I have worked with many couples (married and partnered) who are dealing with issues caused by infidelity. I meet them on their terms meaning, if they want to fix the relationship, then I help them fix it. If they wish to use me as a mediator, then I help them through the disconnection process (see seperation and transition). If only one member of the couple wishes to receive therapy, then I help him or her work through the process of recovery.
Infidelity is more of a psychological issue than a moral issue. Most of us were taught that “cheating” on our spouse is morally wrong, rather than psychologically damaging. For example:
John cheats on Carol for several months and she finds out when she checks John’s texts and phone records. John slowly, over time, tells Carol the truth of what happened. The “slow truth” takes a month, during which Carol is experiencing a “fractured” reality where she no longer knows what is real. Here history is being re written with each new truth that is told, making each day extremely unstable. Meanwhile, John is having difficulty understanding why Carol can’t move on. What he doesn’t realize is Carol’s mind has been fractured and her past, present, and future, are being completely rewritten. Meanwhile, John wants her to get over it as quickly as possible because he is suffering the fallout of his actions. One night with another woman has caused months of misery leaving John to say over and over again, “it wasn’t worth it. If I could go back in time I would never have done it.”
Allison is in a negative relationship with Phillip. They have been together for twelve years. They don’t communicate. They no longer have sex. They exist more as roommates and spend most of their time watching television to avoid fighting with each other. Allison Begin telling her story to her friend Jeff. Jeff listens and Allison begins to develop feeling toward Jeff. Then one night they kiss. A few nights later they kiss some more and talk. Suddenly she finds herself with a man who is making up for the “lack” she is experiencing in her relationship and it evolves into an affair. Allison breaks off the relationship after a year because she feels guilty and decides to try and make her relationship with Phillip better. Three years later the relationship between her and Phillip end because things never changed. Allison realizes that the affair she had with Phillip filled her with enough energy to sustain her marriage for another three years. If she had not had the affair, it is quite possible the relationship between her and her husband would have ended sooner rather than being prolonged for three more negative years.
Infidelity can be psychologically damaging to both members of a relationship. This is why counseling is so important. Having a safe environment, and a non judging listener, to express any issue that leads to (or lead to) a desire to explore outside a committed relationship is critical for one’s mental health. Just as it is important for someone who has been cheated on to seek counseling to sort out the psychological mess the experience has left in his or her mind.
When a couple comes in wishing to fix their relationship I employ the skills I use in couples counseling to help them figure out what lead to the fragmentation of their connection. Then I help them build their relationship by using the methods I employ in couples counseling while helping the couple work through an obviously painful experience.
If you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss please feel free to contact me.