I recently heard a client report, “I feel completely betrayed upon my finding out recently about my husband’s affair. Does it even make sense to do counseling if my spouse had an affair, isn’t it over?” Betrayal and broken trust is one of the most difficult obstacles that any couple can face. Usually betrayal presents in the form of an affair. Affairs rattle the marriage core and invite a tidal wave of pain, fear, and broken intimacy. Intimacy is that deep connection that couples share that leads us to feel connected and safe. When that alliance with your spouse is breached by infidelity that sense of intimacy dries up quickly in the scorching sun of secrets and shame. Trust and intimacy are shattered for most, and walls come up, emotional barriers to protect oneself from further damage. These walls are a normative process that protects the individual from further emotional harm. Infidelity does not always entail sexual behavior with someone outside of the marriage. With the advent of social networking and texting, emotional exchanges that violate the nature and solidarity of the marriage are also considered an affair, an emotional one. The difficulty with infidelity is that it creates a huge canyon of emotional detachment between the spouses. The offended spouse can move into feelings of emotional abandonment and fear based on the nature of the affair. When individuals come to find that what they thought was happening is in fact not, they panic. The panic is less due to the affair initially but due to a facet of our human condition. We seek to know and read cues and intentions of others. When we understand, love, and know our partner deeply we develop a sense of attachment and closeness. When one finds out their partner was or is in an affair it devastates the part of our souls that assists us in knowing and being aware of ourselves and the world around us. The nature and details of the affair come crashing into the heart and mind to leave the offended spouse often either in a rage of anger and pain or immobilized with shock and denial.Some may not be able to weather such a betrayal, the affair marks the death of the relationship. The violation of the marriage commitment is too much and the relationship can end.Some may want to attempt to work it out, for those it may be possible to do so. It requires work, and a lot of it. The process of rebuilding trust and commitment present a formidable mountain to climb before reaching vistas of intimacy. Do not underestimate it, work on both ends is required with professional guidance in order for the marriage to regain momentum and heal.Here are a few key concepts to understand in order to begin the healing process.
The affair must cease. The third party must be removed and avoided completely in order for it to work. This commitment must be made without reservation of the spouse having the affair.
Feelings, and lots of them. The offending spouse must realize that the spouse who was cheated on will have a myriad of emotions and will need to listen, listen, and listen again. The offender must also take full responsibility for the breach in the marriage commitment. Responsibility looks like getting professional help from a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist that can help ferret through the issues and guide both the offended and offender into healing and recovery.
The timely process. The affair didn’t happen overnight likely, and it won’t heal overnight. Often the partner that had the affair wants to be forgiven and move on far to quickly. Both partners should realize that affairs happen for a variety of reasons and that it won’t simply heal in a week or two. Couples that claim ‘they got through it’ in such a time are often suppressing it and hiding from the pain which will only manifest itself later in the marriage.
Therapy and Counseling. The nature of emotions, strong emotions like betrayal, broken trust, disappointment, etc can only be ferreted through by a licensed professional. Couples that try to work it out on their own often cause more damage following the affair. The offending spouse is often confused, guilty, and shame ridden for their behavior. The offended is riddled with pain and sadness that is unmeasurable. It is these conditions that necessitate couples coming to join forces in a synergistic way in couples and individual therapy. I recommend both, each spouse needs space to share their feelings uninterrupted by their spouse. Couples counseling is equally important to work through in a judicious and effective way to begin healing.If your relationship has been impacted by an affair or some level of infidelity, you ought to consider couples counseling. I am trained to work specifically with couples and deal with these issues daily with my clients. Begin the journey of healing and recovery in your own relationship.
Copyright: No part of this article in section or full may be reproduced without permission from the author Justin Stum, MS LMFT. The one and only exception is for educational purposes and only if the contact information below for the author is fully cited here in article. Justin Stum, MS LMFT, 640 E. 700 S. Suite 103, St. George Utah 84770, 435-574-9193 https://www.justinstum.com