Marriages Can Survive Infidelity. Affairs can heal broken marriages and even reveal relationship dysfunction. Author and Sex Therapist Tammy Nelson and respected Colleague provides a 3-step process for Recovering from Infidelity that I implement in working with my Couples in Marriage Counseling that is highly effective in helping them move forward. As a Marriage Counselor who specializes in Affair Recovery I am often asked “can marriages survive infidelity?” I always answer, “I believe so, as long as both parties are willing to commit to the process of Affair Recovery.”
I’ll share a couple’s process I’m currently working with but have obviously changed their names to adhere to confidentiality. I started working with Diana 4 months ago who came into therapy with her husband Steve, for couples therapy after he caught her cheating. They’ve been married for 8 years. He has expressed feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger and of course, betrayal. He sat on my sofa with his head in his hands saying, “I can’t believe she did this and how are we going to get past this? Diana says she wants to work this out, but I don’t know if we can put this marriage back together again after what I’ve done and I don’t know if I even want to work this out.”
Steve apparently read emails and texts between Diana and her Affair Partner (boyfriend) that suggested how much they were enjoying participating in cybersex together. This was no doubt devastating to Steve. He thought their sex life was good, but knew having children affected their relationship in that they spent more time with the kids than with each other. He believed they still loved each other and and Diana agreed. They didn’t know why the affair happened and wanted to salvage what they could of their marriage.
Affair Recovery has three phases: The Crisis Phase, The Insight Phase and The Vision Phase.
The Crisis Phase – Is right after the affair is disclosed or discovered, when couples are in acute distress and their lives are in total chaos. The focus of therapy isn’t on whether or not to stay together or if there is a future for them, as it is to:
- Establish safety
- Address painful feelings
- Normalize trauma symptoms
The Insight Phase – Is where whatever vulnerabilities are talked about that might have led to the affair.
- As individuals become observers of the affair they can tell the story of what happened.
- Repeating endless details of sexual indiscretion is not helpful and counterproductive.
- Looking at what the Affair Partner longed for and couldn’t find in the marriage is important.
- Looking for what the Affair Partner looked for outside the marriage is essential.
- Finding Empathy for the Hurt Partner, who obviously was clueless, can make a shift in how both partners see the affair and what it meant in their relationship.
The Vision Phase – This phase includes seeking a deeper understanding of the meaning of the affair and helping the couple with the Moving Forward process.
- This phase is where the couple decides whether to move on separately or stay together.
- Here they acquire tools to develop a relationship built on what the couple Want from each other to be happy and content for their future.
- As their sex life has been destroyed this is where the Erotic Recovery work for connection will be renewed (or created) and desire will be revived.
- Monogamy changes from a moralistic, blanket prohibition on outside sex to a search for a deeper intimacy inside the marriage.
- A vision of the relationship going forward includes negotiating a new commitment; hence a New Monogamy with contractual agreements.
So my client, Diana, revealed she felt that she had no space of her own in the marriage. Her husband had a home office, but she had no comparable space for herself. Her dependence on him was all encompassing as he paid the bills, earned the money, and gave her a monthly allowance. She’d never been encouraged to or allowed to feel empowered and independent. As a result, she’d started rebelling against him like an adolescent against a strict parent, sneaking around having sexual encounters.
In the insight phase of treatment Diana realized that the affair had to do more with her marriage than with her husband. She said she loved him and wanted to stay with him only if it could become more of an equal partnership. We worked to identify the key areas where she could feel more autonomy and still be in a relationship. Steve started to appreciate her more as she was able to take on more responsibilities within the household and take some of the burden off his shoulders.
During the 25 years of providing Marriage Counseling with infidelity and affair recovery as my niche, my belief is that even after the heart wrenching pain of an affair, we have the opportunity to help create new relationships with better communication, deeper intimacy, and realistic hope for moving forward.
If you would like help with the healing process of Infidelity and Affair Recovery please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or email me at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com