Overcoming The Pain of Infidelity: A Marriage Counselling Guide
Image source: Freepik
Marrying the love of your life is a dream come true. You envision a future filled with love, companionship, and exciting adventure together with your spouse. But all of the blissful visions suddenly fall apart when infidelity enters your relationship.
When infidelity enters your relationship, it shakes the very foundation of trust you and your spouse once held. The feeling of betrayal causes a whirlwind of emotions, leaving you ruminating about everything you thought you knew.
However, amidst this painful turmoil, there's a glimmer of hope. Marriage counselling can help you recover from infidelity and rebuild your relationship, together with your spouse.
With the help of marital counsellors, you and your spouse can safely confront the past, work through the pain, and lay the groundwork for a stronger, more resilient future.
Let's discuss more about it.
Infidelity hurts; we all know that. The fact that your spouse used to or is currently violating the commitment you both have inflicts significant distress and conflicts, as well as the potential breakdown of the relationship.
The emotional turmoil and anguish are beyond words could ever describe. They plunge you deep into profound pain. Feelings of disbelief, intense sadness, and devastation slowly chip away at your sense of self-worth, leaving you questioning, "What have I done wrong?"
Infidelity-inflicted trauma is also unimaginable. You found yourself burdened with the constant terror of intrusive thoughts and haunting images replaying in your mind on an endless loop, casting away shadows of doubts about future interactions.
The weight of infidelity intensifies when children become part of the consequences. The once solid foundation of a family is now hanging heavy in the air, making you trapped in a predicament between prioritising your children or your well-being.
What Kind of Infidelity Can Occur in a Marriage?
Infidelity remains to be hurtful, regardless of the circumstances and context that it occurs. In the following, we'll provide you with an overview of different types of infidelity, all of which cause devastation to the betrayed partner:
Sexual affair: It's one of the most commonly recognised types of infidelity. It occurs when one partner engages in sexual activity outside of their marriage. This infidelity can be in any form of sexual behaviour with someone other than their partner.
Cyber affair: It's a type of infidelity that involves the use of the internet. The act itself can vary from sexts or romantic chats with someone other than their partner. In some cases, some people may also consider viewing pornography as a form of cyber affair.
Emotional affair: It's a type of infidelity where one partner becomes emotionally attached to someone else. The person might spend hours talking to someone else rather than their partner. In this case, sex isn't always part of an emotional affair.
Object affair: It's a type of infidelity where one partner pursues an outside interest and neglect their relationship. The vice can be in any form and doesn't necessarily involve someone else. Yet it remains to make the other partner feels left out.
What are The Common Causes of Infidelity?
Fostering a fruitful relationship requires both partners to fulfil each other's expectations. Both partners must also be emotionally stable and secure to handle the challenges within their relationship wisely. Without all of these, the likelihood of infidelity may increase.
However, in some cases, one partner may have fulfilled the other partner's expectations, trying to solve the challenges wisely and doing everything to make the relationship flourish. Nonetheless, infidelity occurs, leaving them to question if they're not enough.
In such situations, the unfaithful partner may be dealing with personal issues. These personal issues eventually affect the betrayed partner as they engage in boundary-breaching activities.
What are the possible personal issues that can lead to infidelity? We'll list them below:
Low self-esteem: Low self-esteem often inflicts feelings of inferiority in the unfaithful partner. They engage in infidelity to gain validation from someone they perceive to be on par with, if not below, them.
Personality disorder: Certain personality disorders can cause someone to have impaired impulse control. Their impulsivity can lead them to engage in risky behaviours without considering the consequences on their relationships.
Sex addiction: Sex addiction is often linked to difficulties with maintaining stable sexual intimacy with a partner. People with this condition may feel a constant sense of emptiness, which they compensate for with prolonged pursuit of sexual stimulation.
Avoidance of relationship problems: Avoiding relationship problems is apparent in the unfaithful partner. They refuse to discuss their feelings with their partner to find solutions to improve their relationship. Instead, they seek external validation from someone else to compensate for their feelings of emptiness.
Can Marriage Be Saved After Infidelity?
Infidelity caught both partners in a deep sense of hopelessness, turning their heads away from seeking help. The constant pain and anguish that cut them deeply make them believe their marriage is beyond salvation.
Without disregarding your despair, seeking professional help from marriage counselling can play a significant role in navigating the turmoil aftermath of infidelity. While your faith in saving your marriage may wane, the presence of a trained counsellor can provide both you and your spouse with the insights, tools, and support to begin the healing process.
Marriage counselling is a safe space where you can openly express your emotions, fears, and concerns. A trained couple therapist can help you detangle complex layers of hurt and foster a deeper understanding of the root causes and dynamics that led to infidelity.
There's no need to be ashamed of seeking help amidst the stigma it indicates. Contrary to the stigma, reaching out for support is a courageous act demonstrating your willingness to move forward with the pain and rebuild the commitment shared with your spouse.
6 Roles of Marriage Counselling
Infidelity hurts both sides in different ways. If you're the betrayed partner, you may fall into a deep state of sadness, anger, and betrayal. Being cheated on also puts you into losing your sense of self-worth.
