Dealing with Infidelity? Therapy Can Help You Move On
Guest blogger: Dr. Janny Thompson
At Thompson and Whiffen, Psychologists, we use an approach that research has shown to be helpful and that was developed by therapists who have worked with hundreds of couples who were coping with infidelity.
What counts as an affair?
- Affairs come in many varieties—physical, emotional, long term relationships, one night stands, in-person emotional or physical involvements, long distance emotional involvements
- Affairs involve violating the expectations and standards of a committed relationship by becoming emotionally or physically involved with someone outside that relationship
- About 45% of men and 25% of women engage in some form of infidelity (emotional or physical) at some point in their lives
How Can Therapy Help You?
First, therapy can help you cope with the aftermath of discovering an affair. The discovery of an affair usually leads to emotional turmoil—strong feelings of hurt, betrayal, anger, sadness, disbelief, and insecurity—and a sense that your world has been turned upside down. The first stage of therapy helps you:
- Restore a sense of equilibrium
- Develop strategies for coping with your feelings
- Develop strategies for getting on with your daily life
- Develop ground rules for talking about the affair
- Develop ground rules for dealing with the outside party and others
- Take care of yourself emotionally and physically
Second, therapy helps you understand what made your relationship vulnerable to infidelity so that you can go on to make well-informed decisions about your future. Once you have regained a sense of equilibrium, you may feel like moving straight to making decisions about what to do next—stay together, get help, separate. But you want to make good decisions—and good decisions are well-informed decisions. This stage of therapy helps you to collect the information that you need to make good decisions after infidelity. Our focus is on helping you understand what made your relationship vulnerable to an affair by taking a close and systematic look at some important questions:
- What your relationship was like before the affair?
- How did you deal with conflict?
- How emotionally connected were you?
- Why did the participating partner have an affair?
- How may the injured partner have contributed to the context in which the affair took place?
- What outside pressures and circumstances may have made your relationship vulnerable to infidelity?
Finally, therapy helps you make and implement well-informed decisions about how to move on. It is only with the benefits of the equilibrium you regain in the first stage of therapy and the understanding you achieve in the second stage that you can make well-informed decisions about how to move on. The third stage of therapy focuses on moving on and making decisions about the future.
Therapy helps you address issues such as how to get past hurt and anger, whether to move on together or separately, how to strengthen your relationship or yourself, and how to minimize future risks.
Who can therapy help?
- The individual whose partner has had an affair
- The individual who had the affair
- The couple together
When can therapy help?
- At any point after an affair has been discovered—whether it has just been revealed or whether you’ve been trying to get past it for a long time.
Want to know more?
The approach we use is described in detail in the book, Getting Past the Affair by Douglas Snyder, Donald Baucom, and Kristina Coop Gordon.