds themselves becoming defensive and frustrated.

As we continue to work together, we will explore the dynamics that made your relationship more susceptible to an affair in the first place. You will gain insight into yourselves and each other as we examine each of your unique personal makeup and understanding of faithfulness. Over time—as you continue to gain a clearer perspective—we will help you come to some decisions about your future and whether or not to stay together.

A modality we use when dealing with infidelity is Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFCT). EFT is based on attachment. Attachment is a survival code, and partnering is a manifestation of the attachment bond. When that bond is broken, it affects that survival code. Moreover, when you behave angrily and distance yourselves from each other, it further threatens your attachment bond.

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.

Couples In Step therapists have both the injured and the injuring partner attend therapy conjointly. 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. Your therapist’s role is to support, encourage and validate both partners and to 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.

EFT slows both of you down, helping you to regulate yourselves and each other. It provides the space necessary to work on either restoring the attachment bond or deciding to separate. Either way, it’s a mutual decision instead of a reaction.

Healing after an affair is never easy, but the therapists at Couples In Step are well-trained accompanying and guiding you along the journey. With commitment and work, you can come out the other side of infidelity feeling stronger and more deeply connected than ever before.

You may be wondering if it’s even worthwhile to come for counselling after there’s been an affair. It is!

Bottom line. Counselling helps! More than one couple has said, “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 has helped many couples navigate the complexity and all-consuming effects of affairs. You’re in good hands when you call Couples In Step for therapy.

But You May Still be Wondering Whether Infidelity Counselling is Right for You…

I never thought I’d consider couples counselling to mend the relationship if my partner cheated on me—what’s wrong with me?

That’s what many of us thinkuntil it happens to us. Your partner has been unfaithful, and yet, surprisingly, you’re thinking of staying. Why is that? Because your lives are tied together in so many ways, and these deep bonds are not easily discarded. But now your bond has a big rip in it which needs more than a little needle and thread. It needs a strong “sewing machine” with an operator who knows how to help you make the repair. It’s painful work, but worth doing.

An infidelity therapist won’t help us—the wound is too deep.

The wound is indeed deep, and it requires attention to prevent infection from spreading through other relationships, such as those you have with your kids or extended family. Many couples have told us therapy helps, but It requires commitment. The temptation is to stop therapy after the initial chaos subsides. However, that’s when the work of repair and rebuilding truly begins. Just like a house renovation, there’s a lot of dust and even some dismantling involved—so too with recovering from infidelity.

Doesn’t marriage or couples counselling take a lot of time, energy, and money?

Yes, it does, but in the long run, the investment you make will be a beneficial one, even if you don’t stay together. When you undergo infidelity counselling, you probably won’t take unresolved anger into a divorce settlement which could cause more expense in terms of legal fees. It also means shared parenting will be smoother, reducing the risk that your children become pawns in the battles with your partner. In the end, who knows—you may decide to stay together after all.

Should we even stay together?

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! Your therapist will 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. Sometimes some sessions of Discernment Counselling may be very helpful.

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, therapy 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!

Find Solutions For Your Relationship With Infidelity Counselling

Healing after an affair is possible. Our virtual sessions are available to all residents of Ontario, Canada. Our therapists are located in North York, Richmond Hill, Brampton, and Kingston. For more information, please visit our contact page .