On the other hand, your unfaithful partner may feel ashamed, guilty, and self-disgust for their actions. Their infidelity will leave them questioning their moral compass and grappling with the consequences of their choice to be unfaithful.
In this case, what are the roles of marriage counselling to help both parties to heal? We'll explain them in further detail below:
1. Creates a Safe Space
Marriage counselling creates a safe space for both partners to express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns openly. It's not the place to point fingers or argue about who's right or wrong.
Having a table for two allows both partners to meet and discuss their problems with a cool head and with the same goal in mind, which is to rebuild the relationship after infidelity.
Each session will allow both partners to communicate openly and honestly without fear of judgement or hostility. The counsellor ensures that the sessions remain focused on understanding and resolving the issues rather than assigning blame.
2. Provides Listening Ear
A marriage counsellor listens attentively to both partners, allowing each person to express their perspective and experiences without feeling judged. They provide an empathetic ear and validate the emotions expressed by both individuals.
It's especially important in the context of infidelity. This issue often causes a whirlwind of emotions and conflicting viewpoints from either side. The couple therapist's attentive listening helps each person to feel heard and understood.
For instance, as the betrayed partner shares their pain, anger, and trauma, the counsellor listens empathetically and validates every emotion expressed. This validation helps them feel supported, fostering a sense of safety and trust within the counselling environment.
Similarly, the counsellor listens with empathy when the unfaithful partner opens up about their motives, regrets, and remorse. They strive to understand the underlying circumstances that led to infidelity without excusing the behaviour. This attentive listening creates a respectful environment where the unfaithful partner feels encouraged to be introspective.
3. Explores Needs, Desires, and Goals
Couples have their own sets of needs, desires and goals. While it's important to ensure that they get this expectation fulfilled, couples often have conflicting or competing interests. This is what leads to infidelity.
This is where the marital counsellor steps in to help couples navigate through the complex landscape of differing needs, desires, and goals. They act as a supporter who encourages couples to explore ways to bridge the gap between different set of expectations.
The counsellor may initiate negotiation and seek creative solutions that prioritise the happiness of both partners. As a result, each partner better understands what the other expects and can work together to meet those expectations.
4. Mediates Conflicts
Partners with infidelity issues often fight or engage in heated arguments, regardless of the location. It's not uncommon for counsellors to witness partners wanting to shift the blame to the other person during marriage counselling.
In such situations, the role of the marriage counsellor as the mediator between the couple becomes important. They condition the session to focus on understanding and resolving the main issues rather than trying to identify who's the wrong or the right partner.
By focusing on understanding and resolving the main issue, neither partner will feel shamed or guilt-tripped. This way, recovering from infidelity and rebuilding the relationship will be feasible, as both partners are encouraged to empathise with each other.
5. Educates Healthy Relationship Dynamics
Infidelity often occurs due to a lack of understanding about healthy relationship dynamics. Both the betrayed and the unfaithful partner regard their relationship as it is, leaving their relationship on a knife edge.
In this case, the marital counsellor will educate couples about healthy relationship dynamics, communication techniques, and problem-solving skills. They will provide insights and tools that help couples improve understanding, empathy, and cooperation within their marriage.
6. Offers Emotional Support
Infidelity causes devastation on both ends. The betrayed partner feels deceived and has to deal with the pain and trauma. On the other hand, the unfaithful partner feels shame, guilt, and self-disgust.
Marriage counsellors are fully aware of such situations. Hence why they offer emotional support throughout the session as a means to validate each partner's feelings and experiences. This will help them navigate through the challenge with a positive attitude.
However, this doesn't mean that marriage counsellors will condone the act of infidelity. The emotional support given is meant to help couples receive the reassurance to cope with the ups and downs of their relationship.
The problems caused by infidelity are often so complex to the point that marriage counselling alone isn't enough. In this case, a marriage counsellor will recommend other valuable resources to help couples navigate through their issues.
Books, articles, or exercises are some of the resources that can help couples further explore ways to address their issues and strive for a happier marriage. The counsellor may also suggest couples join group work and retreats to build a healthy community with other couples.
Advocates Positive Change
The main purpose of marriage counselling is to find solutions to the problems married couples face. To solve the problems, the marriage counsellor will advocate positive changes that satisfy both partners.
Working on communication patterns, intimacy, and strategies to achieve relationship satisfaction are all part of the process. The counsellor will challenge unhelpful beliefs and behaviours, empowering couples to make necessary changes to improve the quality of their marriage.
What Kind of Approaches That Marriage Counselling Use?
There are different kinds of approaches or techniques used for marriage counselling. The decision on the approach will depend on your therapist's suggestions after assessing the relationship challenges you have with your partner.
The following are the examples of approaches that counsellors use during a marriage counselling session:
The Gottman Method was developed by John Gottman and his wife, Julie Gottman; both are psychologists and researchers in the field of relationships. This method helps couples to improve their relationships by understanding the negative interactions known as the Four Horsemen. This includes criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Acknowledging the Four Horsemen empowers couples to address them through healthy communication skills, empathy, and a positive attitude. In turn, couples can work through the infidelity-inflicted pain and pave the way for a fulfilling relationship in the future.
