Did you recently discover that your spouse cheated on you or has been involved in a long-term affair?
Maybe he’s been using using pornography or escorts?
Maybe she’s having an emotional affair?
You’re likely feeling devastated and not knowing what to do next…. Should you end your relationship or try to work it out? Is it even possible to ever forgive him? Can you recover from an affair?
People in your position typically experience a wide range of emotions that can make decision-making difficult:
- Anger – How dare he?? I’m going to let him know how much this hurt me, what an asshole he is. And I’m not going to stop until I know he is really sorry!
- Anxiety – What is she up to? Where is she now? Is she with him? Are they still talking? Is she lying?
- Betrayed – How could he do this to me? Does he not care about me at all?
- Insecure – I must not be attractive enough, smart enough, fun enough, sexy enough, or just not enough…….
- Hurt – I want her to understand how much pain I am in so I can receive comfort, but instead I find myself lashing out or retreating.
- Desperate – I want him back and feel I would do anything to make that happen. But I feel pathetic because of the way he treated me.
- Sad – I feel depressed and grief-stricken. I BELIEVED my partner cared about me, but now I’m questioning everything.
- Confused – I told myself I would divorce him if this ever happened, but now I don’t know what to do. It doesn’t help that my family and friends are saying I should just leave. They don’t understand….
- Vengeful – I want him to experience pain so he understands how I feel. Maybe I should have my own affair. Maybe I should tell all our friends/family how awful he is.
- Jealous – It’s impossible thinking about her being with someone else. I want a guarantee that she is devoted to me!
- Obsessive – I can’t stop thinking about what she did with him. I can’t get it out of mind! It’s troubling and I feel like I’m turning into a crazy person.
- Unstable – I feel turned upside down. I don’t know what is real. I’m losing sleep, having trouble eating, and can’t focus at work.
If you injured your partner, you likely have your own set of possible emotions:
- Guilt – I shouldn’t have betrayed my wife and family in this way
- Shame – What I did is against my value system, but I still did it. What kind of person am I?
- Worry – Is this the end of my relationship? Will he ever forgive me?
- Confusion – I didn’t like the lying or and how I hurt my spouse, but what I did felt good. I can’t remember the last time I felt this alive!
- Loving – I still love my wife. I didn’t do this to hurt her.
- Misunderstood – He doesn’t understand why I did this or why I didn’t tell him. It’s not just about me – our relationship has been unhappy for a long time.
- Irritated/angry – I know what I did was wrong, but why do we have to keep going over it? How many times can I say I’m sorry?
- Relief – Now I don’t have to keep a secret anymore.
- Conflicted – I’m not sure I want to let go of my new outside relationship.
- Helpless – I don’t know how to rebuild trust. I’m doing everything I can, but she still doesn’t believe I’ve told her everything – she still thinks I’m lying!
This is an amazing number of potential feelings to have in response to one event. Obviously, this is no minor event. However, when emotions are running high, it is often difficult to make good decisions about how to proceed. This is complicated by the fact that each of you may have different ideas about what SHOULD happen next.
In the immediate weeks and months following discovery of an affair one of the difficulties most couples have is that each of you is in a very different emotional place. The offending partner wants to move forward from the infidelity much more rapidly. The injured partner needs time to process emotions, understand what has happened, and try to accept a new reality. This can take months or even years, depending on the situation. You want to figure out a way forward that will take care of both your needs and repair your relationship. But when you can’t even have a productive conversation, it can feel hopeless. This is where infidelity counseling helps, as it provides calm guidance about how to talk to each other so that you can make productive decisions for you and your family.
Most Couples Feel Lost and Confused When an Affair is Uncovered
When you make a commitment to your partner, especially through marriage, you typically do so with the expectation that your spouse will remain faithful. Some couples do make explicit arrangements to explore outside sexual or emotional relationships, but only do so with clear and ongoing communication. Without this communication, the expectation is that your partner will remain faithful to YOU and you only.
When infidelity occurs, it can be traumatic, especially if you are the injured party. You were kept in the dark while your spouse had weeks, months or sometimes years to adjust to the reality that
your relationship now includes infidelity. And because cheating almost always involves lying, you now have to figure out what in your relationship was a lie and what was real. This is a BIG deal, because now everything is in question.
