Infidelity Counseling

Infidelity can cause deep-rooted scars, mistrust, and a loss of confidence in one’s partner, oneself, and the relationship, in general. If the betrayal is not properly addressed, it could irreparably damage the relationship, possibly leading to a breakup, separation, or divorce.

Infidelity Therapy

Contrary to popular belief, not all people cheat because they are dissatisfied with the relationship.

What Is Infidelity Therapy?

Infidelity, also referred to as “cheating,” “adultery” (if one’s married), or an “affair” occurs when one or both partners are unfaithful. When this occurs, one partner is often left feeling alone, betrayed, devastated, jealous, confused, angry, helpless, hopeless, and frustrated with his/her unfaithful partner and the situation.

And, when there are multiple episodes of infidelity, it can cause the “victim” to feel resentful, distrustful, unhappy, and angry – all the ingredients needed to fracture the relationship and/or lead to a separation or divorce.

According to a 2013 study, published by the Journal of Family Psychology, on monogamy in marriage, approximately 25% of married men and 20% of married women “strayed” or participated in extramarital sexual “affairs” over the course of their marriages.

The truth is for a relationship to be healthy and successful, both partners must be committed to it. More specifically, both partners must feel safe, secure, and comfortable in the relationship. There also must be a high level of trust, respect, love, faith, sexual compatibility, emotional intimacy, and companionship. So, when one (or both) partners do something to damage this bond, the result is often tumultuous.

Why Do People Cheat?

It is important to understand that not all cases of infidelity occur because one or both partners are unhappy with the relationship. In fact, there are usually many reasons why one or both partners cheat. Some of these reasons include drug addiction and/or alcoholism, sex addiction or nymphomania, boredom, a lack of attention, or a desire to “change things up and try something new and exciting.” At the end of it all, however, the main goals of infidelity center on having a new sexual experience, boosting one’s ego, and/or receiving personal gratification of some sort.

Common reasons people cheat are:

  • Opportunity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Dissatisfaction with the current relationship
  • A lack of emotional or physical intimacy
  • Sex addiction
  • Avoidance of parenting and/or relationship problems
  • Depression
  • Boredom
  • Mistrust
  • Resentment and revenge
  • Substance abuse

What Percentage of Men and Women Cheat?

According to the Health Research Funding (FRF) organization, women and men cheat at a fairly similar rate, but the reasons why women cheat are different from the reasons why men do it. For instance, women tend to cheat to attain emotional fulfillment or satisfaction, while men tend to cheat for sexual reasons, frustration with life, or just because they can.

Surprisingly, 99% of Americans (men and women) expect their spouse to stay faithful to them, yet, approximately 41% of married couples admit that one or both of them have engaged in physical and/or emotional adultery.  Ironically, certain factors like living in a large city can double these percentages. Moreover, people under the age of 30 are more likely to cheat, than those over the age of 50.

Furthermore, according to some studies, the idea of monogamy is not natural in the world we live in. Yet, it is human nature to believe in the ideal of monogamy. Still, according to these researchers, being with one person – and only one person for the rest of one’s life goes against our very own DNA.

Regardless of the various views on infidelity, there’s no denying that it causes effects on the “victim,” the “cheater,” and the relationship. The good news is that it is possible to salvage one’s relationship following infidelity. In fact, 31% of spouses remain married after one or both partners have admitted or been caught cheating.

How Long Do Most Affairs Last?

Most extra-marital affairs last approximately 2 years before “waning out” or losing their appeal.

Is It Possible to Save a Relationship After Infidelity?

Yes, it is possible! But, therapy is usually required to save the relationship. It is also imperative that both people commit to making the relationship work. In addition, the cheater must admit what he/she did, and ask for forgiveness. Those, who are able to save their relationships cite strong morals, ethics, and religious values, a strong support system, and on-going therapy, as a reason for their success.

What Approaches are Used During Infidelity Therapy?

Infidelity therapists use a wide range of approaches, such as individual counseling, marital counseling, couples counseling, family counseling, substance abuse/addiction counseling, art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, couples meditation/yoga, spiritual counseling, etc. These mental health professionals typically address issues from a holistic or “systems” perspective, rather than viewing the infidelity as solely an “individual” problem.

What does that mean? Well, it means that these therapists believe that both partners, along with extended family, friends, the environment, and past experiences, contribute to what is happening in the relationship, namely the infidelity.

It’s not just the cheater’s fault. As a result, these therapists look at issues from a variety of angles – to strengthen the relationship, as a whole, instead of fixing parts of the relationship.

Listed below are some of the ways infidelity therapists address issues in the relationship:  

Individual Counseling

An infidelity therapist may utilize individual counseling when there appear to be individual issues that are damaging the relationship. The goal of this approach is to address and resolve issues from childhood and past issues from adulthood – i.e. rape, abandonment, dysfunctional families, child abuse, child neglect, poverty, painful divorces, etc.

