When couples first come into my office in Friendswood, I think there is a lot of fear and doubt about couples counseling, especially after infidelity.
Couples fear that the marriage is over. Or doubt that couples counseling will actually work, or even doubt that you can truly “get over” an affair. That’s pretty normal. There can even be fear related to simply talking about this affair. Fear that someone in the Friendswood community may see you in couples counseling (which is also why I have separate entrances and exits for clients).
So where do you go from here? Here is what to expect in couples counseling after infidelity:
First, please know that infidelity is common. This is not a fun fact to talk about. But it is common in short and long term relationships. It is common across all cities, countries, etc. It is in our nature to notice someone that is attractive. However, if you are in a committed, monogamous relationship, then nothing should go beyond noticing that attraction. (See this post for a conversation about boundaries.)
Infidelity also can be incredibly damaging to a relationship. It affects trust, self-esteem, libido, respect, and love.
So, it is not always easy to just “get over it.” It’s real, and it hurts.
Second, it is important to get the facts about the affair. Was it a one-night stand or was it a year long affair? Did your partner find out about it accidentally or were they snooping? If they were going through your phone, then chances are the trust was already low. Or did your partner confess to you that they cheated? Did they seem remorseful or do they think it was no big deal? Has this happened before? What happened last time?
Lots and lots of context is needed in couples counseling after an affair or incidents of infidelity.
Third, assess the damage. After the infidelity, we need to address in couples counseling how the relationship has changed. How has the relationship been impacted? How has communication changed? How does each partner feel? Guilty, embarrassed, angry, exhausted, hopeless, sad, ashamed, proud, arrogant?
There needs to be a conversation in couples counseling about how each person has been affected in conscious and unconscious ways. From sex drive to self-esteem, we will need to identify how the affair affected the relationship.
Fourth, we need to understand why this happened.
In general, an affair is a symptom of the problem, not the actual problem.
For most relationships that struggle with infidelity, the relationship already has problems and an affair is a reaction to those problems.
Something along the lines of: “I am not getting my needs met from my spouse. Therefore, I will get those needs met somewhere else.”
And yes, this need can be sex. But it can also be a need for attention, praise, love, connection, compliments, spontaneity, care and concern.
What was missing in the relationship that caused the person to stray? And how can we change the patterns so that this does not happen again? How can we empower the person that cheated to speak up next time instead of going outside the relationship? How can that person respectfully communicate that their needs are not being met?
Let me be clear, I am not blaming the victim.
The person that cheated made a bad choice.
And in couples counseling, I want to fully understand why the affair happened so we can make sure that it does not happen again.
Last, we need to work on rebuilding trust after infidelity in couples counseling. This is important. It needs to be real and genuine. And in order for this to be real, this will take time and work.
Before the affair, what was the trust level at in the relationship? After the affair, what is the trust level? What is the trust level goal? What steps do we need to do to get there?
In couples counseling, we will identify what specific steps need to be done to increase trust after infidelity.
What does that mean? For some, it may mean getting rid of phone numbers. Or having the password to your spouse’s phone. For others, they need to hear and feel real remorse, guilt, and communication that this won’t happen again.
Last, rebuilding the connection. How did you and your partner meet? What do you love about them? What do you appreciate about them? What do you both have in common? What is your love language? In couples counseling after infidelity, I make sure to focus on rebuilding a connection. I focus on rebuilding the connection between you and your partner to make a lasting, quality change.
So what is the next step? Well, if you are in Friendswood or near 77546, then call me at 281-436-9593 or email me at Shelly@FriendswoodMarriageCounseling for a couples counseling appointment.
If you are not anywhere near Friendswood/Pearland/Clear Lake/League City area, then reach out to a couples counselor that you are nearby to, and that you trust and feel safe talking to. See this post for information about choosing a counselor.
Friendswood Marriage Counseling is a local counseling office, ready to provide you with couples counseling after infidelity. Let’s get to work!