Your whole understanding of what your relationship was in the past, and trust in whether or not it will move forward, is now disrupted. You see your partner in a new (usually negative) way. Trust, the foundation of a healthy relationship, is now lost. Given these circumstances, it is completely normal that you would not know how to proceed. The blueprint of your relationship is thrown out the window and you have to adjust to a new reality. All couples struggle with this, especially because of the chaotic and disorienting emotions both of you are feeling.
Most couples want things to get back to “normal,” but you may not know how, or even believe this is possible. Your regular routines are disrupted, you cannot communicate like you want, there is increased conflict, you feel emotionally volatile, and you are struggling to make even basic everyday decisions in your relationship. As the offending partner, you likely want to express your sorrow, make up for the harm you have caused, and move forward. As the injured partner, you are likely overwhelmed by your emotions and lacking any sense of security, but definitely are not ready to move on. The tension between these opposing goals makes it difficult to positively interact or run your household smoothly. Small decisions like where to sleep, negotiating taking the kids to school, what to eat for dinner, or how to be in touch with each other during the day suddenly seem monumental. And these issues do not even BEGIN to address how to move forward and recover.
Marriage Counseling for Infidelity Helps You Manage the Chaos and Trust Each Other Again
Counselors at the Salt Lake Relationship Center know that what you need, first and foremost, is a renewed sense of safety and security. Your therapist will work with you to establish a customized plan of recovery designed to help you manage your unique emotional spaces in a way that is supportive and respectful of each other. If you are in the early days/weeks following the discovery of infidelity, it is most important to create clear structure for what needs to happen currently to help you each feel safe and supported. This can include rules for how and when to talk about the betrayal, but also what should and should not be discussed (for example, knowing too many intimate details of an affair can be counterproductive to the injured partner).
For the offending partner, you may be willing to talk about things, but you don’t want to be “punished” every time a discussion occurs. For the injured partner, you may temporarily need overt signs from your partner reassuring you that he/she can be trusted. This could include temporary access to the offending partner’s phone, regular check-ins throughout the day, or established times to ask questions about the affair. Overall, your therapist will help you create rules and structure to provide the safety you need to learn how to make decisions and talk in depth about what really happened.
Later stages of infidelity counseling will focus on understanding the factors that led your relationship to the place it is now. You will discover the unique reasons this happened, looking at issues that include:
- Emotional disconnection
- Sexual disconnection
- High relationship conflict
- Poor communication skills
- Low self-esteem
- Poor Judgment
- Influence of drugs/alcohol
- Mental health issues
Your therapist will help you uncover and deeply understand these issues as a way to begin moving forward. If you are the offending partner, you are ultimately responsible for your choice to cheat. However, it is important to understand EVERYTHING that played a role in this decision. For example, you may have been drunk at a bar on a business trip and the opportunity presented itself. Maybe you were open to your flirting coworker’s advances because your husband hasn’t touched you in months. You may have sought out someone else because you felt “dead” inside due to the unhappiness you feel from your job, your marriage, or your life. Maybe you feel unloved and so you deserve to be with someone who shows care and affection. You may feel constantly criticized or misunderstood, and found yourself unexpectedly involved with someone who is kind and appreciative. You may not know exactly why you made the choices you did….
Whatever the reason, your therapist will help you understand and place these elements in context. This is an important process for both of you, but for the injured partner it is especially important as a way to deeply reestablish trust. When you understand everything that contributed to this betrayal, you gain confidence in preventing it from happening again. By looking for and positively responding to danger signs in your relationship or your spouse, you can better manage and plan for “high-risk” circumstances. You will more deeply understand your own role in the negative dynamics of your relationship. For example, do you have tendencies to criticize? Become angry? Remain emotionally shut down? Have difficulty communicating effectively? Have trouble meeting your partner’s sexual or emotional needs? While these issues did not force your partner to cheat, they are important factors in helping you understand how to create a positive relationship moving forward.
Salt Lake Relationship counselors believe it is essential to help you make meaning out of this event. Many couples discover after attending infidelity counseling that their relationship is BETTER than it ever was before. In the aftermath of an affair, it is normal to wonder if it is even possible to recover. We are here to tell you that it absolutely is! Infidelity has a way of clarifying what it is you really want in your relationship and in your life. It tends to put things into perspective, and help you recognize what was missing. Your therapist will help you use this increased clarity to create the connected, loving, and trusting relationship you really want. Instead of trying to pretend that the infidelity never occurred, it will instead serve as a positive reminder of the strength you have as a couple to move through such a difficult event. You will have a renewed confidence in your ability to handle anything.