It is important that these personal issues be addressed before tacking relationship ones, namely infidelity. So, during these sessions, an infidelity therapist will delve into the partner’s past, encouraging him/her to open up and share both happy and unhappy memories.

This relationship expert will then help the partner work through troubling emotions linked to past traumas, so he/she can work on saving his/her marriage. Next, the therapist will address how each partner feels about the current relationship – i.e. what he/she would like to change, what is concerning about the relationship or his/her partner, what may have prompted the infidelity, and what he/she would like to see a change in the relationship.

Note: During individual sessions, only the therapist and the partner is in the room. Some therapists alternate between individual sessions and couple sessions, and some only do individual sessions until the individual issue(s) have been resolved. Once that happens, the therapist invites the partner into the therapy process and begins couples counseling or marriage and family therapy.

Couple Counseling

This approach centers solely on improving the relationship. It usually follows or accompanies individual counseling. The aim of couples counseling is to:

  1. Address the root cause of the infidelity
  2. Discuss what led up to the affair
  3. Take an in-depth look at how the affair has affected both partners lives
  4. Examine when and how the breakdown in communication occurred
  5. Explore the roles both partners played in the infidelity
  6. Identify when and how the relationship became dysfunctional
  7. Acknowledge the damage the affair has caused to both people
  8. Rebuild trust and respect in the relationship
  9. Decide what needs to happen for the relationship to not only survive but be better

Infidelity therapists use this time to help strengthen the relationship and improve the couple’s communication skills and conflict-resolution skills. They also use this time to help the partners re-establish trust and respect in the relationship, and remember why they originally fell in love. The goal of couples counseling is to help couples recommit to the relationship, so there will not be repeat episodes of infidelity in the future.

Marriage Counseling or Marriage and Family Therapy

If the couple is married, an infidelity therapist may take the approach of a marriage counselor or marriage and family therapist (if there are children involved).  In this case, the therapist will help both partners explain, in their own voices, what happened before, during, and after the affair.

More specifically, he/she helps both individuals express their concerns, issues, etc. in a safe place – without interruptions from the other partner. The benefit of using this approach is that both partners are allowed to broach painful events and hurt feelings under the guidance of a trained relationship expert.

Another benefit of this approach is that it allows each individual to explain, in detail, the effect the affair has had on his/her life – i.e. self-esteem, relationship, sex life, personal life, mental and physical health, spirituality, children, friendships, etc.

The goal of marriage counseling or marriage and family therapy is to help both partners be completely honest with one another, so the infidelity will not happen again.

During this part of infidelity therapy, the therapist usually suggests the following steps:

Step 1: Stopping the affair
Step 2: Committing to the therapy process
Step 3: Complete honesty (on both parts) about what actually led to infidelity and how it has affected your life and your children
Step 4: Discussing how you want your marriage to look in the future
Step 5: Rebuilding self-esteem (for the betrayed)
Step 6: Rebuilding trust and respect in the relationship
Step 7: Improving communication and conflict-resolution skills
Step 8: Learning the signs of “danger” in the relationship
Step 9: Making a commitment to never cheat again (for the cheater)
Step 10: Learning how to conquer any issues that arise – i.e. financial, child-rearing, extended family, work-related, etc. in a healthy and productive way

Note: A marriage and family therapist will probably include extended family, friends, and other important people in the couple’s life in the therapy process to get a better perspective of what led to the infidelity.

Music, Art, and Dance Therapy

These alternative therapy approaches can help couples, who have experienced infidelity, reconnect. Music, art, and dance are commonly used to express feelings that are hard to verbalize. So, an infidelity therapist may use these non-traditional approaches to help couples, who have become disconnected – reconnect.

As the couple explores these different outlets, it may strengthen their bond and bring them closer together, so neither partner feels the need to step outside of the relationship. Some say that the “Arts” are “love languages” so introducing these outlets to struggling couples may be just what they need to re-spark the passion in their relationships – and ward off future episodes of infidelity.

Couples Meditation, Couples Yoga, and Spiritual Counseling

Other non-traditional methods used in infidelity counseling include couples meditation, couples yoga, and spiritual counseling. Many couples look to spirituality for guidance, so it makes sense that an infidelity therapist would utilize these techniques to help mend a broken relationship (if the couple is spiritual or religious).

Meditation and yoga help calm the mind, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress, so one can see things in a different, more productive light. This is beneficial for couples who are dealing with infidelity because it clears their mind and removes emotion from their thought processes. As a result, the couple is more relaxed and centered when talking about their relationship – and the infidelity.

Another good thing about these techniques is that it may draw the couple together on another level. More specifically make them realize they are more connected than they originally thought.

Substance Abuse/Addiction

Drugs and alcohol can sometimes make people act “out of character.” It can also make people, who are normally responsible and thoughtful (when sober), mean, reckless, impulsive, etc. when “high.”

