One of the most prevalent problems in Couples Counseling is infidelity. It can have devastating consequences and challenges relationships in one of the most difficult ways.

Couple's Counseling - Jenn PinkertonInfidelity is often misunderstood. The betrayed struggles with intense pain and emotions. The first question they usually ask is about whether their partner is in love with the new person. It is usually not about love. It is most often about a deeply rooted feeling of inadequacy, a skewed inner-need system, lack of boundaries, entitlement, addiction concerns, desire to explore erotic interests, or unresolved trauma. It’s thought that the person having the affair does so due to unmet needs in the relationship; however, it could be them not giving enough of themselves to their partner and the relationship.

Pressure is often given from external influences to immediately divorce or end the relationship. Yet, after affairs, many relationships can be saved. Intimacy is fostered with vulnerability, authenticity, and connection, thus that is one of the goals in repair. There are specific actions necessary to recover. Validation for the feelings of hurt and betrayal are a priority. The person who broke the relationship contract will need to be patient and not attempt to rush to resolution. Repairing also requires atonement. The person who cheated may get frustrated by the healing process, but trust was violated, and the work is required. The betrayer will need to illustrate words and their actions repeatedly that they want the relationship to recover and thrive.

Partners must decide if they want to salvage the relationship and they are both must be willing to put in the work and seek support to begin. It is not only about the cheating partner getting help. It takes both to heal. The betrayer needs to determine the underlying root issues, which might require individual therapy, but the work must be done together.

The betrayer needs patience with the process. Disclosure is needed to share the details with the betrayed partner and an opportunity to ask questions and resolve their fears is needed. That is required to move forward. An understanding of the concerns and a willingness to sit with the pain is imperative. If the betrayer is committed to healing, they can see this as an opportunity to pay attention to triggers and hold space for dialogue and reassurance. Transparency is increased as well as empathic conversation. The betrayed person should not have to shoulder the entire responsibility for talking things through. The betrayer needs to release their partner from that burden and initiate conversation when they see their partner is triggered.

Trust needs to be rebuilt and partners should be intentional about the emotional work to heal. The pain of infidelity might not ever go away, but partners can forgive and move forward by doing the work together.

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