If you’ve found this article, you’re likely in a difficult place with your romantic partner.
Infidelity can be a staggering blow to any relationship, and the resulting pain can make infidelity recovery seem all but impossible. Maybe you’ve recently discovered your partner has been unfaithful, or maybe you were the one who was unfaithful. You may be wondering, “Is recovery possible? Can therapy help with cheating? And is it even worth trying?”
We certainly think so. Every situation is different, but if both partners are willing to take that leap of faith together, the relationship already has a much better chance. While the road to recovery will undoubtedly be challenging, at Well Marriage Center we believe that it is a challenge worth facing, and thanks to couples therapy, you don’t have to face it alone.
Even if you’re ready to take that next step, infidelity therapy can be a scary thought. If that fear and uncertainty is something you find yourself feeling, we’re here to help. Let’s start with the basics of infidelity therapy, including common starting points for healing, goals for couples therapy after infidelity, and more. Before we get into what those steps are, let’s set some expectations about recovery that will help you keep perspective and maintain hope throughout the process.
How Do You Heal From Infidelity Trauma?
Ultimately, every relationship’s circumstances are different, so the exact road to recovery will vary for each couple. Regardless of what your starting point is, here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on this journey together:
Honesty Is Key
Transparency after cheating is not only important, but critical. Couples whose partners are willing to open up about their mistakes leading up to an affair have a much higher chance of repairing things. While it will likely be painful to discuss not just the infidelity but the relationship as a whole, without a willingness to be transparent, recovery is effectively impossible.
The Healing Process Is Non-Linear
The feeling of “one step forward, two steps backward” is common in any kind of therapy, much less couples therapy. That being said, the road to recovery is not a straight shot, but a winding, snaking path with many hills, dark tunnels, and points where a clear end may not be in sight. This is not only normal, but an expected part of the experience. While it’s important to validate the feelings that result, it’s just as important to remember that all parts of this road lead to a better relationship.
Infidelity Is Complex
“Rebuilding trust” is often something that comes up in people’s minds when addressing infidelity. While trust certainly must be rebuilt after an affair, infidelity is usually not as simple as one partner being untrustworthy. More often than not, cheating is a symptom of a more chronic, deep-seated issue that needs to be addressed, even if the couple doesn’t realize it at first. This could be a lack of communication, needs not being met, or any variety of other problems that occur between partners. Trust and transparency are both important, yes, but they are just pieces of the puzzle—a puzzle that will need to be solved by both partners, together.
If you can keep these things in mind as you approach couples therapy, your relationship will be able to more easily weather the trials ahead. One of the many reasons not to divorce after infidelity is that if a couple is able to take the necessary healing steps to move forward, they often emerge even closer and healthier as a partnership. Cheating, then, does not have to be the crushing blow to a relationship, but the shock that helped two individuals come together in a healing space, improving things in the long run. However, even if a couple decides to separate after infidelity, there are a number of therapeutic steps that can be taken to minimize and manage the PTSD, shame, and other damaging emotions that emerge.
Now that we’ve covered basic guidelines, let’s talk more about the steps toward that healing space.
What Are the Steps for Healing Infidelity?
While every situation is different, there are some general guidelines to how recovery happens. So, how do therapists handle affairs? No matter the relationship, the first two steps to recovery are generally the same:
Typically, the first step is to let the person who was cheated on express their feelings. People who learn their partner was unfaithful will be experiencing a myriad of emotions—shock, unworthiness, sadness, anger, or even shame—and unpacking each of these feelings with a therapist’s help is important for both them and their partner. It will likely be difficult not just for that person to express these feelings, but also for their partner to hear them expressed. A therapist can really help couples process these complex emotions, as well as understand their partner’s emotions.
Once feelings have been expressed, the next step is to address what was happening before the affair. Here is where we can begin to understand what the relationship was like, and what may have led to the infidelity. This, of course, is not to excuse cheating because of an unhealthy relationship dynamic, nor is it to invalidate the feelings of the person who was unfaithful. In order to progress, both partners need to be able to examine what was happening in their relationship, and be fully honest about how they’ve arrived at this point. Here, a therapist can mediate that process by ensuring both partners’ feelings are validated and by maintaining healthy communication patterns.
Both of these processes can take some time to fully get through, and as stated above, they may need to be revisited several times, but it’s important to see them through each time. After these two steps, the healing journeys diverge greatly depending on the relationship. No matter what comes next, though, if you’re able to stay transparent, listen to your partner, and examine some hard truths about your relationship, the outcome will most certainly be worth the effort.
If you’re ready to put forth that effort, Well Marriage Center is here to help you. The recovery process for infidelity is tough, but with the right guidance, your relationship can not only survive, but be stronger than ever. Don’t give up hope for a brighter future. Schedule an appointment with us today.