Infidelity Counseling May Sound Good, but You Likely Still Have Questions…..
I don’t think I can ever trust my husband again after this. What’s the use of counseling?
There is no arguing with the fact that it is HARD to rebuild trust after a betrayal of any kind. And we of course cannot guarantee that you will be able to trust your spouse again. However, we do know how to teach you the skills to learn how to trust again. Couples who commit to rebuilding their relationships after an affair tend to be very happy after going through this process. This is because they have a level of trust and commitment to each other that they never had before. They have a deep understanding about themselves and their relationship that did not exist before going through all of this. It’s almost like they are carrying a secret between them that no one else knows about. It’s a secret of knowing they can count on each other, even when things get really really hard.
My wife is still involved with someone else and does not want to end that relationship. Can you help with this situation?
Absolutely. This is actually a common scenario, as it is often difficult for the offending partner to let go of another relationship that may hold a lot of meaning (eg, excitement, fun, connection, or even love). We encourage you to schedule an appointment so that we can assess your situation and make a recommendation on how to proceed. If acceptable to all involved, we may lay out a plan that involves setting up stricter boundaries with the outside relationship. Your therapist may also recommend discernment counseling, a therapy process that helps each of you make clearer decisions about what you really want in your relationship. We believe it is better to consult with a therapist in these situations because we can remain neutral. Your therapist will guide you through making important decisions about the future of your marriage when your emotional state is making it difficult to do so.
This is Event is Extremely Embarrassing to Me and I’m Worried About Confidentiality
Our professional licenses require us by law and ethical standards to maintain the strictest confidentiality about anything you tell us. The only exceptions to this would be if you talked about any intention you had of harming yourself or harming others, or if a court subpoenaed your records. This means your counselor will not talk to ANYONE about your situation unless you give him/her written permission to do so. Our written therapy records are maintained on an encrypted electronic medical record system that are only accessible by your therapist and the clinical director.
We Need Help, But I’m Worried About the Cost of Therapy
We have seen couples in therapy who have struggled to recover from an affair that occurred 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ago. It is of course possible to recover after that amount of time, but it is harder, and significantly more expensive. Attending infidelity counseling is an investment in your personal happiness and in your relationship. Betrayal does not just disappear. While it is possible to actively work through these issues on your own, it is VERY difficult. Emotions are raw, the hurt is big, and trust is low. We WANT you to succeed in your relationship and can support you in moving through therapy in a healing way. Making the commitment to invest in your relationship now will pay off not only in terms of overall satisfaction, but also in skills you will be able to apply in areas of your life.
We offer infidelity counseling at varying fees to meet different financial situations. Please contact us with any questions or concerns about fees.
We Are Terrible at Talking About Our Issues, and the Affair Has Made Things Awful. What if it Gets Even Worse Coming to Therapy?
Counselors at the Salt Lake Relationship Center are relationship experts. We know how to deal with couples who have difficulty communicating effectively. It’s our job to teach you how to communicate better! Your therapist will give you ground rules for how to talk and what to talk about. If you do not feel emotionally safe with your partner, then one of our primary goals is to figure out how to change this. This starts in therapy sessions, and often takes time. With particularly poor communicators, sometimes there is a brief period of things “getting worse” when you start therapy. This is because you are not used to openly discussing difficult topics. However, this usually fades quickly once you understand how therapy works and begin to trust your therapist.
It is also important to keep in mind that NOT coming to therapy likely guarantees that things will get worse. It may be a slow, gradual march toward getting worse, but it will get worse. Especially with something like infidelity or betrayal, it is essential to work through these issues.
It is Possible to Recover from an Affair
Marriage counseling for infidelity helps you manage your volatile emotions in a way that is supportive and respectful of each other rather than breaking you further apart. In fact, it can bring you closer together than you ever thought possible. We are here to guide you through this messy and tumultuous process to help you regain each other’s trust and find the relationship both of you want.
We look forward to meeting you. If you have further questions, please contact us.