Before proceeding with Gottman Method in marriage counselling, couples will be given a questionnaire that covers the following categories:
Friendship and Intimacy
The Safety Scales
The Conflict Scales
The Shared Meaning Systems
Individual Areas of Concern
Emotionally Focused Therapy
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an approach developed by Sue Johnson that focuses on emotions and attachment in relationships. It's widely used to help partners understand each other and improve their relationship dynamics.
In the context of infidelity, EFT helps couples identify the underlying emotional needs, address negative interaction patterns, and promote emotional engagement, among other things, to rebuild the broken trust in the relationship.
This approach typically requires 8 to 20 sessions, during which the marital counsellor focuses on the emotional impact on both the betrayed and unfaithful partner. This is especially important if one or both partners have PTSD, depression, addiction, or other destructive conditions.
Benefits of Marriage Counselling
Deeper Understanding of Your Relationship Dynamics
Marriage counselling lets couples understand their relationship dynamics, including unhealthy and destructive patterns. It allows couples to examine their behaviours, beliefs, and vulnerabilities that may have been overlooked.
Through the guidance of a marital counsellor, couples can uncover underlying issues like poor communication, emotional disconnection, or unmet needs. This way, couples can learn to recognise the warning signs and triggers that create a fertile ground for infidelity to occur.
Seeing Each Other's Perspective
Marriage counselling creates a safe space for couples to see the main issue–infidelity–from each other's perspective. The counsellor's attentive listening fosters dialogue, allowing couples to safely express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement.
Couples can better understand each other's experiences, feelings, and motivations through this process. Couples can positively pave their way to better relationships by learning empathy and compassion without condoning infidelity.
Rebuilding Trust and Communication
Even though infidelity drives away trust in the unfaithful partner, it remains a fundamental aspect of any relationship. Couples who intend to save their relationship will need to work through rebuilding trust even after the heart-wrenching event happens.
Marriage counselling helps couples identify the steps to restore trust, including rebuilding honesty, accountability, and transparency. Couples can also learn effective communication skills, such as active listening, assertiveness, and openness to expressing needs and boundaries.
With time and consistent effort, couples can recover from infidelity and rebuild trust within their relationship gradually.
Healing Emotional Wounds
Infidelity frequently results in a whirlwind of emotions for both the betrayed and the unfaithful partner. The betrayed partner feels deceived to the point of experiencing significant trauma. In contrast, the unfaithful partner may experience shame, guilt, and self-disgust.
This is where the therapist steps in to navigate complex emotions and help couples heal from their emotional wounds. They guide couples to process the pain and work towards forgiveness by introducing emotional regulation and self-care techniques.
Learning Effective Coping Tools
Marriage counselling equips couples with effective coping tools and strategies to navigate the challenges encountered during the healing process. Therapists help couples identify and develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress, triggers, and negative emotions.
These tools may include mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques, journaling, or seeking social support. By acquiring these coping skills, couples can effectively navigate the emotional ups and downs of rebuilding their relationship after infidelity.
Resolving Relationship Roadblocks
Marriage counselling addresses the underlying issues that may have contributed to infidelity. The therapist assists couples in identifying and resolving relationship roadblocks such as unresolved conflicts, power imbalances, or unmet needs.
By addressing these issues early, couples can create a stronger foundation for their relationship, minimising the risk of future infidelity and fostering long-term relationship satisfaction.
Strengthening The Relationship Bond
Marriage counselling aims to strengthen the overall relationship bond between partners. Through various positive interventions, couples can understand what aspects they need to work on to deepen emotional connection, improve intimacy, and rebuild a satisfying relationship.
The therapist will guide couples in reconnecting through various means, such as encouraging shared activities, fostering positive communication, and reigniting the spark in their relationship. By strengthening the relationship bond, couples can build a solid foundation for a happier future.
What If My Spouse Refuses Marriage Counselling?
Marriage counselling suggests couples attend the sessions together. However, it's not uncommon for some people to refuse marriage counselling due to its stigma. In this case, as the initiating partner, you may want to do the following:
Express your concerns
Listen and validate their concerns
Offer alternatives, like couple group work or workshop
Give positive examples
Involve a trusted third party
Revisit the discussion at another time
Marriage counselling brings positive impacts on couples struggling with infidelity. Often, the causes of infidelity involve unhealthy communication patterns, lack of understanding, or feelings of dissatisfaction within the relationship.
This is where marriage counselling can be your glimmer of hope. Through it, you can learn how to recover from the deep sadness, pain, and trauma and rebuild the commitment, filled with love and respect for the love of your life.
In cases where you need marital counselling, Life Affinity is here to help. Led by two experienced counsellors, we'll help you recover from infidelity and rebuild a solid relationship with your partner.
Contact us for more information.
Does counselling work in marriage?
Marriage counselling works as a means to help couples understand each other better. It provides a safe space where you and your partner can express thoughts, emotions, and concerns openly and without fear of judgement.
What happens at marriage counselling?
Marriage counselling involves a couple therapist who acts as a mediator between you and your partner. They will provide listening ears and the necessary support to help you and your partner pave the way for a better marriage.