When infidelity enters into your life as a couple it can feel like the bottom of your collective world has given way. Suddenly truths are re-examined about your relationship, your history as a couple, the nature of love, who you and your partner fundamentally are.
How To Move Toward Healing
Recovering after infidelity is a dynamic task that needs to be tailored to the individual, the couple, the type of infidelity and each person’s desire for the future. This time period often holds excruciating pain without a map to move on. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist such as Allison Huffman can be deeply beneficial because rather than offering an umbrella of general prescribed steps, she personalizes her counseling services to your needs. As a level one certified John Gottman therapist, Allison uses Gottman’s scientifically proven tools along with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques. She honors your ability to know what is best for you and the future of your relationship without pressuring a couple to separate or to stay together. A trained marriage and family therapist can help you navigate this delicate and emotional journey.
Types of Infidelity
- Brief Affair: Sexual encounters that fall under the umbrella of being “casual sex” without much emotional investment.
- Romantic Attachment Affair: When a partner feels they have fallen in love with a person outside the marriage. This is often the most complex.
- Emotional Infidelity: This occurs when a partner seeks his/her emotional fulfillment outside their marriage and prioritizes investing in a 3rd party’s needs versus their partner’s. This often starts without sex but can lead to a sexual relationship also.
- Exiting Affair: All too often a partner can use a third party as a catalyst for the marriage to end.
- Online Affair: If a marriage is stagnant or struggling, it is easy to reach outside of the marriage to connect to a third party, which can lead to a slippery slope.
- Sexual Addiction (Online/Pornography/or In Person): Temptation and hollow sexual gratification is only a click away and for some this can spiral into a compulsion.
- Infidelity within the Military: With long absences and unique stressors, infidelity within military families is all too common.
Your journey is unique and needs to be treated as such. These steps are only a general guideline. Allison Huffman tailors her therapy to your specific needs.
- Don’t Rush Into Big Life Decisions or Hide In Denial
You may feel overwhelmed by emotions or perhaps numb. You may feel an urge to escape. This can take the form of wanting to shut out the reality of the affair by way of denial or by wanting to “fix it” with dramatic life changes. Either choice from an emotional reactive place is ill advised. Working with a therapist can provide needed perspective and help you avoid making rash decisions that could harm you for a lifetime.
- Take Care of Yourself
Whether you were the one who engaged in the affair or the one who found out about the betrayal, recovering will take time and emotional energy. The feelings will come like waves and you will need to engage in self-care to allow yourself to process these thoughts and emotions. A therapist can provide you specific techniques to move through this.
- The Affair Must End
If the couple decides to try to continue the marriage/committed relationship the individual who had the affair has to sever contact with the individual/individuals he/she had the affair with. Future accidental or unavoidable contact with this third party must be reported to their partner. Healing can only start when the affair is ended.
- There Must Be Transparency
There must be a level of transparency for a sense of emotional safety to reemerge. Being honest during this time period is imperative. Transparency includes discussing details of the affair and learning to be emotionally honest.
- Rebuilding Trust
During this time of deep-felt pain, building the courage to trust or love again can be difficult work. Building trust after infidelity involves many little steps and small moments. A therapist can help an individual or a couple create realistic expectations and provide effective tools during this process.
- Listen and Truly Hear Each Others Feelings
If the couple wants to stay together, the next step is often opening up to hear your partner’s emotional truth and honoring it as valid even if it is not your truth. This can be challenging and emotionally exhausting, but the reward is renewing the connection with your partner.
- Learn New Ways To Meet Your Partner’s Emotional Needs
It is possible to cultivate your love and to improve your relationship beyond even where your relationship was previous to the affair. An affair is a symptom of a problem within an individual and within the relationship. This symptom does not justify infidelity. Now is the time to address these challenges and learn new therapeutic outlets and coping skills.
To heal individually and/or as a couple after an affair involves a difficult and intricate process. If you live in Bellingham and need Infidelity Counseling consider a therapist with education and experience such as Allison Huffman LMFT to start the process today.