So, if one or more partners abuse drugs and alcohol or if they are addicted to drugs and alcohol, there is a higher chance that one or both will have an affair. Therefore, the goal of an infidelity therapist is to help those with drug and alcohol problems or even sex or eating problems, identify the core of why they are abusing or addicting these vices.

  • When did this problem first occur?
  • When do you typically do the drugs and alcohol and why?
  • How often do you abuse drugs and alcohol, and how does it make you feel during it and afterward?
  • Would you like to stop? If so, why haven’t you stopped?
  • How have you tried to stop in the past and what happened?

After addressing the substance abuse or addiction through individual counseling, both partners are better equipped to work on the relationship.

How Beneficial is Infidelity Therapy?

Very beneficial. Infidelity therapy is considered “talk therapy,” which means that both partners are allowed to share concerns in a safe and productive environment. More specifically, in the presence of a trained therapist. The goal of this type of therapy is to address any issues that are negatively affecting the relationship, improve communication between the partners, and strengthen conflict-resolution skills, so the couple is better able to work through and resolve issues in a healthier manner.

What Happens During an Infidelity Therapy Session?

During therapy, a therapist may discover that one or both partners have underlying psychological issues that need to be addressed. The goal of addressing these issues is to reduce the risk of repeat episodes of infidelity.

Some of the issues that infidelity therapist typically address are sex addiction, sexual dysfunction, financial issues, substance abuse, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, boredom in the relationship, etc.

How do those issues connect to infidelity? Well, they often cause people to “act out” in unhealthy ways. And, if infidelity is a symptom of one of these root causes, an infidelity therapist uses a combination of therapies to tackle the original problem.

Once the root problem has been properly addressed, along with any individual issues that are affecting the relationship, the therapist addresses the infidelity. After that, it is time to work on strengthening the relationship – i.e. communication, cooperation, trust, respect, connection, conflict-resolution skills, etc.

Should I Hire a Therapist?

Yes, if you have experienced infidelity. Keep in mind that infidelity therapy doesn’t typically involve a prescription or immediate medical attention. But, the truth is, infidelity is not something most people can move past without the help of a relationship expert. Even if you forgive your partner and even if he/she never cheats again, the deep wounds remain.

In other words, the emotional scars say behind, following you throughout your relationship and life. Plus, the aftermath of an affair is mistrust and skepticism, which can make getting your relationship back on-track challenging. An infidelity therapist can help you work through the betrayal in a healthier and more productive manner – both as an individual and as a couple.

What Should I Look For In a Therapist?

As with any issue that requires professional help, you should look for a therapist you feel comfortable with. It may take two or three sessions before you determine if the therapist meshes with you, so don’t rush yourself. Trust is a key factor in therapy, so it is imperative you feel that you can trust your therapist. I would suggest you consult with several different therapists (in the relationship arena) before you settle on one.

Think of it as an interview process for the therapist. You are interviewing him/her to see if he/she is the “right” fit for the job. Why? Well, because if you select him/her to be your therapist, you will become his/her “client” not “patient.”

Also, ask to see each therapist’s credentials – i.e. degree, license, awards, etc. Moreover, ask for references – i.e. former and/or current clients.

Make sure that the expert you choose to help you navigate this difficult journey has no biases – even if you are in a same-sex relationship. In addition, ask about the therapist’s approach to therapy. Do not stay with a therapist, who appears to be biased towards you or your partner. An infidelity therapist must remain neutral at all times. What does that mean? It means he/she should not appear to “take sides.” Rather, he/she must take measures to ensure that there is an equal balance during the therapy sessions.

Keep in mind that an infidelity therapist is there to help you and your partner, as individuals, and as a couple, work through the betrayal – and any issues in the relationship. Lastly, only select a therapist you and your partner both agree on.

References

  1. Russell, V. M., Baker, L. R., & McNulty, J. K. (2013). Attachment insecurity and infidelity in marriage: do studies of dating relationships really inform us about marriage?. Journal of family psychology: JFP: Journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 27(2), 242–251. Retrieved from https://www.doi:10.1037/a0032118
  2. Health Research Funding (FRF). (2019). 26 surprising statistics on cheating spouses. Retrieved from https://healthresearchfunding.org/26-surprising-statistics-cheating-spouses/
  3. Schwartz, P. (2019). New thinking about monogamy. AARP. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/home-family/sex-intimacy/info-2014/monogamy-marriage-sex-schwartz.html
  4. Fife, S. T., Weeks, G. R., & Stellberg, F. J. (2013). Facilitating forgiveness in the treatment of infidelity: an interpersonal model. Journal of Family Therapy, 35(4), 343–367. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6427.2011.00561.x
  5. Snyder, D. K. (2005). Treatment of clients coping with infidelity: An introduction. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(11), 1367–1370. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20186
  6. Haney, J. M., & Hardie, L. (2014). Psychotherapeutic considerations for working with betrayed spouses: A four-task recovery model. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 35(4), 401–413. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/anzf.1073