Though I do lots of different kinds of counseling–from hypnotherapy to depression–the bulk of my day is spent in couples work. I have always heard that your clients will tell you what you’re best at doing, and that someday you’ll take a look around and recognize that the constituency of your practice is skewed in one particular direction. So, if the clients have spoken, I can shine my own apple that I’m a pretty bang-up couples therapist. My mama will be so proud.
One of my most important jobs as counselor who works with couples, is helping folks weather the storms of infidelity. I take this role seriously, because I can think of no other time in which relationships are more vulnerable. I will happily bet my life savings that most people don’t start out in their intimate relationships with the intention to cheat. Rather, affairs (both physical and emotional) happen when the relationship is weak and resolve is low.
So, what if you are the partner who has stepped out of bounds? Here is a quick primer for how to promote healing and get back on track together:
1) Talk and talk some more: Infidelity is a “you do the crime, you do the time” kind of endeavour. More than any other kind of rift in a relationship, it requires traveling over the same territory over and over again in conversation. If you would like a sure-fire recipe for making your partner suffer longer and more intensely, it looks something like you saying, “How many more times are we going to talk about this?” Your partner needs to know that you want the relationship to succeed so much that you are not going to back away from the suffering you have caused. The more open you are to talking about the affair, the aftermath and what the future will bring in light of the infidelity, the more healing can occur. I think almost all people who have cheated on their partners want to avoid those kind of ground zero conversations. And, in most cases it’s not because you’re a monstrous person who is too narcissistic to own up to what you’ve done. Rather, it’s because watching your partner suffer, and really connecting with that misery is horrendously awful. It’s the hardest thing I can imagine doing. However, a serious boundary has been breached. Without spending some time mending that dam, water will come leaking out of the edges all the time. It’s far better roll up your sleeves and attend to the mess day by day until it gets better and you can both move on with clarity. Otherwise, I can promise you with all certainty that it will be a longer, harder road.
2) Block, Delete, Unfriend: You probably didn’t end up cheating on your spouse because your affair partner sucks. Rather, that individual might be a really nice person who got mixed up with you in an unfortunate situation. I can understand that you might want to believe that you can be platonic friends after this–particularly if the affair was emotional with no physical consummation. This should always be an unexplored option. Even if you could be casual with the affair partner, you need to show your spouse that all non-essential contact (if, for instance you work with the affair partner and can’t avoid it entirely) has ceased. This means no texting, no messaging, no phone calls and for the love of God, no Facebook. No locking your cell phone unless you’re a CIA agent. Relationships in which trust has been destroyed require transparency to be rebuilt.
3) Go to therapy: I’m not just saying that. If your partner won’t come with you, go for yourself. Take a good, long tour of your own emotional landscape. Your partner will be grieving the death of the relationship he or she thought the two of you had. They are likely to say that the affair “hit me like a Mack truck.” Was that the case for you too? Were you entangled in a bad situation before you had even thought long and hard about the consequences? Therapy can help you explore how you express yourself in relationships and make clear patterns you may not have noticed yet.
If you have some questions about how to make your relationship and yourself better and stronger, why don’t you give me a call so that we can talk about it?
Your Partner in Healing,
Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at [email protected] Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:
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